HOLLYWOOD—Last year was the year that the reality-competition show “Survivor” reignited my attention with its latest installment “Survivor — Cambodia: Second Chances.” Wow, wow, is the best way for me to describe last season. It was full of fan favorites and the level of strategy was epic. I can’t recall seeing so many blindsides and betrayals in a single season. Fast-forward to the latest installment in the franchise, “Survivor: Kaoh Rong.” Some might be surprised to learn the current season was actually filmed before ‘Second Chances.’
This latest chapter sees the franchise reignite a popular element in the Brain vs. Brawn vs. Beauty which was echoed in “Survivor: Cagayan.” I will admit that was probably my highest rank of all seasons next to ‘Second Chances.’ Apologies for the diversion, but “Survivor: Kaoh Rong” has brought back the notion of rather a brain, a brawn or a beauty do better in the wilderness, as well as strategy.
At the beginning of the season it was apparent the Brawn tribe was a complete mess. I mean they performed terrible, I mean terrible in the challenges and found themselves repeatedly at Tribal Council where spars were traded on multiple occasions. The beauty tribe has proven to be the most cohesive, but a few unexpected incidents caused that tribe to fracture a bit.
I mean this is the one season that has seen more medical evacuations or issues than any other previous season of “Survivor” that I watched. I mean “Big Brother 16” favorite Caleb was taken out of the game after over-exerting himself during a reward challenge. That was a blow to the beauty tribe and to some of the contestants where Caleb was an ally, especially peacemaker Tai.
The brains were in a great spot, until they began turning on each other after the three tribes merged into two tribes. Peter was blindsided courtesy of Aubry, who sided with beauty and brawn members over her ally Joe. I hate to say this, but every season there is always that one contestant that leaves the viewers scratching their heads wondering: why is this person still in the game? Unfortunately, this season that accolade goes to Joe who just appears lost on the island.
After the merge, things really got interesting. Viewers were already well aware that Jason and Tai both had idols in their possession. However, another idol was out in the mix courtesy of Neal. When Neal was taken out of the game due to a medical situation, it changed the game yet again. Aubry and Debbie’s closet ally was on the outs, and so was the idol that he had. I kept asking myself, “Neal give the damn idol to Aubry already.” However, I have a feeling that idol will come into play later down the line.
So the brains were on the outs, as members of the beauty and brawn tribe decided to link up, and strategy started to evolve in the game more than ever. Nick had a massive chip on his shoulder, as he made it very evident during an immunity challenge that no matter what transpired, a brain (Debbie, Aubry or Joe) would be leaving the game.
Little did Nick know, Aubry and Cydney were none too pleased with his arrogance and manifested an all-girl alliance that the guys suspected to some degree! He was blindsided at the Tribal Council and it was so epic to watch. Scot and Jason were left in awe and took sabotage to a whole new level by taking away the axe, machete and dosing out the fire at the camp to punish those who betrayed them. Which led to a division in the tribe that already existed to begin with. Julia isolated herself from the alliance, when she volunteered to join Tai, Scot and Jason for a reward challenge. Hmm, not the best idea Julia, especially when you have someone like Aubry ready to send you packing.
Luckily, Julia won immunity putting a pickle in Aubry’s plan for the next Tribal Council. That prompted Aubry and Cydney to set their sights on Debbie, which puzzled me slightly. However, the latest Tribal Council was full of strategy and gameplay. Tai, Scot and Jason revealed their idols and their plan to utilize the ‘super idol’ if one of them were to be voted out. Whenever a spectacle occurs during a vote-off, it is an apparent sign of a bluff people. Look at how many times Tony bluffed in “Survivor: Cagayan” and it scared the scrap out of his competitors. If you’re going to do something, you don’t have to bluff to prove it, just do it.
Anyway, Debbie found herself voted out by her all-girl alliance, which puts the guys against the girls in my opinion. Joe could easily be swayed to the other side considering how many times he’s been hoodwinked. With that super idol in possession on the other side, it makes it virtually impossible in my opinion for Julia, Cydney, Michelle and Aubry to make a move. Virtually the ONLY way to regain the numbers is to have a four-way tie, which is unlikely to happen.
However, Jason, Tai and Scot have the advantage and the only way to alleviate that power is to sway Tai back to the other side, which looks to be Aubry’s strategy moving forward. It’s not that hard to do, just convince Tai if he makes it to the end his questionable tactics with Jason and Scot will come to surface, leading to the jury to speculate rather he was playing their game instead of his own. I mean Tai poured water on the fire also!
If I’m looking at front-runners from my opinion, my fave would be Aubry; she is indeed an underdog and playing the game with every angle possible. Other strategical players include Cydney (who took out Nick), Jason, Scott and Tai who have all placed themselves in feasible possible. Julia is also strategizing to a heavy degree between both alliances, but should thread carefully as if she becomes vulnerable she could be ousted.
The only player that has me wondering is Michelle; I never have a good gauge on exactly what she is thinking or planning to do. It would be such a treat to see her surprise the other competitors and prove that she is indeed in the game to win it all. “Survivor: Kaoh Rong” airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on CBS.