Survivor: Cambodia

Episode 1 – Villains Have More Fun

 

In the introduction, Jeff said that Survivor is the most physically demanding and emotionally taxing game on television, but that it gives you the opportunity to prove what you are made of (We had images of Kimmi and Stephen right then). After talking about the million dollar reward, Jeff added: “But for those who lose …”(We saw Woo on our screens followed by Stephen, Tasha, Monica, Ciera, Savage, Joe, Peih-Gee, Abi, Kimmi, Varner, Kelly, Keith, Vytas, Terry, Jeremy, Kass, Spencer and Kelley) … “it is a relentless nightmare of ‘what-ifs’ that never ends … until now.”

It was Kelley that was the featured player when Jeff said that the time for nightmares is coming to an end. We have to note also that all the “Losers” were shown with the exception of Shirin. Maybe she was simply forgotten, but it’s certainly something that we have to keep in mind. If Shirin becomes a big character then this could be seen as the first hint that she is our winner.

We then had some beautiful images of a Cambodian temple, art work, monks and primates which quickly situated us geographically. Jeff called Cambodia a country with its own stunning, humbling and powerful history that stirs the emotions. “It serves as a vivid reminder that the past can haunt us and it provides the inspiration to seize their second chance.”

(Once more, Kelly Wiglesworth was shown.)

S1 Kelly gave us the first confessional: “Fifteen years ago…I almost won. I made it 39 days and lost by one vote. That’s why I am here: It’s been poking at me for 15 years, little by little. I’m much stronger and smarter and I’m a mom now. I’ve given birth so I can do anything at this point, right?”

We saw the truck making its way through a village, approaching an open air market.

Savage had the 2nd interview: “I am living the dream. I have the perfect wife and my kids are amazing. I’ve got a great job. I don’t have any bad things in my life except Pearl Islands. My exit: It’s haunted me for 12 years (We saw Fairplay mocking him as he left.) and I’m not over it. To cure my Survivor pain, I need to give it a thousand percent. I’m going to leave everything I’ve got in this game and it will be epic.”

Spencer was next: “Last time I played Survivor, I was frankly cocky. I thought of Survivor in terms of chess, but I have done a lot of maturing. I have done a lot of emotional growing in that time. People are not chess pieces and they need to be related to on a human level. Being more emotionally aware, I think I am in a better place in life than I’ve ever been to play and win this game.”

The truck didn’t stop at the market; instead, it let the players off near the temple.

Kimmi’s confessional followed: “My experience in Australia was cut way short and I want to have my second chance at my dream of getting to the end. The Angkor Wat temple is a total metaphor for this whole game because you get a little bit of damage, but you can build yourself up. Fourteen years is a long time to finish that last chapter in the book.”

S29 Kelley was next: “Last time I played the game, I was with my dad…It was my downfall, absolutely. I probably should have written my dad’s name down, but I can’t go back on it now. I can take this second chance and I can make the move that I wanted to make and have a better game.”

Ciera’s interview: “I really messed up my first time being scared early on. After discovering that I can socially work my way through this game, I said: OK, Ciera, let’s start making some moves. Unfortunately, I had to start with voting my mom out. This time, I want to be fearless. I want to be that person that I was at the end of the game at the beginning of the game and just leave it all out on the island.”

Tasha in confessional: “The first time I played Survivor, I was “nice Tasha”. I didn’t want my family or my church members to be disappointed in the way I played the game. When I returned home, my church members were saying: “You need to be more aggressive; you need to lie and backstab like everyone else”. So, if the Saints think it’s OK, it’s OK! I’m here to win a million dollars and when it’s all done, I will pray for forgiveness.”

While we saw him walking on the temple grounds, we heard Varner’s confessional: “This second chance means everything in the world to me. I jumped off a pole in the Outback for peanut butter and gave away a million dollars when I did it. Replaying that history over and over again for 14 years really does a number on you. This is my opportunity to rewrite my own story. I’m more mature, I’m a lot smarter, and I’m not jumping off anything for peanut butter.”

During this confessional, we saw Varner walking alone on the temple grounds, the sole Survivor walking in that part of the grounds.

Just like they did with the market, the group of  Survivors didn’t stop at the Temple and reached a river where boats were waiting for them.

Joe’s confessional: “Growing up as a kid, me and my dad would sit around and watch Survivor. It was really hard not getting my dad out here for the Loved Ones’ visit. It was something that I really wanted to do to prove to myself that I could make it that far in the game. I just came up short and it was devastating. I think this is my time to make it happen right now.”

Kass’ interview: “We all have a little devil in us. I was a bit of a troublemaker in my season.” (We saw a replay of Trish’s exit. She left with class, but Kass showed her the finger anyway, shocking Sarah who was sitting in the jury.) Chaos Kass! She lives somewhere deep within me, but if I don’t change, someone is going to take me down. I kind of like my legacy thus far! I like the chaos. The only thing that needs to change is their perception of me and then, when the merge comes and I’m there, all hell will break loose.”

