Survivor: Cambodia Winner Announced

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. Jeff Probst presented a tease for season 32 at the end of tonight’s Survivor: Cambodia—Second Chance reunion show, and gave us our first look at Survivor: Kaoh Rong, which includes former NBA player Scot Pollard and former Big Brother contestant Caleb “Beast Mode Cowboy” Reynolds in the cast. 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. You actually filmed this season before the Second Chance season, which is the first time ever you have aired seasons out of order from when you filmed them. 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.

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.

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. And because BvBvB II was shot first, the players didn’t see the evolution of voting blocs or any of the twists that happened in Second Chance, so it really is a completely different season. 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. Then you still have about a 30 percent chance of him slipping on a banana peel, sending the voting urn flying up into air and landing on his head. (Maybe that already happened, and he was in a woozy, confused state of mind when he decided to wear that hideous shirt at last week’s Tribal Council.) Regardless, I am able to overlook this travesty of justice due to an otherwise excellent season and excellent result. 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.

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. When it appeared as if Jeremy might be wavering on whether to bring Wentworth to the final three, Spencer went on an all-out assault. “She 100-percent wins if she’s sitting here tomorrow,” said Spencer. But then he took it a step further. “If I go to the jury, I would consider it a terrible move on your part, and based on that move, I would do everything in my power to see her win.” This came right on the heels of Spencer also threatening that if Jeremy voted him out, he would “spend all of my energy making sure she won.” Let me address this for a second.

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. 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. She no longer has the protection of a hidden immunity idol, and if she loses the next immunity challenge, she will surely be making the long, lonely walk to loser’s lodge. 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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