Thoughts After the Finale:
- I have to give Kimmi Kappenberg a lot of credit for her performance down the stretch. Going into this season, she was probably the one castaway I thought didn’t belong on an All-Stars kind of cast. I shouldn’t have been too surprised she made the cast, especially given the fact that her season was the most watched in the franchise’s history, but Kimmi’s original story was about the least successful of anyone on this cast. She didn’t make the jury her first time, and didn’t really get into any kind of alliance at all, so it was understandable for me to underestimate her potential impact on the game. She’s been pretty low key all season, but to her credit, she finally decided to take a swing for the fences at final six. After threatening an all-girls alliance two votes before, Kimmi finally decided she was going to flip on her alliance of Jeremy and Tasha, after seeing that Spencer had replaced her in the hierarchy. She carefully crafted a plan to convince her allies to split the vote, while she would flip with Kelley and Keith and blindside Jeremy with a 3-2-1 split. Her allies sniffed out the plan, and it ended up backfiring on her in a spectacular tribal council, but she tried to play a game that made sense for her, and her concerns about how the game might end up proved true in the end. So, while I went into this season thinking Kimmi was probably not going to play a great game, she actually ended up playing better than major strategists who went further than her, and she played better because she managed to stay grounded as the game got more intense. And who knows, maybe if one or two things went differently, she could have found herself in the finals, contending for the title of Sole Survivor. Brava Kimmi, you played a good game, and your performance was a pleasant surprise for me!
- One of the greatest moments of the finale of Survivor: Cambodia was the tribal council at final six, which certainly will go down as one of the most sensational tribal council experiences in the show’s history. Going into tribal, Kimmi set up her plan to shake up the game, and Kelley, Keith, and her all did their best to stick to the plan and make it seem like it was just going to be a standard vote. Of course, the jig was up pretty fast, leading to some very tense moments as Spencer and Tasha basically blew up Kimmi’s plans by announcing that the vote split was off. It sort of sunk everyone’s hopes for something stunning to shake up the game, but Kimmi brought it on herself by being a little less discreet than she should’ve been, and all that was really left to do was for everyone to see if idols were going to come out and stop what was going to happen. Fortunately for us, we got to see not one, but two idols come out at Tribal, with Kelley playing hers first, and Jeremy playing his second once he realized he’d be out if not protected. Usually the wackiness of any tribal council is when an idol is played, so it’s crazy to think in retrospect that after a second idol was played the craziness had only just started. The votes started rolling in, 3 for Kelley and 3 for Jeremy, meaning that for the first time in 31 seasons, none of the votes cast at Tribal Council counted! It was a pretty crazy moment, the jury was stunned (Fishbach the most of all) and I’m pretty sure behind the scenes, producers were flipping through rule books and huddling up to figure out just how they were going to settle this mess. Probst announced that a revote would take place between the three non-immune players, and let them deliberate a little. Jeremy was quite angry about Kimmi voting for him, and the three of them made the decision to vote for Kimmi out of sheer spite. So after another round of voting there was yet another tie, a 3-3 split between Kimmi and Tasha, meaning that the remaining four would have to come to a unanimous decision on who to vote for, or they would theoretically have to draw rocks to see who goes home, just like was done on Blood vs. Water. I say theoretically of course because a caveat naturally occurred in this vote, with three of the four remaining players being immune thanks to have individual immunity or playing an immunity idol leaving Keith, the only player eligible to be voted to NOT receive three votes, as the default elimination. It was such a complicated situation to run through that Jeff Probst actually brought out a diagram and talked it through on the live finale (which was amazing and ranks very highly in my favorite Jeff Probst moments of all-time, recency bias be damned!) Keith almost threw in the towel out of sheer frustration over the craziness of the situation, but Kelley sort of talked him off a ledge, telling him not to quit, and agreeing to switch her vote to Kimmi. So after all was said and done, after multiple idol plays, deadlocks, and re-votes, Kimmi was voted out with four ayes. This is really going to go down as one of the craziest Tribal Councils ever, and dare I say, this was kind of the highlight of the episode. After this, the rest of the episode was just sort of a gradual procession towards an inevitable finish, which was kind of unfortunate, but also really stands to show just how epic a Survivor moment the final six of Cambodia were involved in.