Abi-Maria was the next: “When I look back on my season, I made a lot of mistakes. I created a lot of trouble. That was a mistake. I threw coconuts at Skupin’s head. That was a mistake. I was too blunt with Lisa. I shouldn’t have done that but having a second chance to come back and patch those little mistakes… but I like having fun and villains have more fun!”

We had a quick glimpse of Varner who was sitting right behind her. Will he be the villain that has the most fun?

Then we heard from Jeremy: “The last time I played with my wife, and half my mind was always with her. I wasn’t focused, so I was blindsided by my own alliance. I went home, took it hard, and now I want the money for Val more than for me. I just need to go through this again. I’m back for some redemption.”

That’s when we saw that the four canoes were heading for a large boat in the middle of a bay where Jeff was waiting for them.

I liked this introduction. First, it was fun to see a bit of Cambodia and not just some nondescript beach like we often do. I also enjoyed the reminders we had along the way: Seeing the players assembled on the truck reminded us of the opening of Africa among others. The open-air market was a wink at the opening of Pearl Islands while the walk through the temple had to remind everyone of the amusing opening scene in China. We didn’t stop at any of those places because we were about to relive the very first marooning.

As for the characters that had early introductions, I think we have to consider that it was the temple and the monks that are supposed to provide the inspiration to seize that second chance. If Buddhism is to serve as a theme for this season like the constant images of the temple suggest, we will be looking for a winner that will show humility and enlightenment in his own quest for Survivor’s “nirvana”. Following this train of thought, the confessionals that were given during the temple visit may have particular significance.

The first one was given by Kimmi and she referred directly to the temple, saying that Angkor Wat was a metaphor for the game.  She talked about making it to the end, writing the book’s last chapter. That sets her for one of the “Journey” players. I expect there will be quite a few of those this season given the nature of the cast.

By contrast, Kelley, Ciera, and Tasha only talked about the game which tells us that they aren’t focusing on personal growth which is so important in Buddhism. We expect that they will make some moves but that the others will think they are playing too hard and it will eventually catch up to them.

After Tasha’s confessional, we had a change of music. It had been very rhythmic, very martial in tone, befitting her new aggressive approach to the game but suddenly we heard spiritual oriental themes and we saw Jeff Varner walking in slow motion. His confessional reminded us of his foolish actions in the Outback, opening the door for personal growth. Like Kelly, he also talked along the same lines that Jeff used to introduce the season, saying the constant replay of his first game played a number on him. If we add the image of him walking alone over the ruins, we may take this as a hint that he will come out on top, the player that will emerge from the ruins left by the game.

For the others, we had Kelly and her defeated look from Borneo’s finale at the end of the montage where Jeff talked about the relentless nightmares and then we saw her live at last season’s finale when Jeff announced that she would get the second chance. It suggests that this game will end her nightmares.

By his own words, Joe is setting himself up on a Journey to make his dad proud. The opening confessionals came from much longer interviews that the players gave before the game started, so the focus on the family visit tells us that it will be important for Joe. It probably will signal the end of his journey.

Kass first told us that she needs to change, then said she will do the exact same thing so maybe she just eliminated herself.    The same can be said of Abi-Maria who thinks that she can easily fix her “little mistakes”.

Jeremy is looking for redemption, but he tells us that he is still playing for his wife despite saying that it cost him the game in his first try.

Before we move along, we have to note that Woo, Vytas, Terry, Monica, Stephen, Peih-Gee, Shirin, and Keith didn’t give opening confessionals. It certainly doesn’t eliminate them from contention, but it certainly puts a question mark on their chances, especially considering that Vytas was in that group.

Villains Have More Fun.

After Jeff greeted them, Ciera was asked about the fan vote and the added pressure. Varner talked about the excitement and the emotions of starting the game. Joe mentioned all the great players that he grew up watching which made Kelly realize the weirdness of the situation. When Kelly said that she replays the final vote of Borneo every day, the camera went to Stephen and Woo, the other two runner-ups, letting us imagine that it is hard for them also.

Throughout this segment, the camera showed us Savage quite a few times even if he didn’t speak. I counted 4 individual close-ups, much more than anyone one else that didn’t have a speaking role between the time Jeff greeted them to the time he started explaining the first challenge. Second Chance certainly has some personal meaning for Savage considering he was voted out immediately after 2 people got their own second chance. He was the victim of the very first second chance given in Survivor. Will he be the one to seize the opportunity?

The tribes were divided by boats: The players sitting on the two boats on the left formed Takeo while the two boats on the right were Bayon.

It’s too bad we didn’t get to see how those assignments were made.

When they released their rafts, we heard that Wiglesworth was swimming ahead.

Immediately, images of a foolish Stephenie in Palau’s premiere came to mind, but Kelly maintained her lead for a long time.

Bayon was trailing Takeo, so Joe decided he’d try to catch Kelly by jumping in the water. Seeing that, Woo dove in also and he outraced everyone to the bag of rice.

