Thursday, November 12, 2015

Survivor Cambodia: Second Chance, Episode 8 Recap - How 3 is greater than 9

“There is no greater danger than underestimating your opponent.” - Lao Tzu

"Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall." - Proverbs 16:18

#FYAS - Eliza Orlins

The reign of terror has ended.  Andrew Savage, the most smug, supercilious, pompous player to ever play Survivor, was served a big spoonful of comeuppance at tonight's epic, one-for-the-ages tribal council.  As screams of joy spread across the Survivor nation, and Twitter flooded with #fyas and #fuas, Savage took the short but sweet walk of shame to his best bud Jeff Probst and watched his "life in this game" snuffed out once more.  Abi-Maria Gomes gave him a fitting send off, turning his own words on him, and he gave the CBS censors another opportunity to blur some digits as his second chance came to an end.

And for once a divided nation came together, huddled around our 65" Ultra HD TV sets, and celebrated.

Too much?  Most of us coming into Survivor: Second Chance had a relatively neutral view of Andrew Savage.  We remembered how the outcast twist his season -- which for the first time allowed eliminated contestants back into the game -- messed with his game and thought that he was somewhat deserving of a second chance for that reason alone.  We didn't even mind that he spent some cold hard cash campaigning to get voted back on this season and took it as a sign that this was important enough for him to buy the ads.  But almost immediately upon setting foot in Cambodia, Savage went from the guy with the hard-luck story to the macho alpha male asserting his power and attacking those he felt were beneath him.

On just the second episode, Savage went after Stephen Fishbach saying, "Fishbach is kinda lacking in some of the things that really mean everything to me and my tribe.  Morals, values, loyalty, dignity, courage."  This was not something he said to another tribemate for a strategic purpose, it was an uncalled for personal attack, directed to us the viewers at home, to question and disparage Stephen's very humanness.  Savage is a lawyer, he knows what words mean and how to use them to do damage.  He intentionally maligned a fellow castmate just to taint the viewer's opinion of him and raise questions about his integrity.  I didn't know it at the time, but that outburst gave rise to the eff you Andrew Savage hashtags that were in abundance last night.  Again last night Savage went on the attack against Stephen, calling him disgusting for trying to play the game and target the number one threat in the game, Joe.  Disgusting?  No, trying to get rid of a threat is not disgusting.  Verbally attacking someone for playing the game, that's disgusting.

So that's where my glee in his downfall comes from.   And if Twitter, Reddit and Survivor Sucks are any barometer, I'm not alone.  But let's go back to the beginning and see how we got here.

The episode starts with Savage and Jeremy talking about voting out Chaos Kass the night before. "Brilliant plan executed to perfection," Savage calls it.  He was sitting pretty and feeling good.  His plans were coming together and he had the numbers on his side.  He told us, as he had told his fellow tribemates, that his first goal was to make the jury.  With that taken care of, his plan was to "stay the course" and pick off the three women in the minority and keep playing old-school Survivor.

"Things could not be any more perfect.  Nothing can go wrong."
Jeremy listened and agreed, the women, especially Ciera, were gunning for him, Savage and Joe.  Jeremy is playing a really good game so far.  He doesn't give too much; he listens more than he volunteers.  And he is well aware that he is a threat, but that Joe is a bigger threat so as long as Joe is around, Jeremy looks less threatening.  So when he leaves Savage to go talk with Stephen, he gets a little frustrated in Stephen's obsession on getting Joe out.  Jeremy is in a very interesting place here, between the alpha and beta, straddling the fence between the guy who wants to keep bros before hos and the guy who wants one of the bros gone stat, before he wins it all.

Also playing a good game is Stephen.  He has enough self-awareness to realize that his obsession with getting out Joe is Moby Dick-ian in its intensity and that he risks Ahab's fate if he doesn't let up in his single-minded efforts.  Still, he continues to raise Joe as a threat which does alert them to look for a chance to vote him out should he ever lose an immunity challenge.  Hey, stop laughing.  He can't win them all.  I mean, just how many balance a ball on a disc games can they come up with?  Eight, nine more tops.