- After the idol plays, it became crystal clear to me that only two people could win this season; Jeremy and Kelley. It baffles me to no end that Spencer and Tasha, two very savvy players were willing to go to the end with Jeremy, a guy who clearly outplayed them in the social game for the entirety of their time, but I’m just gonna shrug and move on from their decision-making, since I’ve got no rationale to explain their games. Jeremy seemed to be the social mastermind behind the Bayon alliance from day one, carefully constructing an alliance with a guy who was willing to take the heat of leadership (Savage), a physical threat who would be targeted (Joe), and a loyal confidante who would stay true to the end (Fishbach). Everything worked out well for Jeremy in the game, he made friends left and right, he made moves without having to truly backstab people, and found a tight group to ease his way to the end with. The only true foil that showed up was Kelley Wentworth, one of the three witches who turned the game on its head when she unexpectedly pulled out an idol and sent Andrew Savage to the jury early. From that point on, it seemed like Kelley was the underdog, the one who could keep herself afloat with great social play, and a few timely found idols. She got lucky with getting the clue for her second idol, but the way she played out finding that one, underneath the shelter that was just built for them, was fantastic, gripping television. Kelley always gave us, the fans, pizzazz and showmanship, giving the best confessionals, the best tribal council facial gestures, and always keeping everyone guessing. While I admit I was never a fan of the whole witch’s coven movement, mainly because of the other two, I found myself really rooting for Kelley to make the end, more and more so every week. By the final five, I was on the edge of my seat, just waiting to see if she could find a way to pull off another special feat by fooling everyone into thinking she would be good to take to the end. Her play at final five was making a fake idol for Keith, and it was kind of an awesome move, considering how real it looked from far away. Keith decided not to play it, for whatever reason went through his head, but it was great to see Kelley continuing to try every trick up her sleeve, even with her back against the rope. At final four immunity, Kelley lost a contest where they had to catch and place multiple balls into a contraption over and over again, and the look of defeat and sadness in her eyes was kind of heartbreaking. She gave the game absolutely everything she had, and she came up a little short, eventually being voted out on Day 38. Kelley couldn’t beat Jeremy, but she’ll go down as the second best player of the season for sure, and she may be remembered as one of the great animators of any Survivor season. If anybody on this cast is going to get a third chance at some point in the future, I’m thinking it’s bound to be Kelley Wentworth!
- On Twitter, I was quick to react to Jeremy’s immunity win at final four, remarking that Jeremy had just won season 31 of Survivor. I really didn’t have to watch anything else, it was that simple. All he had to do is beat Kelley, vote her out, and take his alliance-mates to the end, where he was going to roll them over easily. Tasha and Spencer had no chance against Jeremy, and for them to think they did really magnified just how exhausting the game can be; it clouds judgment like nothing else! Kelley made her case for Jeremy to vote Spencer, but Jeremy was in it to win, he was playing for Val (his wife) and their kids, including their yet-to-be-born son. Jeremy saved his ally with an immunity idol, saved himself with a immunity idol, and successfully made every single jury member think (at one time or another) that they were his friend and ally. He played a superior social game, and at the final tribal council, it showed supreme. While Tasha was generally ignored, Jeremy and Spencer fielded question after question from the group, each articulating their second chance story and defending their moves, alliances, and backstabbing. I thought the jury portion was good, some of the inquiries were insightful, but the whole thing seemed really unnecessary, until the final question. Kelley asked them all about their games, and what they were really playing for, and Jeremy dropped the bomb he was sitting on all season. His overtures about his unborn son, about hearing it was a boy from Val at the loved one visit brought tears to some eyes, and probably won over every fence sitter thinking about Spencer’s game still. Jeremy “balled out” as he so eloquently said about Natalie’s game in season 29, and the only question left for me was, would it be a unanimous decision. It was unanimous indeed, as Jeremy Collins was crowned the Sole Survivor and winner of Survivor: Cambodia – Second Chance, in a 10-0-0 decision. I think this was a great outcome for the season; Jeremy started playing strong from day one, building one of the smartest alliance networks I’ve ever seen anyone assemble, and walking the fine line between controlling the game and backstabbing the players in it. While Spencer manipulated outcomes with mathematic precision, Jeremy played a nuanced game, taking everyone’s feelings into consideration, while maintaining control of the numbers at all times. His greatest feat of all was convincing everyone that he wasn’t the biggest threat, casually putting the bull’s-eye on Joe and letting everyone be afraid of the strategists like Stephen and Spencer. For a strong guy, Jeremy probably just played one of the smarted, most well-reasoned games Survivor has ever seen! Make no mistake about it; Jeremy is one of the greatest winners in Survivor history, playing a nearly flawless game capped by a unanimous vote. It was a great end to a wonderful season seeing him crowned the Sole Survivor.
