Thursday, November 19, 2015

Survivor Cambodia: Second Chance, Episode 9 Recap: Evolution of the Voting Bloc Heads

"Boil, Boil, Toil and Trouble." — Stephen Fishbach
"Double, Double, Toil and Trouble, Fire Burn and Cauldron Bubble." — Shakespeare

It's hard enough remembering Shakespearean quotes, even short ones, years out of college.  Even more so when you are sleep- and food-deprived and still trying to provide an entertaining sound clip.  So we'll cut Yale graduate Stephen Fishbach some slack for misquoting the Witches' Chant from MacBeth.  He got the gist of the scene and its meaning, of the witches' prophecy of doom for the future King of Scotland whose lust of power eventually leads to his demise.  He knows that you can let the witches' words lift you to heights of greatness or plunge you into madness and he knows how tragically this all ended for King Duncan's murderer.  And so he weighs every decision carefully.

Did he make the right choice?  That is the million dollar question that we are still weeks away from having answered.  Was siding with (as Kimmi christened them) the three witches the right move or one that will lead to his demise?

Something wicked this way comes?
Is Stephen not a MacBethian character in this season's play?  Is he not plagued by his desire for power, for the prophecy that he is the "knowingest know-it-all" to come true, for him to take his rightful place atop the throne, his enemies vanquished beneath his feet?  Has any other Survivor this season put so much pressure on themselves to win?  Stephen has created his own Shakespearean tragedy narrative—as his single-minded focus on slaying the demons of his past and rising to glory this time out has consumed his every moment.

So how did the three—Wentworth, Ciera and Abi-Maria—manage to pull the JSS (not Just Survive Somehow, for you TWD fans, but Jeremy, Stephen and Spencer) threesome over?  Returning from tribal council, Kimmi warned Joe that one of the three girls had to be their target next because they don't want them getting close to Jeremy or Tasha.  She calls them the witches coven and Stephen grabs on the allusion.  But there was no witchcraft behind their success, just smart gameplay on Wentworth's part (in not telling anyone she had the idol) and dumb gameplay on the other side (Joe and others letting them know who was the target last week).

After Savage's exit (Yippee, Woo Hoo, Yay, Yahoo, Yes!), there are eleven players left and the numbers, based on the traditional notion of tribal alliance, would say they were split up 8-to-3.  But as we were told about a thousand times last night, the game of Survivor has evolved and what we're seeing this season is not an alliance-based strategy, but a bloc-voting strategy.  Every tribal council, a new voting bloc will be formed to target someone. While this approach is more entertaining for fans—honestly, nothing is more boring than a Pagonging—is it better strategy than riding with your alliance?  The easy vote would be to target one of the three, but is it also the right move?  That ultimately is the question this season will answer.

Before we get to the decision who to target, the Survivors are hit with a case of idol fever.  Knowing that the hidden immunity idol Wentworth just used to save herself and vote out Savage (Yippee, Woo Hoo, Yay, Yahoo, Yes!) is back in play.  Joe, who is himself an unhidden immunity idol, able to provide protection seemingly every tribal council, exhausts himself looking for the idol for a whole thirty minutes. Apparently the time you spend on looking for the idol is completely dependent on how likely you are to win the next eight challenges.   Kudos to Abi-Maria for interrupting Joe's idol hunt (especially as he was tantalizingly close to where it was hidden) and reporting back to Wentworth that Joe must not be feeling too secure in his alliance.

Yeah, Jeff, we get it.  We suck.  Thanks.

At the Reward Challenge, Jeff Probst came up with new ways to describe one team's poor performance, using phrases that haven't been used since retellings of the Hindenberg, Chernobyl and Season 21's Medallion of Power.  I'm starting to get the sense that the challenges are solely for Probst's amusement as he builds a reel of him shouting the most overwrought hyperbolic comments about epic Survivor "disasters."  In fairness, his comments were not unwarranted this time out as firemen Keith and Jeremy and the rest of the team (Kimmi, Wentworth and Wiglesworth) did look more confused than a toddler with a Rubik's Cube as they could not figure out how to place the nine poles in ascending order.  Even with Jeff shouting out hints about how the poles and the holes were different sizes and you would know you were on the right track if they started resembling steps and, oh look, the other tribe has already done it so just look over at there's if you don't know what you're looking for.  On the sidelines, benched Abi-Maria wondered to herself if that tribe was happy they didn't pick her after all.