Contrary to Cagayan, Woo succeeded in his very first mission. It was nice to see that Kelly made it to the boat just a bit behind Woo and would have won it for Takeo.   She certainly didn’t look as bad as Stephenie.

The Intro gave us many views of the temple and the monks, reasserting the importance of that theme. I noted that Tasha was the only one whose introduction images were taken in the temple, but she was crying. They didn’t look like tears of joy.

After the break, we joined Takeo as they arrived to their beach. The music was very harmonious.

Woo’s confessional: “Seeing our flag, I wanted to cry…It’s like when I received my first black belt. It is super-honorable. Going into that second chance, I feel I’m not playing only for myself but for everyone who voted for me.”

The first two we saw hugging were Varner and Vytas, quite ironic considering the vote.

Kelly (solo): “Seeing the beach, it was day one Borneo all over again. My first thought is: Let’s get camp going. To me, it’s important to work hard and be useful in camp and it was immediately clear who were the workers in camp: Terry, me, Woo and Vytas and Spencer. When people don’t have anywhere to sleep and it starts raining, hopefully they will remember that I was there working and building the shelter. It doesn’t get more old-school Survivor than me!”

Personally, I would have loved to see her getting everyone’s attention to discuss the reason they were there! Note however that 4 of the 5 workers will also be voting together but formed the minority. Kelly and Terry introduced an interesting theme: Old-school ethics versus new-school tactics.   Should we be looking for one approach to beat the other or for someone that can combine the two? The rest of the episode should give us a clue.

Terry’s confessional: “It’s been a long time since I’ve played and I believe that there is a huge difference between old-school players and new-school. One of the biggest differences is that the game is now immediately played when you hit the beach whereas in old-school it was kind of like we need shelter and we need fire. My social game over the past nine years has haunted me a bit…I hear my wife’s voice talking in my ear: “Don’t let people walk off by themselves. Make sure that you get in the social game.” It’s a big part of Survivor.”

After talking to Terry, Spencer gave us a confessional: “Terry’s children: Thank you for having your dad trust me because I don’t trust anyone, and I’m going to do what’s best for me. I’m a new-school player, but I’m an every-school fan so it’s important for me to have real relationships and to know what people are thinking. I want to have more one-on-one conversations in the first three days here this time than I had in my entire game in Cagayan.”

Terry promised to have Spencer’s back. Spencer agreed, saying he wanted to play with solid, rational guys.

The scene shifted to the disappearance of Abi’s bag. It was nowhere to be found and she really wanted to retrieve the bracelet that was inside.

Abi’s confessional: “I am worried because my bag disappeared…It had my super-powers bracelet. Last time, I totally let my emotions get the best of me and that was one of my downfalls. This time around, I told myself that I was going to control my emotions and that’s part of the game I want to play but it’s so hard for me not to pull out the fangs.”

We left Takeo to observe Bayon on their beach. The melody was also harmonious with more Oriental instruments than in Takeo.

Keith, Jeremy, and others were working hard on the shelter while Tasha, Kimmi, and Ciera were seen gathering wood.

Ciera’s confessional: “The tribe seems to be in a really good spirit. Everybody is working around camp; everybody is getting along. We have like a really peaceful mantra about us and I’m hoping that coming here a second time, I can rewrite my story.”

Tasha and Kass were seen weaving palm fronds together. Monica, Ciera, and Kimmi joined them, the latter saying they didn’t have palm fronds in Australia.

Keith’s confessional: “I never thought I’d make the cut, but here I am! I’m happy to be here now. Last time, I coasted on by for a while even without an alliance. That will get you all the way to fourth: Big deal. Fourth place is a hard pill to swallow, so I’m not going to change a lot but maybe tweak a little bit. Second time is going to be a whole lot different. No fumbling this time.”

But he’ll still be spitting!

Jeremy and Keith went for a walk, the fireman saying that they should put everything behind them for this new season.

Jeremy’s confessional: “With the tribe, I feel good. I knew that my season saw me as a threat so I figure: Let me talk to Keith. I’m hoping that, if Keith hears my name, he comes back to me. I’m trying to go strategically and really use my head this season. I wanted Tasha, probably the strongest female out here and I wanted Savage. Savage seems like a real straight up guy, another physical threat. My number one that I wanted was Joe. There’s no bigger shield out here than Joe and it kind of worked out that way. It will be so dumb for someone to mess this up. I feel like we have the stronger group. We can really move on in this game; we can make some noise. We need to stick together and watch each other’s back.”

While Tasha, Savage, and Joe agreed to the alliance, they expressed doubts about Stephen.

Savage told Joe that both his daughters found him perfect.

Joe’s confessional: “One thing I found out in my season is that I am a big threat, so I’ve got to make some moves. Either the alpha males go at each other or they align together and come together. In the case of like Jeremy and Savage, I think that we are all on that same page…”

Savage then knocked down a tree, impressing the women but worrying Stephen.

