Thoughts After Episode 13:
- There haven’t been too many points where there’s been agreement across the board in Season 31, but after the Joe vote, everyone left in the game sort of gave a collective sigh of relief. Without Joe around to outperform everyone in challenges, the board really opened up and everyone saw their own path to the million dollars. Of course, not everyone was completely sold on their decisions by the next morning, as we saw in a scene with Jeremy and Spencer. Jeremy characterized his feelings as “buyer’s remorse,” indicating that Spencer and he may have opened the door for the women to band together against them. They both made it clear to each other that solidifying their old alliances was crucial for staying afloat, meaning that Tasha and Kimmi would have to be reassured that the final four was still the plan for them. At this point in the game, everything was tense, and everyone was tired and worried, so hearing a term like buyer’s remorse sounded about right in describing what it’s like to play Survivor after a month of deprivation. Every decision after day thirty or so becomes heightened in terms of the reward you are risking, and conversely your mental and physical facilities are shutting down about that point as well. I give a lot of credit to Spencer and Jeremy for keeping a level head while playing this game as “leaders” and “strategic threats,” it can’t be easy to keep everything together especially when you know you could win or lose the game with every decision you make. Early in the episode it became clear that the women’s alliance talked about last week wasn’t happening at all, and that was the best news for Jeremy and Spencer all season. They still had life in the game thanks to their hustle, and that can’t be understated. These two have shown themselves to be masters of their craft.
- The reward challenge this week was an interesting moment, because they chose a challenge that Keith actually won on his season. Knowing and succeeding at the challenge before gave him a huge advantage, especially because it was a challenge where you needed to un-spool rope to get you to the end, and only he had a good idea of what he needed to get through the course. It was a tough fight, but Keith came out ahead, and won a wonderful reward, consisting of a tour through Cambodian temples, a blessing by the locals, and a lunch afterwards. Keith had a few “Keith” moments after winning of course, winded and unable to get his words out, he stumbled over explaining his choices for whom to bring on reward, even forgetting Tasha’s name for a moment. Keith Nale is such a wonderful character on this show, I feel like I say it every week, but his explanations were such great accidental comedy, and so were his confessionals later when he said it would be more likely that he would be on Mars then in the jungles of Cambodia being blessed in a temple. Keith makes seasons better, not because he’s a great player, but because he’s fun to watch, and you need someone like him to bring levity and balance to such a serious contest like a returning player season. His decision to bring Kelley and Spencer weren’t the most reasoned decisions ever, but no one’s counting on Keith to be strategic, he just wanted to thank Kelley for the last reward, and then give Spencer an opportunity to get a fun experience. It was fine by me, you just keep being you Keith, and America will love you, regardless if you win or not.
- Kelley Wentworth has had this underdog story all season, and it’s actually been one of the most fun season long narratives of the show. She was likely the earliest boot of anyone who made the show, going out of her first season well before the jury phase, and she set out to make sure she would be impactful on her second chance. The moment where she found the idol clue on Day 1 or 2 was gold, and her idol grab at the challenge was something I found myself cheering for. While it was slightly upsetting to see her vote out my pre-season winner pick with her idol play at 12, no one can deny that was one of, if not the most boss moment of the season. She’s continued to spin her game in all directions, knowing when to make friends, make allies, turn people against each other, and when not to do anything at all. This week, we saw her make her grand maneuver to win the game, attempting to make a final three pact with Keith and Spencer on reward. I really had to crack a smile at the thought of those guys being the final three, I think it would be such a logical decision for them all to band together at this point, and take out the hard-line Bayon members like Jeremy, Tasha, and Kimmi, who all have some friends on the jury. I loved the final three talks here, and I honestly think this was Kelley swinging for the fences, like she has all season. She still has an idol in hand, and probably plans to use it to take out Jeremy (which may backfire, but she doesn’t know that), pick up the numbers and get to final four with Abi, Keith, and Spencer. I love Kelley’s game, she’s a determined player, and if she wins next week, I’ll be very happy for her!
