Thursday, November 5, 2015

Survivor Cambodia: Second Chance, Episode 7 Recap - Kass is Out-Foxed

Going into Day 17, Kass has an epiphany.  "One of the great things about second chances is, there are so many layers of relationships.  Even though you say you're going to start fresh out here..." and then she trails off.  Are there fresh starts, or is your second chance just another opportunity to make the same mistakes but in a different locale and with different people?  By the end of the hour, we'll have that answer, at least for that California lawyer.

Up until last week's episode, Kass McQuillen's second chance story was about becoming "Calm Kass," -- being a vulnerable, friendly people person who makes birthday necklaces and shows human emotions.  But she was only able to fight her true nature for so long and last week she unleashed the beast.  Rather than staying strong with her old Bayon tribe who wanted to target Spencer, she broke ranks and voted out Andrew Savage's faithful servant Woo Hwang.  I wrote last week that I wasn't sure this was her best strategic move as it only put a target on someone who up to that point had become a nonentity in the game.

But maybe that's what ultimately motivated the turn around.  Better to be memorable than a forgettable bit player in someone else's story.  Better to go out in a blaze of glory than just fade away.  Kass could do the math and she saw that once the merge happened, she was in trouble.  She was at the bottom of the old Bayon alliance.  She wasn't going to let anyone else set the agenda, if she was going out it would be on her terms.  Fighting and scrambling and trying to create havoc.  It didn't work, but considering most of us had Kass as the predicted first book, making it to the jury is not too shabby.

Don't buy a used car or an alliance from this guy,
Early in the episode - pre-merge - Savage was alone on the beach and steaming.  "They're incredible liars.  I thought I could read people but those people are professionals.  I'm not going to go down workout a fight.  BLEEP them.  Pieces of BLEEP."  And then the Lorne Malvo of Fargo Season 1 scary smile.  The I could kill you with my bare hands but I won't, at least not with the cameras rolling, smile.  Like Usain Bolt and William Wordsworth, Andrew Savage is taking nominative determinism to a new height.  You know, you're named "Bolt" so you run fast, "Wordsworth" you become a writer?  Well Savage feels some real pull to live up to his surname.

Has anyone felt as good about themselves as Andrew Savage?  You know his wife was a model, right?  So he tells us that he'll try his best to fake being a wimpy, under the radar, non-leader - which is the complete antithesis of the heroic warrior he really is.  He'll lower himself and act like a regular human if that's what it takes to get him to the merge.  Because he has to get to that merge.  But have no fear, Jeff Probst's BFF.  The Survivor gods, or the producers, or someone who's looking out for you but I'm not naming names will fix this right up.  You need a merge, you got one.

And so for the first time in the 15 year history of Survivor, the first time in 31 seasons, an unprecedented, unheard of, never before seen (have I stressed this point enough?) 13 person merge is ordered from on high.  Hurrah, Savage is saved.   O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!

Now you know I'm not at all the suspicious type, but did you notice how hastily thrown together the notes each tribe received were.  And how everyone who spoke about the note said it couldn't possibly be a merge because it was way too early and it's never ever ever been done before not with so many people.  Heck a tribal council with thirteen torches would be a fire hazard.

This is my "I totally trust" you face.
But first, Savage and Spencer Bledsoe hammer out their differences - their differences being Savage lying to Spencer's face and pretending to be his friend while planning on blindsiding him and Spencer not falling victim thanks to Kass.  Spencer gets Savage to agree and shake on never writing his name down again.  And we know what Savage thinks of liars  -- bleep them, pieces of bleep -- so we know he's not going to go back on this promise.   Smart of Spencer to say bygones to Savage and think about continuing to try and build relationships.  He continues to get one of the best edits this season.

Okay, I promise, last bitch about Savage for this post.  But him saying how he's suffered out here this season?  Two days after one of his tribemates is evacuated because of a medical emergency involving his teenage son.  Shut up Savage.

Going into the merge Stephen Fishbach, Jeremy Collins, Tasha Fox, Andrew Savage, and Kelly Wiglesworth are together as a solid five.  They only need to bring in two more for a majority.  Kass, Ciera Eastin, Abi-Maria Gomes are together and will never join with them.  They need to bring in four more.  Kimmi Kappenberg, Keith Nale, Kelley Wentworth and Joe Anglim are up for grabs, with Kimmi and Keith most likely going with the Jeremy group.  Spencer wants to connect with Kelley and Joe and find the best group for them to join with.  If I had a stick and some sand I'd draw you a picture so we could discuss it in #joelanguage.

