6:53pm PT by Daniel Fienberg
'Survivor: Kaoh Rong' Gets a Tribal Shakeup in 'The Devils We Know'
[The following article contains spoilers for the Wednesday, March 16 episode of Survivor: Kaoh Rong.]
That was a clean episode of Survivor.
Nobody descended into madness clawing out the insects in their brains.
Nobody committed tribal council suicide and sent themselves packing.
And Survivor didn't attempt to kill anybody based on a poorly designed challenge or stupid tribal designations.
This was just players forming alliances, some trying to be likable and some trying to be useful, different strategic opportunities presenting themselves and castaways making choices.
And sometimes Survivor needs an episode like that, where the only drama is the run-of-the-mill drama of the game, allowing the pieces to resettle with an eye on future craziness.
Anna's departure was a blindside only insofar as she'd convinced herself that she was going to be miraculously saved, but since she had convinced herself of that, I guess it counts. Depending on your assessment of this Beauty Tribe veteran as eye candy, I guess this might count as a disappointment, but if you just thought Anna and Liz were already the same people pushed to arbitrary tribes, now they're both gone and the season can progress apace.
For the first time in recent memory, Survivor did a shuffle/realignment that didn't produce at least one implausibly imbalanced new tribe ready to decimate its rival by the luck of the draw.
Instead we got: Gondol, with Tai, Scot, Aubry, Anna, Peter and Joe, a tribe with three Beauty members, shifting Peter out of the bottom and to the top. And we got the perfectly evenly divided Chan Loh, with Jason, Debbie, Cydney, Neal, Michele and Nick. It wasn't exactly perfect. Originally, producers planned on dividing tribes of seven apiece, but then they held an arduous reward challenge for salt on a hot, sunny day with no shade or water component and sent Caleb off to the hospital. That meant that this tribal shift put six people on each tribe and sent one player off for a solo tenure on the beach. That person, relatively anonymous Beauty Julia, had the advantage of avoiding jeopardy for a week, but had the disadvantage of locking Julia out of the social game at both Chan Loh and Gondol and the bigger disadvantage of putting a target on all of the remaining Beauty members, since everybody knew that Julia would be joining whichever tribe had to go to tribal and nobody wanted Beauty taking over a majority at that point.
So Beauty got a bit hosed, I guess. But somebody had to. [And I apologize in advance for inevitably confusing Gondol and Chan Loh as I go along. Sorry.]
Gondol lost the immunity challenge because Anna and Peter were no match for Debbie and Neal in a puzzle that seemed to be using the fish biscuits from Lost. That wasn't why she went home, though. She went home because folks realized that Tai was a jovial provider, while Anna was a good-looking schemer. She got a brief ray of hope when it looked like Tai might be the target and he might use his idol, producing a blindside on Peter, but Scot convinced him to hold off, both accurately steering his new little buddy and holding onto his position as the only person in the game with knowledge of the whereabouts of two idols and therefore the potential to create an all-powerful super-idol.
So that's how Wednesday's fine episode went down.
Some other Bottom lines ...
Bottom line, I. Man. Peter. Dude. Talk about learning absolutely nothing from prior hubris, right? This is a guy who thought he was at the top of his original tribe, got generally blindsided by a competing alliance as punishment for his cockiness and was nearly cocky enough at the tribal that sent Liz home to get himself knee-capped as punishment. And then here he is, one shuffle later, saying things like, "We can do what we want right now and we're going to" at tribal. It would have been questionable strategy for Tai to give his idol to Anna at tribal, but it also would have been semi-smart and satisfying. It would have given Beauty a three-two-one advantage at Gondol after the return of Julia, and it would have made Peter look ridiculous. I'm not sure Tai is going to be able to get better value than that if he's just holding the idol for himself.
Bottom line, II. Interesting strategic choices are developing at Chan Loh, where it's two-two-two from the original tribes. For the purposes of this episode, it was a no-brainer to target a Beauty to maintain equilibrium with Julia coming back. But that argument goes out the window next week. So will Debbie's alliance with my fellow Penn Quaker Cydney be strong enough to keep her in mastermind position? Or was Nick being persuasive with Jason and will a meathead alliance play out? I'm curious.
Bottom line, III. Poor dehydrated, lonely Julia was not good TV. The 19-year-old got only one segment after the shuffle and she spent those few minutes shivering and failing to make fire. And this was her worst case scenario because she had a three-strong female alliance on Beauty, but she'll now enter a tribe that just booted her only ally. Had she come into Chan Loh after Chan Loh voted Nick out, she would have been in much better shape. Oh well.
Bottom line, IV. Scot, so unlikable when he was bullying and tormenting Alecia last week, managed to be much more appealing when separated from Jason and paired with Tai, who appears to be absolute kibble for larger alpha males. I'm not gonna dub what Scot and Tai have a bromance yet, but it's a nice combination of opposites and it was good to see Scot actually being helpful, friendly and even smart. I'm not ready to root for him, but I'm prepared to be tolerant of him.
Bottom line, V. Couple odds and ends: Debbie swinging and doing pull-ups was funny. Joe insisting he didn't think there were any idols out there this season didn't make him look clever. And Neal efficiently finding the third idol himself made him look capable.
I think that covers tonight's bases.