Archive | September, 2015

“The permanent liability”: Survivor Cambodia Second Chance September 30 2015 recap

30 Sep

We learn at the beginning of this episode that the prior vote was a “flip” by Jeff Varner who evidently planned to vote with Vytas initially. Varner says the purpose of his vote was to “set the pace to get rid of Shirin and Spencer.” Get rid of them by voting with them? Interesting.

Meanwhile Spencer is worried about being allied with Abi, who he calls “the permanent liability.” He notes: “Abi’s here to start fights, and that is cancer for a tribe and deathly cancer for an alliance.”

On the other tribe, Joe makes hammocks for everyone else. He tells the camera that unlike last season when he was everyone’s target, now he’s more a provider. But we soon learn that the others still see him as a target.

Andrew Savage tells the story of how he misses his wife, and some on the tribe are moved to tears. Not so much Steven Fishbach, who makes a strategy-related comment shortly afterward. Savage takes this to mean Steven is a bad person whom he wants to vote out (Savage seems a bit full of himself). By the way, Steven must have some mortal enemy in the Survivor editing room who is determined to portray him as a scheming wimp with zero social game.

That night, Abi, who never turns it off, is back to her old tricks. She hears Peih-GeeĀ  talking about her to Shirin and immediately races over to confront Peih-Gee (behind whose back Abi was talking plenty last episode, you’ll recall). Peih-Gee more or less tells her off. But instead of smoothing things over, Shirin the strategist slinks away, no doubt figuring that any conflict she’s not involved in can only help her (this is more significant than it seems at the time). Peih-Gee tells the rest of the group that the conversation felt good, while Abi sulks by herself and hears the others chuckling about her. Finally Terry feels bad for Abi and comforts her, and he says the next morning that he thinks he now has an ally in Abi (Jeff Varner likes Abi too, but more as a pawn to take along to the finals because nobody likes her).

The challenge involves climbing up the sides of some A-frame structures and back down the other sides. It looks quite difficult as some of the A-frames are large. Then at the end a puzzle has to be solved. Spencer and Shirin do most of the work on their tribe’s puzzle, but they panic each other a bit when there is some conflict. Finally they think they have the pool cue-like puzzle pieces arranged correctly and all jump for joy … but Probst says they don’t have it right. Joe and Jeremy soon think they have it for the other tribe, and they’re right.

But Spencer still feels good. After all, he says soon after returning to camp, “I’m very happy to have control of the game with Shirin.” Now, we’ve discussed many times that anytime anyone on Survivor is heard to say “I’m in control and nothing can stop me” or words to that effect, that person will either be voted out that episode or at the very least experience a major setback. And indeed, we soon find out that everyone else thinks Spencer and Shirin are very dangerous. Jeff Varner says Spencer is the smartest young man he’s ever met, and Shirin is just as smart but also has salesmanship skills. And of course that means he thinks one of them needs to go. He broaches it to Kelly who somewhat surprisingly says she’s on board. She tells the camera that although she had an alliance with the two of them, she has no desire to go against the general flow of the tribe.

Shirin tells us she and Spencer have Kelly, Jeff, and Abi as a strong five, but just to make sure Abi is still solid she takes her on a walk. All of America shields their eyes: will unpredictable Abi tell Shirin off, or reveal what her own new alliance is up to? Well, she more or less does both, and Shirin has no answer except to be surprised that Abi is no longer with her. She tells Spencer that the two of them are screwed, and he gets the exasperated look that he never seems to drop … or have reason to drop! He soon realizes that one of them is going home for sure, and all he can do is to make sure it’s not him to win three more days.

Shirin has another idea: target Woo and flip him around. Unfortunately she more or less accosts him and just blurts out every bad thing that’s going to happen to him being at the bottom of an alliance. It’s very clumsily done … where is Shirin the ace saleswoman whom Varner was talking about a moment ago?

As for Woo’s reaction, he politely observes “I’m not saying I don’t trust you but this is the first conversation you’re having with me.” Shirin shifts into full car-salesman mode: “I will make any deal you want right now.” Even Woo the easygoing surfer just has to say no, he is going to do no such thing.

At tribal council, recent events are discussed, and Abi mentions that Shirin abandoned her, and that everyone was against her and nobody comforted her but Terry. Jeff Probst quickly pounces and observes to Shirin that this is the same thing Shirin said on her season about everyone being mean except Mike … but this time Shirin is the person being mean!

