On Wednesday’s episode of “Survivor: Cambodia,” we were promised a very big game move and a major blindside. Rarely does Survivor live up to its own hype when it tries building our expectations for a single episode, but tonight, they came through on their promise. We were rewarded with an episode that had pretty much everything one could hope for in an episode of Survivor: Lots of strategy, a player fighting for their life at an Immunity Challenge, a few laughs, and an explosive Tribal Council that ended with a shocker…a shocker that was not foreshadowed or hinted at like so many other episodes of Survivor. Nope, they let this Tribal play out all on its own, and it was very satisfying from an entertainment stand-point, even if the end result sent one of my personal all-time favorites to the jury. Let’s get to the recap:
Living the Dream. It’s Day 20 and we learn that the merged tribe name is “Orkun” from the episode’s opening graphic (the name apparently means thank you, as in thank you to the fans that voted us back on the show…this was not revealed on the air but rather in an exclusive CBS.com web clip following last week’s episode). Savage calls voting out Kass, “A brilliant plan executed to perfection.” But even though he is sitting pretty and fulfilling his dreams for the time being, he senses that there is a big move brewing soon…and he’d be right, according to the next scene, where Ciera and Fishbach are seen walking along the beach talking strategy. Ciera, now on the bottom of the tribe, tells Fishbach that she would make a move against Joe, at the “right time.” There was a lot of talk tonight about “timing” and as we all know, timing is everything when it comes to Survivor. Fishbach, in his constant state of paranoia, seems interested in flipping things against Joe, calling Joe his “white whale” or his “Moby Dick” later in the episode…he just keeps chasing him, trying to best him but has not yet succeeded. It’ll be interesting to see if Fishbach’s story ends in the same way Moby Dick did.
Reward Challenge. Teams of six competed for a “Survivor Cafe” reward: An escape to a cabana with coffee, bagels, cream cheese, sandwiches and cookies. The challenge consisted of rowing a boat out to collect four massive crates, bringing them back to the shore to complete a stack puzzle. This challenge had played in Season 1, where Wiglesworth lost to Gervase, even though he famously could not swim. It was a close challenge, but the team of Keith, Kimmi, Ciera, Kelly, Kelley and Joe (who else?) were the victors. Fishbach immediately grew worried thinking that his secret arch-nemesis Joe would use the time to bond with those on the bottom (Wentworth and Ciera).
Survivor Cafe. During the reward feast at the Cafe, it was Ciera who tried to throw a few lines out there to see if anybody was biting. She pointed out to everyone that Jeremy, Fishbach, Tasha and Savage are a tight four-some. Joe feels like he is still Bayon strong, but does concede that Ciera does have a point: That at some point, those other fellas are probably going to target Joe. Ciera once again gives us the theme of the night, talking about the need to “make the right move at the right time.” Elsewhere, Keith fires up the motorbike taxi and takes the group for a spin down the beach. Good to see he isn’t spending all his time strategizing…
In the Driver’s Seat. Back at camp, Fishbach is taking the challenge loss very hard. He is aching to make a big move and finally pitches his idea to target Joe to Jeremy. Now Jeremy you may remember, has wanted Joe to stay in the game to act as a sort of meat shield for him, but even Jeremy conceded that every time Joe wins a challenge, “the bullseye just keeps getting bigger and bigger.” Fishbach is still obsessing over not repeating his past-season mistakes, and realizes that in order to reverse things, he needs to “get in the front seat and drive.” After chatting with Jeremy, we see Fishbach pitch his Joe-blindside-plan to Tasha and Spencer, both who seem cautiously receptive to the idea. But it’s Savage who sees Fishbach’s move as sneaky. He calls Stephen’s actions “disgusting” and adds, “I have a great alliance with Joe. I love the guy. So he’s not going anywhere.” And Savage means business. “If I have to go toe-to-toe with Stephen, bring it on.” Suddenly that widening bullseye seems to be hovering over Fishbach’s back. Savage takes it one step further, and informs Joe of Fishbach’s evil plans. “We’ve got a problem,” Savage tells Joe. Savage goes on to tell Joe, “On my kids lives, I will never write your name down.” Joe knows that coming from Savage, those words are gold. But the last thing Fishbach probably wanted was for Joe to be even more motivated than normal to win an Immunity Challenge. “If I don’t win Immunity,” Joe said. “I’m gone.”
Immunity Challenge. A similar challenge to last week (what’s with all the balancing balls, Probst?), the contestants had to balance a ball on a large wooden disc that was attached to two ropes held one in each hand. Every so often (10 minute intervals), they had to change their grip making it even more difficult to keep their ball from dropping. This challenge was ran during Blood vs. Water, where Probst points out that Jeremy was the first one eliminated, and that Keith had actually won the challenge. Within seconds of starting, Wentworth and Ciera were both out. Jeremy would not do much better than his first time, and dropped third. After 30 minutes it came down to Keith and (who else?) Joe, who now had to balance two balls on their disc. All sorts of inappropriate things were shouted out by Probst, but in the end it was Joe who pulled out his second straight Immunity Challenge victory, a much-needed one.
