Thursday, December 3, 2015

Survivor Cambodia: Second Chance, Episode 12: Hey, Joe, Where're YouGoing Without that Immunity Around Your Neck

Do you hear that sound?  It's the sound of thousands of fangirls' hearts breaking across the country, it's the sound of their mournful sobbing now that their golden boy has had his torch snuffed out.  The great Greek God that was Joey Amazing was vanquished last night, after an inexplicably long, deep run in the game for someone who was so clearly the biggest target out there.  Joe was on everyone's radar before America's votes were counted and the cast for this season was announced.  The only sure thing going into this season was that the Frankenstein creation that melded Malcom Freberg with Ozzy Lusth into one challenge-beasting, fish-gathering, hammock-constructing, shelter-building god was going to be in the cast.

Check out the video tribute to Joe Amazing

Joe came into the season with the largest target on his ripped and tanned back.  He was universally adored, benefited whatever tribe he was on, and was unstoppable in any challenge.  So, of course, famed strategist Stephen Fishbach tried his darnedest to stop him.  And while Stephen came up short, he did have a front row (albeit on the jury side) seat to the outcome he had been working for all season long.

So how did Joe's run finally come to an end?  You have to give it to Kimmi and Tasha.  With eight players left, those two and Jeremy were the only three who had voted together; they could very easily have been picked off next.  Maybe, Spencer was sincere in getting back with them, in which case they were in a solid four.  But with eight people left, who would they be able to bring over to make it five?  No one wants to go to tribal council with the vote split; no one wants to go to rocks.  But who would bend?  Kelley and Abi are tight, Keith and Joe are tight.

Kimmi played it perfectly.  Bring up an obvious target.  With the number one rule of Survivor being "anyone but me," hearing another name put forth is usually met positively.  So when she told Kelley that Joe was, of course, the next natural target, Kelley's first response was not, "You're on the bottom of the totem pole, sister, I'll tell you who's next."  No, Kelley was immediately receptive to the plan.  Like the sun rising, Jeff making sexually provocative innuendos during challenges, and someone saying the word "crucial," Joe being the next one to be voted out was accepted like a fait accompli.

Kimmi then took her talk a little farther, suggesting to Kelley that after Joe was gone there would be a majority of girls remaining.  Kelley gave the soundbite of the night, telling Kimmi "I would love to do all the women."  With the idea that Monica had unsuccessfully floated weeks earlier -- a girls' alliance -- gaining traction, Kelli and Tasha now another way to go.  As the idea was presented to Tasha, those two along with Kelley and Abi-Maria could target one of the boys and if they were successful, they could then pick off the remaining three to get them to an all girls' final four.

Who is playing who?
When the episode began, Spencer had some damage control work to do with Jeremy who he had just blindsided by voting out Stephen.  Jeremy was not thrilled with losing Stephen, but knew he did not have the luxury of telling Spencer to go pound sand.  And so they "bygones"'d there way into a tentative working relationship, with each wary of the other and each planning on using the other to further their goals.

While the two patched things up, Kimmi decided to start playing the game -- hard.  She worked her magic with Kelley and brought Tasha in on the plan.  And notice her pecking order of the guys -- Joe, then Spencer, then Keith and then Jeremy.  That keeps her closest ally, Jeremy, in to the final five where, if she and Tasha wanted, they could join to vote out Kelley or Abi-Maria.  Very nice idea planting by Kimmi, keeping Jeremy's name to last.  He's shown no ability to win a challenge, unlike Keith and Spencer who've each rocked the immunity necklace, so he should be able to skate to "Last Man Standing" position.

The tribe goes into the reward challenge, on Day 30, and are greeted with the news that they have all made the loved ones' visit -- only Jeff decides to mess with the minds of people who haven't slept or eaten well and are emotionally stretched to their limits and does a fake out before telling them that their loved ones are really there.  It is a highlight of the season as you wonder just how much people from back home must love their family to put aside the fact that they all smell like the bottom of a pile of trash that's been baking in the sun for a month after first being soaked in sewage.

