All season long, this second chance season of “Survivor: Cambodia” has had the “old school vs. new school” debate front-and-center. On Wednesday night’s episode, the debate was finally resolved. There are no longer any doubts that this is not the game that first appeared in the Summer of 2000. It has changed, morphed and – to use the phrase repeated often by Stephen Fishbach on the show this season – it has evolved. Fitting, that this “new way” of playing truly seemed to arrive during an episode that resulted in a person going home who is the epitome of “old-school.” The game is growing more complicated, so let’s try to sort things out. From the beginning, here’s the full recap of this week’s ep:
Witches Coven. Returning from what was the biggest Tribal Council of the season – where Savage was sent to the jury after Kelley Wentworth’s Idol blocked nine votes against her – Kelley immediately tried apologizing to the others for just how excited she got after the vote went down. But who can blame her, right? Still, Kelley is playing to win and wanted to make sure she didn’t come across as arrogant or as gloating. Kimmi pulls her alliance aside and reminds her that one of the girls – Ciera, Kelley or Abi – still need to go home next. She calls those three girls the “Witches Coven.” Fishbach agrees with the nickname, and goes a step further, comparing them to boil (Abi), toil (Ciera) and trouble (Kelley), alluding to the famous line from Shakespeare’s Macbeth (the actual quote being “double double, toil and trouble,” but whatevs).
New Idol in Play. Jeremy tells us bluntly, “Savage going home screws me,” but everyone knows there is now a new Idol in play after Kelley played hers at the last Tribal. Everyone scrambles looking for it, but Jeremy feels like he needs to be the one to find it. He already has one Idol, but needs two…talk about paranoid! At this point in the episode, no one is able to locate it.
Reward Challenge. Two teams of five would compete in a giant obstacle course that began and ended with a puzzle…it was a challenge that first appeared on Brains vs. Brawn vs. Beauty (doesn’t it seem like pretty much every stinkin’ challenge this season comes from B vs. B vs. B? Come on Survivor! You have 30 seasons of challenges to choose from!). The reward was for a Survivor spa day, complete with showers, massages and a feast. The challenge itself wasn’t even close, with Probst saying, “This might be one of the biggest blowouts in Survivor history.” The team of Spencer, Ciera, Tasha, Joe and Fishbach won by a large margin, with Abi not even competing in the challenge since she was not picked by either team (ouch!).
Reward Feast. While Joe showered, Ciera of course wanted to use the reward as an opportunity to talk strategy. “I’m just going to say it, because I’m the Queen of just saying things,” Ciera says. “But I know a few of you are very close with Jeremy, but I promise to God if you go to the end with Jeremy, you don’t win.” Was that a bit of Survivor foreshadowing? They also talk about Wiglesworth as a very strong candidate to win the game. Another dose of foreshadow?
Double Trouble. Back at camp, Jeremy is determined to find that second Idol…and after leaving the group he searches all around Tree Mail and wouldn’t you know…he comes upon a clue! Wow. The clue tells him he will have to sneak off at night down a path in order to retrieve his Idol, and of course, that particular night, the group decides to stay up and talk around the fire. Throwing caution to the wind, he decides to just go off into the night anyways. A second Immunity Idol was hanging there, waiting for him. Jeremy, now in possession of two Idols, perhaps had a moment where it dawned on him that he has a real great shot at winning this game. Jeremy, the tough Boston firefighter, breaks down and gets emotional about what this could mean for his wife Val and family back home. “I just want Val to win,” he says through tears.
Fishbach Stirs the Cauldron. Always a perceptive player, Fishbach is starting to notice that Wiglesworth and Joe and quite close. “They seem to have sort of a shared arrogance, of how awesome they both are,” he says. He feels like the game has evolved and he is starting to itch for a big move to happen. He approaches the “witches,” Ciera, Kelley and Abi, and tells them that he is on-board to work with them.
