Swapping from two tribes into three is something that has long been suggested by fans, simulated by ORGs, and apparently toyed with by Probst. Not to mention that it's also something that anyone who visited Planet Buff (starting just before the season started) knew was coming, and probably right here. And yet, for all the build-up, it seemed strangely... less interesting than your standard swap. From Silas Gaither to Brian Corridan to Kelley Wentworth (SJdS edition), swaps have been time-honored Survivor traditions that generally screw up at least one person's game. Sometimes someone you like, sometimes someone you loathe. (Not Russell Hantz, of course. No swaps allowed when he plays.) That didn't happen here. Instead of getting switched away from Abi, Peih-Gee was still stuck with her, and finally succumbed to being the new RC 2.0. But there was also a general sense that by going from two tribes to three, the danger to everyone else's game seemed less tangible.
Maybe it's because the danger actually was less tangible. Sure, there were 50% more situations in which someone found themselves on the bottom of numbers, and fretting about surviving the next vote. But with two tribes winning immunity, their chances of actually have to vote just dropped from 50% to 33% (or 0.00% if they ended up on Ta Keo). So while more situations of theoretical danger were created, it all just felt... theoretical. Unless you had the bad luck to end up on Abi's tribe, which seemed guaranteed to be heading to Tribal, and not just because they also had to build an entire new camp from scratch, and weren't allowed to subcontract the job out to Joe.
To be fair, this particular twist did serve an important function, in that it broke up some of the now-solidifying pre-game alliances (Kelly, Varner, and Terry are now all on separate tribes). So some people were forced to scramble. Another positive: at long last we were able to witness Savage survive a twist, and Tasha maneuver her way out of a minority position, both of which they pursued with gusto (or at least a lot of moaning on Savage's part). But overall, there seemed to be precious little actual jeopardy with this expansion draft swap, and most of the swap's positive results could have been achieved via a traditional, two-tribe swap.
We suppose we'll just have to wait until they swap back to two tribes, which could happen sooner rather than later if Angkor continues losing.
Post-script: Where was the gaming? Another revered swap tradition (starting again with Silas) is for one of the swapped tribes to throw the subsequent immunity challenge, in order to boot some newly outnumbered strong player from the opposing side. Yet for all the fretting by various people that they were outnumbered 4-2 on their new tribe, there seemed to be very little throwing going on. Why was that? You people are supposed to be all-stars! And Peih-Gee already did this once, in China! (Well, okay, we hope she didn't throw this one. That would have sucked, based on the outcome.)
Is it okay to dislike Abi as a Survivor player?
(Short answer: Yes, of course.) Look, we try to be open-minded, and remember that Survivor is a pasteurized, homogenized, highly edited reality product. And by all accounts, Abi-Maria Gomes is a fun, vivacious person outside of the game. But we really don't enjoy watching Abi play Survivor. Her constant picking of fights is unpleasant, and she seems to do it on purpose, mainly because it's apparently fun for her? But as unappealing as it is to watch on TV, awakening the Brazilian dragon is also horrendous as a strategy, because no juror would ever think of voting for her. And that's pretty much her entire strategy, because apart from that she seems perfectly happy being someone else's pawn. Or wind-up exploding toy, or whatever. So we just don't get the point.
Someone (citation needed) suggested Abi was the female version of Judd from Guatemala, which initially seemed somewhat accurate. Like Judd, Abi is prone to erratic outbursts. But what makes Judd more entertaining is that Judd seems blissfully unaware that he's annoying people, so it's sort of funny. In contrast, Abi's drama seems intentional, and thus more than a little bit mean. We think a better parallel is as the female Shamar (minus the laying around in the shelter all day). Shamar went into Caramoan intending to make his tribemates miserable, which seems to be Abi's number one goal as well. So, we guess: job well done, Shamar and Abi!
Note: On the other hand, Abi earnestly stating after the IC, "After seeing how unpredictable Varner is? I think that he needs to go next" was a little bit funny.
Idols in challenges... meh?