Congrats, Dad!
One by one the loved ones run out and are greeted with the biggest hugs they've probably ever received and everyone is on the verge of tears over each reunion.  Jeremy gets to hear Val whisper the news he's been waiting for - "It's a boy."  Tasha gets love from her cousin.  Spencer gets to finally show his human side and tell his girlfriend that he loves her.  Abi-Maria proves again that she's not Satan's spawn as her adorable mom comes out.  Keith's awesome wife was introduced to everyone as "Big D."  Dale Wentworth came back and tried not to ruin Kelley's chances for a second time.  And then we were told how much the loved ones' visit meant to Joe, who had been dreaming of this moment for all his life.  Well, it was worth the wait, because his pony-tail sporting father ran out and they had an epic make out session that Jeff more delicately described by noting to Joe that "you obviously have a strong family bond."  I haven't felt this awkward since Colby Donaldson and his mother shared an overnight in a Pontiac Aztek in the Australian Outback.

Yes, some families are more, um, demonstrative than others.  Anyway, after someone grabbed a crowbar and separated Joe and his dad, Kimmi got a way, way overdue visit from her surprisingly young looking dad.

The family members didn't have to participate, they were assigned cheering duties from the sidelines. And while most shouted their encouragement, sweet, unassuming Abi-Maria's mom Vera did her best Jeff Probst and directed her daughter to "Focus!"  Too bad we didn't learn the Portuguese for "Dig, Woman!" since that was a major part of the challenge.  Despite digging furiously, sending sand flying and his rope to attack poor Keith, Joe does not win this challenge.  This is now two challenges in a row that Joe didn't win and there is a major disturbance in the force.  Keith was pretty funny, as he looked at the letters and kept telling Jeff that he couldn't figure it out as if he might get a hint.  Kudos to Abi-Maria for using spelling rules and logic to try and solve the puzzle, using a common ending -- "tion" -- as her base.

In the end it was Kelley who was the first to figure out the word puzzle at the end of the challenge and she wins the word -- nourishment -- in the form of a Survivor family BBQ.  Last week when Fishbach won the individual reward challenge (when there were nine players remaining) he was allowed to bring two with him.  That left six people -- a huge majority of the tribe -- back on the beach to plot and strategize against him.  Six people angry about not being fed, not being selected.  This time, Jeff lets Kelley pick four people to take on the reward, giving her a majority of the tribe indebted to her, well-fed, happy, and joined together.  But then, no one said that Survivor, like life, was always fair.

With the five enjoying their reward, the remaining three talk strategy.  Despite the fact that he had cut off their ally just a couple days before, Spencer offered Jeremy and Tasha a final three.  They agreed -- at this point in the game you agree to just about anything.  But what they didn't figure out was how the math would work out for them.  It's great to have a final three deal, less great when you're in the bottom of an eight-person tribe.  And as they were the only ones to say goodbye to their loved ones, there could be no question that their position in the game is precarious at best.

We're holding our poles, Jeff.  We're holding them good.
It was time for the immunity challenge which, like most of the individual immunity challenges this year required a combination of strength and balance.   It also required Jeff to talk about long poles and holding them up and got me to thinking that the reward challenges
must be designed by two adolescents named Beavis and Butthead as they seemed to design each challenge around situations that give rise to double entendres for Jeff to shout at the top of his lungs. Two episodes too late for Ciera, this was the first challenge to have a female and a male winner.  Kelley quickly outlasted the other three women to win her first immunity necklace and not long after she won, Jeremy and Spencer quickly dropped their poles.

Yes, Jeremy and Spencer could not keep their poles up.  The were holding their poles and then they couldn't hold on any longer.  But Keith and Joe kept adding sections to their poles, making them longer and longer.  And they held tight.  Okay, this is exhausting. I don't know how Jeff does it with a straight face.  Anyway, after an hour and twenty minutes Joe and Keith were still in the game -- the young Greek God and the middle aged firefighter who chews nails and spits (a lot) rust.  Clash of the Titans, a battle to the death, whatever you want to call it, it was epic.  We all thought we were about to see the plan to get Joe out foiled, how could he not beat a guy over twice his age.  But then Joe's eyes got really wide and he crumpled to the ground.

That did not go as planned.
While everyone initially celebrated Keith's astonishing win, it took just a second or two to realize that Joe didn't just lose the challenge, he lost consciousness.  To keep with the Greek God thread, someone found Achilles' heel and aimed their arrow right at it.  Perhaps after feasting with the family, Joe spiked his blood sugar and coming back down to reality caused it to plunge.  Or maybe, as my daughter suggested to me, the hat that Keith was wearing gave him an advantage against the blazing sun.  Whatever the explanation, the unstoppable, unbeatable, Mr. Perfect lost his second immunity challenge in a row, his third challenge overall.  He was vulnerable for a second straight vote.  Would he skate by again?