Then Spencer does a bit of campaigning and tells everyone else that if he is kept around he will become more of a people person and show more interest in relationships with everyone (he sounds like a high schooler running for student body president). And Probst points out that this is a repeat of what Spencer said on his prior season when he was trying to save himself!

When it’s time to vote, it is a split vote and Shirin is voted out. We see the same huge sigh of relief we have seen from Spencer many times before.

And on the preview for the next week we are shown that the tribes will be mixed up … but we’ll go from two tribes to three! I believe that might be a first. Spencer certainly needs this kind of switch badly.

Challenge within a challenge: Survivor Cambodia — Second Chance Season Premiere Recap

23 Sep

Wow, this episode featured an instant-classic moment, but we’ll get to that in due course!

We begin with all of the returning players (each of whom has been on only one prior season and did not win that season) actually walking through Angkor Wat in Cambodia before making their way onto four boats. Jeff Probst welcomes them from a nearby ship with a deck full of supplies and announces that their first challenge is here. They must climb onto his ship and load a raft with supplies, then get the rafts to another boat in the distance that has rice on it. Only one tribe will get the rice, so they have to decideĀ  when to stop loading the rafts and start making their way toward the rice.

Both tribes cut their rafts loose at about the same time, and Kelly Wiglesworth (the runner-up to Richard Hatch in the very first season of Survivor) simply jumps in the water to swim, even though the other boat is pretty far away — 100 yards perhaps? Kelly is moving faster than the rafts, so the members of the other tribe wonder whether one of them should jump in as well. When they get closer, Joe (who you’ll remember from last season’s “no-collar” tribe) jumps in to swim, but then so does Woo (runner-up to Tony from Survivor: Cagayan), who is on the same tribe as Kelly. Woo, who you’ll recall is a surfing instructor, outswims the others to claim victory for his tribe.

Jeff Probst tells both tribes to head right for their beaches. One tribe has Terry Deitz, the fighter pilot who was probably the best player on Survivor: Panama. That season was won by Aras Baskauskas, and Aras’ brother Vytas, whom we first met in Survivor: Blood vs. Water, is on this season.

The other tribe includes Tasha and Kass, who were both in the “Brains” tribe on the Cagayan season which was Brains vs. Brawns vs. Beauty (for that matter, so was Spencer, who came back for this season but is on the other tribe). Also reunited are Jeremy and Keith, both of whom were on the San Juan Del Sur season with their wife and son respectively. Keith is perhaps best remembered for his disastrous “stick to the plan” comment which you can refresh your memory about here if you wish!

Now, on Jeremy’s previous season he was always talking about himself as a big-time strategist, though he never seemed to actually back that up, and he barely made the jury on his season. Still, he has figured out who he wants to ally with, and that’s Tasha, Andrew Savage (who was possibly the best player on Survivor: Pearl Islands), and Joe. Jeremy thinks of Joe as “the ultimate shield,” which I take to mean that nobody will be gunning for Jeremy as long as Joe is around as an even bigger threat.

Also on this tribe is Stephen Fishbach (Survivor: Tocantins), who seems a fish out of the water (no pun intended) who’s a bit clueless on what to do. That may be a red herring because Stephen has done a podcast for years that features expert analysis of Survivor strategy!

Back at the other beach, Vytas is getting much of the camera time, and Shirin (back from last season’s “white collar” tribe) tells the camera she thought Vytas was “smarmy” when she watched his season and still does now. She also points out to some tribemates that Vytas has connections on this tribe (not sure who she means besides Terry) and on the other tribe too (Jeremy and Keith?). I absolutely hated Shirin on the prior season, but she is pretty entertaining here, and dare I say even a bit likable?

On the same tribe, Abi-Maria is back, yes, the incredibly blunt young lady from Survivor: Philippines whom I gave honorable mention in my list of the Worst Survivor Players of All Time. Abi says all the right things about wanting to learn from her mistakes and not create drama, but the game hasn’t been going very long when she announces that she can’t find her bag which included a treasured leather bracelet. She proceeds to look inside everyone else’s bag and finds the bracelet in the bag belonging to Peih-Gee (whom we know from way back in Survivor: China). She announces that she is not going to make a big deal of it, by which she means she will simply mention it to every other player on the tribe except Peih-Gee. Unsurprisingly, Peih-Gee hears about it in no time, and she sits down with Abi to clear the air.

In general, it’s pretty telling that every time a player talks to the camera about what they want to do differently than on their prior season, the answer is to play a better social game.

