'Survivor Philippines' recap: Nice guys finish last

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"Survivor: Philippines" -- "Shot into Smithereens"
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Play with your head or play with your heart? In the game of "Survivor," you go one way or the other. But those who play with their heart don't tend to win that $1 million.

Lisa's been playing with her heart for most of the game, and it's made her miserable. She's been torn between loyalty and strategy, between keeping her word and making calculated moves.

This week (finally!), Lisa begins playing with her head, and it's all thanks to her little brother. It's family-visit week on "Survivor" -- full of tears, happiness (or depression, for those who didn't get time with their loved one), and strategizing.

Lisa's brother, Justice Coleman, sees that she's hit "rock bottom" and that she's "physically and emotionally torn up"; her reaction to seeing him is extreme. But she soon calms down, and after some straight talk from Justice, her game revs up a notch.

Until the immunity challenge, it seems as if she and Skupin will blindside ally Malcolm.

Fortunately for Malcolm, he wins. Then it becomes a contest between nice guy Carter and villain Abi. In previous weeks, this would've made Lisa cry and tremble and break down.

But this week? She coolly sends him packing. See ya, Carter!

Love is in the air

After the previous tribal council, everyone acclimates to a post-Penner world.

Lisa feels comfortable with her final four, except ... well, Malcolm's been playing a really good game. A winning game.

"Strategic but likable. Underdog, good at challenges," she ticks off. "All-around really great game."

Meanwhile, Denise congratulates Lisa for sticking up for herself at tribal, but Lisa starts to wonder if it's good strategy to stick with the Malcolm-Denise duo to the final.

Time for the reward challenge, which involves visits from loved ones -- Skupin's son, Carter's mom, Denise's husband, Lisa's brother, Abi's mom, and Malcolm's (goofy and hilarious) brother.

As they come out one by one, Lisa starts bawling like crazy at seeing Justice. As viewers, we know about her divorce (fresh at the time), so it just makes this reunion even sweeter.

Still, her nearly hysterical reaction makes me worry for her future in the game.

They team for the challenge, with the players throwing muddy bags to their loved ones, who in turn use them to knock down pins.

Malcolm wins, with brother Miles bowling both of them down. And of course, now comes the hard part -- choosing which of his fellow survivors get to bring their loved ones back to camp.

He ends up choosing Lisa (because she's been having a hard time), then Skupin. At first, it's surprising that he doesn't go with buddy Denise, but it's clear that Malcolm is using this as a form of strategy. Will they feel grateful enough to him, though, to keep their alliance going?

Family matters

After the family members come back to camp, Lisa becomes a different person. The transformation is immediate and stunning.

She smiles, she laughs, she starts to think with her head! It's a whole new Lisa ... seriously, hardly recognizable.

Lisa confesses to Justice that she doesn't really want to go to the final three with Malcolm. So, why is she? Justice wonders. He reminds Lisa that she came to "Survivor" bent on playing it as a game and then suggests that she and Skupin blindside Malcolm. After all, he still has that immunity idol, and if they don't do it this time, he'll definitely be going to the final four.

"It was like, yay! I can play this game," Lisa says of her new outlook.

Skupin is on board, and soon, he and his son are cackling away with Lisa and Justice about their new, nefarious plans and their shared religious beliefs.

Malcolm is aware that trouble might be brewing. "I'm afraid that her brother ... might have snapped her back to her senses," he muses.

The six players head to the immunity challenge, which involves crossing a wobbly beam on water, plumbing for bags of sticks, and then tying those sticks together to reach a target.

Not only is Lisa a changed woman emotionally; her brother's visit seems to have given her a physical boost. She's right there with Carter and Malcolm throughout the challenge.

In the end, though, Malcolm wins his first immunity challenge, throwing Lisa and Skupin's blindside plan into disarray.

Sense and sensibility

"This is [God's] will," Lisa tells Skupin. So, now it's a choice between Carter and Abi, good versus evil.

They know they have to get rid of Carter -- he's won two immunities and nearly won this time. But ... he's such a nice guy!

"Out of respect for this game and out of respect for me, keep me around," Carter pleads. Awww.

Abi actually helps him out, tussling again with Lisa and Denise. She's so awful that they just might consider foregoing the best strategic move (voting out Carter). "That's how terrible of a human being Abi is," Malcolm notes.

Meanwhile, Abi is continuing to lie about having an immunity idol, and while the others don't really believe her, they have to take the possibility into consideration.

At tribal council, Carter again makes his case, asking if the others really want to take someone as vile as Abi so far into the game.

Skupin expresses hesitation. "It's almost like voting off my own kid."

But the new and cold-as-ice Lisa is more calculating -- she wants to sit next to someone she can beat at the final. "Why make it harder than you have to?" she says.

And with that, they vote out Carter, and Abi lives to see another day on "Survivor." This time, at least, evil has triumphed.

See what fans had to say about the family visits; then weigh in with your thoughts in the comments below!

"Survivor: Philippines airs Wednesdays at 8 PM on CBS.

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