So Joe, Tasha, Stephen, Spencer and Ciera enjoyed the reward—showers, massages and Spa food—while the rest settled for boiled snails with a hint of crab meat.  Ciera makes the most of her time with the members of the dominant alliance to talk game.  And she comes out blazing, identifying Jeremy as their biggest threat to win the game.  It's an astute observation—Jeremy has it all.  He's universally loved, he's a strategic player, he's a social player, he is the one most likely to take it all.  Stephen doesn't disagree with her in theory—to win this game you can't think in terms of alliances anymore and your ally today can be the one who stands in the way of your $1M payday tomorrow.  Tasha deftly moves the conversation away from Jeremy to another person who may be a threat to win if they make it to the end—the first ever runner-up, Borneo's own Kelley Wiglesworth.  What a great story it would be if the person to have lost the very first Survivor by just one vote—cast by her former friend—were to win the very first Survivor Second Chance.  Something to think about.

Jeremy was feeling pretty down.  One of his closest allies was voted out the night before, today he lost the reward challenge.  It was just a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day for Jeremy.  Until he decided to wander away from camp while half the camp was on the reward and the other half was commiserating.  He went to where Joe had been looking for the hidden immunity idol when Abi-Maria had interrupted him.  He dug around in a similar area to where he had first found a clue to an idol earlier in the game and lo and behold a small package buried in the tree helped turned his frown upside down.

It's just as good the second time
Fulfilling the prophecy of Val Collins in San Juan del Sur (who falsely claimed to have two idols as a way to save herself), Jeremy was on his way to having the magical force of two idols for real.  All he'd have to do was sneak out of the shelter during the night, walk through the dark down an unmarked path and go to the light.  Somehow, his trusting and/or oblivious castaways did not think to follow him or question why it took him so long (and why he needed a camera person) to relieve himself.  And thus it came to be that Jeremy found himself with the only two idols currently in play with no target on his back.  With no Jon and Jaclyn to mess up his plans this time out, Jeremy is sitting in a really good position.

While Jeremy basks in the glow of his idol cup running over, his closest ally Stephen continues to obsess about playing a better game this time out.  He is afraid of not making a "big move" and afraid of just letting the large alliance cruise along until it's too late to throw some of the bigger threats off the boat.  He's been single-minded in his obsession to get Joe out and for once, he expands his list of targets beyond just that name.  He sees Wiglesworth as potentially just as big a threat and also recognizes that she is a number for Joe.  For both those reasons, she is now on his radar. But Stephen is likely wary of discussing targeting someone technically in their alliance as the last time he tried that he was shot down.

He goes first to the three—Ciera, Wentworth and Abi-Maria—and hears what he wants to hear.  As Ciera put it, they are so desperate that they are willing to write down whatever name he tells them.  He can call the shot.  And Ciera doesn't have to work too hard to convince him as her main claim to fame is voting out her mother to save her own skin.  Writing out someone who didn't carry her, give birth to her and nurture her for years would be a piece of cake.

Say any name, Stephen, and we'll say yes.
Stephen floats the name Wiglesworth and immediately the women jump on it.  Abi-Maria tells us (and a Survivor nation reacts with shock and disbelief) that the heretofore unseen Wiglesworth (yikes, the spell check replacement was "Worthless," not cool) has relationships with everyone, she talks (we had zero proof of that up to this point) to everyone and everyone likes her.  Who we all thought of as the invisible Kelly Wiglesworth was apparently working her quiet magic building relationships with everyone except for the producers and camera people.  The three "witches" as they've been dubbed are more than happy to entertain any name that isn't one of them and they can only sit back and hope that Stephen can really make this happen.

At the immunity challenge the inevitable was delayed for a new twist as Jeff introduced an advantage in the game that any of the castaways could go for if they were willing to give up their chance to come in second to Joe.  How do you not take this chance?  Still, only the two most strategic players—Stephen and Spencer—went for the advantage, jumping off of the Snoopy dog house-esque roof and swimming towards a Gymboree colored buoy.  And we all saw a minor miracle as Stephen Fishbach won a physical competition.  What did he win?  Well, let Stephen tell you himself.  "This is a game changer."

He has the right to steal someone's vote (and, yes, they will fly Carson Daly out to Cambodia to yell "It's a steal!' to make it official) and cast his own vote in their place.  If you do the math, it's not a two vote advantage like Dan Foley had in Worlds Apart.  It's actually a three vote advantage.  It may be hyperbole (and wishful thinking) on Stephen's part to call it a "game winning advantage" and it all may be calling too much attention to himself that the Survivor gods can't ignore, but it's hard to deny that it has big potential.

