Jeff Pitman's Survivor 31: Cambodia recaps
A muddled puddle of prior infractions
By Jeff Pitman | Published: November 6, 2015
Survivor: Cambodia Episode 7 recap/ analysis

A muddled puddle of prior infractions

For all the talk of Second Chances (which was mentioned 314,159 times in this episode alone, by our count), the end result of this episode seemed wholly determined by Kass's last merge episode, three seasons ago in Cagayan, and not the one in which she was physically appearing. Tasha was not interested in finding out whether she was playing with Calm Kass or Chaos Kass this time, she just wanted to turn her into Ponderosa Kass. Which is not to say Tasha's distrust was illogical; Kass did give herself the Chaos Kass nickname, after all. But it also seemed a bit unfair, and counter to the whole Second Chance theme we've been bombarded with for the past seven weeks. As you can tell, we've already entered the Stockholm Syndrome phase of our relationship with "this is my Second Chance."

Kass's boot also seemed to follow directly from the final pre-merge episode, last week. Heading into this week's episode, the most likely outcome seemed to be Savage not taking kindly to having been duped by Kass and Ciera over Woo's blindside, and either exacting his revenge against them, or getting himself voted out for raising a ruckus. This suspicion was reinforced at the open by Savage's opening, bleep-laden tantrum about Kass and Ciera. If you fell asleep between Savage stomping his feet about those "pieces of [bleep]" and the snuffing, you would not be shocked to see ten votes split between Kass and Ciera and one for Savage. So, despite the alleged "chaos" of the intervening hour, not much really seemed to change.

What took place in the middle, however, was, well... confusing, murky, and generally difficult to follow, despite the fact that very little happened. Well, okay, there was an immunity challenge, and with 13 competitors, it took a while to get through it. Eventually, (again, surprising nobody) Joe won. Padding out the rest of the episode around the IC, however, was a lot of arguing, with accusations and denials being lobbed about like so many no-longer-balanced balls on sticks. At one point, Tasha accused Kass of "working with Ta Keo," which was a bit befuddling, since there were only four original Ta Keos left on the 13-member Orkun tribe, and three of them ended up voting with Tasha. Did Tasha mean the final version of the Ta Keo tribe, the one that voted out Woo last week? Perhaps, but on the other end of the argument, Kass was talking about staying Bayon strong, and both of the people Tasha and Savage were lobbying to oust were their fellow original Bayons (Kass and Ciera), and then all because they booted Woo, who was an original Ta Keo, and was never on Bayon. Eh, we give up trying to figure out what was going on.

For all the talk about how quickly the game was moving, it didn't really appear to be all that fluid: 10/13 people ended up voting together, and the three on the outside were, again, the ones who pulled off Woo's blindside last week (minus tagalong Spencer). That's not movement, that's revenge, even if Savage had to grudgingly settle for booting Kass instead of his preferred target, Ciera. (We look forward to more foot stomping next week about this.) Even so, it was extremely difficult to follow what anyone was saying, simply because it was never clear what version of which tribe people were talking about. Furthermore, when new combinations of people were shown plotting (Spencer and Joe, for example), it was tough to remember if they'd been tribemates at some point, or if this was actually Day 1 for them working together. The merge at 13 was done to keep the players off-balance, but it also affected the audience, as this hodgepodge of disconnected plotting all but completely replaced the usual beats and rhythms of a merge episode. If you were expecting hugs and a feast, followed by the origin story of the merge tribe name and the painting of the (impressive-looking) flag, you were instead given a few seconds of eating, which was gonged off the stage by a hyperalert Stephen, followed by a swan dive into what seemed like three hours of impenetrable bickering.

To be sure, it was refreshing that people were eager to get started on the individual portion of the game. And it's great to see almost everyone at least giving lip service to playing the game ("to win," even). Even if Tasha's version was "Don't even play." Or that Keith and Wiglesworth weren't allowed to give lip service to anything, obviously. Even so, there are a number of strong players remaining, many of whom seem eager to mix things up, so it seems probable that the post-merge game could indeed be chaotic and dynamic. Even if it's just a straight Pagonging of Abi and Ciera for the next two episodes, the remaining 10 will still have the final five episodes to actually start playing. Let's just hope that the machinations and power shifts of that game will also be perceptible to more than just the people playing it.

Vapid fire

Yay, merge

  • We're as delighted as the rest of you at Stephen's emergence from his chrysalis, unfurling his wings as a poetry-spouting, editing-endorsed strategy savant. We're not sure anyone else in the shelter particularly enjoyed his Gerard Manley Hopkins recitation, but if we could just find a way to get him a lute, Stephen could complete his transformation into The Fishbard.
  • Remember when Stephen fretted about how the other original Bayons might interpret booting Monica as going against the Bayon Strong ideal? Yeah, nothing came of that, unless you count some hearty back-slapping between Savage and Jeremy.
  • We're really impressed with all the Joe-specific hashtags this season, such as #joega and #joelanguage. Can't wait for Joe to claim his crown at the final Tribal Council! #joeking
  • With individual challenges starting with 13 people left, that means Joe only has to win nine more immunity challenges to win this game!
  • We know he mentioned wanting his dad to come out for the Loved Ones visit, but we kind of hope Joe's mom comes out instead, just so we can have a #joemama hashtag.
  • Keith finished twelfth (twelfth!) in a challenge that involved balls. This is inconceivable.
  • Spencer was finally in a position to control the vote! Something he had never experienced before! Except in Episode 1 this season (Vytas's boot, which you'd think Spencer would remember, since he went to the trouble of hoodwinking Terry into believing he was part the Shelter alliance). And there was also Episode 1 of Cagayan. But hey, who's counting?
  • Wiglesmile
  • It turns out Keith and Wiglesworth have escaped into a parallel universe in which Survivor is a silent comedy. A node through which both universes intersect briefly flashed before us this week, as Keith made cat-claw pantomimes during Kass and Tasha's Tribal argument, eliciting a smile from Kelly.
  • This is the only known time in which Kelly Wiglesworth has ever smiled. Although, as it turns out, parallel universe Wiglesworth is a relentless entertainer, and is constantly cracking everyone up, including herself.
  • Nice try with the The Evolution of Strategy product placement at Tribal, Stephen. But joining the majority in taking the path of least resistance is hardly a new tactical move, regardless of the size or gender of the target.

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