Immunity Challenge, With a Twist. Yet another Brains vs. Brawn vs. Beauty retro-challenge, where the Survivors would need to balance on a triangular perch out in the water, moving up eventually to the very top of the floating perch at timed intervals. Last person not to fall of was winner. The weather took a turn for the worse, and it was pouring down rain during this challenge. With all 11 contestants still alive in the challenge at about the eight minute mark, Probst surprised them all. “This is a chance to change your situation in this game right now,” Probst tells them. “But it will require an instant decision.” With that he cut a rope and it released a series of buoys within swimming distance, one for each person. The first person to touch their buoy would win a “game advantage” but would be out of this challenge. Without hesitating at all, Fishbach and Spencer were in the water. It was nearly a photo-finish, but Fishbach narrowly reached his buoy ahead of Spencer. Fishbach would be given a scroll explaining what advantage he just won at the end of the challenge. With Fishbach and Spencer out, the rest did quite well, until they had to move their feet to a higher perch. Many fell out, and eventually it came down to Joe (who else?), Abi and Kelly Wiglesworth. The last leg of the challenge was to balance on the top with only one foot, and this made Kelly fall. Despite a few unsteady moments, Joe won Immunity again! His third straight individual victory. The man is the real deal.
Fishbach’s Advantage. Back at camp, Fishbach learns that he now has the one-time power to steal someone else’s vote at Tribal Council! The way it works is, when they are about to vote, Fishbach announces he wants to use his advantage. He then picks a person and that person does not get to cast a vote. Instead, Fishbach gets two votes. “This is a game-changer,” he tells us. Indeed! It will be very interesting to see how this plays out and when Stephen decides to use it.
Voting Blocs: The New Alliance. Learning from their mistakes at last Tribal, Kimmi tells her tribe that they have to split the votes this time, and the plan is to vote five for Kelley Wentworth and three for Ciera. But Fishbach approaches Spencer and Jeremy about flipping the game yet again. He talks about “voting blocs,” a phrase that will surely become a new catchphrase on Survivor just like “alliance” or “blindside.” He tries to explain it to Spencer and Jeremy, and neither of them seem to fully grasp the concept. “[Survivor] is a game of voting blocs,” Stephen tells them. “Not a game of long-term alliances.” Mind blown! Truly, the game is evolving before our very eyes. Instead of looking for people you can go deep in the game with, the “new school” idea of voting blocs is just to create short-term alliances nearly every vote, to eliminate the game’s largest threats. The idea he has is to vote out Wiglesworth, whom everybody agrees is a major threat to win the game. So it sounds pretty clear that a Kelly (or Kelley) is going home this week…so which would it be?
Tribal Council. The rain continues to hammer them even at Tribal, and everybody looks pretty miserable and cold. As for the game, “It’s pretty much play or get played,” Ciera says. Wiglesworth at one point tells Jeff she is “very confident.” Uh-oh.
The Vote. We see Tasha vote for Ciera, Keith vote for Wentworth, and Wentworth vote for Wiglesworth. No Idols were played, and the votes were read: Ciera – Wentworth – Wiglesworth – Ciera – Wentworth – Wiglesworth – Ciera – Wiglesworth – Wiglesworth – Wiglesworth. With that, for the first time ever, Kelly Wiglesworth had her torch snuffed. Blindside, voting bloc-style. The epitome of “old school,” a Survivor original, taken down by the newest theoretical strategy introduced to this ever-changing game. “The Tribe Has Spoken,” Probst tells Kelly. “Yes they have,” she says, still in shock. “Well tonight’s Tribal would seem to confirm that an evolution is happening in the game-play of Survivor,” Probst tells them all. “I can’t wait to see where it goes.” Agreed!
Analysis. As always, I will post a separate article with my personal thoughts on the game, you can find my Episode 9 analysis here (link will be active once analysis is live and online).
Next Time On…The rain and bad weather continues to pound our remaining ten players, and Probst’s voice-over makes it sound like the bad weather may actually impact the game more than we might have thought when he says it “forces a decision that could change the game.” We see our contestants with black and white marbles in their hands, and Probst’s voice saying, “Make a decision, put your palm out, reveal.” What the heck is he talking about? We will have to wait and see.
Be sure to check back tomorrow for my exclusive one-on-one, second-chance interview with Kelly Wiglesworth, and be sure to follow me,@tomsantilli.
Also, be sure to check out one of my favorite Survivor sites, SurvivorFever.net.