The Baker's Dozen - Survivor 31: Cambodia
Baker's dozen
By: Andy Baker | Published: November 1, 2015
Survivor: Cambodia Episode 6 recap/ analysis

Baker's dozen

Given the name of this blog and the fact that there are 13 players left, I couldn’t very well take another week off, so let’s take a look at who’s still out there…

(The order is purely stream of thought, as way lead on to way.)

Stephen's demons

1) Stephen

He can’t run. He can’t toss a ring. He can’t chop a coconut.

Doesn’t matter.

His emotional confessional this week proves that he, as much or more than anyone else out there, deserved this second chance.

His first experience in the game shaped everything that followed in his life, both the good and the bad. He officiated at J.T.’s wedding, made life-long friends, and joined forces with fellow Know-it-All Rob Cesternino. But there has also not been a week – a day? – that has gone by when he didn’t second guess his Tocantins choices and wonder what if, what if, what if.

Stephen is, first and foremost, a SuperFan (just like anyone who is likely to stumble upon this blog). He cares about the game, wants and needs to play it well, and knows better than anyone how emotionally agonizing the Survivor side of his life will feel once the game is over, should he makes the same mistakes again.

By playing the game a second time, Stephen is living out the dream that many of us have, while fearing the nightmare we’d never want to face. And the stress – of hunger and fatigue, yes, but also of expectation and self-doubt (what is it to wonder for hours beyond measure if the haters are right, that you’re over-reliant on strategy but not really good at the game) – all came pouring out in a moment of reflection that was raw, and wrenching, and real. It was everything that Spencer’s saline-soaked confessional was, only with five extra years of Survivor second-guessing added to the metaphysical burden.

If you will forgive me a philosophical digression, Stephen’s confessional possessed a level of overwhelming emotional honesty that was both precisely how SuperFans would like to believe they would feel under those circumstances – when the frustration of an opportunity to rewrite the past slipping through one’s fingers would be too much to take – while also being something we’d never want anyone to see. For to watch it is to know the truth, how a game has become something more than a game, that for some players, some people, Survivor transcends the triviality of reality television and becomes something sublime, an experience by which all others are weighed and measured. It’s interesting: Everyone will tell you that to win the game, you have to adapt. And to adapt is to change. If you’re playing it right, then, Survivor changes you. And no one knows that – both the good and the bad – better than Stephen Fishbach.

Which is a long-winded preamble to this: Fishbach has entered my personal pantheon of great Survivor players due, in part, to one confessional that encapsulates what it is to care, to feel, and to love the game. He endures the suffering of a SuperFan. He carries with him the expectation of this audience and his own relentless fears and hopes and dreams.

He is us and we are he.


(Side note: There must be a reason far deeper than “He’s really strong” that Stephen wants to target Joe. Stephen must suspect that Joe has strong sub-alliances, and that others will protect Joe and cut him, once the original Bayon start turning on one another. I have faith that Stephen knows that Jeremy wants and needs Joe as a meat shield and that any shield for Jeremy is an additional shield for Stephen… so there are other forces at work here.)

Calm Kass?

2) Kass

It’s the little things: At Tribal Council, Probst outlined all of the various competing forces in play after the second swap (original tribes, swapped tribes, re-swapped tribes – never mind pre-season alliances). Kass’s response to the social and strategic complexity? “It’s fun.”

And THAT’S why I love me some Kassandra McQuillen.


3) Spencer

Can we move past this tiresome “Spencer is a really dangerous player” trope?

Here’s the thing: I’m as big a Spencer fanboy as you’re likely to meet. He knows the game through and through. And heading into any given season, I’d bet on the guy to make it deep.

But in THIS season, THIS game, he isn’t a threat, at least not right now. Varner was going to take him out, but then switched to Shirin because she was gunning for him. Savage and Kass were going to cut Spencer, until another option (the sacrifice of a goat) presented itself. The other Cagayan players don’t really want to work with him, Kass’s decision notwithstanding. His original tribe has been decimated and is outnumbered 9-4 at the merge. His strongest ally, Shirin, left the game back on Day 6. He has no power base to speak of and no one to unite with at the merge.