Stephen’s confessional: “I feel exactly like I felt the last time: out of place on a tribe with guys who are not like me. I’m a Fishbach out of water once again. It could be the same narrative as it was for me in Tocantins where I was super-out of place, but then I connected with one of these people who was really in his element and we went all the way to the end. JT, he was too amazing so he destroyed me in the end. I’m not going to make the same mistake a second time. All these manly men on my tribe, it is my nightmare. Either I am going to be totally in charge of my tribe or I’m going to dramatically overplay and flame out really quickly.”

We then saw him trying to break some branches.

It wasn’t pretty and it was accompanied by the familiar kooky musical theme! Second Chance was supposed to put an end to the constant nightmares but apparently not for Stephen. If the only options are to take charge or to flame out then it doesn’t look good for Stephen. Fortunately, there is another option: a string of victory until the tribe swap.

After the break, we were back in Takeo:

Vytas, in confessional, reminded us that he was once on a tribe with only women.   He explained that he manipulated their perspective.

We saw him trying to do the same thing with Kelley, Abi, and Peih-Gee. He wanted to get the women to like him.

Shirin’s confessional: “To me, Vytas comes off as smarmy. That’s how I read him in his first season and that’s how I’m reading him now. Out of the gate, I want to pull away some people that I want to work with and just lock it down. It’s a rare opportunity to get a second chance ever, let alone at this game and I’m not going to squander it. Vytas has very good connections and he’s got connections on the other tribe as well.”

We saw Shirin talking to Varner and Spencer about Vytas and his connections on both tribes.

Varner’s confessional: “Shirin is talking a mile a minute. This train took off and I’m glad I’m on it. I just got on it. I don’t care who’s pulling me in the woods: Yes is your answer. It’s like: Damn! Mama, slow down. I just got here and a train will only go as fast as its conductor will take it and she’s hitting the gas. What just bit my ass? (!) When I did it the first time in the Outback, it was all about the adventure. It wasn’t about the strategy at all. I haven’t played Survivor in 15 years. Is this the way you do it now? I don’t know if it’s 15 years of waiting for this opportunity, but it’s coming at the right time for me. I’ll be 50 next year. That’s a big year and most men my age go through a mid-life crisis: They buy a corvette; they cheat on their wives. I go on Survivor! It’s not about a mid-life crisis, it’s about a mid-life quest. The second half of my life opens with Survivor: Second Chance.”

The threesome agreed on Kelley Wentworth and Peih-Gee as allies. To Spencer and Shirin he said he was the old guy but felt like a baby.

Since Shirin was talking to Spencer and Varner, we could have heard from either but it was Varner who got the airtime. His words fit very well with the themes of humility and enlightenment. This confessional enables us to see him as an old-school player adapting to the new-school train of thought. When he mentioned feeling like a baby, we had the image of an adorable baby monkey. Like Varner, that baby will have to adapt quickly in the jungles of Cambodia.

That’s when Abi found her bracelet in Peih-Gee’s bag.

Abi told us about finding her bracelet in Peih Gee’s bag. She told Varner she wouldn’t do anything about it, but she told everyone just where she found it. In confessional, she wondered if Peih-Gee was intentionally trying to awaken the Brazilian dragon. She concluded by saying: “It’s my second chance; I have to play smart.”

Peih-Gee in confessional: “Abi-Maria was causing weirdness around this bracelet of hers that she thought I took and now I just want to straighten it out with her because I don’t want her to think that I stole her damn bracelet.” Peih-Gee told Abi that she saw a bag with no name tag on it so she just grabbed it. Her confessional continued: “The last time I was on Survivor, I didn’t form the relationships that I should have. I’ve learned that you make friends, but you keep your enemies closer.”

Bayon later on Day 1

Joe was determined to make fire. He wasn’t successful, so Kass suggested using her eyeglasses.

Kass in confessional: “Out here on Second Chances it kind of sets a tone for everyone like this is it! I was a little worried about getting voted back in because I flipped off someone, but I think people know that I’m going to play and you’re going to have some fireworks. A lot of people are here to prove something. I’m just here to win. I don’t care how I do it.”

That’s when Jeremy asked about Stephen’s whereabouts. Kimmi guessed that he was looking for an idol.

The camera found Stephen who was indeed looking for an idol.

Stephen in confessional: “I went out looking for wood, but I couldn’t help myself looking for the idol because, if I don’t find that idol, someone else is going to find it. This is a huge beach and there are a lot of trees. I walked in this disgusting muddy swamp. I don’t imagine Jeff Probst going into that swamp to hide an idol but, you know, it’s game on! I need to find the idol or I need to create solid links with people who won’t judge me for being the nerd. I’m sure people noticed that I was looking for the idol. I hope I don’t get branded by it…Damn it!”

Joe was still working on making fire and this time it worked. People cheered, danced, and applauded.

Andrew in confessional: “I’m still in awe of the fact that Joe got fire. Joe was just incredible. In this environment, with this humidity, we thumped Mother Nature on day one by getting fire and that is a great sign of things to come.”

