Thursday, October 22, 2015

Survivor Cambodia: Second Chances, Episode 5 - Next Time Clam Up

"I think there's nothing wrong with going to tribal council."

Violating the cardinal rule of Survivor, Monica Padilla gave us the soundbite of doom, the one quotable quote that will haunt you as you try to figure out where it all went wrong.  Although it's not going to take a graduate of a "Rank Not Published" law school (sorry Monica, but the Thomas Jefferson School of Law?  Really?) to tell you that Monica made two major blunders that led to her demise.  One, you don't fight over petty things.  And yes whether to eat all the clams you can find or save them for later is at best a petty argument, at worst it's dumb to even consider NOT eating everything you can lay your hands on in a game where you need strength and stamina.  Two, when you are not the target of the vote, especially early in the game, your only response is YES.  Not, well that's one choice, but what about looking behind door number two?  You agree to anyone who isn't you and live to see another day.

Who's happy as a clam, now?
Let's be honest here, Monica was no one's first choice for a second chance.  She would have garnered no votes on had the rules not required voting for ten girls and ten guys.  But she is pretty and young and looked enough like Monica Culpepper to confuse the latter's fans into a vote, so she took the spot that all us longtime Survivor fans thought should have gone to Theresa "T-Bird" Cooper.  I don't really remember her from her first season, Survivor Samoa (aka the Russell Hantz Show), and she was making as big an impact this time around trying to compete for airtime against the bigger personalities of Jeremy Collins, Spencer Bledsoe and this season's hapless GIF fodder, Stephen Fishbach.

It was like playing Where's Waldo trying to find Monica the first four episodes and she was considered one of those under the radar players who would slide through late into the game.  She started out in the Bayon tribe and thanks to the luck of the draw she made it to day 14 never having to light her symbolic torch and sit around the tribal council fire pit.  When the tribes shuffled, she was still sitting pretty, in a four-person alliance with Fishbach, Jeremy, and Kimmi Kappenberg, with former Ta Keo members Spencer and Kelly Wiglesworth in the minority.  All she had to do was nod her head and vote with the other three.   Sure there was more danger in keeping Spencer - he's a savvy player and he and Fishbach have a lot in common.  But Kelly has ties to some of the old time players and she's someone who can slip by unnoticed after a merge.  Since neither was an obviously bad play, why make a push to choose one over the other.

Monica had said before going into the game that she was going to play hard, "This time I am going ALL in, and holding NOTHING back."  And so with the decision to remain Bayon strong made, she decided to go to Kimmi -- the volatile, heart-on-her-sleeve firecracker that we all loved or loved to hate -- with a plan.  Ignoring the fact that she and Kimmi had clashed about the clams and that it's hard to build trust with someone who you've been butting heads with, she decided to implement her pregame strategy and swing for the fences.  Let's work on forming a girls' alliance and vote out Spencer rather than Kelly, she told Kimmi.  And then it all went south for her.

It was great seeing Jeff Varner this episode, if only in the "previously on" segment where his enthusiasm for life and love of the game radiated off the screen. His absence was spoken of like a death, with Andrew Savage telling Abi-Maria Gomes that Jeff was "in a better place."  I don't think he actually meant heaven -- more likely the Park Hyatt or the Borei Angkor Resort and Spa which have beds and showers and wifi and no drama.  But if we can say that Jeff did "die" in the game, his spirit left his body and entered former Outback tribemate Kimmi.  Hearing Monica talk about an all girls' alliance, Kimmi took that piece of information and ran to her old Bayon allies with a warning "there's a snake in the grass."

Nearly fifteen years since her first time on Survivor, Kimmi has learned to take a deep breath and practice her patience and not fly off the handle at the slightest provocation.  So when Monica challenged her about the clams, she just went off to talk to the camera and vent to us about how Monica was on her very last nerve and she would be wagging her finger a la Alicia if she wasn't trying to play a better, less emotional game this time out.   Instead of getting into a fight with Monica, Kimmi jumped on this opportunity to find a permanent solution to her Monica problem.

But first, elsewhere, on Angkor, Woo Hwang was grateful to Abi-Maria for voting to keep him even though her vote did not at all matter and she was deluding herself into thinking that the other three couldn't have done whatever they wanted without her.  Later, Savage and Tasha Fox congratulated themselves on surviving being in the minority being lucky enough to have ended up on a tribe with the most dysfunctional, uncooperative foursome since The Replacements.  Woo and Abi-Maria buried the hatchet, but she made sure to mark where it was interred so that in the event he ever votes for her again, she can dig it up and plunge it into his back on her way out.  

Woo shared a sweet story with his tribe about his mother overcoming a serious heart problem (which required a freaking organ transplant) and Abi-Maria rolled her eyes and said that she sometimes has trouble with hair extensions and press-on nails which is totally the same thing.  I complained last week that Tasha did not deserve a Fishy for capitalizing on the self-destructive mess that was the Ta Keo-four, but she deserves one this week for nodding and smiling at every insane thing that comes out of Abi-Maria's mouth and not grabbing her by the shoulders and screaming, "Can you even hear yourself?"

Where's Terry.  Oh, right. 
While the Angkor tribe tried to keep its fractured group united, over on Ta Keo it's a lovefest.  Joe has figured out a way not to appear a threat despite being the result of a mad scientists's efforts to mix the DNA of Ozzy and Malcolm into one super Survivor player and Keith Nale has learned how to give an entire confessional without expectorating.  Terry Deitz is openly defying the Survivor gods by again proclaiming as loudly as he can that he's in a great place on a great tribe that will never lose.  For some reason, this hubris is not being punished and they do indeed continue to win and flourish.  While Terry is out of earshot, the other five proclaim their allegiance to one another and solidify their plan to vote him out should they ever lose.  But with Joe Perfect on their team, how could that possibly happen?

There were two challenges this episode and surprisingly, Angkor lost neither of them. So we have at least another week of Abi-Maria to look forward to and by look forward I mean watch her between the fingers covering our face as if she were the star of a slasher movie.  It's going to be bloody and you don't want to look but you can't help yourself.  No, instead we had Ta Keo lose both challenges, only once thanks to Stephen scoring a point for one of the other tribes.  Monica was to blame for the immunity challenge lost as she found a way to be "upside down" while rolling in an open ended barrel.  The mind boggles.

With Monica scrambling, Stephen and Jeremy had to decide whether to stick with their original Bayon tribe or vote the first member of that ten-person tribe out of the game.  They worried what signal that would send but also worried what keeping Monica and her strategizing mind around would mean for their future.  But what they didn't do is tip their hand -- Spencer and Kelly both went into tribal council thinking it was between the two of them.  And as blindsided as Monica was by being voted out, they were just as surprised to still be there at the end.

I thought at first the editors didn't like Monica and spliced in shots of her smirking throughout tribal council as she waited for Kelly to be sent home, but even in this wide shot you can see she really was pretty smug thinking the Bayon four were sticking together.  But just as quickly as her torch was lit, it was snuffed out.  Another victim of playing too hard too early, Monica was forgotten before she was gone and now will be both gone and forgotten.

Interested in Monica's side of her second chance story?

Also check out:
Monica's interview with Josh Wigler for Parade.
Monica's interview with Rob Has a Podcast.
Monica's Survivor Talk interview with Dalton Ross.
Monica's interview with Gordon Holmes for Xfinity.
Monica's interview with Reality TV World.
Monica's interview with Hollywood Life.


  1. Great article. Lolz at calling Stephen 'This seasons hapless gif fodder' ��