Thursday, December 10, 2015

Survivor Cambodia: Second Chance, Episode 13: How Do You Solve aProblem Like Abi-Maria

When we saw the title for last night's episode, "Villains Have More Fun," there was no question who  would be giving us that quote.  More even than Chaos Kass, Abi-Maria Gomes has relished her role this season as the resident baddie.  From her squabbles with Peih-Gee to her laser-like focus on having Woo pay for voting against her to her digs at some of the vanquished survivors, Abi-Maria has given we who voted her into this season all that we could have hoped for in blow-ups, tantrums and zingy soundbites.  But all good bad things must come to an end.

Coming back from tribal council, Abi-Maria was particularly gleeful to see Joe walk out of the game. Daring the karma gods, she said, of Joe, payback's a bitch and good riddance.  Joey Amazing fangirls around the country started up their social media attacks on Abi-Maria for speaking ill of their golden boy and formed a virtual prayer circle that Julie Chen would walk onto the set, announce a twist, and bring Joe back into the game.  The remaining survivors tried to sound upbeat about the vote, with Kelley mentioning as if it weren't the very reason for the vote that with Joe gone they all have a chance to win challenges now and Spencer showing that he has never taken an acting class in his life by most-unconvincingly replying that he never thought of that before!

While Abi-Maria thinks everyone is as happy as she is with the vote, the next morning Jeremy and Spencer are having a bad case of buyer's remorse.  They are still concerned that they just helped solidify an all girls' alliance that will take them out next and they are concerned generally with having the unpredictable Abi-Maria around to stir the pot.  Given the choice to get rid of Joe - who was not targeting them - and Abi-Maria - whose targets change with the wind - they worry that they made an epically bad choice.

Is there a return policy or are we stuck with Abi-Maria?
Jeremy and Spencer are two, there are seven left.  They need two more.  If Tasha is sincere about her final three deal with them and if they can bring Kimmi back to the fold, they're golden.  If the all girls' alliance is a thing, they're toast.

The reward challenge is one that was played before in San Juan Del Sur and is won, as it was the first time, by the middle aged miracle challenge beast Keith Nale.  The great thing about winning a reward, of course, is the experience - a chance to relax, to eat, and in this case to have a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The bad thing is that you will piss off the people that you don't pick to accompany you and you show your true colors - who you're allied with, who's your friend, who matters to you.  And in Keith's case, you'll also show whose name you can't quite remember!  Keith understandably picked Kelley who had only days before selected him for the loved ones' reward.  Then he babbled incoherently about why he chose Spencer, free-associating random words in an attempt to form a sentence or two that would serve to explain his decision before stumbling over Tasha's name. Tasha could not help but note that Keith had no trouble remembering her name the night before when he wrote it down at tribal council.  He can only get away with that aw shucks, I'm just a country bumpkin, bit for so long.

While Keith and his chosen companions Kelley and Spencer go on the reward, there are four - a majority of the tribe - back at camp and strategizing.  They immediately hone in on Keith as Joe 55.0 and getting rid of the next challenge threat seems like an easy vote.  But when Tasha presents the idea to Jeremy, he hesitates.  Jeremy is still worried about being "the next threat" - he kept Savage around, Joe around and now wants to keep Keith around solely so that he's never the obvious next one to go.  And he's worried that if Keith were the next to go, the four women could easily pick him and Spencer off.  Tasha is willing to hear him out - but she needs some alone time with him.  And when she asks Abi-Maria if she'd give them time to talk, not surprisingly Abi-Maria does not take that well.

You can't blame her.  There are only four people at the shelter and, to her mind, they've all agreed on who to vote out next.  Hearing two of the four say that they want to talk out of your earshot is a huge, enormous, gigantic, gargantuan red flag.  And, indeed, when Tasha and Jeremy have time alone it is Abi-Maria's name they toss around.  As much as Keith may be a threat to win challenges, Tasha tells him, Abi-Maria and her unpredictable volatility are a bigger threat to their game.  Jeremy does not disagree and, in fact, he steers Tasha right into this decision as it corrects the mistake of the last tribal and gets the most volatile member of the other side out of the game.  He later gives us one of the great Abi-Maria themed confessionals of the season.  "Is Abi a Scorpio? Scorpios are crazy. I've got two of them in my house. That's why I drink."

