Parvati Shallow Breaks Down ‘Survivor Cambodia — Second Chance’ Finale: And …

23 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Critic’s Notebook: ‘Survivor: Cambodia’ Finale Closes a Revitalized Season.

In the aftermath of the Survivor: Cambodia — Second Chance finale, it’s tempting to write a story about how Survivor is back, but that makes the assumption that it was ever truly gone. After 39 days, four hidden immunity idols, and a billion mentions of the phrase “voting bloc,” a winner was finally crowned on Survivor: Cambodia—Second Chance.

Time to find out who outwitted, outplayed and outlasted their fellow castaways in the season finale of Survivor: Cambodia – Second Chance, a.k.a. the 31st season of the reality series that saw fan-favorite contestants (voted in by the audience) return for their shot at the $1 million. Six contestants remained heading into the final episode: Spencer Bledsoe (season 28), Jeremy Collins (season 29), Tasha Fox (season 28), Kimmi Kappenberg (season two), Keith Nale (season 29) and Kelley Wentworth (season 29), and, in their final days in Cambodia, also contained the absolute craziest tribal council in the history of Survivor. It’s been a long time since Richard Hatch wandering naked and Colby Donaldson essentially handing Tina a million dollars along with magazine covers, talk show appearances and all of the things Survivor enjoyed between 2000 and 2003. Kimmi Kappenberg from the Australian Outback made waves early on the season when she blindsided Monica for merely suggesting an all girls’ alliance. The hype and publicity may have vanished, but every single week, Survivor draws between 9 and 10 million viewers and every single week, Survivor does between a 2 and a 2.4 in the key 18-49 demographic.

For any show that’s been around for 15 years, it’s a stability that’s absurd and for a reality franchise that just completed its 31st installment, it’s essentially unheard of. Let’s be clear: This was so confusing and unprecedented that it required Probst to explain via illustration, and even then it didn’t really make that much sense. In a blind act of misplaced chivalry, Keith almost quit rather than make Kimmi leave, but ultimately reconsidered and joined the others in sending Kimmi to the jury. Survivor fans have weathered some weak seasons, but the funny thing is that nearly every Survivor fan would give you a different answer for which ones haven’t worked.

Rather, I am pointing to the fact that Jeff Probst once again delivered the votes from Cambodia to Los Angeles neither by jet ski, nor skydiving, nor motorcycle, not subway, nor TARDIS, nor time-traveling DeLorean, nor Tuk Tuk chauffeured by Keith Nale, but rather by foot. We can maybe all agree that Worlds Apart, with its meaningless White/Blue/No Collar twist, was a bit of a dud or that we don’t look back fondly on that season Fabio conned his way to victory. First off, it must have taken him forever to walk those things all the way from the remote island of Koh Rong to CBS Studios. (I’m also not sure how that is logistical possible considering, you know, oceans and stuff.) Second, this exceptional season deserved an exceptionally ridiculous entry. After Kelley won the next immunity challenge, that made him vulnerable, and he was voted out after declining to try using the awesome fake immunity idol that Kelley had made to fool the others.

The freshly completed Survivor: Cambodia season probably has detractors, but speaking totally unscientifically on the behalf of a devoted fanbase that hasn’t authorized me to do so, I’m going to say this installment offered almost non-stop reminders of why this is a show we can’t and don’t want to quit. After Jeremy won the final immunity challenge, the question became whether he would want to take Spencer or Kelley to the final three with him and Tasha. Even if I couldn’t have remembered in a million years that the previous season was won by some guy named “Mike.” Survivor has had mixed results with all-star installments. After six votes in a row, the tall-haired host (seriously, it was more voluminous than normal, right?) named father-to-be Jeremy (his wife was expecting a baby boy!) the winner of Survivor: Second Chance. Heroes vs Villains and Fans vs Favorites were epic, while the first Blood vs Water installment paid dividends, but for a while the show just seemed to be trying to find excuses to bring back Russell and Rupert and Boston Rob as many times as possible.