The sun went down over the temple and we heard some Oriental music. We saw the sunrise on Day 2 in Takeo

It started with Vytas and Wiglesworth doing yoga on the beach. While the sun was shining on Kelly, it soon faded away from Vytas.

That sun dimming over Vytas’ face can certainly be seen as a symbol of his upcoming elimination. Since it was still shining on Kelly, then maybe it was also telling us that her elimination isn’t coming anytime soon.

Waking up, Varner told the people in the shelter that he felt gross. Kelley told him it was only day 1.

Wouldn’t that make a nice reunion clip? Jeff could be saying something like: “Jeff, you didn’t think you could make it past day two yet here you are on day 39…”

Varner in confessional: “Day 2 and I feel like I’ve never played this game before. It’s odd. This game is way too fast. I can’t keep up with it, but I’m playing hard. I’m trying to make it look like I’m not playing hard, but I am playing hard.” He was cooling off in the ocean with Peih-Gee when he asked her about her impressions of the groups. She mentioned the shelter people and he agreed that it was the shelter people versus the beach people. Peih-Gee asked if they were beach people. He told her that he didn’t know because he did both. His confessional continued: “There are two divisions happening on this beach right now: There’s the people who built the shelter, the old-schoolers. Old-school wants to do it the way old-school did it. You work and that’s what your value is. New-school just wants to take off running down the beach and get me in an alliance, but I don’t want to turn on the shelter people, my own folks. I don’t want to do that.” Peih-Gee asked Jeff for his choice of first boot. Cautiously, Jeff said that Shirin wanted to get rid of Vytas, but Peih-Gee really wanted to do something about Abi. We heard more of Jeff’s long confessional: “It’s my second chance and I’m in something I’ve never been in before and I don’t know what to do. Old-school, new-school, what do I do?”

Since the last image showed Jeff lying in the ocean, we were told he was going with the beach people…at least for now! This type of long confessional is fairly rare and we always have to take good note of them. It really presents the game from Jeff’s perspective and it lets us in on his dilemma between the old-school and the new-school players. That is the best way to tell us that he is indeed part of both groups already.

Takeo Day 3

Kelley Wentworth was one of the first to get up.

Kelley’s confessional: “I think that I have to take into consideration the game that I played last time. I didn’t take as many risks as I should have. You don’t always get second chances and I’m not going to waste it. Generally, the hidden immunity idol is already in camp when you get there, so I expect that in a second chance season there is definitely going to be one. I took on the task of getting palm fronds and coconuts and I knew that would give me an opportunity to potentially look for an idol. Sneaky, sneaky! I looked for a long time and then I happened to walk by one tree.” She found something that she thought was the idol. Unfortunately: “I jumped the gun a little”. It was just a clue to the location: “Usually the idol is in camp, but for it to be at the immunity challenge is just crazy because one can see you if you are not sneaky enough. If I get to the challenge and I feel I can pull it off then I’m going to try to grab it. Otherwise, I’m going to be super-obvious.”

This is another long confessional but, contrary to Varner’s, the search for the clue demanded such a montage. There was a nice attention paid to Kelley’s plan so maybe she will use that idol advantageously, but I don’t know if this presentation makes her a long term player. We will have to see how her character evolves from here.

Following a bat, we arrived at Bayon’s beach in time to read tree mail.

Kimmi read it and it told us we would see a replay of the very first challenge ever.

Kimmi: “Our very first challenge is going to be the very first challenge on Survivor. Getting the first tree mail after waiting so long, you know you get these butterflies in your stomach.”

Andrew talked about family and harmony to the tribe, saying they would need to help each other during the challenge.

Monica’s first confessional: “Tree mail kind of gets me nervous. It’s no secret that I’m one of the smallest people here and the first time I played, I always tried to downplay that and not make a big deal out of it, but now I want to make sure that I pull my own. I think I’m stronger now.”

Following Joe’s lead, the tribe did some yoga to stretch and get ready for the competition.

Keith in confessional: “Joe’s down there doing yoga. I don’t do yoga: I get up in the morning, I get coffee and I go to work like 99% of Americans do. Nobody wants to see me bend backwards and get contorted out there. I think Joe’s great…but yoga? That’s Joe.”

Did the editors really think we needed a confessional to figure out that Keith isn’t Joe? At least it showed some humor.

Tasha certainly enjoyed seeing Joe stretching out.

Tasha: “Today… we did some “Joga”. Honestly, I was a little distracted. I was trying to breathe, but all I could think about was Joe’s body…I think we are in a good mental place to win this challenge.”

Tasha wasn’t the only one looking at Joe!

Over in Takeo, someone else was trying to organize a yoga session

Shirin in confessional: “Before the challenge, Vytas showed me some of his yoga moves. He can be so over the top! He’s so yoga and vanalasama, monkey pose, and vashamashala.”

If Shirin thinks someone is over the top, can you imagine how far he’s gone?!

Kelley in confessional: “Vytas is going around, trying to flirt and it’s annoying me. It’s not sexy in any way. Just go away. Like a bug: Get away. I want Vytas out. Done! He’s annoying me.”