Still, had Stephen been voted out tonight, we would all have had a field day with all the unfortunate quotes he gave this episode about not needing immunity tonight and not having to use his new advantage tonight, how he was in an insanely good position unless he screws it up, and how he was going to fix things with his just his wits and hustle.  But instead, Stephen looked like a savant as he correctly assessed his status, correctly calculated the voting blocs and correctly predicted the outcome.  Also not eating from the hubric humble pie is Jeremy who said "the person that I still trust the most is Stephen" and yet he too was not blindsided tonight.

Didn't we do this before?  And before before?
Abi-Maria gave us some possible foreshadowing as she said "Nobody can win from Joe.  He's going to be winning ever immunity forever."  That is certainly looking to be true as there so far doesn't seem to be anything that Joe isn't great at.  A quick shout out to Abi-Maria for at least giving him some challenge and winning the "best of the rest" weekly contest.  But he is now 3-for-3 in balance-related challenges, so unless the next challenge is who can dry their hair the straightest, it looks like Joe will be around to haunt Stephen like the ghost of JT past for weeks to come.

The alliance of eight focused their sights on Wentworth.  But they were not going to make the same mistake they made last time and so the plan was to split the vote between her and Ciera, with the five guys voting out Wentworth.  This was the easy move, it would get rid of a physical and social threat in Wentworth, would weaken the minority alliance, and would keep the eight strong.  But Stephen decided that to win Survivor this time out he'd have to have some "big moves" on his résumé.  Without being able to target Joe, again, Stephen turned his attention to who he perceived to be his next biggest threat.  And it was not the KW that Kimmi, Keith, Joe or Tasha wanted to see voted out.

He pulled together Jeremy and Spencer and discussed why voting out Wiglesworth might be in their best interest.  I can't say that I agree, but what I can see is that it might have been in Stephen's best interest.  He was not that close to Wiglesworth and he saw her as closely aligned with his arch nemesis Joe.  He is in a relatively good position with the three ladies and he does not believe they would turn on him and target him any time soon.  He also saw Tony Vlachos implement this strategy successfully in Cagayan (not coincidentally aided by Spencer).  He has built up such trust with Jeremy that he not only gets Jeremy's agreement, he gets Jeremy to use his own arguments later at tribal council as he embraces the new school evolutionary bloc theory™.  Spencer sees no down side either as he has nothing going with the four (KKJT) that are going to be upset by this vote.

They did weigh whether it was worth siding with the three they don't trust and making the four in their alliance angry, but in the end they decided it was worth the risk.  They aren't forming a new alliance, after all, just a new voting bloc that expires at the end of tribal council.  And so JSS went to tribal council with a plan to blindside on of their allies to better their chances of making it to the end.  Although it appeared that the real plan was to see how many times the words "bloc" and "evolution" could be said before the vote.

It was a dark and stormy night.
And then the skies opened up and a torrential downpour soaked the Survivors to the bone as they shivered their way through Jeff's probing questions.   The two members of the jury came in and Kass was her classy self, flipping off the tribe again, while Savage upped his douchebag look by donning a hipster beanie and shaking some all is cool hand gesture to the tribe.  As far as Jeff's questioning, of most note was when he asked for a show of hands who felt at risk, Wiglesworth's was not one of the hands that nervously shot up.  In fact, she said (in one of the few soundbites from her all season) that she was fairly confident that things would go according to plan tonight.  Unfortunately, she was right.  She just had the wrong plan in mind.

So after making them sit in the cold and the rain and the thunder and the lightning, Jeff finally let them go and vote.  And then the four not in the know, as well as the target herself, all discovered what this talk about evolution and voting blocs meant for them.  Kelly Wiglesworth, original Survivor runner up, would be the third member of the Second Chance jury.

This is the most Wiglesworth said all season.
Was there anything Kelly could have done to save herself?  We weren't shown much of her game, so it's hard to say.  She was certainly a threat going in as the thought was that the reverence towards the original Survivor and her place in the history of the show would cause people to want to see her win.  From what some others said, she was well-liked and had built relationships with everyone.  But if that were really true, wouldn't she still be there?  I think that she suffered from her association with Joe and became "the next best thing" after three attempts to take down Joe failed.  Not to rehash last week, but had her tribe split the vote and taken care of Wentworth, she'd probably have been safe as there wouldn't have been the numbers for a big move yet.  Instead, she became the runner up trophy that Stephen coveted when he again lost out on taking the top prize of Golden Boy Joe.

Kelly the next day:
click here

Kelly at Ponderosa:
click here

More on Kelly:
On Survivor Talk with Dalton Ross
With Josh Wigler/Parade
With RealityTVWorld

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