And here we go, Survivor Season 31: Cambodia – Second Chance is underway, and I’m as excited as every other Survivor fan for what could be the best season of Survivor. Every All-Star season is exciting, but for some reason, this one is even more. For starters it doesn’t have Rupert or Boston Rob… Beyond the quip, I think this really is what makes this season very exciting in my opinion, everybody is there to play the game, everybody campaigned hard to be voted in, most of them are there to win, and most of them can. Nobody is there just because they were invited back, nobody is there just for the “experience”. Also, I think it matters that all of them are playing for the second time only and none of them have won before. There really is that level playing field feeling.
And because of that, and despite almost not blogging at all for the past two seasons, I will try to manage to blog every week this season. Unfortunately, because of a schedule change, I won’t be able to post on Thursday mornings (US time) like I used to do and you’ll have to wait a couple of days.
My first impressions about this first episode: it was great! One other thing I really like with All-Star seasons is that we already know everyone, and yet, some of them we hadn’t seen in more than a decade, and the first episode did a good job reacquainting us with them, I feel. However, I hope there won’t be too much of “unstrategic drama” as I’m afraid that the edit may waste precious minutes on it, if there are some. For example, the Abi-Maria thing, it’d better have some implications further down the line, otherwise I really don’t care that she couldn’t find her bag and that she’s still the same drama queen she always was. Still, I think that most “character development” so far was there to follow the “second chance” storyline I assume the producers have in mind.
OK, with that being said, let’s get down to business and analyze those players:
Ta Keo Tribe
Abi-Maria Gomes: After her season, something happened to Abi-Maria. She realized that she had a volatile temper, she became more sociable and more aware and became a better person… (my assumptions) And then, her bracelet went missing… To her credit she didn’t blow-up at anyone, not even at Peih-Gee, but she became very passive aggressive instead. What I always find interesting with her, beyond her temper, is her apparent lack of maturity. The whole bracelet incident reminds of something that could have happened (that most likely has happened) back in elementary school. Why would anyone steal her bracelet? Oh well. Did that put a target on her back? I don’t think so, rather it’s just part of the bigger picture about her general behavior and attitude. The thing is that I think she means well. People even say that she’s much easier to deal with in real life. Could that be it? Is it her way to deal with the stress of the situation of being on Survivor? Probably.
Jeff Varner: Oh Jeff…. It still feels unreal to see him play again, 14 years later. As I previously mentioned, Jeff Varner was my original favorite player (I discovered Survivor by the end of season 1, so Australia was the first season I started watching from the very beginning), and he hasn’t lost anything of his wits, his charm, his awareness of what’s going on and so on. I thought he had an interesting edit that revolved around “oh my god, the game is going so fast nowadays, can I catch up?” and it really seems that he can, as he pretty much was the swing vote from the very beginning, even though staying with his original alliance (let’s not fool ourselves here, the “old school/new school” alliances didn’t form themselves naturally, they were pregame alliances) meant forcing a 5-5 tie, and who knows what would come out of that. After all the last time he was involved in a tied vote, he ended up being voted out.
And for that move he’s winning the first “What just bit my ass?!” award of the season!
In case you’re a newcomer to the blog, during Blood Vs Water, I used to give away “don’t let that fool you” awards (with Gervase’s blessing) to whoever was the most influential on a given week. It could be positive or negative. I haven’t done it since, but I decided to restart the tradition this season and as Jeff is the first recipient, the award this season is named after one of his quotes.
What’s interesting is that Jeff was the source of a quite important moment during tribal, but that moment was edited out. According to the press who attended the first tribal (Dalton Ross, Gordon Holmes and more) just before voting, he asked Kelley and Peih-Gee if they were indeed voting the way they originally said. I think that’s a pretty important moment, and I wonder why it was edited out. Will all of that be of no importance? I hope not… Strange though…
Where does Varner go from there? I can imagine Wiglesworth and Terry being quite pissed at him, and because of their old school mentality, they won’t really understand that, nowadays, alliances can fluctuate. Does it mean that now Jeff “has to” be in an alliance with Kelley, Spencer, Peih-Gee and Shirin? Maybe yes, maybe no. As I just said, this season, it seems pretty obvious that alliances will be very malleable and anything could happen. The only thing is that Jeff better catch up with the speed of the game today, or he could be a target soon. I think he has what it takes. We’ll see.
Kelley Wentworth: I hope that all the Kelley’s haters will now shut up. People who wondered why she was even on the ballot must have been sleeping during the early episodes of San Juan Del Sur. Sure, we saw her in this episode more than we saw her in the entirety of her original stint on the show, but the little we saw back in Nicaragua showed us that she could be a great player, she just got screwed by the reshuffling of the tribes (much more than having to play with her dad in my opinion) and as a consequence had an almost invisible edit, simply because she didn’t really have a story beyond that. Now she showed that she’s smart, and that she can make big moves. We just need to see how well she can do strategically, she still has much less experience playing than anyone else, but I’m very confident. She’s also in a great position now: she has an idol and no one suspects her, she is in the majority alliance and she has no target on her back (probably one of the only players in that situation). Now, let’s hope she doesn’t get screwed by a reshuffling of the tribes.
Kelly Wiglesworth: Meh… I understand the “wow” factor to have her back on the show. I even voted for her several times. However, I really don’t think she can catch up with 15 years of not paying attention to the show much. She indeed still seems very old school in her way of approaching the game, and I’m not too sure she can play the Survivor of 2015. We’ll see.
Peih-Gee Law: I wish we had seen more of her this week. Beyond the bracelet non-issue and a conversation with Varner, I don’t feel we have seen enough of her. She seems to be a part of the “new school” alliance, but I’m not too sure.