It’s pretty obvious at this point that Savage calling Spencer a huge threat is simply “turn him into a target” rhetoric.

Eventually, people will see the reality of the situation, won’t they? Here’s hoping that the other players figure out that Spencer isn’t a threat… so that he has time to actually become one.


4) Savage

It’s a curious thing, merging at 13. Never been done before. Why would Probst and the producers do that?

The easy argument is that this is a returnee season, so they want to pack the jury with compelling characters.

It might also be the producers saying “the conditions are really brutal this season, so maybe we should have some extra jury spots, just in case we have some late-game medevacs.”

And then there’s the conspiracy-theory angle:

With Woo’s blindside, Kelly and Savage were in trouble… Ta Keo 3.0 was overmatched physically (and it’s unlikely the producers would plan for a second non-physical Immunity Challenge in a row)… which means the odds were high that Savage would be voted out at the next Tribal Council.

And who do we know is Probst’s good friend? Right. Savage.

Draw your own conclusions.


5) Joe

Long before Terry’s departure*, several players were shown talking about their family members: Joe, Savage, Jeremy, Woo and Abi. Woo is gone, of course, but I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to suggest that there’s going to be an early loved ones visit this season, with more players around to have their composure shattered by emotional intensity, and that at least three of the other four will be around for it.

Of course, several more players were showcased responding to Terry’s family-related emergency – Kass, Ciera, Kelly – and should they be around for the loved ones visit, it’ll be even more emotionally charged as a result. I, of course, think this is a great thing; I LOVE the loved ones visit, for I am an unrepentant sap. Anyway, I don’t know that these players will be there, but I hope they are.

*Kudos to CBS and Survivor for how the whole Terry situation was handled. Providing an update and using this as a platform to promote organ donation was well done. Survivor at its best. #DannyStrong


6) Ciera

The good: She was proactive when Savage volunteered her to get the decoy votes (although one could argue that she could go along with the plan and reinforce the idea that she isn’t a threat, so that she has more room to maneuver after the merge)… she had enough social power to pull together a majority alliance (although Kass made the ultimate decision about who would go home)… and she appears to be well-positioned for the post-merge game.

The bad: When people start identifying threats, once they get past the obvious (Joe, Jeremy, Tasha), Ciera’s name is going to be at the top of the list… in a newbie season, where the gameplay is less nuanced, Ciera would have an easier path ahead, but with a merge full of savvy strategists, anyone with an endgame resume is going to be targeted… which is to say she’s in trouble.

The verdict: Gone around F8.


7) Jeremy

It’s the little things: I simply love how Jeremy high-fives. There’s joy, competitiveness, and enthusiasm in there. He’s a leader and a cheerleader without coming across as self-interested or ego-driven (I can think of at least one pseudo-leader who could learn a thing or two from this; I’m looking at you, Savage).

The other players like Jeremy… there are bigger targets around… and he’s got an idol.

Taken out at a F9 or F7 flip, perhaps?

8) Kelly

If the Goat Hunt continues after the elimination of Monica and Woo, Kelly isn’t long for the game.

Not that we’ll miss her much.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who wishes, each and every Wednesday, that T-Bird had gotten this old school spot.


9) Kimmi

Every season, there’s one player I watch carefully right after the merge. It’s someone we’ve seen enough to know that she or he is relevant to the season-long story, but not so much that we know the narrative. This season, I’m keeping my eye on Kimmi.

We’ve seen her rat out Stephen for idol hunting… she was a pivotal player in Monica’s blindside (although that, I suspect, was editorially overemphasized)… and she refused to eat pig brains. Multiple check-ins, even though she hasn’t really done much. So it’s all about where she goes from here.