- Player of the week honors obviously go to Jeremy because, well…he balled out and won a million dollars…My favorite moment of the finale is honestly probably gonna go to Keith when he debated whether or not he should just fall on his sword during the final six tribal council debacle. While it was always pretty clear that Keith wasn’t playing a strategic game, you really have to admire that guy. He’s down to Earth, always is having fun, and he has the best confessionals ever, but when he went on about how Kimmi is a single mom and could use the money more, it really was a very touching moment. Sure it had nothing to do with great game play, but it’s nice to see some humanity that deep in the game, and it takes a character like Keith to bring that humanity out. I’m glad Keith decided to keep Kimmi in versus quit, because that shouldn’t be his legacy, falling on the sword, but I can’t help but to find that such an endearing gesture. Keith is a one of a kind Survivor player, and I’m really glad we got to see him play again…Everyone knows I have my favorites on any given season, which is why I just can’t help but wonder what could have and should have went down if Savage wasn’t voted out after Kelley’s idol play. He was truly the bridge connecting Joe and Jeremy and holding the original Bayon alliance together. With him around deep in the game, there was going to have to be a moment where he would have to decide where his loyalties truly lied, and the repercussions of that would have totally changed the outcome and the tenor of the season. See guys, this is why you split the votes! Oh what could’ve been…Spencer really screwed up, but I’m still going to give him a special shout out here. The guy was so close to being voted out in 19th place, and he constantly had to work without close friends or allies to keep himself out of trouble. For him to go to the end with Jeremy and Tasha seems ridiculous, until you start thinking about it a little. Those may just have been his only two good friends on the whole show (maybe Stephen too, but he feared his mind way too much) and Spencer really thought his underdog story would be respected. It’s easy for us to watch this game and go “No, why are you doing that? That’s dumb, you’re going to crushed,” but in the moment, it’s got to be so difficult to understand how people are going to see the game and vote for a winner. I’ve seen people in online communities refer to Spencer as a goat, but that’s simply not true. Spencer tried really hard, and it was a miracle for him to make as far as he did with a gigantic target on his back from the moment the cast was announced. He played hard, and with the exception of a few bad decisions, he played a great game. I like Spencer a lot, and I wish he could have gotten a vote or two for his trouble, but he should have some solace in knowing that he tried and he has plenty of fans who think he put on a great show. Here’s to you Spencer, you can’t win ‘em all, but at least you can give it your all, and that’s what you did…Jumping on to next season now; that was quite an interesting teaser for Season 32. I’m not big on them repeating Brains vs. Brawn vs. Beauty so soon after Cagayan, but the cast really looks to fit the mold, so if you have that mold, why not do it I guess? The cast looks great, and it seems like it’s going to be extremely dramatic, with injuries and medevacs being the theme of the season apparently. I’m really excited for this season, the brutality of it is sad from a humanity perspective, but it’s bound to make for a dynamic show. I’m eagerly waiting for next season to begin, but seriously, when am I not? I love survivor, and I’m very happy we got to see this fan-voted season turn out so wonderfully!