While we're glad that Jeremy found and safely pocketed the idol, the idol placement here was far less compelling than in the first challenge. Jeremy just got to the area early, grabbed the idol as instructed, and it was done. No mournful looks back, no weighing the risk vs. the reward, no hesitation, no triumphant decision to just go for it. Just in, done, and almost immediately forgotten. Going off of the Ep1 RC/IC model, the ideal placement probably would have been near the puzzle stage, forcing Jeremy to choose between working the puzzle and grabbing the idol. Instead, we were left to enoy watching somewhat surreptitious kneeling.
True, this was Survivor's first run-through of this concept, and since they were busy filming, they probably didn't fully appreciate the power of the build-up to Kelley's moment of decisive action. Or maybe they just wanted to mix the placement up, because presumably Kelley is now watching everyone else at challenges for furtive, probable idol-snatching behavior, and she'll be joined in that by Jeremy going forward. And all bets are off for Survivor 33 onward, where everyone playing will/should have seen all these tricks play out on TV. Maybe we were all just really lucky that Kelley was unable to discretely pocket the idol on the first pass.
Impending numbers to crunch
We're amazed we haven't mentioned it yet, but there are a lot of statistical outliers on this season. The challenge beasts (Terry and Kelly hold records, potentially also Joe, Spencer, and Tasha) are obvious. Should one of them start an individual challenge streak here, they could rack up some nearly untouchable lifetime totals. But that's still a ways off, and there are some lesser-known voting-related stats that are just as interesting, some of which are within reach:
- Non-VFB (In the loop? What loop?): This is the most fun. Non-VFB is voting for someone other than the person booted. Eddie Fox taught a master class in this in Caramoan, blasting through prior performances to set the single-season record with room to spare, with 9. Yes, nine times in one season attending Tribal Council and somehow failing to vote for the person who is actually eliminated. Nine! This futility total is so high that even with multiple players having completed four seasons, only one person (Ozzy Lusth) has even tied that over their entire career.
But that mark is in dire jeopardy. Keith, Terry, and Spencer racked up substantial totals themselves the first time they played (7, 6, and 6, respectively), but alas, Terry has already tacked on two more, so he now sits at 8, one whiff away from tying Eddie and Ozzy. Meanwhile, Peih-Gee closes out her time with 6, while Wiglesworth and Abi are still active and up to 6 themselves. If someone doesn't break into lifetime double digits in this category during their Second Chance, it will be a massive upset.
- Non-VAP (Extreme Stealth Mode): Kelly Wiglesworth is now three episodes deep into her second Survivor season, and through the current episode, nobody has ever voted against her at Tribal Council. Keep in mind that she attended that insane merge Tribal in Borneo, at which almost everyone received at least one vote. That makes 13 consecutive vote-free Tribals for Kelly, which is a fine total, although the record is actually considerably greater, with a few caveats. If you're wondering, Mike Skupin has the only multi-season streak that's still intact, having never received a vote against in two seasons (albeit with an asterisk, since he was medevacced in Ep6 of The Australian Outback). Skupin has only ever attended 10 Tribal Councils lifetime, though, which Wiglesworth surpassed in Borneo.
Amanda Kimmel sort of matched Skupin's streak her first two times: she made it through all 9 Tribals she attended in China and the first 9 in Micronesia without anyone writing her name down. At the 10th FvF Tribal she played an idol, erasing 4 votes, then went vote-free three more times, until Sugar voted for her at the very first Heroes vs. Villains Tribal. So Amanda's streak is either 18 or 22, depending on whether idol plays can continue a streak (we don't really think they should). But the all-time stealth mode record holder is one Queen Sandra: Sandra was vote-free during her 12 Pearl Islands Tribal Councils, and made it nine Tribals deep into Heroes vs. Villains with no votes, for a total of 21. Then alleged Heroes Colby and Rupert voted for her at #22, but she correctly played her idol. (Then at #23, Colby again voted for her, ending the streak for good.) So 21 or 22 is the mark to beat, depending on how much you love idols.
- Career VAP: Ciera and Keith each racked up a voluminous 13 votes against themselves the first times they played. They have their work cut out for them catching up with career leader Ozzy's 27 lifetime votes against, but we have faith. Although to be realistic, this is much more likely to happen in a Redemption Island season.
Other Second Chance Episode 3 recaps & commentary
Exit interviews - Peih-Gee Law
Podcasts - Episode 3