'Survivor: Philippines' recap: Four play

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What do you do with a problem like Abi-Maria on "Survivor"?

In my mind, you should take her to the final three. Even though most of the jury are fellow Tandang members, a lot of them also hated her.

Sure, if Abi did make it to the final, she wouldn't go down without a fight, as Malcolm notes during Tribal Council. But, then again, she would argue and puff herself up and complain about everyone else -- everything that turned her into a villain in the first place.

Seriously, can you imagine anyone other than Pete and maybe Artis voting for her?

In the end, though, the alliance of four -- Malcolm, Denise, Lisa, and Skupin -- sticks together, and Abi is voted off.

That nonexistent hidden immunity idol will just remain hidden (and nonexistent) forever.

Five for fighting

As everyone gets back to camp from the previous Tribal Council, they all start to ponder the implications of being part of the final five. Malcolm is now on his guard after Lisa proclaimed she wanted to take people she could beat to the final three.

Abi continues to pretend she has an immunity idol, but nobody believes her. For all her annoying qualities, Abi can be smart, and this whole ploy has been incredibly dumb.

A better move on her part is trying to convince Lisa that she's on the bottom of the four-person alliance and that she should try to vote out Denise. Now wiser and more clear-headed after the visit from her brother, Lisa's already thinking of doing just that.

"It feels yucky inside," she says of keeping Abi over Denise. But it could be the better strategic move.

Still, she doesn't want to make any decisions yet. "I do believe I'm taking control of my destiny," she says, "but part of taking control of my destiny is waiting until the right time to make my big move."

Let's make a deal

The reward challenge involves a water race and a ring toss, which Skupin wins. He can take two people on the reward -- pizza and whale watching -- and chooses Malcolm and Lisa.

Poor Denise. She got dissed last week by Malcolm (her main ally), and again this time. Even worse … she has to go back to camp alone with Abi.

On the boat, Malcolm decides to lock down Skupin and Lisa for a final three. How could you, Malcolm? Skupin readily agrees, and Lisa goes along, though she wishes she had a moment alone to talk some sense into him.

Back at camp, Denise is tolerating Abi, "mm-hmm'ing" and "uh-huh'ing" everything she says. Abi's acting like a kid who didn't get to play with a toy, while Denise is the mom who faux-sympathetically says, "That must feel very unfair to you." Hilarious!

Unfortunately, not only does Denise have to put up with Abi, but she also gets bitten by something that causes terrible pain in her neck and shoulder. Everyone prays for her, though Abi is personally glad that it looks like Denise won't be able to win immunity.

Final four madness

For the immunity challenge, the players have to construct a rope bridge, gather maze pieces, then complete the maze with a ball.

After falling behind a bit, Malcolm wins (again). Now he's got a huge amount of power -- both regular immunity and his hidden idol.

Back at camp, Abi immediately starts to scramble. She approaches Skupin, telling him that Malcolm and Denise have "such a story" to tell if they get to the final three. It's something he's aware of, and when he and Lisa discuss things further, they seriously consider voting out Denise. Then again, they might need her to vie for the next immunity challenge, otherwise Malcolm has a cakewalk to the final.

"Tonight's decision for me is based purely on strategy … which tradeoff is going to cost the most, which tradeoff is going to reward the most," Lisa muses.

Meanwhile, Denise hits up Malcolm to see if he might let go of his idol. To her disappointment, he doesn't think the situation calls for that just yet.

At Tribal Council, Abi continues to press the issue, calling Skupin a "moron" and stupid if he doesn't include her in the final. Lisa reiterates she would rather "take someone easier to beat than nobler to beat."

It all seems like Abi may have worked her powers of persuasion on the former Tandang members, but alas, the alliance of four can't be broken. Abi is voted out … and everyone breathes a sigh of relief.

The finale of "Survivor: Philippines" airs Sunday, 12/16 at 8 PM on CBS.

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