Survivor: Second Chance Dance
It’s the 31st season of Survivor, and what do they do to make it feel new? They take some old players out for another spin.
As the premiere begins, the new/old contestants make their way to the site. This season is set in Cambodia, and the show takes the opportunity to ogle some of the country’s greatest sights, including the Angkor Wat temple. When the players arrive, contestant Kimmi Kappenburg notes that Angkor Wat is the perfect metaphor for the game of Survivor. This is because the world’s largest holy site, built in the 12th century and venerated by both Hindus and Buddhists, is somehow comparable to a television reality show. Makes perfect sense.
Speaking of the players, let’s meet ‘em! The theme of this season is second chances, so they’re bringing back players who neither won the first time around nor came back to play in a subsequent season (i.e., lots of people we don’t remember or care about). To refresh your memory:
Tribe Bayon will consist of: Joe Anglim from Survivor: Worlds Apart; Jeremy Collins and Keith Nale from San Juan del Sur; Ciera Eastin, who famously voted out her own mother on Blood vs. Water; the unfortunately named Stephen Fishbach from Tocantins; Tasha Fox and Kass McQuillen, both classified as “brains” in Cagayan (a.k.a. “Brains, Brawn, and Beauty”); Kimmi from Australian Outback; Monica Padilla from Samoa; and Andrew Savage, who I don’t remember from Pearl Islands, but who looks just like Dylan McKay from Beverly Hills 90210.
On Tribe Ta Keo will be: Vytas Baskauskas, who played “evil twin” to brother Aras on Blood vs. Water; Spencer Bledsoe, another brain from Cagayan; Terry Dietz from Panama; Abi-Maria Gomes, whose backstory seems to involve regretting being a jerk in the Philippines; Woo Hwang, a “brawn” from Cagayan; Peih-Gee Law from China; Shirin Oskooi from Worlds Apart; and Jeff Varner from Australian Outback, during which season he apparently gave up a chance at the million dollar prize by giving up on a challenge in exchange for peanut butter.
Also on Ta Keo is Kelley Wentworth from San Juan Del Sur, who is not to be confused with Kelly Wiglesworth, the runner-up from Borneo (a.k.a. the very first season), who is also on this team.
Speaking of Wiglesworth, host Jeff Probst singles her out right away to ask her what it feels like to be such a loser that she came in second place the first time around. She says that she replays the loss in her head literally every single day.
On that happy note, let the games begin! As usual, the tribes are given a limited time to grab supplies, throw them on a raft, and make their way to camp. As usual, some dummy grabs the chicken, which in all past seasons has been more trouble than it’s worth.
The twist this time is that what is arguably the most important supply, a big bag of rice (sustenance food), is at a different location, and the tribe that gets there first gets it, so the teams will have to decide when they are done gathering the other stuff and need to start making their way to the rice.
As both tribes start rafting toward the rice boat, K-Wigles gets the idea to jump off and start swimming there. She gets out pretty far ahead of the rafts, but soon starts to tire and slow down. Joe (on rival Tribe Bayon) sees what she’s doing and starts swimming as well. Eventually, Kelly’s tribe-mate Woo gets in the water, outswims them both, and claims the rice for Ta Keo. Everyone proceeds to camp.
At Ta Keo beach, the good, rice-induced feelings do not last for long. Survivor gives everyone a little bag to keep their stuff in, and Abi apparently had a bracelet in hers that’s gone missing. She goes stomping around, asking everyone about it, accusing everyone of taking it, etc. Eventually, it’s found in Peih-Gee’s bag, which Peih-Gee explains by saying something like she saw a bag without a nametag so she put her nametag on it, not knowing it was Abi’s. (Wait a second… people have bags and nametags and bracelets out here? What is this, some kind of professional conference?)
Vytas isn’t making any friends either, although he’s trying to. He’s paying attention to all the ladies, paying them compliments, offering them backrubs, showing them yoga poses. He thinks he’s being charming, but it’s coming off “smarmy” (Shirin’s word), possibly because this is what he’s wearing while he does it:
Shirin dislikes Vytas for another reason, too. She thinks that, even if he doesn’t have game, he might have… social game. Specifically, she thinks that because his brother Aras was on Survivor: Panama with Terry, Terry and Aras are friends and therefore Vytas and Terry are friends, and isn’t it weird how Vytas isn’t acknowledging that and what else is he hiding? (Seems mighty paranoid to me, but what do I know.) She starts talking up this angle to the other tribe members.
While some Ta Keons are trying to backstab, others are trying to survive in the more classic sense. Some folks are building a shelter. Kelley Wentworth volunteers to gather palm fronds for the roof and takes the opportunity to search for the hidden immunity idol. She doesn’t nab the idol, but she does find a clue, or rather, a piece of paper telling her exactly where it is.
The only problem is that it’s under the platform where they’ll land a raft during the upcoming immunity challenge, and she’ll have to find a way to get it in the midst of the competition, with everyone around.
Meanwhile, over at Camp Bayon, Joe is emerging as the officially designated hot guy. First, Andrew chats him up and tells him a heartwarming tale of how both of his teenage daughters were crushing on him when they watched Survivor: Worlds Apart. Later, when Joe leads the Bayonians in, yes, underwear yoga, Tasha notes that she is having a hard time concentrating because all she can think about is his bod.
Joe also impresses the crowd by rubbing sticks together to make fire.
Otherwise, people get on about the business of setting up camp. The men break limbs for the shelter, and the ladies weave palm fronds for the roof. Fishbach does neither and complains about feeling left out.
There’s little time to pout, though, because the first immunity challenge has rolled around. In honor of Survivor’s first season, they are going to recreate the very first challenge. The two teams will carry torches via raft to a certain location in the water, at which point they’ll get out of the boats, continuing to drag the raft along, lighting torches on platforms in the water along the way. Then, they have to place the raft on a final platform, put together a series of sticks to reach a key behind a locked gate, and finally use the key to open the gate and light the final torch.
The challenge begins, and Keith from tribe Bayon soon learns that fire and water don’t mix. When the Bayonians have to relight their torch, Tribe Ta Keo takes the lead and finishes the water part of the obstacle course first. They dock their raft, and Kelley Wentworth looks at the platform but doesn’t make a grab for the idol. You can tell she regrets it, though, because as the rest of the tribe moves on and K-Wigles starts putting sticks together to make a longer stick, she keeps stealing glances back at the dock.
Tribe Bayon catches up, and their designated big stick maker, Joe, starts working on the next part of the challenge. While everyone is riveted by the competing stick action, Kelley Wentworth goes and gets her idol. No one notices.
Somehow, K-Wigles’s stick doesn’t work out (too floppy?), so Joe gets the key and Tribe Bayon wins the challenge, immunity, and a fire-making kit, which is redundant because team hero/officially designated hot guy/big stick crafter Joe has already made fire.
Probst informs Ta Keo that they are going to tribal council – immediately. I’m sure the show’s producers were hoping that this would lead to an interesting meeting where people have to scramble to decide whom to vote for, or possibly even a chaotic vote with lots of random names thrown out there, but it does not. These folks are old hands, and they’ve been discussing who to vote out from the minute they arrived in Cambodia. The votes go back and forth between smarmy (and possible well connected) Vytas and jerky Abi. In the end, Vytas gets more votes and heads home to be reunited with his pants.
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