Of special note will be how she is compared to the other remaining old schoolers, Savage and Kelly. The edit is going to champion one of these three, and it will be the one who best embodies the Second Chance themes of learning and adapting. Given Kelly’s invisibility and Savage’s arrogance, my money’s on Kimmi.


10) Abi

Ugh. She’s made the merge. Looks like she’ll follow the same trajectory as she did in Philippines: Stick around while threats are eliminated, have several players think she’s the perfect goat, and then get booted when they all realize they can’t stand her.

By the way, I hope at least a few of you dressed up as Abi for Halloween; all you’d need is a bikini, a bottle of Xi Acai, and a sneer. Walk around the party alternating between, “Did you take my bracelet?” and “You’re dead to me,” and keep picking people to kick out of the party. For some reason, despite how scary you’d be, the people at the party will inexplicably keep you around.


11) Keith

An update on the Irrelevant Eight:

Seven players have been voted out; six of them were in the I-8. The only one who wasn’t? Varner. And he was the pre-merge drama-drenched Survivor supernova who had to get an opening confessional. I think it’s pretty clear at this point that anyone who didn’t get screen time in the first 10 minutes of the season is doomed.

The last two members of the I-8 still standing: Stephen and Keith.

Stephen’s I-8 status, combined with his early edit, added to his desire to take out Joe (but failure to do so), all are brushstrokes to a blindside: He’s going to leave soon because he’s plotting against players who are better connected, and more trusted, than he is. (I hope I’m wrong about this.)

Keith, meanwhile, has been conspicuously silent, with surprisingly few confessionals full of expectorative expostulation (despite doing alarmingly well at challenges, just as he did in San Juan del Sur). He’s gonna go sheep deep. One does not have to leave early to be irrelevant.


12) Tasha

It’s clear from last Wednesday’s “Next week on… Survivor” promo that Tasha and Kass get into it after the merge.

Tasha’s “beg for forgiveness after it’s over” narrative means two things:

It’s going to get ugly between Tasha and Kass (and that ugliness is going to come not from Chaos, but from the one who needs to be forgiven)…

… and Tasha, the player with an endgame edit, is going to “win” the battle (Kass will go home before her, quite possibly this week) but lose the war (whatever happens between these two is ugly enough that Tasha can’t and won’t get jury votes).


13) Kelley

It’s the little things (production division): The producers saw fit to remind us that Kelley has an idol… in an episode when she didn’t go to Tribal Council.

We’ve also seen her in a Final 5 agreement with the following:

  • Someone who talked about the loved ones visit, which suggests he’ll go at least that far: Joe
  • Someone who, in two of his rare confessionals, talked about trying to improve his F4 finish with some mild tweaking and later mentioned that five players could get the job done (why include those confessionals unless he’s part of the endgame): Keith
  • Someone who talked about making a big move in her intro confessional, reminded us of this a couple of episodes ago, and has now pulled off said move (thus completing her mini-arc): Ciera
  • And someone who used her intro confessional to talk about her Hyde-personality taking over at the merge, and who is shown in the promo for this week’s episode uncorking the chaos: Kass

My point: We were shown the Final 5 conversation because it matters, and it matters for only one of two reasons. Either it crashes and burns (making the scene ironic), or it works (to one degree or another). It looks like Keith will get deep and Joe will somehow endure till the family visit, while Kass and Ciera will both go before Kelley (given that their stories will have run their course once Chaos Kass returns to our screens).

tl;dr: Kelley is at least making the Final 5.

(And her idol will factor in her making the Final 3.)


That’s it for this edition of The Baker’s Dozen – if you’d like to keep the conversation going, leave a comment below!

Andy Baker Survivor recapsAndy Baker When he’s not blogging about Survivor, Andy Baker helps run a Survivor-based LRG and is podcasting about TV shows. Which is to say he spends entirely too much time in front of the TV, typing on his laptop and muttering about bad narrative decisions.

Andy can be found on twitter: @B13pod.