There is definitely a risk to continually bringing up an alliance member as the next to be voted out.  If he's willing to cut Joe, why won't he do the same to us.  But this is where Stephen is playing smart.  First, he listens to his alliance members and doesn't try to run them over.  When Jeremy says it's too soon, he doesn't push back and come off looking like an unreliable wild card that is too dangerous to keep around.  Second, Stephen reaches out to and tries to build alliances with people outside of the main power group.  You never want to take those in the minority for granted and you don't want them to think they don't have a chance to sway you.  Stay open, stay connected.

You want Joe out?   OMG, I want Joe out!
Ciera is not taking being at the bottom lying down and she and Stephen have a good talk about the majority alliance having to fracture at some point and they bond over their mutual desire to target Joe Perfect ASAP.  This is textbook Survivor.  You don't let a little thing like an apparent 9-3 numbers disadvantage slow you down, you get out there and try to stir things up, look for cracks and exploit the hell out of them if you can.  It's what Tasha and Savage did so successfully after the tribe reshuffle when they found themselves down 4-to-2.  But as good as Ciera's plan is, she's going to need some divine intervention to keep herself or her two allies out of trouble.

Before the opening credits run, Fishbach gives us some foreshadowing to consider, telling us, "It's time to go for someone who's a real threat to win this game" as we get shots of Joe, Savage and Jeremy, the "bros" currently running the sho'.

The reward challenge had two teams paddling to collect puzzle blocks that were then to be arranged so that no color repeated on any one side.  After the school yard pick, Joe ended up on a team of two men and four women and only he could get away with patting each on their behind before the challenge started.  If Keith had tried that, he'd be on a sexual predator list now.  Oh, it's good to be the golden boy.  Despite having more muscle on their team, it was Joe's team that made it back to the beach first and despite having the collective brain power of Savage, Spencer and Stephen, it was Joe's team that solved the puzzle first.  And thus it was Joe's team that went off to indulge themselves in bagels, iced coffee and cookies.

When I win, I'm gonna buy me one of these "to-tos."
Usually I don't talk much about the reward challenges, but watching Keith commandeer one of the tuk tuks, take it out for a spin, and then drive his teammates around for a victory lap or two was a real highlight.  The guy is just so adorable.  He isn't playing old school or new school, this is Keith school.  He is having the time of his life, playing hard, partying hard, and enjoying every moment of his second chance.  And Ciera understands what an opportunity she was given by getting to go on a reward and takes the chance to talk game, "drop some seeds and build some relationships."  They are the strategic yin and yang of this season and it was fun seeing both of them get the most out of the reward.

"The scheming, lying, deceit.  It's disgusting." - Andrew Savage

Stephen talks to his allies, going to Jeremy, Spencer and Tasha, and suggests blindsiding Joe at the next tribal if something supernatural and impossible happens and he doesn't win immunity.  Savage observes one of these talks and makes his second disparaging comment against Stephen this season.  Conveniently, Savage ignores or forgets -- or hopes we ignore and forget -- that he did the same thing to Spencer just a couple episodes ago.  He schemed against him, lied to his face, carried out his deceitful plan to vote out the great kid he loves like a son.  When he tries to do it, it's okay.  When Fishbach tries, it's disgusting??  I fear someone like Savage -- a bad guy who thinks he's a saint -- much more than the Russell Hantz's of the world, who at least are honest about themselves.

Those of us who've watched Survivor knew once Stephen approached Jeremy, Spencer and Tasha this episode and got them even partially on board with targeting Joe that Joe was a mortal lock to win the immunity challenge.  There is no reason to show this much pre-challenge strategizing unless it's about to blow up in someone's face big time.  So with his plan to vote out Joe starting to come together, it was no shock at all that the next immunity challenge was a virtual carbon copy (um, to those of you under 50, that was a process for making direct copies of documents by placing carbon paper between the original and the under-copy) of last week's immunity challenge which Joe also won.

