Thoughts on Episode 9:
- The Witches Coven was born this week, thanks to a great confessional by Kimmi Kappenburg. Kimmi, identifying the three ladies on the bottom as the witches stirring the pot, was clear in her ambitions to get Abi, Ciera, and Kelley out of the game before they could mess anything else up for the majority alliance. It was a really interesting turn in the narrative to see them labeled “The Witches Coven,” it was fitting given the trouble they had just caused at the last Tribal Council. Clearly the game has changed now, and it’s all about whether these three ladies will be able to successfully infiltrate the numbers and move deep into the game. These three are the underdogs now, the “villains” to the cast, but the heroes for the viewers at home to root for as they fight and scrap their way from a powerless position to a powerful one. It’s going to be interesting to watch those three going forward, they’re fighting for their lives in the game, but in doing so, they’re playing harder and may just be the ones to find the cracks in the Bayon alliance, especially with its de facto ringleader, Savage, gone from the game.
- The reward challenge was an interesting moment in the show this week, with the tribe, divided in two by a school yard pick to race an obstacle course that ends with a puzzle to get a combination to a lock. It was about as standard of a Survivor challenge as it gets, but it went down very oddly. First, in the school yard pick process one person wasn’t going to get a chance to compete, and unfortunately for Abi, she was forced to sit and watch, knowing she had no shot at reward. Then, once the challenge got under way, one team successfully managed to navigate building a peg ladder to reach an obstacle, while the other team had no luck figuring it out. As the challenge went on the leading team continued through the challenge, while the other team still couldn’t get through the first part. By the time they got somewhere it was much too late, and the reward was won by Joe, Spencer, Stephen, Tasha, and Ciera. They got to enjoy a nice afternoon at the Survivor spa, and Ciera took the opportunity to try to throw Jeremy under the bus as much as possible. She’s getting to be a bit of a broken record, but I have to give her credit for trying at least. At camp, Jeremy took the opportunity to look for an idol, considering half the group was away on reward. After a bit of digging around camp, and looking for odd spots, Jeremy found himself at the water well looking around. He saw a tree with a lot of tangles and started digging through it, finally finding an envelope. Unfortunately, this was not an idol, but instead a clue to its location. In a real weird twist, the idol would be presented to him under a lantern in the middle of the night, but he would be forced to leave camp suspiciously to grab it. It was such a weird way to find an idol, basically having it handed to him, but nonetheless Jeremy added a second idol to his collection. Now he’s really in the driver seat, leading his alliance and having two fall back options in case everything goes south. If Jeremy wasn’t the favorite before, he most certainly should be now!
- For the umpteenth time this season, we got a throwback to Cagayan with the immunity challenge this week. They are really just beating that season to death with the throwbacks to it, it has to be at least the fourth time they’ve mentioned it. I get it, Kass was polarizing, Woo was an audience favorite, and Spencer is the golden child, but can other seasons get some love too? Anyways, the challenge was to balance on a floating triangular platform. They had to balance on really thin rungs, and would gradually have to move up to the top, and even on to one foot. The challenge was going along like most do, with some falling out early, and some progressing on, but Probst was starting to get a little weird. He was pacing back and forth on his platform talking about how things can change in an instant and how you got to take chances. At the crescendo of his rant, Probst reached for a machete and chopped a rope, which released eleven buoys in the water. He told the Survivors that the first person to forfeit their immunity chance and swim to their buoy would win an advantage in the game. It took a second for anyone to react, but Stephen and Spencer jumped and it was a race for the buoy. Fishbach got there just a split second before Spencer, winning the advantage in the game, which ended up being a vote steal, something we’ve never seen in the game before. I think this is one of the best twists I’ve seen on Survivor, and having a strategic guy like Fishbach at the helm of such a massive advantage could lead to some amazing game play. It’s crazy to think someone will be able to take away someone else’s vote; I can’t wait ‘til he plays it! But back to the challenge, the earth turned, the sun rose in the east and set in the west, and Joe won immunity. It was predictable, the guy is becoming a legend before our very eyes, dominating challenges and turning heads. He once again saved himself from being targeted, and everyone who might have been gunning for him would have to re-think their strategies…again.
- After the challenge, the remaining players all congratulated Joe on another job well done, and then scattered about to plan the vote. Stephen was again trying to ingratiate himself with the witches coven, this time plotting the demise of Kelly Wiglesworth, someone he saw as a potential jury threat down the road. The three witches were in on the vote, adopting an “anyone but me” strategy, but they were still two votes shy of gaining the proper majority needed to pull off the ouster. Stephen went back to his confidantes Jeremy and Spencer and pitched the idea of taking out Kelly. It was really a ballsy move for Fishbach to rock the boat, since all three of them were in comfortable positions, but siding with the women would allow them to take out a wildcard that none of them really knew all that well. In the Tribal Council before, we heard Stephen talk about the game, and how their strategy had moved past the idea of alliances to center around fluid voting blocs, and he used this theory to paint a target on Wiglesworth. Within the majority of eight, it started to appear like Joe, Keith, Kimmi and Kelly might be developing a voting bloc, solely based on their interactions with each other, and Stephen saw that as a problem. And apparently he had Jeremy and Spencer convinced, as they backed out of their places in the 4-4 split targeting Ciera and Kelley, and effectively backed out of the majority alliance to cast their votes against Wiglesworth. In the middle of a pouring rain, half the tribe sat stunned as voting blocs and promises broke down in a peculiar way, as Kelly walked out to get her torch snuffed, just before the rain could do that naturally. Despite her seeming anonymity in the game, Kelly’s ouster was stunning because it was born out of a completely on the fly re-assessment of alliances and strategy. Now, the game is about as individual as any season has been with ten players remaining, with no clear cut alliances over three people noticeable. I’m not really sure what these guys are doing out in Cambodia, but it’s going to be fascinating to watch it play out after all this chaos.
- My player of the week is going to have to be Fishbach. Not only did he set himself up wonderfully by winning a killer advantage in the game, but he finally masterminded a game changing move that he can take credit for. He’s setting up his profile well, now all he has to do is last until the end. I’m not sure of his chances, but I’m rooting for the Survivor nerd because, well…I can relate…My favorite moment of the episode was probably Fishbach’s confessional about the witches where he (mis)quotes Macbeth. That and all his confessionals were just wonderful, and witty, and hearing him narrate the story really makes the experience of the season enjoyable for me…I think the witch’s coven is set up shockingly well, considering they were an idol play away from essentially becoming extinct. The game changes so fast sometimes, and now Kelley, Ciera, and Abi have some serious leverage to play off. Stephen seems to think there won’t be lasting repercussions from votes anymore, but if he’s wrong, he’s just flipped the game to his detriment…I feel like they have the concept of the vote split all wrong. Every time they split the votes, it’s no avail because people are jumping ship on those days anyway, but the ONE time they don’t try a split is the only time they should have. These guys are horrible at predicting how things are going to go, and they’ve been horrible at it throughout the season. It seems like every vote there have been a couple of people totally shocked by the voting, and it makes for great moments as a viewer, but these players are being very crafty this year. This is Survivor at its finest though, they’re all playing a wonderful game in Cambodia.