Let’s face it: The original Ta Keo tribe has been a train-wreck of epic proportions thus far. As Wednesday night’s episode of “Survivor: Cambodia” began, we had now seen three former Ta Keo members – Vytas, Shirin and Peih-Gee – voted out one-by-one over the season’s first three episodes. Would their string of horribleness continue? Here is the full episode recap:
Back at Camp. Tribal Council was not even close to the end of the drama of Day 9. Upon returning from camp, Jeff Varner thanked Savage and Tasha for keeping him around, and seemed very grateful for a few more days at camp. He knows that he dodged a big bullet after his meltdown following the last Immunity Challenge that left a giant target painted on his back. But Tasha tells Woo, “He’s a snake. It should have been him (voted out).” She continues about Varner: “He’s the source of all of the contention and all of the drama.” Woo politely nods his head and Tasha reassures him that despite feeling like he is all alone, that he is “not going anywhere.” It seemed like an innocent-enough scene, but never underestimate what can happen when Abi is around. Abi is not at all happy with the fact that Woo has now written her name down – twice – and did not appreciate that Tasha was off talking with him privately. Abi is clearly not cool with Woo and wants him gone next.
Second Place. The problem with this season thus far is that it is a double-edged sword of sorts: On one hand, our energy is ramped up and we are super-excited to see all of these fan-favorite returnees playing the game again. But our worst fears come true when one tribe loses all of the early Immunity Challenges, because we end up only watching a few players play the game. Even with the early Tribal shake-up, it seems like we see the same people at Tribal (former Ta Keo) over and over and over again. The show can’t just abandon the going-ons at the other tribes, so we just get treated to little snippets – some foreshadowing – of what might be coming down the road once the game actually begins for all of the players. One such scene tonight was with Jeremy, who finally got to privately celebrate finding his hidden Idol. He still leads Fishbach on as the two continue to search for the Idol even though Jeremy already has it. Jeremy sees Fishbach as someone he can secretly align with to get intel on what is going on in other factions of the tribe, and even brings up J.T. Thomas, who won unanimously against Fishbach back on Survivor: Tocantins, even though he was schooled and brought along by the more strategically-savvy Fishbach from early on. Jeremy has no problem being J.T. for Fishbach.
Roughing It. It’s starting to dawn on me that the “Angkor Tribe twist” – of randomly selecting to be sent to a beach with no shelter or food – might be up there with the Medallion of Power as one of the show’s worst. It clearly puts its members at a disadvantage when the game is still functioning with full-tribe Immunity Challenges. Angkor’s tough conditions has been an ongoing theme since its inception, and tonight Savage had this to say about it. “I’m literally in the Survivor Ghetto,” he says. There’s nothing here.”
Reward Challenge. Probst announces that for reward, the winning tribe will get a large BBQ set-up complete with food and the second place tribe will get a smaller set-up. Third place? I’ve got nothin’ for ya. A twist though, was that this challenge would be an individual “Hero’s Challenge,” where each tribe would select only one member to compete on behalf of their tribe. Angkor selected Savage, and he was put up against Jeremy and Terry. Despite having not eaten nearly anything and living in horrendous conditions, even for Survivor, Savage pulled out the win (the contest had them retrieving sandbags out in the ocean, returning to shore and then launching them into a net). Tasha – and the rest of his tribe – were extremely emotional that Savage was able to bring them the win. To say it was a much-needed victory would be an understatement. “You’re a legend brother,” Woo tells Savage when they are back at camp. Angkor, now suddenly riding high, has Savage telling us that his challenge win was among his greatest moments he’s ever had in the game.
Calm Kass. Like a serial killer with a smile on his face, it is still somewhat creepy to see “Chaos” Kass acting all “normal” this season. “Pretty much everybody thought I was going to come out here and be a little terd,” Kass tells us correctly. You have to give Kass credit though for trying to make the necessary changes and improvements to her game, as she has really made an effort to up her social skills. She even tells us that she read the book “How to Win Friends and Influence People” in preparation for this season. Still, it’s almost like she’s too nice…surely she is a super-villain waiting to pounce, right? There she goes!!! She is sneaking off, cutting beads off of things with a machete! Kelley notices this and thinks what we think: There goes Chaos Kass! She’s forging a fake Immunity Idol. We knew it…wait…huh? What’s that? Kass was actually making Kelley a surprise birthday necklace? This can’t be! Where has Chaos Kass gone? Who is this new person? Kass has gone to the most miserable to the most incredible human being ever to play the show. Making gifts for other people with no ill intent? “I think the winner of Second Chance will be someone who can embrace evolution and change,” Kass tells us. “And for me that’s being this more open person.” I have to admit: I’ve always personally liked Kass…and I’m liking her even more these days.