I haven’t yet mentioned Jeff Varner who was on the second season, Survivor: The Australian Outback, but that’s not because he lacked camera time. In fact, I think we see him about five times saying that he’s at a loss for what to do because this new generation of players is so strategy-oriented.

Then there’s Kelley Wentworth (not to be confused with one-E Kelly Wiglesworth). Kelley with two Es was the one who played on Survivor: San Juan Del Sur with her father who was a farmer and whose game dragged her down somewhat. When they announced Kelley as a candidate for this season my comment on her was “she seemed very bright and perhaps even a bit sneaky.” We certainly see the latter here as she volunteers to go collect palm fronds, knowing this will take her to remote areas where she can look for a hidden immunity idol. And lo and behold she finds one! Well, not so fast, it’s a clue to one. The clue shows the precise hiding place, the problem is that it’s not anywhere in camp but on the challenge course. In other words, if she wants it she needs to grab it during the challenge when anyone might see her! I know that Dalton Ross of Entertainment Weekly has been pushing this idea for what seems like ten years, and now we finally get to see it play out.

But first we get to see that both tribes are independently doing some yoga, led by Joe on the one tribe and Vytas on the other. As Vytas demonstrates some poses to Shirin, Kelley interprets this as his way of flirting; she is no fan of Vytas obviously.

The challenge is a reprise of the first challenge of the first-ever episode (Jeff Probst doesn’t fail to point out that Kelly Wiglesworth participated in that one and didn’t win). The players have to push a raft through water while lighting torches, then place the raft on some supports. Then one player has to tie together sticks to lift a hoop off of a faraway peg. As for the idol? It’s behind the leg of one of the raft supports, definitely not a spot Kelley can just swing by without anyone noticing.

The two tribes get out of their water and place their rafts and get to work tying the sticks together, with Kelly Wiglesworth and Joe doing the honors for their respective tribes. The two of them are maybe five yards from the raft supports, and each tribe has nine other members crowding around, though all looking in the other direction. Kelley wisely positions herself at the back of her group, but she is still a couple of steps away from that support leg. She casts some longing looks backward, but other players are looking around a bit too so she doesn’t dare risk it. There is no plausible reason for her to head back there, and all it would take is for one person to glimpse her for one instant, and the resulting distrust would have a good chance of getting her voted out! I must confess, I found myself thinking “What would Boston Rob do in this situation?” Surely he would come up with an excuse, fake an injury, or something! Kelly continues to sneak peeks at the leg, and this is ten times more dramatic than the actual immunity challenge that’s going on! But now that actual challenge gets to its tensest moment. Joe on the other tribe is an inch away from getting his hoop off the peg, and everyone’s eyes are riveted on him, and that’s when Kelley smoothly steps back, grabs the idol, and slips it in the back of her pants while stepping back forward. YESSSSSS!

Wow, I might have a bit more of a Kelley crush than I realized. Anyway, Joe wins the immunity for his tribe, Wiglesworth takes the blame for the loss, and Kelley does a convincing job of looking sad.

And then Jeff Probst drops the bombshell that the losing tribe has to go directly to tribal council from there! I believe this is unprecedented except in the case of a player quitting or some other extenuating circumstance of that nature. The development is certainly enough to make Spencer worry, as he tells the camera his tribe is unpredictable, having Abi, Jeff, and “all the crazies under the sun” (whether he meant Shirin or not, the camera shows Shirin).

At tribal council, everyone pretty much downplays the suddenness, saying that everyone likely already knew who they wanted to vote for. Woo essentially gives a eulogy for Abi-Maria, who points out that it’s clear who Woo plans to vote for at least. When it’s time to vote, Spencer stands at the voting booth in such an agonized fashion you would think he’s deciding who to take with him to the finals.

When the votes are counted, Vytas is voted out, 6-4. I guess that’s a tribute to the intelligence of the players. Vytas is an ingratiating guy, but anyone who saw his prior season knows he’s a good liar and completely ruthless. The six who obviously wanted to eliminate that threat were Abi, Kelley Wentworth, Spencer, Shirin, Peih-Gee and Jeff. And voting for Abi were Woo, Vytas, Kelly Wiglesworth, and Terry.

In the interest of completeness I should note the three other players on the season not mentioned above: Monica from Survivor: Samoa, Kimmi from Survivor: The Australian Outback, and Ciera from Survivor: Blood vs. Water. My memory of the first two is pretty hazy but Ciera can certainly be quite the little troublemaker.

So who are my early favorites to win this thing? I think Andrew Savage would have a good shot, and also Spencer and Tasha.