Didn't we just do this?
Kudos to Keith for making it a real nailbiter and showing amazing concentration, balance and drive as he gave Joe a real run for his money.  But, as I typed last week and smartly saved to be reinserted in every subsequent post, "Joe wins!"  That may not have been a surprise, but the fact that Stephen was not the first person out and out-performed his "one second" record from last week deserves some applause.  Jeremy fared only slightly better than when he first played this challenge, dropping out fourth after three nearly immediate drops by Kelley, Ciera and Kelly.  If you had suspected that Jeff Probst particularly enjoys providing play by play during "ball" challenges and if you noticed that some of his commentary was particularly tongue-in-cheek, check out his confirming that this is not by chance in his interview with Dalton Ross.

Going back to camp after the immunity challenge, it's scramble time.  Fishbach's target has the immunity necklace again so he's off the table.  But there is some talk about blindsiding Stephen.  Savage came up with the plan, gave it to Joe and Joe took it to Ciera, Wentworth and Wiglesworth.  Like Stephen, Joe is playing smart and looking for allies on both sides of the divide.  Of course Wentworth was on board with his plan as she knows she is on the bottom and the most likely target.  Ciera also agrees, implementing a slightly tweaked version of the Sandra Diaz-Twine strategy of anyone but me, telling Wentworth, "At this point I'm good with anybody as longs as it's not me or you."  And Wiglesworth says she's fine with it too.  All three women do an excellent job of the "just say yes" strategy and for now it looks like Stephen's fish will be fried.

But wait.  Savage tries to pull in Jeremy and Tasha in his plan to target Stephen.  What Savage doesn't realize is that Jeremy is close to Fishbach and planning on JT'ing him (taking him to the end and then getting all the jury votes leaving Stephen a crying mess).  So Jeremy deftly directs the conversation away from Stephen and back to one of the three women in the minority alliance.  Spencer weighs in as well that Stephen is a known threat and won't get his way without their help, so why not keep him around for the numbers and get the outsiders eliminated first.  What is not clear is whether Spencer, like Jeremy, feels that he has a good relationship with Stephen and wants to keep him around for when it is time to make a big move.  But what is clear is that Savage's distrust and dislike of Stephen is not persuading anyone.  His singular focus on Stephen is not that different than Stephen's focus on Joe and what's great about this for the rest of the group is by keeping Stephen and Savage around and fighting, no one is targeting them.

Savage took not getting his way about as well as an arrogant, snobby, self-centered, narcissist would.  He looked into the camera and said  "As a lawyer I pleaded my case.  I’m kinda used to getting what I want and I didn’t."  But inside he had to be seething that his minions refused to do his bidding.  There he was, holding court on his royal hammock, as his subjects came, kissed his ring, and had their precious moment with the king -- only to tell him that they saw his point and all but they refused to carry out the execution.  Stephen was not getting blindsided today.

Do you believe in miracles?
Wisely, the rest of the group steers the attention back on the three amigas - Wentworth, Ciera and Abi-Maria.  The only question is which one to target.  Last tribal, they split the vote between Ciera and Kass in case someone had an idol.  With no idol played, and their belief that there are no idols to be found, they felt safe in not splitting the votes this time.  The three, told of their fate by Joe, decide to vote together and hope for the best.  Maybe a miracle will happen.  For the first time, we hear Savage's name bandied about and my heart swells.  Up to this point, I thought this was Fishbach's swan song episode.  All roads were leading to him being kicked out of the game while the great white whale continued to swim free.  But why would the producers give us this little nugget of the women dropping Savage's name if it were Stephen who was going to be their target?

At tribal, after first member of the jury, Chaos Kass comes in and salutes her fellow players, the conversation picks up where it left off last time.  Are people playing the game?  Both Ciera and Wentworth call out their fellow castaways on letting a group of four run the show.  Then Ciera shows the downside of a public school education when she identifies the four as Savage, Jeremy, Tasha, and Stephen or Joe.  Jeremy quickly points out that five is greater than four which is hard to argue with, but not hard to argue with is that there is a core group who is dictating tonight's vote.  Savage couches that group as one that talks frequently and has mutual respect.  And the way he spits out that word -- respect -- is his way of signifying that those on the outside are not deserving of respect.  Which brings us the first of many priceless Ciera reactions.

