Jeff Pitman's Survivor 31: Cambodia recaps
Whose wee rains supreme?
By Jeff Pitman | Published: December 12, 2015
Survivor: Cambodia Episode 13 recap/ analysis

Always Keith

The answer to the question above? Easy! Survivor: Cambodia's does. Enjoy it while it lasts (which would be three more hours, all of them next Wednesday). We realize Jeff Probst's job as showrunner requires him to speak positively about every season, no matter how terrible (Caramoan pre-merge) in order to inspire viewership, so it's difficult to gauge how Probst really feels about this season. Even so, our perception is that he's been ramping up his exhortations of excellence, and asserting that this is one of Survivor's best seasons, if not the best. Not only is his rationale -- that every contestant came to play, has been playing to win, and the cast has collectively produced great results -- (dare we say it?) logically sound, but... *gasp*... we actually agree with him.

Despite our mid-Angkor fretting, Cambodia has, almost entirely through the strength of its cast, overcome some minor shortcomings (the aforementioned Angkor error, boring individual ICs, inclement conditions), and consistently delivered compelling drama, innovative gameplay, and even occasional humor, especially post-merge. It's not so much that the game has evolved. Rather, it's that the game is actually being played for once, and by almost everyone present. (Hey, even Keith thinks he's playing it, and that it's "easy.") Finally.

In praise of slaughtering goats

Take a hike, Abi

We have long been weary of the "correct play" of a dominant player surrounding him- or herself with lackluster or actively loathed contestants at the final Tribal Council, in order to guarantee a win. It's boring. It's predictable. It doesn't require any real effort on the part of the obvious winner-to-be. Instead, we'd much rather see a jury have to make a Tina-or-Colby, or Yul/Ozzy (or Becky!), or even a more-complex Todd/Courtney/Amanda decision. Few players can resist the temptation of the easiest possible win, but kudos to this group for trying to up the difficulty factor.

Now at least one of Spencer, Jeremy, Tasha, or Kelley is guaranteed to reach the Final Three. Any one of those four could be a plausible and satisfying winner. That's your worst-case scenario, and that would still be a pretty good ending if just one made it, because Kimmi has played a fine game (as far as we can tell, since we've only seen her twice all season, apart from hugging Tasha this episode), and frankly, watching Keith state his case to the jury would be a spectacle to behold. But the likelihood is that more than one of the four possible winners will get there, and if that happens, we'll have one of those rare, actually contested final Tribal Councils. Really, pretty much any combination of the six remaining people should make for an interesting finals, and for that, we're thankful.

Final 6 entering the finale? Eh, it makes sense


Jeff Probst has made it perfectly clear that going forward, Survivor will do everything it can to avoid ever having another Final Two (*sniff*). We don't agree with this position, but it's so unlikely to be changed that we've moved on to acceptance. In the world of Final Threes, though, this finale's approach of four days, three immunity challenges, and three boots, leading into a Final Three, seems like the best possible solution. At least in theory, since we have yet to actually see the results.

It's a simple preventative tool for production's chief concern: a late-game medevac, like James in Micronesia, or Erik in Caramoan. With seven players left on Day 35, they now have a buffer against this, and in the worst-case scenario, a mid-finale medevac just means one fewer boot. And, if you look at the calendar, there's now a boot every day from Day 35 (where it goes from Final 7 down to Final 6) through Day 38 (where the Final Three are formed). There's something satisfying about that. Plus it obviates the need for a post-merge double-boot episode.

Better yet, it also torpedoes the idea of having a reward challenge for advantage during the finale. As the advantage RC has advanced from one-off novelty to full-blown trend, it has become increasingly clear that it's simply unfair. While it didn't work out for Malcolm in Philippines, the advantage led to easy immunity victories for Cochran in Caramoan, Keith in San Juan del Sur, and Mike in Worlds Apart. Especially in the two most recent cases, the effect was that somebody who was already a challenge beast, at the point where hidden idols have expired, just gets a free extra shot at advancing without having to fuss around with that alliance mumbo-jumbo. So with a six-person finale, the advantage RC gets replaced by a straight immunity challenge. If you're going to win your way into the finals, now at least you have to win on an even playing field.

The only downside is that the finale might end up being slightly more rushed due to having one extra Tribal Council. Even so, that's better than erring in the other direction, such as The Australian Outback's glacial slog through one Tribal Council-held challenge and one boot, stretched out over two hours.

By the numbers - new week, new records


Another week brings us new movement, at least in career numbers.

  • Spencer: Fourth-most individual IC wins (5). As we said last week, with this cast, you take down one challenge beast, and another rears its head. Spencer is now tied for the fourth-highest lifetime individual IC win total (five), behind just Boston Rob (nine), Ozzy (seven), and Joe (six). Of further note, the top two spread their wins out over more than two seasons. Talk all you want about how Spencer is an emotionless gamebot, or Charlie Brown, or Wile E. Coyote. He's also a significant challenge threat. Maybe that's why Probst seems to like Spencer so much? Well, at least enough to overcome his fear of nerd cooties.
  • Keith: All-time non-VFB leader (12). Naled it! Keith's second consecutive vote for Tasha broke his lifetime non-VFB tie with Kelly Wiglesworth, and vaulted him into the all-time lead in this all-important category. But wait! Spencer is a mere two non-VFBs behind, with three Tribal Councils to go. Can Keith nail down his hold on history? Could the Young Lad surpass him? Stay tuned! (Sadly, Keith's inability to attend Tribal Council before the merge likely cost him a chance to make a run at Eddie Fox's single-season record. Thanks again, Angkor-creating three-tribe twist.)
  • Go ahead, make our day, vote against Abi: Slowly and steadily, Abi managed to reach both theVAP single-season and career top 10 record lists, after receiving 14 total votes against herself this season. This is in contrast to Spencer, who raced out to a whopping 8 votes against before the merge, but has never been a target again since, graciously stepping aside to let Abi pass him. Such a polite Young Lad.

Vapid Fire

Redemption Arena

  • The dancing/blessing ceremony during the reward trip to Siem Reap was beautiful. A little odd that they chose to film it in Redemption Arena, but you know, budget cuts and such.
  • Did the challenge department lose the blueprints for all the pre-Cagayan challenges, or something? Did anyone remember the San Juan del Sur challenge used for the RC? We're including Keith in that second question, since he seemed surprised to learn he'd won it before.
  • Hooray! An immunity challenge that's something other than everyone standing still, balancing things! (Or even worse, sitting.) This is exciting! Ouch, that fall looked painful. But no broken bones, apparently. Let's keep going. Oh great, now someone's drowning. Sigh. Well, that was fun while it lasted.
  • Come on, Abi did not come up with "I'm like just thinking about who to bring to the end with me at this point" on her own. That had to be scripted, or at least prompted.
  • We are worried that an older, camo-clad gentleman may already be going "to Chicago to hunt [Spencer] down," after a certain Young Lad broke his promise. Tip for Spencer: As tempting as the offer may seem, don't accept any free tuk-tuk rides. It's a trap!

Jeff Pitman's recapsJeff Pitman is the founder of the True Dork Times, and probably should find better things to write about than Survivor. So far he hasn't, though. He's also responsible for the Survivometer, calendar, boxscores, and contestant pages, so if you want to complain about those, do so in the comments, or on twitter: @truedorktimes