Entertainment, Survivor

Survivor: Cambodia – Thoughts After Episode 1

After four long months of waiting, the highly anticipated Season 31 of Survivor, Survivor: Cambodia – Second Chance premiered this past Wednesday night, and it did not disappoint. Filled with an all-star cast voted in by the fans, Cambodia got off to a great start with a mix of great game-play, some drama, and lots of energy and excitement. There’s so much to talk about from episode one; alliances formed, individual games started to manifest and unravel, and some important themes were established that could very well carry on deep into the game. I’ll try to hit on what I feel were some of the more important points of the premiere episode, and I’ll also highlight some of my opinions on what and who to watch for going forward. Here are my thoughts on the premiere episode of Survivor: Cambodia – Second Chance:

  • Survivor started out with a bang by returning to its roots in the opening. Recent seasons have seen the show start on the beach, in a more anti-climactic way than the show used to begin. But with this being a second chance season, the producers made a good call by making the players work for what they would get going into the game. As Jeff Probst introduced the season on a boat in the middle of the ocean, he informed all of the contestants that they would have to scavenge on a small boat for all of the supplies they would be able to take with them, and would have to paddle a raft to their beaches. To make it a competition, a second boat was stationed a ways back of the first one and contained one bag of rice that only the victors would get to keep. As the tribes started to gather supplies they had to decide when to bail the boat and head off to try for the rice bag. For the Ta Keo tribe, season one veteran Kelly Wiglesworth decided to try to swim to the boat with the rice, prompting season thirty’s Joe Anglim to try the same for the Bayon tribe. From the start of the game, it was already clear that old school vs. new school would be a theme, even if this instance was more inadvertent than what we would later see. In the end, Ta Keo’s Woo Hwang was the one to retrieve the bag for his tribe, and both tribes dispersed to their separate beaches to truly begin their ordeal. The opening sequence of the show was wonderful, it reminded me a little of Pearl Islands in the way the tribes had to gather their resources, except a little less dire in circumstances obviously. It was nice to see Survivor start out competitively, it’s the way it used to be, and going back to their roots was a great way to welcome this all-star cast and get into the game.
  • One of the more interesting things for me in anticipating this season was wondering how I was going to like the tribe divisions. With so many players in this cast that I genuinely want to root for, I thought it might be difficult to take a rooting interest in any team over the other. But, as we got to see the tribes at their beaches, and see how their tribal lives began to form, I immediately took a liking to the make-up of the Bayon tribe the most. The tribe seemed to work really well as a unit, and the majority alliance that seemed to form with Savage, Jeremy, Tasha, Joe, and Keith was one of the smartest alliances I’ve seen form on day one. All of the strong players on the tribe decided among themselves that they had to align together to not only stay strong for challenges, but to protect each other from the threat that comes from being labeled a challenge beast. I thought it was also great for Jeremy to take Keith aside and mend their differences immediately. I thinking having Keith along may really help Jeremy’s ability to go deep in the game, since Keith has a shown a propensity for being a loyal player. I think Jeremy, Savage, and Tasha have put themselves in an ideal situation to get deep in the game, especially since each of them have players on the other tribe that would realistically work with them, and even Joe, who will have a big uphill battle, is positioned about as well as I ever could have imagined him to be. Bayon is playing a really smart, steady game after the first three days, and I’m excited to see if this alliance can run this game, because they have some of the smartest and strongest players in the cast. Ta Keo on the other hand seemed to be a tribe divided and it was a bit awkward to see. A divide in the tribe showed immediately as the game started, with the concept of shelter people vs. beach people. The divide really was in essence old school players vs. new school players, with the group of Terry, Kelly, Vytas, and Woo being highly involved in trying to make a strong camp, whereas the group of Shirin, Kelley, Abi, Spencer, and Peih-Gee were more interested in strategizing and forming alliances. The divide made their tribal life a bit frenetic, and this was made even worse when Abi started being Abi on day one by complaining all around camp that someone stole her bracelet. She was about as annoying as we last saw her, which was highly unfortunate because she talked a big game about being a more refined version of her past self. This clearly wasn’t the case, and her going after Peih-Gee about her missing bracelet threatened to not only further divide the tribe, but put her in a vulnerable position to get voted out first. The first couple of days in Cambodia really showed just how random Survivor can be; two tribes were divided randomly and one came out sane, rational, and strong, while the other came out divided, and a bit scatter-brained. It’s gonna make for quite an unpredictable game.
  • The first challenge of the season was also a throwback to old-school Survivor, as the producers decided it would be fun to replicate the first ever challenge from season one. In it, the two tribes had to guide a raft with a lit flame through the water, lighting a series of torches along the way, and then lift the torch onto the beach where one of their members would build a long enough pole out of sticks to retrieve a key to open a gate. Initially the Bayon tribe fell behind as Keith struggled to keep the flame of the torch lit, and Ta Keo got to the beach with their raft first. However, it was Joe Cool who took on Wiglesworth in making the pole to retrieve the key, and his patience in building the pole led him to successfully get the key first, leading to a come from behind win for the Bayon tribe. It was horrible that it was Kelly, who lost this challenge 15 years prior, who cost her tribe by not building a long enough pole the first time she tried to get the key. She lost her teams lead, and it clearly got the best of her emotionally. Ta Keo was left with the daunting task of voting the first person out of the game, a heartbreaking moment considering how hard all of these guys campaigned for their spots. With the twist that they would leave immediately for tribal council, no one had any time to decide their votes, making a tough vote completely unpredictable. The old-schoolers made it clear at tribal that they were going to vote against the drama of the tribe, and vote for Abi-Maria, while Shirin’s group was set on their target of Vytas, who many perceived as a strong social threat down the line. It was Jeff Varner who ended up getting caught in the middle of the two alliances, deciding his vote at the very end of tribal Council. He turned on his old-school alliance, and cast the deciding vote against Vytas, who was the first eliminated with 6-4 decision. It was an unbelievable Tribal council, with the lack of scrambling making it a bit more exciting and unpredictable. I would’ve never imagined Vytas would be the first out, but I definitely understand that people might not trust him. He’s a very eloquent speaker, someone who seemed to make allies left and right, especially through his impromptu yoga sessions. It was apparent that he was a threat, and even though many people saw Abi as the bigger annoyance, taking out the bigger threat was much more crucial to set a tone going forward that the old school way of playing would not be the tone going forward. The vote will most certainly cause even more rifts at Ta Keo for many episodes to come, but it’s also going to make for even greater excitement going forward, especially when and if a tribe swap occurs. This was about as fun of a first vote off as I’ve seen on the show, so kudos to this cast for starting out the game in such an exciting way!

