We hear from Ciera Eastin, who has been nearly invisible thus far, telling us she wants to play fearlessly. I guess we'll put a pin in that, because we're not going to see much of you - fearless or timid - the rest of this episode. Beautiful perfect Joe Anglim, like Cyndi Lauper's girls, just wants to have fun. Spencer Bledsoe is going to grab his third chance and be a better person and actually try to engage his fellow tribemates on what he assumes is a human level. And we get another replay of the battle of the hyphenates as Abi-Maria Gomes and Peih-Gee Law's fight is shown again lest anyone forget that one of them is a hotheaded unpredictable Brazilian. You know, just in case that might be relevant in, say, 46 minutes.
While Spencer is thanking his team for a second opportunity for a second chance and promising that the future will bring better things, someone, and I can't tell who, adds "Things can change overnight." Spoiler! Yes, the next morning brings the change that they never saw coming but we were shown at the end of last week. Those of you thinking you're sitting pretty and those of you who were getting ready to pack your bags, cool your jets. Because it's time for the first twist of the season. But first, we get the obligatory "I'm on top of the world...life is good" pre-tribe shakeup confessional, from Terry Dietz who has never watched Survivor before and doesn't know not to give soundbites like that.
The two tribes head to meet with Jeff Probst, probably thinking they're there for a reward challenge, and after Jeff interviews representatives from both sides, and gets them to admit that they could not be happier with their tribes, they're loving life right now, and it's smooth sailing, he gives them the old "drop your buffs" and the two tribes are split into three. Two of the tribes will go back to the shelters and food and supplies, and one tribe will get royally screwed becoming the red-headed stepchild of tribes, with no shelter, no food, and a lousy stretch of real estate that (according to this deleted scene) is uphill in every direction.
The eighteen players were split up in such a way that each new tribe had a 4-2 breakdown between old tribemates and new, seemingly giving those in the majority a leg up. The new Bayon had four from the original tribe - Monica Padilla, Jeremy Collins, Stephen and Kimmi Kappenberg - and two from Ta Keo were added - Kelly Wiglesworth and Spencer. The new Ta Keo tribe also had four from the old Bayon - Keith Nale, Joe, Kass McQuillem and Ciera - plus two from the old Ta Keo - Kelley Wentworth and Terry Dietz. Finally, the new Angkor tribe had four from Ta Keo - Jeff Varner, Abi-Maria, Woo Hwang and Peih-Gee - plus Andrew and Tasha.
The tribe swap seemed to help some who were on the bottom of their tribe, most notably Spencer and Stephen, and looked like doom to some who had been sitting pretty on their tribe - Kelley and "life is good" Terry as well as Andrew and Tasha. This was not lost on Probst who directed his question at the clearly upset Savage who acknowledged that he was in serious trouble and facing two days of unbelievably hard work ahead of them. This was not an overstatement. While the other tribes luxuriate on their hammocks, the new Angkor tribe gets to start from scratch, trying to put together something to protect them from the impending storm.
The new Ta Keo tribe could not be happier with themselves. They have the most physically fit tribe and even Terry is not worried, figuring with a line up like that, they'll never lose. He has no clue that his former teammate is doing everything in her power to get him to be the target should they ever lose. Kelley didn't get to play much her first season, it's fun getting to see her have a chance now to build bonds and develop strategy. Over on Bayon, we get a Monica confessional! Yep, she did not miss her flight, she's really there! Stephen is thrilled to be out of Camp Macho and feels much better being in a tribe where his machete fails will not spell immediate ruin. Meanwhile, Spencer is trying this new thing he heard about - it's called bonding. You share information about yourself with another human and learn something about them. He's a little awkward as a toddler taking its first step, but he gets the hang of it.
Both Andrew and Tasha are smart perceptive professionals, he's a lawyer, she's an accountant. Andrew's second chance story is how a new twist upset his plans and caused his downfall, Tasha's story is how she was always in the minority and had to win to stay alive. They were not going to lay down and die just because history seemed to be repeating themselves. But the numbers were not in their favor. First chance he got, Woo pulled together the old Ta Keo four and begs them to be smart and stay together. Seems simple enough if the master strategist Woo can think of it. Four beats two, all you have to do is vote together. What could go wrong?
The rain came and Angkor was not ready for it. But rather than the adversity bringing the tribe closer together, they manage to fracture even more. Peih-Gee asks Abi-Maria how she is managing to stay dry through the onslaught. If you were looking for an example of passive aggressive, that was it. Peih-Gee wasn't asking a serious question, she was trying to draw attention to the fact that in her mind, Abi-Maria had the best spot in their hastily-thrown together shelter and she wanted to switch places. There has already been enough tension between the two of them for a whole season of a daytime soap opera, but even in what should have been a bonding moment, Peih-Gee manages to drive another wedge between them.
Even wet and hungry, Andrew and Tasha are going to see what is going on around them and try to use it for their advantage. And, sure enough, they see there is not a strong four, but two women who can't get along and two guys hoping the two girls can keep it together for a few days. Tasha in particular notices the strain between the two women and she goes to work on Abi-Maria, promising her allegiance and a deep run. The two go on to talk to each of the four individually and see where the cracks are and how they can exploit them.
Over on Bayon, Stephen is now solidifying his alliance with his former tribemates, out from under the testosterone-filled thumb of Andrew, and discusses finding the idol as a group activity to bond them closer together. Jeremy, who actually wants to win, decides to approach looking for the idol as a solitary endeavor, one designed not to build trust and loyalty, but to save him when he needs it. After telling us that he's looked everywhere and there is no idol to be found, he then decides to redouble his efforts and not give up. His persistence is rewarded - not with the idol, but with the clue that tells him where salvation can be found. He decides to keep this information from his alliance as he learned from his first time on Survivor that your only true alliance is with yourself. And your wife, until she's voted out real early after pretending she has the idol.