- It seems like we can’t have an uneventful immunity challenge of late, as the fatigue of Survivor has caught up to this cast. The challenge was part obstacle course, part swimming challenge, and part puzzle solving. In essence, it was classic Survivor, but in classic Survivor fashion, it brought a little pain. We saw both Spencer and Kimmi take big falls on the water platform obstacles, but it was Tasha who would struggle the most. Tasha got out to the buoy, but struggled to get the key she needed. She continued to struggle, and was unable to swim back on her own, clinging to the buoy and trying to catch her breath until Spencer eventually won the challenge by completing his puzzle. Eventually they needed to call the rescue and medical teams in to assist Tasha, who had no energy left, in a moment eerily similar to Joe’s issues the week before. It was another scary moment for the cast, and it highlighted once again how spent everyone is from playing this crazy game. Tasha was alright after a little while, and Probst had a very similar reaction to the one he had after Joe’s incident, part speechless, and part excited that people are giving the game more than they have to offer. This has been a crazy mental game, and coupling that with the normal physical strains contestants go through playing Survivor, it’s easy to see how players are finding it hard to stay afloat (literally and metaphorically). Luckily for them at that point, there were only four or five days left to bear, but they were bound to be some of the hardest of them all.
- At camp, the deliberations as to who was getting voted out at the upcoming Tribal Council had a decidedly different tone compared to all other votes. The final seven of Survivor: Cambodia were all jockeying to set up their final three or four scenarios. In one group, there was Tasha, Jeremy, and Spencer trying to lock down their old Bayon alliance, with Kimmi as the fourth they needed. Their plan was to take down Abi, whose presence created problems in the game. Then, there was Kelley, who wanted to solidify the pact she tried to make on reward with Keith and Spencer, and bring Abi in as their fourth. Their idea was to get rid of Tasha, someone who could win challenges down the line, and probably wouldn’t have an idol. It seemed very cut and dry for both groups, but the only problem was the fact that Spencer was being promised two different final three scenarios. So in essence, the season was coming down to “What’s Spencer going to do?” Spencer had yet another decision to make that could either win him a million dollars or get him voted out next, and it seemed simple to me. Go with Keith and Abi, and hope you can get Kelley out before the final three, but in the end, that’s not what happened. Spencer voted with the old Bayon bloc, and Abi-Maria was blindsided in a very interesting Tribal Council. I’m not sure if I understand what Spencer was thinking, but given the fact that Abi voted for Keith, it seemed clear that the reward pact would have to wait another vote or so. Abi was the nuisance of camp, she was a pest who no one could quite figure out how to work with, or how to fully trust, so seeing her get axed is no surprise. Now we’re down to the final six going into the finale, and there’s still going to be a lot of work left to determine a winner. It really is still anyone’s game, and that’s the beauty of this season, nothing’s certain and everything is earned the hard way!
- My player of the week honors go to Keith Nale, for winning reward, and finally trying to lock down an alliance. He stuck to the plan, and gave us all a great hashtag to use when discussing Survivor from now on (#KeithNaleLogic). It’s good enough for me; I can’t say if I know where anyone else stands in this game except Keith. Now all he has to do is spin some magic at Final Tribal Council…My favorite moment of the week is also Nale related, it’s his moment when he tried to explain who he was taking on reward. The guy is just such good television, it’s a shame we didn’t get more of him throughout the show…It’s really tough for me to envision how next week is going to go down. The teaser made it clear that Probst is going to say that something’s happening for the first time ever, and there’s been a lot of speculation about what that could be. One theory is that Kelley and Jeremy both play their idols simultaneously and nullify all votes, something that’s never been done before. I have no clue what would happen if that occurred, but I do believe the collective of Survivor fans around the country would lose their minds. I’m sort of rooting for this actually…Since this will be my last post before a winner is crowned, I think it’s only right if I make a winner prediction. I’m sticking to what I said at the merge, I think Spencer is set up nicely here. He’s probably going to be able to turn on Jeremy and Tasha, and beat out Kelley in the final four immunity. While it seems like an uphill battle, I’ve had a feeling that this is Spencer’s time to shine, and I’m sticking with that feeling.