Last week Joe tried to spin his safety on his great social game.  I said then, and I'll repeat now, that he owed his life in the game totally to Spencer's fear of Stephen Fishbach.  In Spencer's mind, the skinny, bespectacled resident Survivor expert was a bigger threat to his game than the muscular yoga practitioner with the flowing locks.  Spencer could not see a path for victory that had Stephen on it and he needed to make "the big move" and voting out the knowingest know-it-all was that move.  But with Stephen vanquished, Spencer was fine with voting out Joe.  So was Kelley.  So was everyone left in the game except for Keith (more on that later).

Joe did not have a great social game, he was a pawn in other game players' plans.  They used him and then once he was no longer useful to them, he was voted out.  While those of us who enjoy great gameplay found him as exciting as Splenda-sweetened, artificial vanilla flavored ice milk, there are apparently many on Twitter who were hoping against all hope that the vote would be Abi-Maria instead.

Joe tried to sell Jeremy and Spencer on taking out Abi-Maria.  She's unpredictable, she's an obvious person to be dragged along to the final tribal council.  Jeremy was completely unreceptive.  The easy vote, the smart vote, was to get rid of Joe while they had the chance.  This guy was willing to keep fighting for immunity until he literally passed out.  That is a dangerous guy to have around.

Everyone was on-board the get rid of Joe train, and then Tasha decided to alert her allies that the plan to vote out Joe was not theirs but was actually concocted as part of a bigger, secret plan among the girls to vote out all the guys.  Tasha told Jeremy and Spencer that she was bringing them this information so that they knew she was square with them, loyal to the end, holding no secrets.  They need not fear an all girls' alliance.  Their first target was not one of her allies but was Joe, there would still be a chance to get the band back together after that vote and target Kelley or Abi-Maria.  Absolutely nothing to worry about.  As Keith would say, let's stick to the plan and vote out Joe.

Yeah, Tasha, probably shouldn't have said "girls' alliance" to the boys
How could Jeremy and Spencer say no?  Uh, easily.  As soon as Tasha mentioned there was talk of a girls' alliance, they started to worry.  Big time.  Suddenly, voting out Joe wasn't the automatic move it was the moment he collapsed under the weight of his pole.  Now they were thinking, maybe we should target Abi-Maria first.  If the girls get together as four, after Joe is gone they can pick us off one by one.  But if we don't vote out Joe when we have the chance, will we ever get the chance again?  Will he just be punching his ticket to the final three?  If we go against Tasha after she confided in us, will we never have her allegiance again?  And why are we still debating alliances versus voting blocs?

In the end, Spencer and Jeremy decide to trust Tasha and join her and the rest of the tribe (minus Keith and his out in left field vote for Tasha of all people) in voting out Joe. Spencer is right, of course, in his voting confessional -- this is either a winning or a losing decision and he won't know which one it is until their alliance with Tasha and Kimmi is tested.  I can't say I agree with Abi's last words for Joe.  While I agree that the hair has got to go, calling him a moldy clown seems a little harsh, even for her.  But the best moment of tribal for me was seeing that wide grin on Stephen Fishbach's face as he saw that the harpoon he had put into Moby Dick was finally going to take that big whale down for good.

My brain's still a little scrambled, but didn't we do this before?
There are now just seven players yet -- three from Survivor San Juan del Sur, two from Survivor Cagayan, one from Survivor Philippines and one from the second season ever, Survivor Australian Outback.  The highest finish for any of the remaining players was fourth place -- which both Spencer and Keith settled for their seasons.   Next week, like this week, will again be crucial, crucial, crucial as we will see how the tribe divides itself.  Besides the question who will win the next immunity challenge, the other major wrinkle will be that two people potentially on opposites sides each have and might play a hidden immunity idol next week.  Could be exciting.

*Post show discussions reveal the answer to Keith's mystery vote.  Kelley had told Joe and Keith that Tasha was the target (hiding her girls' alliance plan to vote out Joe). Joe later talked to Spencer and Jeremy and thought he had convinced them to target Abi-Maria so he switched his vote to her but forgot to tell Keith the new plan. 

Want more Joe?

Exit interview with RHAP
Exit interview with Josh Wigler/Parade
Exit interview with RealityTVWorld

Fishbach's People recap.

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