The dad of two (soon to be three!) has the honor of beating his fellow returnees in what was definitely one of the best seasons in history, and even secured a unanimous vote in the process. The ploy worked, but ultimately may have hurt Spencer in the finals as several jurors called him out for his “arrogance,” with Kimmi even going so far as to say that she would “use that behavior as an example to my children of what never to do.” And in a perfect callback to the very first season, Kelly Wiglesworth — who lost season 1 by a single vote after Greg Buis asked her and Richard Hatch to pick a number between 1 and 10 — made the finalists all do the same. I said going into this finale that I would be happy with a win by either Spencer (my pre-season pick to win both times he has played), Jeremy (my pre-season pick to win last time he played), or Kelley (my pre-season pick to win neither time she played…but I did have her in my top three this season).

Jeff Probst and the contestants tried to play up an Old School vs New School conflict between strategies employed by players from early in the show’s run and players from recent years, but the season ended with a Top 5 of all New School players. It was not meant to be (and as a result, I am still alive to write this recap), but a Jeremy-Spencer face-off was still a glorious ending. (Nothing against Tasha, but she was merely a spectator by the end.) Did the jury make the right call in choosing Jeremy? It turned out, though, that rather than being a clash of old and new strategies, the season was revitalized by something entirely unprecedented on American Survivor. Since Wiglesworth joined with Richard Hatch and Sue Hawk, the game had become a battle of alliances and flipping on an alliance became the ultimate Survivor taboo — one that you could maybe win with if you owned your deceit and the Jury wasn’t bitter — but one that could still torpedo you most of the time.

Jeremy found two idols, won the most-important immunity challenge of the season, and was in a position of majority power for pretty much the entire time. Perhaps fearing that too many pre-existing ties from other seasons or outside of the game might skew results, producers kept shuffling the tribes and contestants kept searching for commonalities with people they’d barely played with. Spencer won three immunities and went the distance, even though he almost didn’t make it past day six and then was on the verge of getting voted out several times after that. Kelley Wentworth, a non-factor in the San Juan del Sur season, had to pause in the middle of an intense opening challenge and duck back to grab an Idol in plain sight of her whole tribe.

Ok, ladies— just so we’re all clear— getting incredibly defensive and starting to cry when someone asks you a question is a dead giveaway that you are lying. He used one to save Stephen Fishbach for exactly one week, a waste that may have earned him a Jury vote, and he used the second at the start of Wednesday’s two-hour finale, setting up a Survivor first.

You have to do whatever is in your power to get someone to keep you around, even if it means making empty threats — and knowing Spencer, I am giving him the benefit of the doubt and assume he would have actually based his vote on who played the best all-around game, not on whether Jeremy brought him to the end or not. Not only did it look arrogant, as Savage later stated, but it also belittled the jury in the sense that Spencer would assume publicly he could turn weak-willed voters into doing his bidding.

And what of Jeremy’s big words — his final words at the final Tribal when he talked about how Val told him at the loved ones challenge that their baby was going to be a boy? But, Kimmi gets greedy to make a name for herself and at tribal council she gets called out at tribal by Spencer, who finds himself emboldened by the immunity necklace around his neck. I hate it because it has nothing to do with your merit on the island and you should be judged on how you played, not on some sob story about your life back home or any concerns about who “needs” the money more. This second chance season meant a lot to him and he played well, even if one could argue that on typical merits, Kelley and Spencer both had more active game resumés. He even told us right after he found out from Val that he was staying silent and putting that nugget of info into his back pocket in case he needed it later.

It’s doubtful that the spring season of Survivor, a return to the Brawn vs Brains vs Beauty format from Cagayan, will be able to maintain exactly this momentum. There won’t be any returning favorites, so we’ll have to make do with semi-celebrities like Caleb from Big Brother and what appeared to be former Kansas Jayhawk and NBA journeyman Scot Pollard, who will try to prove that he’s a worse basketball player but better Survivor player than Cagayan veteran Cliff Robinson. Jeremy says that the hardest thing he’s had to do was not talk to Val, to miss his baby growing inside her and to not tell everyone that he’s going to have a son.

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