A rain storm leaves all the tribe huddled together in the shelter unable to strategize.  So Fishbach decides to share a poem.  It's "God Grandeur" by Gerard Manley Hopkins:
The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
    It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
    It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
    And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
    And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
And for all this, nature is never spent;
    There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
    Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
    World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

I'm not much for poetry, but it seems appropriate for a second chance themed show as it speaks of destruction and renewal, how man can try and tear down but nature will win out.  How there is renewal and rebirth.   Revival.  Literally a new life.  And that's what all the second chance tribe is looking for.

Stephen's poem made me feel all warm inside until I remembered Cagayan.
Former Cagayan tribemates Kass and Tasha are talking about what the merge means for them, and neither trusts the other.  Tasha claims she throws out some bait to Kass -- saying that she doesn't believe they are Bayon strong anymore -- to see what Kass does with the intel.

Kass tries to use the information against Tasha and her plan completely backfires.  One, Tasha is in the majority alliance and her friends do not believe she would have said anything against their alliance.  Two, Kass has a reputation which precedes her and it's not for being trustworthy.  Three, Kass pissed off Savage and he will use his leadership powers to get his bros united against their common enemy.  Four, some of the fence sitters are afraid of rattling the alpha-males and even more wary of siding with a famed backstabber.  Five, as I said when previewing this season, who wants to keep someone around who gave herself the nickname CHAOS??  It's not as hard a decision as the producers made it out to be.

Indeed, when the merged tribe came in for their first individual immunity challenge (which, unlike past seasons, did not have two idols, one for a female and one for a male winner), almost the first word uttered was "chaos."  Ciera mentioned that's what was going on around the tribe as everyone was running around camp drawing lines.  The problem with this is that every time someone utters the word "chaos" we're all reminded of how Kass was disloyal to her original tribe and embraced her villain edit as the bringer of pandemonium.  By comparison, Tasha has a reputation as a god-fearing, flower headband wearing, perfect teeth baring hero.  Which side would you join?

The first challenge was one previously played in Cagayan which Tasha had won, beating out Spencer.  It's a balance upon balance challenge that is actually pretty fun to watch, especially as people try every position to keep their ball on the circle because who wants their ball to fall off? Would history repeat itself with a Tasha win or would Spencer take his second chance and win this time out?

Get used to it.
Neither.  Joe wins!  I'm going to take the opportunity to copy that so that I can easily paste in into each of the next episode recaps.  To save time, I should also input "Stephen drops out first" as a shortcut keystroke.  What is more predictable this season -- Stephen embarrassing himself in a competition or golden boy Joe dominating?  I know!  Maybe how boring Joe's confessionals are.  When God was handing out personality he looked at Joe's Adonis-like form and said, that's good enough.  Let's give personality to those truly in need.

Back at camp, the fun starts.  Savage complains that he wanted the win so he could show all the young whippersnappers what a strong, virile man he still is even at his advanced age.  Savage is locked in a Cialis commercial and trying to get his, um, mojo front and center.  He's not happy being perceived as any less alpha than the other macho men on the tribe.   As the menfolk would say, it really grinds his gears.

Okay, since I went back on my promise not to rag on Savage any more this post, I will give him props for this:  When he went to the well with his alliance and they were discussing who would be their first target, he threw out the name Ciera.  But when he got pushback from his alliance, he did not stubbornly dig in his heels.  He switched gears and agreed with them to target her ally Kass.  That's exactly the right thing to do.  You make your pitch but if you get resistance and the other name is also good for you, just go along!

Also smart was how Spencer handled this.  He goes and talks with Jeremy (with whom he'd been building a relationship) about who they want to target. He follows rule number one, and does not give out a name first.  When Jeremy says "Kass" he immediately goes along.  As he tells us in one of his always entertaining confessionals, with the tide pulling you in one direction you'd have to be a fool to swim in the other.  And the benefit of Kass as a target, over Ciera, is that she is a toxic force that even non-gamers like Keith would be happy to get rid of just for the sake of peace.  The best target is one that others can feel good about voting out for any number of reasons.