Abi left the shelter area, saying she didn’t want to see Vytas’ “idol”.

The contrasting reaction between these two juxtaposed scenes is a very good sign for Joe. His yoga session met great review while Vytas’ annoyed everyone. Since Vytas was voted out, the contrast would be that Joe is safe for a long time.

Vytas gave a confessional telling us that it’s tough to deal with Abi since she gets annoyed so quickly. Terry was in agreement because he told Wiglesworth that Abi woul be a good target.

Vytas mentioned that the vote could change if someone was really bad in the challenge.

Just then, we saw Kelly on our screen, the one that was going to be responsible for the loss.

The Challenge: Quest for Fire

Kelley Wentworth’s confessional: “Our first immunity challenge and all I can think about is the immunity idol. It’s all that I had on my mind.”

When Jeff mentioned that the losers would be going to Tribal Council where one would be the first person voted out, we had a close-up of Kass and Ciera.

I’m sure some viewers were expecting that one of those two would be out first.

Jeff reminded everyone that Kelly lost the very first quest for fire.

Did Kelly volunteer to build the tribe’s pole to erase that bad memory? It certainly backfired.

Keith struggled during the challenge, letting Takeo pull ahead. Takeo easily won the physical part of the challenge.

The camera focused on the hidden idol under the front pole. Kelley didn’t risk it at first because everyone had to race to the mat before Kelly could start assembling the pole.

Kelley: “I thought: Crap. I missed an opportunity to get the idol. As much as I want the idol, I don’t want people seeing me getting it.”

Once again, it was Joey Amazing that tried to catch up to Kelly.   Ciera told him to get it right the first time.

That advice comes a little late considering we are in a season of second chance!

With everyone focused on Joe and Wiglesworth, Kelley finally took a step back and grabbed the idol.

Joey Amazing was successful this time, getting his key first. That’s when Spencer jumped in to relieve Kelly. It didn’t matter, Bayon was already opening their door and Keith lit their fire.

Kelly knew she blew it. She told Jeff she felt 100% responsible. Varner told Jeff that she didn’t let them down.

Everyone was in shock when Jeff told them they were heading out to Tribal Council immediately.

Gone are the days when the castaways could talk along the way. Now, they are under strict rules to stay quiet.

Abi-Maria gave us an interview: “We don’t have a second to talk about strategy, game play: Nothing.”

Spencer also gave us his thoughts: “I am nervous as hell going to Tribal Council without getting your ducks in a row. We have a tribe with Abi-Maria, Jeff Varner and all the crazies under the sun (Shirin was pictured when he said that.) If the worst case scenario happens, it’s equivalent to all of your ducks getting shot by a rifle at once.”

It has to be noted that Spencer, despite voting with him, considers Varner as one of the crazies along with Abi and Shirin (at least according to the cameraman).

Tribal Council

The first question was addressed to Spencer who said it would be heartbreaking to leave because you’d be letting down yourself, your family, and everyone that voted for you.

(They seem to forget that the same people that voted for one also voted for another!)

Woo told Jeff about the division between old-school and new-school.

Terry agreed with that assessment, saying he was part of the old-school regime and that he spent more time building than talking at first but then he took time to sit down and talk because it’s part of the game.

Jeff added it was a huge part of the game.

Jeff is telling us that new-school is better.

Terry said he was surprised to see it happening that fast.

Peih-Gee said that Second Chance was about learning from mistakes. She said she was trying to split the difference between camp life and getting to know everybody.

Abi said she was trying to learn from her mistakes and that she already had situations where she could have been like a firecracker. She said she had been able to hold back.

Vytas talked about Aras beating Terry and that his brother would rub it in if he didn’t outlast Terry.

Wiglesworth said she was trying to figure out where she stood since no one had time to huddle and talk.

Varner told Jeff that he thought people knew what was happening. He added: “There’s been a lot of work on this beach in the last 3 days.”

Vytas agreed that the vote wouldn’t be random.

Woo said the vote would set the tone for the game but that he didn’t know where he was going.

Once more, Woo was out of the loop!

Probst turned to Abi and asked her if she had noticed Woo making eye contact with everyone.

Abi answered: “Yes, now I see the division and it’s a male thing.”

Vytas said it wasn’t a male thing and that he was looking for tribe unity.

Abi said she felt nervous and would be heartbroken if she left: “I’m not ready to go.”

Woo’s next answer told Abi he was voting for her.

Wiglesworth told Jeff that she thought she knew which way to vote by picking up on some cues.

Varner said picking up on cues was very important, so much so that he was losing sleep over it and he wasn’t doing the things he would have done in Australia. “It’s a whole different world and I don’t know if my old-world counterparts are participating in this new world as hard as I am. I’m balls to the walls and I’m dying to see what happens tonight.” After Probst mentioned the elephant in the room, Varner added: “This is my second chance; I don’t want to screw it up. It’s an important night.”