More Seeds. Again, with all of this season’s drama happening at old Ta Keo or new Angkor, much of the other scenes are only there to sew seeds for the future (we hope). One person who has been given the “Purple Kelly” edit this season is Monica, who has barely spoken and has not been shown strategizing nearly at all. What you may forget about Monica is that she is an incredibly perceptive player…she sniffed out Russell Hantz during her season, which is why many were looking forward to seeing her play again (and presumably, part of why she was voted back on the show). As Jeremy continues to build his massive alliance – with the expectation that he may actually have to go to Tribal Council one of these days – he continues to pull in Spencer and build a relationship with him. Spencer knows that he is in the minority along with Kelly Wiglesworth, so he has no choice but to throw her under the bus. He tells everyone that Kelly has a lot of connections with a lot of people on other tribes. But he tells this to Monica, and Monica sees right through it. She even goes so far as to say that she wants Spencer out first. I’m glad they showed this scene, because Monica deserves it. Problem is, Spencer is close with Jeremy and Jeremy is building an empire, so making a move against Spencer may end up being costly for Monica…just like it was when she called out Russell. There it goes, history repeating itself yet again?
Immunity Challenge. A physically brutal challenge was highlighted with an ungodly yelp from Spencer as a large puzzle piece was flipped on his knee. It reminded me of the sound Goofy used to make in the old Disney cartoons when he would fall off a cliff. But anyways, Spencer wasn’t the only person beat up. There were several injuries, perhaps the most harmful happening to Jeff Varner, who dropped a heavy puzzle piece right on his baby toe. This was the famous challenge where one person would call out directions to their blindfolded tribe members, who had to retrieve all of the large puzzle pieces and then solve the puzzle. Keith was hard of hearing and wandered around blindly, and the newly fired-up Angkor tribe raced through the collection phase and were the first to start their puzzle. But fatigue set in, in a major way for them. Probst said people were “sleeping” on the puzzle, but it was that they physically could not move. The other tribes quickly caught up with Bayon finishing in first. Yes once again, Angkor lost and was headed to Tribal Council. The same people…again.
Loyalty. “the good feeling from the full belly is just gone,” Savage says. He literally has never been through anything like what they are all mentally and physically going through with little food and no real shelter. Varner – with his foot now wrapped – announces he is definitely no threat with his injury. You know, people who are no threats usually announce this. As the scrambling ensues, Tasha and Savage agree that Varner needs to go next over Woo, but Abi has other ideas. Woo has now voted for Abi twice and she plans to get rid of Woo. When Tasha approaches Abi, she gets extremely frustrated that she can’t get through to Abi. Woo makes a strong pitch to Abi, who isn’t buying it. Varner tries sucking up to Abi telling her that he misses his “Abi-time” when they used to be closer at their old camp. It seems like it is Abi’s decision to make: Will she vote out Woo who has voted against her twice? Or will she vote out Varner who is now damaged-goods and may hurt their chances to compete in upcoming challenges? Interestingly, nobody even brings up the possibility of voting Abi out, the true camp wild-card.
Tribal Council. Tribal starts off with Varner getting attacked by what appeared to be a giant bug. He talks about how hard things are and how much pain he is in with his foot, “But I think of the millions of people who voted to get me here and I keep going,” he tells Probst. Woo knows that it either him or Varner, and the two make incredibly hard and direct pitches as to why each of them deserves to stay in the game. It’s so intense that it comes off more like pleading and begging for their lives in the game. Woo knows he voted for Abi twice but vows to put that aside and “Ride or Die” with his new alliance. Varner points out he has been nothing but loyal to Abi from Day One. Varner and Woo go at one another as well, pointing out the pros and cons of why they should stay in the game. It was a pretty explosive Tribal Council, with Abi, Savage and Tasha truly looking as if they were struggling with their upcoming decision.
The Vote. Just as the vote begins, Woo tells Abi one last time that he promises he is with her. Abi mockingly tells him, “Make sure you don’t vote Abi.” Woo predictably votes for Varner, Varner votes for Woo. Probst reads the votes: Jeff – Woo – Jeff – Jeff. With that, the scene-stealing, fan-favorite, old-school all-star Jeff Varner is voted out of the game in a unanimous vote. In true Varner style, he wasn’t done with the dramatics. He leaned in to give Abi a big squeeze and kiss and while face-to-face, tells her, “You little bitch.” Woo tells Abi “Thanks.” With that Varner hobbled his way over to Probst and saw his torch get snuffed. Four episodes? Four former Ta Keo members gone.
Analysis. As always, I will post a separate article with my personal thoughts on the game, you can find my Episode 4 analysis here (link will be active once analysis is live and online).
Next Time On…Probst’s voice-over: “In a season of second chances, the most unlikely just might be the most dangerous.” Then, we are shown images of Keith, Abi and Kimmi, the assumed “unlikeliest” player on each tribe. Of the three of them, Kimmi’s scene seems to be the most tense. Could that foreshadow trouble for the Bayon tribe next week?
Be sure to check back tomorrow for my exclusive one-on-one, second-chance interview with Jeff Varner, and be sure to follow me, @tomsantilli.
Also, be sure to check out one of my favorite Survivor sites, SurvivorFever.net.