With a personality and reputation as a chaotic pot-stirrer, you either have to be successful in convincing people why they should join you or you are an easy target.  Unfortunately for Kass, she lacks the power of persuasion.  When she talks, people don't think, "interesting point."  They think, "she's up to something."  And she is.  Plus, she makes it tense around the shelter and no one knows what she's up to but they know whatever it is, it's not good.  She is the quintessential easy first post-merge target.

Now, of course, what makes her the easy target doesn't necessarily make her the right one.  With the bro-lliance of Andrew, Jeremy, Stephen being strong, I'm surprised that some players - Kimmi, Kelly, Keith - aren't worried about being on the bottom.  Wentworth, Spencer and Joe also had to decide where they fit in, should they side with Kass, Abi-Maria and Ciera or go with the majority.  And of course you're trying to figure this all out with little sleep, little food, and very little time to think.

CBS had to spring for a new super wide angle camera to include everyone from the new Orkun tribe in this picture.  Notice how they are seated according to importance in case we couldn't follow the narrative tonight.  See how they give us Ciera, Kass and Tasha in the middle, center, with the "swing votes" (but not really) Joe and Spencer behind then also in the center.  You all on the ends, you don't even have to be there.  So Jeff starts asking question and if you're playing the "Chaos" drinking game (accepting variations on the word) you're not sloshed right now and may have missed this great reaction to Tasha hearing Kass say that she's NOT playing the Chaos game (check out the awesome GIF here):

I'm surprised Tasha's head didn't snap off.  Kass cannot have it both ways, you can't build yourself an image and play it up for two seasons and then feign ignorance.  If anything dug her grave it was trying to backtrack on what her game plan was. Embrace it, maybe try to sell it one last time, but don't pee on the rest of the tribe's collective heads and tell them that it's raining.  They're not buying it.

Joe is honest about what is driving his vote.  "Everyone is afraid to jump on one side of the fence or the other.  The easiest vote is these three right here."  Ciera takes umbrage at his statement.  "It should not be easy.  Go for the jugular.  I don't want to play with people who are scared.  I don't want to play with people who don't want to win."  I don't know what message she was trying to convey or who she was trying to sway considering her ultimate vote, but her argument was sound.  Don't make an easy vote, make the right vote. The problem was, neither she nor Kass was able to convince their fellow tribemates that voting out Tasha was the right vote.

Stephen made an interesting observation that this was a strange post-merge tribal with the three at risk being non-physical threats.  He also could have noted that they were also all originally part of the dominating Bayon tribe.  The logical first post merge boot would be either a physical threat - a Jeremy or a Savage - or someone from the old Ta Keo tribe like Abi-Maria or Spencer.  But the vote went down to going with the flow and voting out one of the Bayon turncoats.

In the end, it was Kass who garnered the most votes, with Ciera casting an unexpected vote (a message perhaps) against Savage.  But the message from tonight was that this doesn't speak to any solid alliances so much as a voting bloc of convenience.  Using the Sandra Diaz Twine "anyone but me" winning All-Star approach, the castaways are looking for easy, joint decisions so long as they're not the one at risk. Of course, this approach can only last so long.  We no longer have any chaos to shake things up, but we have some good strategists who are laying in wait, prepared to strike when the time is right.

I hope they don't wait too much longer.

EDIT: One note I forgot.  How hard is it to spell KASS???  It rhymes with mass, lass, pass, and sass and if you were going to make a mistake I could see Cass, as in Mama Cass Elliott.  But spelling it KAS can only be to tweak her.  Remember, not only was Tasha on Kass' previous season, but she was on the brains tribe, so there's no reason for her to pretend to be incapable of spelling a simple four letter name.  Maybe if they changed the rules that only properly spelled names counted, Francesca would have won her two seasons?

Here's Kass, aka Queen of Ponderosa, the next day:

Want more Chaos?
Kass on Survivor Talk.
Kass on RHAP.
Kass with Gordon Holmes/Xfinity.
Kass with Reality TV World.
Kass on SheKnows.
Kass on Examiner.
Kass on Gold Derby podcast.
Follow Kass on Twitter