In the end, Terry, Woo, Vytas and Wiglesworth voted for Abi-Maria.

Varner, Shirin, Abi, Kelley, Peih-Gee and Spencer voted for Vytas.

Vytas left with no hard feelings, wishing them good luck.

After he left, Jeff said: “One thing is very clear: Your second chance could end at any time which means you got to make the most of it.”

The camera gave us a close-up of Varner when Probst said that, meaning he’ll either see his second chance end quickly or he’ll make the most of it!!

The Story

From this episode, I think we can establish four main themes: The importance of the Angkor Wat temple suggests that the players will have to show humility, spirituality, and inspiration. It will be a hard road to make it to the end. The long-term players will have to show all those qualities and more if they want to succeed.

The long term players will also find a way to put an end to their nightmares. The Journey players will eventually reach a point where they can be happy with the game of Survivor. They will give their all and won’t leave with as many bad memories.

Old-school ethics and new-school tactics: Vytas was made an honorary member of the Old-school so maybe this tells us that a new-school player will win, but the result of the vote seem to indicate that the winner will have to combine the two.

Finally, we can expect to see that villains have more fun: I expect that the winner will not necessarily be seen as a good guy, but rather someone that finds a way to eliminate people without completely alienating them.

Looking at the tribes, Takeo had more airtime even before Tribal Council, but the editors had to set up the vote. Jeremy and Savage made comments that suggest Bayon was the better tribe, but the challenge didn’t really back their comments since Takeo won the tribal part of it. Bayon owed its win only to Joe. The music was very harmonious in both camps except for the scenes that featured Abi and Stephen.

One thing that was good about this premiere was that everyone received a confessional. There are no real extras in this cast of characters. Of course, some have much more important roles than the others but that could easily change over the next few episodes. For now, we have to give more weight to the 12 players who had confessionals before reaching Jeff on the boat. Those who were shown during the temple visit underlined the themes of this story.   Let’s see how this apply to the individual players.

 

The Characters

 

Missing their Connections – These players didn’t connect with their tribemates or the themes of the story.

 

Stephen: While we were very happy to see Stephen making a comeback, I’m not sure production shares our feeling. It seems that the editors are trying to show that the “Know-it-all” isn’t very smart. In this week where we remembered Yogi Berra, I think this quote applies perfectly to Stephen’s role in this episode: “In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is.” The story could be setting him up for a great underdog role, but I think Stephen won’t be able to make the right connections.

 

Monica: I was surprised that she focused only on her problems in challenges. Since she made the merge, I would have thought that Monica’s main nightmares came from Shambo, Hantz, and the idols. Monica will never dominate challenges so maybe she should have concentrated on something else like finding idols this time.

 

Ciera: The cameras focused a lot on the encouragements she gave Joe during the challenge, so maybe she made a connection with the boy wonder. However, she seemed mostly like an outsider in Bayon. The images suggested that she could have been the first one eliminated if Bayon had lost when Probst mentioned Tribal Council. In a “new-school” season where trust plays a much bigger role than survival skills, I don’t think that Ciera stands much of a chance.

 

Kass: A second chance season was said to be a way to put an end to the nightmares yet Kess admitted she likes her legacy and would do the same thing if she makes the merge. Like Ciera, we were pointed in her direction as a possible first boot if Bayon had lost immunity. In Cagayan, she had an alliance with the other members of the Brains tribe and that’s why she could reach the point where she flipped the game. I don’t think she will ever make the connections she needs to create chaos this time.

 

Woo: It was surprising that we never heard anything about the bag of rice that Woo won for Takeo. It was as if we were supposed to forget that he ever won something for the tribe. Of course, that could change now that the tribe has flint and may start talking about cooking the rice and rationing it, but still, no one was heard thanking Woo for winning it.   He connected with the old-school players by working on the shelter, but he was still out of the loop when it came time to vote. Woo isn’t a threat so he should be safe for a long time, but his role isn’t really important.

 

Terry: When he said that talking to people is part of the game, Probst’s reaction said it all: Finally the old-school player is starting to get it. That moment eclipsed his actual social game where he got an alliance together to vote against Abi. He didn’t count on Varner and Spencer’s decision to go with Shirin, but an alliance was still formed. Can Terry recover? It would be surprising to see him turn things completely around because of his reduced role, but Varner still thinks of him as one of his own.

 

Sitting at the Gate – These players made connections but they haven’t gotten on board yet:

 

Kimmi: Survivor: Australia was hard on Kimmi. She felt that her tribe didn’t show her any considerations and she didn’t make many friends in Kucha. It seems that the people of Bayon are more understanding, so even if she didn’t get in the alliance, she will probably have time to repair the damages and build herself back up.

 

Keith: Jeremy talked to him mostly to remove the target on his back and he hoped Keith would warn him if he was in danger but it didn’t look like Keith was included as a full member of the alliance. He knows he can’t float his way to the end and he said that 4th isn’t good enough, but I think it will be hard for him to duplicate that result.