Ciera has absolutely perfected the under-appreciated art of the eye roll. She can do them in sync, she can do them independently, to the left, to the right, up into her head and all around.  This is an act worthy of The X Factor.  Set it to music and you have some serious entertainment value there.  The girl is talented.  And she does it in between making some very strong arguments about why half of the tribe is made up of sheep that better wake up before they're led to slaughter. Ciera makes many great points - if there is a tight four and you're not in it, you're at the bottom.  If you're playing for eighth, seventh, sixth or fifth, great.  But if you want to win, you can't let a solid group of four make it to the end.  Where she's wrong is that there isn't a solid group of four - there is a group of five but within that group three of them are targeting each other.  So even those not in the top group could use the distrust between Stephen, Joe and Savage for their benefit.  They might lay low while Ciera, Wentworth and Abi-Maria are sent home, but then there is still time to form new alliances to target come in the top group. Unfortunately, I think only Spencer is capable of that type of strategic planning.  I think Wiglesworth, Keith and Kimmi are just implementing the "if it's not me, I'm fine with it" plan.

Wentworth and Ciera fought as hard as they could, short of outing those who had come to them to break with the alliance.  When asked why she wouldn't name names, Wentworth said, "what if I'm here tomorrow and have to work with them?"  That my friends is a million dollar question and one not enough Survivors ask themselves.  This is someone who is thinking long term and is not going to be rigid in his gameplay, someone who recognizes an enemy today can be an ally tomorrow.  If you have a tomorrow.  Which at this point does not look good for her.

Before we go to the vote, I've given Joe a lot of flack for being nothing but eye candy this season.  But today he stepped up his game with two good observations at tribal council - one about perception being reality and two about the game looking like a chess match with indistinguishable pieces.  If Joe has his Adonis-like good looks and can be insightful, what chance do the rest of us have to compete?   Stephen is right, he really is the biggest threat in the game.

All the talk of solid sub-alliances and playing for the win and making a big move ultimately fall on deaf ears as one by one the nine in the majority walk up and write down Wentworth's name.  We don't know why she was chosen over Ciera or why they didn't split the vote 5-4 or whether Wentworth was alerted that she was the prime target.  But then before the votes were read, Jeff made his standard, "If anyone has a hidden immunity idol and you want to play it" speech and everything changed.  The heavens opened and angels began to sing the sweetest song ever heard.  Time stood still, all senses became more attuned, and the universe was at peace.  Kelley Wentworth -- who barely had a chance to play her first time on Survivor and vowed to play hard this time out -- reached in and pulled out the immunity necklace she had found on Day One.

How do you like me know?

As everyone (but Savage) sat there, mouths agape, shocked and even a little amused by this stunning turn of events, Ciera offered that this was her favorite moment.  Now, we the viewers didn't know how the votes would fall but the reaction on the faces of the tribe promised that this would be a game changer.  And it was as one after another, nine times in all -- a Survivor record -- Jeff stated that a vote for Wentworth "will not count."  It wasn't until the first non-Wentworth vote that we learned who the three had settled on to give what they may have thought were throwaway votes.

When Jeff said his name, this is what I heard:

This is what I saw:

This is how it made me feel:

The reaction of the remaining eleven survivors ran the gamut from zero (Wiglesworth) to eleven (Wentworth-Ciera-Abi-Maria) with Spencer showing much more excitement than he probably intended to.  Even Tasha and Jeremy couldn't stifle a smile as the perfectly orchestrated assassination played out in real time.  As much as we watching at home (and I mean all of us, except for Savage's model wife and family) all loved watching one of the great immunity idol plays in Survivor history, those who lived through it also seemed sincerely stunned by what they just witnessed and couldn't help but appreciate its magnitude.  When Jeff mentioned that tonight someone had made a big move, Keith gestured towards Wentworth, the queen of the night.

But Savage didn't seem to be having as much fun as the rest of the tribe and did not seem to appreciate Abi-Maria's parting words -- "At least you made it to the jury."  He flipped her the bird and Abi-Maria quickly smiled and said, "Right back at you."  And our Brazilian firecracker is back!

Here's what Savage had to say the next day:

And even more Savage:
On Survivor Talk with Dalton Ross
With Josh Wigler for RHAP
With Gordon Holmes on Xfinity.
With Reality TV World.
With Hollywood Life.
With Examiner.

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