Just based on the first episode, I have to say I think this season is going to be a big hit. The cast is great, and they’re here to play, and the show is really making an effort to rediscover its roots while keeping things fresh. The hidden immunity idol twist for this season is one of the more exciting new twists they’ve come up with on the show in recent memory, and seeing how it played out with Kelley Wentworth of all people finding the clue and brazenly grabbing the idol wide out in the open shows that it’s truly anyone’s game. I was curious how that twist would turn out, but seeing the way it played out, and the difficulty it would take to get the idol, I think it’s absolutely brilliant. This season is gonna be must see TV, I’m sure of that, and I have to think the twists, turns, backstabbing, and lying has only just begun! Before I sign off for this first review, I have a few final thoughts on the episode, and the season to come:

  • As I mentioned before, Kelley Wentworth probably had the best episode of anyone, which is amazing considering she’s probably played the least number of days as anyone, with maybe the exception of Kimmi. Her foresight to look for clues while gathering wood and materials was genius and shows what I thought of her going in was true; she’s as smart and as savvy as any player in the cast. Her immunity idol is going to be a big factor in the game I do believe, considering the fact that she’s aligned with some huge targets like Spencer, Shirin, and Abi. She gets my nod for player of the week…Jeff Varner is definitely going to be somebody to watch as well, and I couldn’t be happier about that. He’s a guy who really got screwed by the early rules of the game when he played on season two, and he’s back for redemption for sure. It took a lot of guts for him to turn his back on his alliance on the first vote, but perhaps it’s a sign of the fluidity of this game. I think Jeff will be an instigator on this cast, just like he was fourteen years ago, only this time I think he’s got the potential to go deep by taking command of his votes…My winner pick for this season is Andrew Savage; not only is he one of my favorite players of all time, but I think he has himself set up in a great spot. His alliance is already one of my favorites, it’s so well thought out because it’s a group of really strong players who can all defer the attention off each other, and simultaneously keep their tribe intact by winning challenges. I think he’ll be able to outlast the likes of Joe, Tasha, and Jeremy by the end because their targets are just a bit bigger than his, and he clearly has the smarts to argue for his game in the end. It’s a bit of a hopeful pick for me, but I’m putting it in writing; I think Savage will be the winner of season 31, you can quote me on that!
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