The immunity challenge is a redux from Brains, Beauty and Brawn and conveniently the three former castmates from that season are each on separate tribes this time, so one (Spoiler - Tasha!) will have lost this challenge twice after today! The challenge itself is not remarkable, the only interesting part coming when Jeremy separates from his tribe to go to where the idol is hidden and successfully pockets it with no one the wiser. But what happens after Angkor loses is when things get interesting. Jeff Varner, who heretofore was looking pretty good in the majority alliance, mouths something to Kelly, his old tribemate.
It looks like he's signaling to her "Kimmi, Monica" - possibly suggesting that Kelly should try and ally with them. But his subtle attempt to send a message backfires like an improperly wired ignition or a damaged catalytic converter. Tasha sees what Jeff is up to and immediately jumps in front of him and calls him out. "Hey, we got a rat." Everyone turns to Kelly and she says, whoa there, it's not me this time. Back off Sue Hawk. Nope, the rat is Jeff Varner. Tasha busted Jeff, catching him with his Survivor pants crumbled down around his ankles. Oh Jeff, Jeff, Jeff. I won't ask what you were thinking. Thinking had nothing to do with this. Kelly was in no danger, her tribe wasn't going to vote out someone tonight. YOU were in no danger, you had the majority alliance. But by reaching out to someone on a different tribe he put an enormous, neon target on his back that said "Traitor, vote me out."
Andrew and Tasha had been looking for a crack in the old Ta Keo alliance and Jeff Varner gave them the Grand Canyon of cracks. But he didn't stop there. He then states in front of everyone that he made a deal with Andrew and was shocked that Andrew turned around and made a deal with Peih-Gee. This causes Woo, sweet, innocent, puppy dog Woo, to say, in the voice usually reserved for the phrase, What do you mean there's no Santa?, "Are we still in an alliance?" WHOOPS. Take your foot out of your mouth Jeff and try to convince Woo that the four is still solid despite the fact that you just admitted to making a deal with Savage. Good luck with that.
So Jeff knows his game is sunk. He's a dead man walking. When Abi-Maria calls you unpredictable, it's time to hand in your buff, snuff out your torch and do the walk of shame. He's dug his own grave and he's sleeping in it as his tribemates plan for a quick and painless execution. Abi-Maria goes over to Peih-Gee and Woo to lock down their votes against Varner. But rather than instituting the "yes" strategy, Peih-Gee fights back. She asks Abi-Maria why there is tension between them, why does she feels she's at the bottom, why is she so quick to abandon her old tribemates. Well, Peih-Gee, Abi thinks you stole her bag and lied about it and she knows you and Woo have voted against her. So there's that.
Peih-Gee scrambles and goes to Andrew and Tasha to say she's now 100% completely on board with getting out Abi-Maria. They tell Abi-Maria. So now, instead of all five agreeing to get rid of Varner, it's down to Abi-Maria versus Peih-Gee. Yes, Varner, the Governor has granted the stay of execution. Varner, who had already put all his eggs in Abi-Maria's basket when he voted out Shirin last time, agrees to vote with her to get rid of Peih-Gee, understanding that God or Buddha or the island spirits have just given him a second second chance and he better not mess it up. "Yes, dear," is the only thing that should come out of his mouth right now.
Angkor goes to tribal council with Andrew and Tasha being the swing votes and their only decision is to side with the fiery unpredictable one or the passive-aggressive indecisive one. The end up voting to keep Abi-Maria which not only keeps them around for another three days, but puts a target on Woo by not letting him know how the vote was going down so he could be on the wrong side of history. Because if you don't think Abi-Maria is keeping score and has not moved Woo to the top of her enemies' list, you don't know her. Peih-Gee is the third person voted out of Survivor Cambodia, the only representative of Survivor: China following up here 5th place finish there with a disappointing 18th place.
So what did Peih-Gee do wrong? She did not play a great personal game and she did not adapt. When you have someone as hot-tempered as Abi-Maria, you do not get on her bad side. You flatter her, you placate her, you embrace her, and you don't let her out of your sight so she can plot against you. But the bottom line was she did not create any solid alliances there and no one had her back and however the tribes shook up, she was in trouble. She was expendable which early on is enough to get you voted out. As she admits in her post-eviction confessional, she wasn't really ready for the "new survivor" way of playing by building relationships, adapting and scheming. Does make one wonder what she thought she was getting into.
Did Jeff Varner royally screw himself over and is he only granted three additional days because Peih-Gee imploded? Not so, at least according to Peih-Gee's post eviction interviews here and here. She tells us that Varner had told his alliance in advance that he was going to try and send info to their former allies, specifically letting Kelly know who was on the outs in their new tribe. That plan of course blew up in his face when Tasha saw it and then that's when things went south with everyone hurling accusations at everyone else on the mat.
She also told us that, rather than sleeping while his future at Angkor went up in smoke, Jeff was up and scrambling to save his ass. He was the one who told Peih-Gee that Abi-Maria had brought her name up and was targeting her, which led Peih-Gee to target Abi-Maria and get Jeff's name of of everyone's lips. Finally, Jeff, who had lost his first time on Survivor due to a tie vote, had sworn he'd rather switch than fight and if there was a chance that rocks would be drawn, he would do everything to keep that from happening. With three solid votes - and once Abi-Maria makes up her mind there's no going back - he had no choice but to make it four.
So while Tasha and Andrew get credit for saving themselves, moving from the bottom of the heap to the top, honorable mention goes to Jeff Varner for having an even more roller-coastery ride this episode and somehow finishing at the apex.