 

Spencer: He was part of the shelter building team and then talked to Shirin about voting against Vytas, yet he wasn’t sure if he could go along with “the crazies”. He wasn’t sure he had his ducks in a row making him appear hesitant and we didn’t hear him talk during Tribal Council. His hesitations could make him seem untrustworthy. For now, I can’t connect Spencer with the themes of the season. He did identify one of his problems during his first season, but is he really more humble? We’ll have to wait and see in his case.

 

Kelly Wiglesworth: More than anyone else, Kelly tried to redeem herself right off the bat. She took it upon herself to win the race for the rice and to retrieve the key in the crucial moments of each challenge. While she didn’t do poorly in the swimming challenge, she failed during the immunity challenge. That could have cost her the game, but the members of her tribe rallied around her. That is an indication that she will not be left hanging despite the vote. Her opening confessional was perfectly in line with the main theme of the season so she probably still has a role waiting for her.

 

Abi: Even if the vote saved her, I don’t think she’s really part of the alliance. Shirin, Varner, and the others used her to get Vytas out of the way, but now she may have outlasted her utility. We know that she won’t be able to let things go for very long. Three days is probably her record and I don’t think she’ll improve it.

 

Riding the Train – These players are off to a fast start:

 

Tasha: She accepted Jeremy’s offer to make sure she wouldn’t be the one voted out. She intends to play more aggressively, but that goes against the theme of humility and enlightenment.   She is in a nice position right now but will she mess it up by making unnecessary moves?

 

Jeremy: His second chance game started exactly the same way it did in San Juan del Sur. He quickly assembled a majority of voters and wanted to keep everyone in check because he feels it would be stupid to rock the boat. It doesn’t seem that Jeremy has learned anything because he said he just has to go through it again. While this plan should get him to the merge, he should still come up short.

 

Savage: I found it interesting that Fairplay was shown as being responsible for his exit in Pearl Islands. It’s a better sign for Savage to be remembered as the victim of the biggest villain that Survivor had seen instead of being voted out because he didn’t treat Lil nicely. He had two nice confessionals during the episode and he talked to his tribe about harmony and teamwork, but it was the camerawork before the scramble to get supplies that impressed me the most. Every time Jeff mentioned second chances, Andrew was shown on our screens and it made us realize he had been eliminated because of the biggest twist ever: the first second chance given to eliminated players.   Even the fans that don’t like Andrew have to admit he fits the theme of Second Chance as well as anyone.

 

Joe: It was a good episode for Joe, but I think any episode where he isn’t voted out will be a good one for Joe. There really isn’t much negativity that can be thrown his way and he’ll probably be voted out again because he is too much of a threat.   His opening confessional set him on a Journey to make his dad proud, so we can expect that he will last up to the family visit, give his dad a tour of camp, but get voted out soon after.

Peih-Gee: She wasn’t sure if she was part of the shelter builders or the beach people. In other words, she wasn’t sure if she was old-school or new-school and she was more inclined to vote against Abi, but she showed some humility and went with Varner and Shirin.   Most of the players that have boarded the train right off the bat had an opening confessional, but she didn’t so we don’t know if she can truly fit in the season’s themes. Much of her presence was tied to Abi-Maria’s attempt at personal growth. Will her role evolve from there? We have our doubts.

Kelley Wentworth: Here’s another player who thinks her only mistake in her first season was not making big moves. Putting all the blame on her father shows a lack of humility; however, her need to play harder was rewarded almost immediately when she put her hand on the Hidden Immunity Idol. The idol’s protection could calm her down, enabling her to build solid bonds with the others. Getting rid of the guy that annoyed her put her in a nice position, but she was in an equally good position before the swap in her first season. How will she handle this season’s tribal shuffle?

Shirin: There were two very important developments for Shirin in this episode. First, she formed a solid alliance around the idea of eliminating Vytas. Shirin received full credits for booting the player that she saw as being untrustworthy. The editors proved that she was right by letting us hear Vytas’ confessional where he talked about manipulating the women in his first season. Shirin showed that she was a new-school player, but she was able to connect with an old-school one. That union should be interesting. The second important point came in the first few seconds of the season where the montage of losers looking for a second chance didn’t include her. If that omission was intentional (Would the editors really make such a mistake?) then it could be a huge indication that Shirin is our winner. She didn’t get an early confessional, though, but maybe it would have made her too obvious. Varner called her the train’s conductor so she should play a key role down the line.

 

Varner: This episode was great for Varner. Some will say that he showed too much arrogance during Tribal Council when he announced that he was playing balls to the walls, but his talk with Shirin and Spencer showed us that he was humble enough to rely on them. He admitted that he wasn’t used to playing like this, so the two won’t see him as a threat to them. His presentation during the walk through the temple grounds was quite noticeable. His confessionals presented the strategy from his perspective and he fits very well in all the themes. Already, he was a key player in a big blindside and he had fun doing it. Villains have more fun and it seemed that no one had more fun than Varner in the premiere. If he doesn’t overplay it, he should make a huge impact on this season.

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