Good thing this finger isn't loaded
It's time for the immunity challenge and it's both physical and mental.  The survivors crash and slam into things and yet keep going almost as if they're playing for $1,000,000.  We don't need Jeff to tell us how hard they're pushing themselves or how much this means to them as we watch completely exhausted people push themselves beyond their limits.  While Spencer solves the puzzle in record time, Tasha is still at sea, literally and figuratively, and has to be rescued. In back-to-back immunity challenges, the rewarding of the necklace is delayed while the medical team takes care of one of the spent survivors and the winner's celebration is derailed.

Now, when we saw Spencer fly through that puzzle like a savant, we all thought, wow, no wonder he was on the Brains tribe his original season.  But while we were right that Spencer is a brain, he's not a puzzle master.  Instead, he is a brain in the sense that he practiced this and other puzzles that might be on this season in advance so that he could beast them.  As the saying goes, success is 90% preparation and 10% banging your head on the obstacle course.

Tasha, having recovered from her near-drowning experience, is back to game mode.  If she and Jeremy are to get any farther, they need to get Spencer on their side.  They know he had time to bond with Keith and Kelley and assume that he was made an offer by them when he went on the reward challenge.  Which of course he was.  Spencer had agreed to a final three with Kelley and Keith just as quickly as he agreed to a final three with Tasha and Jeremy.  Now Spencer needed to figure out which promise he was keeping.  The choice Tasha gave him is to vote with them and vote out the "goats" - the less-strategic players who are considered the easiest to beat if you make it to the end with them.  Spencer's other choice is to stay with the "goats" - Keith and Abi-Maria - as well as Kelley, and hope he can beat Keith in the final four challenge.  But if he does that, according to Tasha, he'd be insulting those of us who voted the survivors in this season.  We may have voted for Abi-Maria and Keith and Kelley, but we couldn't have possibly wanted any of them to win.  Yeah, that was Tasha's argument.

Spencer makes a firm commitment to both sides and goes into tribal council with the safety of the necklace but with the weight of his ultimate decision making him quite nervous.  He questioned his decision to vote out Joe and keep Abi-Maria the last time, does he vote her out this time or break his deal with Jeremy and Tasha?  Which choice gets him one step closer to the win?

The jury walks in to tribal council and it's hard not to see a developing domino effect.  There is Ciera who targeted Fishbach, followed by Fishbach who targeted Joe, followed by Joe who targeted Abi-Maria.  Interesting.  Things may not be looking good for Abi-Maria of the pattern continues.

At tribal, one word keeps popping up.  Last week the word was "crucial."  This week, it's "we."

Everyone at tribal told Jeff that tonight's vote would say a lot about where we were, what we wanted, where we would be going.  But who was this "we" exactly. Not everyone can be part of the "we."  And so by the end of the night, some people were going to feel safe that they - we - are together and tight and others were going to realize that they - we - were lied to.

Keith was sure that he, Kelley, Abi-Maria and Spencer were going to target that woman whose name he conveniently forgets when it's time to hand out rewards but remembers when it's time to vote.  He was the only one who felt confident that his alliance would stick to the plan and he could not wait to get to the vote.  Abi-Maria was sure that she, Jeremy, Tasha and Kimmi were going to target that challenge master Keith.  Tasha was hopeful, but not at all sure, that she had convinced Spencer that the fans who voted them in did not want a goat going to the end and winning the whole season.   And Spencer admitted to admiring Keith's confidence but personally being very confused about what was going to happen.

Spencer was not confused for long as his we - Jeremy, Tasha and Kimmi - stuck together and voted out the explosive, volatile Brazilian who kept us entertained for 35 days.  Abi-Maria more than lived up to her reputation and while she does not have a redemption arc - her second chance ended up as did her first chance - she did show her toughness, her honesty and her fire.  Up until Jeff snuffed it out.

With six left the next two-hour season finale will be a whirlwind.  Will the four stay together to vote out Keith and Kelley?  Will Keith's challenge strength and Kelley's hidden immunity idol upset their plans?  And will we get a Survivor first, with two people playing their idols simultaneously and canceling out all the votes?  Finally, who will win what many consider not just a successful Survivor concept but one of the best seasons ever?  Stay tuned.

More Abi-Maria:
On Survivor Talk
With Gordon Holmes
With Carter Matt

Stephen Fishbach's People Blog

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