Shirin Oskooi: I’m still on the fence with Shirin and I think I will always be. She seems like a very nice woman, but her personality kinda annoys me and would definitely annoy me greatly if I had to live with her 24/7 for 39 days. However, the most frustrating part about her last season was that she could never really play strategically. Now she can, and if she’s “star-struck” she can manage it and leave it aside. The scene with Varner and Spencer was indeed impressive and she was almost going too fast for me. I think she will be able to play a strategic game this time, but that may be her downfall. I kinda see a trajectory similar to Jeremy in his first season: taking an early control of the game, but getting voted out around merge time because of that.
Spencer Bledsoe: Spencer hasn’t changed much (he only played one year ago, why would he have changed much?) and the only thing he needed to change (be more personable) he seems to have succeeded in doing so… He even seems to have some Charlie Brown left in him… Awesome… Also, he’s in a good position right now, that may allow him to maneuver a bit better than his first time around when he was potentially on the chopping block almost every week or so. He’s not likely to be an early boot, so he could go very far.
Terry Deitz: I never liked his self-righteousness, he hasn’t changed, I hope he’s out soon. One “incident” that was commented upon on Twitter yesterday says it all: when Abi-Maria started reading the treemail he asked that someone who can speak English read it instead. That tells me everything I need to know about him.
Vytas Baskauskas is the first boot of Survivor Cambodia – Second Chance: How did he manage to be the first boot? The edit wants to makes us think that it’s because he was being creepy with the girls. I don’t buy it. Instead, I think it’s because he was the only one who could play strategically in the old school alliance, hence the obvious target.
Woo Hwang: He summarized very well his position in the game at tribal; “I have no idea what’s going on.” And just like last time, he may just fumble his way through the game until very far, not having a single clue.
Andrew Savage: Still that “wanna be cool” leader persona. I wasn’t a big fan back in the Pearl Islands, I’m still not. However, I feel that I don’t know him enough for some reason. I think that, of all the returning players, he’s the only one I don’t have vivid memories of, just his suit. So I may give him the benefit of the doubt… Barely as he seems to be after Fishbach.
Ciera Eastin: She was invisible this week, wasn’t she? I’m a bit surprised by that. Is her story yet to come? Or will she get an invisible edit?
Jeremy Collins: He’s playing hard from the beginning. Just like in San Juan Del Sur. He’s got to be careful not to end up the same way. Hard to tell right now what he’s going to do. I’m surprised he wanted to align himself with Keith again though.
Joe Anglim: In case, you missed the memo, this season’s super hero will obviously be Joe. I’m not sure what is the reason behind such an edit. Winner edit? I don’t think so. CBS and Probst trying to turn him into a new Survivor household name (kinda like the new Ozzy or something)? Maybe that’s what it is. We’ll see.
Kass McQuillen: So Kass has decided to lay low. Well, she has no other option, has she? The crazy thing is that it may work. But sooner or later, the itch will be too strong, she’ll have to spread chaos, and then she may get into trouble.
Keith Nale: Here is my take on Keith. He had no idea how to play the game the first time, but he’s not stupid either. I think that this time around, he insists a bit too much on how he’s clueless (even during his campaigning). And, I feel that now, he’s much less clueless than he says, and his whole strategy is indeed to appear as clueless as possible. So far, it may be working.
Kimmi Kappenberg: I don’t think she can play the game strategically, but she may have improved her social skills a lot since the last time we saw her. We’ll see.
Monica Padilla: Same as Ciera (which is interesting as I assume they’re a twosome), is her story yet to come, or will she get this season’s invisible edit?
Stephen Fishbach: The game started very well, Probst called him Fishbach! As you know, when Probst calls you by your last name, that means you have entered his own hall-of-fame or something. However, it went downhill from there. It’s one thing to get the comedy edit, but it’s another one to have people laugh at you and not with you. As a huge fan of Stephen since his beginnings on Survivor, I can’t help but feel for him (even if I know he has no chance to win, I still kinda root for him). Yet, it was pretty hilarious indeed, but both the fact that his nightmare became reality (a tribe with alpha males who want him out, and the people who could play with him are on the other tribe) and this somewhat negative edit don’t bode well for him. Sad. He only needs to survive until a reshuffling of the tribes, can he do it?
Tasha Fox: She said that she’s willing to be a villain this season, she likes watching Joe’s body… That’s what we know about Tasha this season… Oh, she is also a part of the alpha male alliances apparently.
Next time on Survivor:
Peih-Gee and Abi-Maria get into a fight. And the rest is all about Varner… Maybe too much, if his story gets so intense so quickly, he may be an early boot. That’d suck.
Next person voted out:
If Ta Keo goes back to tribal (and I feel they will), Abi seems like the obvious vote. Varner could be blindsided though.
If Gayon goes, hard to tell as we haven’t seen too much of the tribe’s dynamics yet, but Stephen looks like he could be in trouble.
And the winner is:
At the moment, I’m sticking with my preseason prediction: Kelley Wentworth for the win.
Other potential winners according to the edit: Spencer, Varner (?), Stephen (with a rags to riches edit?)
Do you want to know more?
In that case, may I suggest that you read those sites, blogs and posts:
- Dalton Ross at EW
- Rob Has a Podcast, a website and much more.
- Stephen Fishbach is doing something unique this season: blogging about his own experience in his People Survivor Blog.
- Redmond started a new site this summer and it’s awesome: Inside Survivor
- Jeff Pitman’s True Dork Times is a must read each week.
- Andy Denhart’s Reality Blurred is too.
- I’m sure I’m forgetting a few…