Course Correction. Fishbach once again was not able to slay his white whale with Joe being safe, but knowing that he was gunning for him, Joe sets his sights on getting rid of Fishbach. Savage is on-board, as is pretty much everybody else…that is, until Jeremy joined the discussion. Jeremy has been close with Fishbach for twenty days, and even though he has had an apparent riff with Joe, Jeremy feels it would be a bad move on his part to knock out a long-time ally. Describing this, Jeremy gives the best quote of the night: “Once the big guys start going at each other, I want to have all the bullets.” Jeremy shows his influence in the game, because after talking with everyone, they decide that now is not the time to blindside Fishbach. Savage – although in strong disagreement – gives in, and they all decide that it is best to vote out one of the girls, Ciera or Kelley Wentworth.
In Need of a Miracle. Tasha breaks the news to Joe that they are not going to go through with the Stephen blindside, and not happy with the lack of support, Joe goes and tells the girls – Ciera, Kelly and Kelley – that the vote is no longer Fishbach. This is a bigger move than he knows, because it sets in motion what would come next. Kelly Wiglesworth – whom we are rarely shown talking strategy – points out that the Fishbach save must mean that “someone’s got something deeper with Fishbach,” otherwise why not blindside him? Wentworth knows that this shift might mean that the target is on her, but remember she still has a hidden Idol that she’s told no one about. “It ain’t over til it’s over,” she tells us. Ciera still seems fiesty and says, “I’m so tired of their half-assed plans,” but adds, “I guess I’m hoping for a miracle at Tribal Council, ideally.” Prayers were about to be answered.
Tribal Council. Perfect symmetry, that Tribal would begin and end with someone flipping a bird. Yes, this tumultuous Tribal began with Kass (gotta love her) being brought in as the first jury member, which she followed by promptly showing everyone left in the game her middle finger. Ciera points out to Probst that it’s still the same old, same old with this group of players unwilling to make big moves. Wentworth is a bit more blunt, telling him that the game is being ran by four people…when asked by Probst to name the four, Ciera mentions Jeremy, Savage, Tasha…and Stephen or Joe. Jeremy points out that that’s five players not four, but whatevs. Ciera continues hammering home the idea that it was “time to wake up” for players on the bottom of their alliance. Talk turned to Idols, with Spencer telling JP that the assumption is that either this season doesn’t have any Idols, or that they’ve already been found, because no one seems to be looking for them anymore. Ciera and Abi roll their eyes a record number of times every time Savage opened his mouth. Fishbach had a nice exchange with Ciera, talking once again about how the game has changed. Fishbach argued that alliances are no longer hierarchical, but Ciera insisted that some things never change. “There is always some one on the top, and there is always some one on the bottom.” Wentworth tells Jeff that she was approached to make a big move, even though she’s on the outside of the majority, which means that things must not be all fine and dandy within the majority alliance. But when asked to name names as to who approached her, she was tight-lipped. “I may have to work with them tomorrow,” she tells him. There is definitely a lot of maneuvering going on, with Joe saying that Survivor is like chess, but where you don’t know what any of the pieces are. With that, it was time to vote…the vibe made it seem like Ciera was in big trouble, but we would soon find out.
The Vote. There was a lingering silence when Probst asked if anybody wanted to play their Immunity Idol….and holy crap!!!….Kelley made jaws drop and eyes pop when she reached for her bag. “I may be on the bottom, but I’m not ready to go home yet.” This is what they talk about, ladies and gentleman, when they talk about how timing is everything. She produced the Idol and Jeff verified it as being authentic. Everybody mouthed the word “wow” and shifted nervously, and Spencer incredulously asked Ciera, “You didn’t know?” To which Ciera replied, “No, this is my favorite moment.” But for some unfortunate soul, it was about to be their least favorite moment. The votes were then read, and it was a good thing Kelley played her Idol. The first NINE votes were all for Wentworth! So who did Kelley, Ciera and Abi target? With three votes cast against him, Andrew Savage was dealt a massive, unexpected and crazy blindside. “Unbelievable,” was all that Savage was able to say before getting his torch snuffed and walking away shell-shocked. But leave it to the tactful Abi to shout out to him as he walked away, “You made it to the jury!” This was met by Savage flipping her the bird as he walked off into the darkness on his way to Ponderosa as the second member of the jury. Symmetry. “I’m not going to lie, it rips my heart out,” were Savage’s parting words in his confessional.
Analysis. Wow, lots to discuss! As always, I will post a separate article with my personal thoughts on the game, you can find my Episode 8 analysis here (link will be active once analysis is live and online).
Next Time On…Everyone’s on the look-out for the now-in-play hidden Immunity Idol, but Probst surprises them at a water challenge with what might be exactly what they’re looking for. “First one to touch their buoy earns an advantage in the game,” he announces, before the preview ends.
Be sure to check back tomorrow for my exclusive one-on-one, second-chance interview with Andrew Savage, and be sure to follow me,@tomsantilli.
Also, be sure to check out one of my favorite Survivor sites, SurvivorFever.net.