10:00pm PT by Daniel Fienberg
'Survivor: Kaoh Rong' Offers Baby Monkeys and a Tai Breaker in 'Now's the Time to Start Scheming'
[This article contains spoilers for the Wednesday, May 4 episode of Survivor: Kaoh Rong.]
The reward in this week's Survivor episode was a lunch at a wilderness preserve for rescued animals, a prize that included sitting in a pen with friendly monkeys, so you can probably guess that, as far as this recapper is concerned, it was another terrific episode for Survivor: Kaoh Rong.
It was also another tribal council blindside, or at least a partial tribal council blindside. Jason had every reason to suspect he was going home. In fact, he was given an alternative voting strategy that seemed like it could rescue him and he decided he wanted no part of it. So rather than voting out Michele, as Tai instructed him, he wrote down the name of The Physical Space Occupied By Joe. It wouldn't have mattered if he'd listened to Tai, because everybody else had decided not to listen to Tai, even if Tai was probably absolutely correct in his strategic rationale. As is so often the case on Survivor, sometimes even if the message is correct, it can get lost if the messenger decides that with a hidden immunity idol and an extra vote advantage that he no longer needs to engage in conversation about strategy with the people in his alliance. So Tai was blindsided at tribal even if he didn't go home.
Tai, who has flipped and flipped with mostly likable ease this season definitely gave the impression of a man who finally decided to start reading his press clippings and those clippings read, "Tai is awesome!" and "Everybody loves Tai!" and "Tai has all of the power in this game and, in stabbing Scot in the back, Tai orchestrated the biggest move in the game, so Tai has the million bucks in his back pocket." With his own supremacy on his mind, Tai announced to his alliance that Michele was a bigger threat than Jason and had to go out first. I don't think Tai was wrong. Even if Jason was continuing a two-week mission to rehabilitate himself, combining last week's rhetorical excellence with this week's "My autistic daughter likes animals" sweetness, he still wasn't getting votes, or at least not getting enough votes to win a jury that otherwise didn't like him much. Michele had played a quiet and confident game and made no enemies. The longer you take a person like that, the bigger a risk they become. Possibly. But as we've learned over and over again this season, Cydney doesn't have to be in charge, but what Cydney needs is not to be dictated to, whether it's on who she should or shouldn't be voting for or how big a fire to build. Keep Cydney in the conversation. That's all she wants. And with Jason as an easy second choice, Cydney stirred up the requisite votes against Jason and sent the silver-tongued bounty hunter home, getting Tai to burn his extra vote advantage in the process. Yes, Tai held onto his immunity idol both last week, when he was indecisive at tribal, and this week, but the squandered advantage vote joins the two idols that went home powerlessly earlier in this unpredictable season.
Silly Tai. We liked him so much, didn't we? The joy of his bromance with Caleb and his piggy-backing friendship with Scot still haven't faded, but man he made Aubry's choice easy as he rambled at tribal talking about his confusion at Michele being in his alliance and how there were little alliances inside of big alliances. Again, these things are all true, but maybe don't say them out loud if your claim to fame is friendly eccentricity and unassuming wisdom. Jason sat quietly hoping that nobody would even look his way during tribal, but I'm not sure what he was thinking would happen if people around him cannibalized all of the attention. Did he think Michele would be punished for speaking out against Tai at all? If that's what he thought, why didn't he vote for Michele? Instead, that vote against Joe was just a garbage vote. Why would you pay more attention to Joe's presence on Survivor than Joe has paid to Joe's presence on Survivor?
The Physical Space Occupied By Joe keeps inching closer and closer to Most Negligible Survivor Top 3 Contestant Ever, but he keeps threatening that title by being awful at things. See, we've had worse contestants advance deep into the game by virtue of being goats. Joe's achievement was in not falling to that level, but just coasting on nothingness. On tonight's episode, though, Joe was responsible for his trio's loss in the reward challenge, costing them baby monkey time, and he pissed Cydney off by demanding the building of a big fire. Stop it, Joe! Any time anybody notices you, that's a mistake. We should reach the reunion show and castaways should be coming up to you and introducing themselves to you like you're Neal's dad or something.
Another good week of Survivor.
Some other thoughts:
Bottom Line, I. I hate the "Why won't anybody play Survivor with me?" crying that inevitably comes when a player is the odd man out in an alliance that includes everybody else. Jason's edit was never going to recover from his early behavior. Or his behavior in the middle of the game. Or late in the game. But he had a couple less objectionable episodes and I liked the idea that he honed his persuasion skills in convincing mothers to turn in their kids. But I hope he doesn't get brought back again in the future. Bye, Jason.
Bottom Line, II. Were it not for the baby monkey, the most satisfying part of the episode would have been Cydney winning immunity after Jeff Probst repeatedly mocked her for how slowly she was doing the task. So one person after another tried doing the task quickly and ended up either knocking their letter squares over several times or not being able to spell "Immunity," like Joe. Cydney did the task carefully and methodically, never responded to Probst's taunting and won. Probst didn't apologize or anything, because that's not how Jeff rolls. Then Jeff got to tribal and said that the back-and-forth nature of the challenge was proof of how wide open the season has been. No. The back-and-forth nature of the challenge was proof that a lot of people were rushing through the task before Cydney won by doing it correctly. Silly Probst.
Bottom Line, III. There is absolutely no question that Mark the Chicken is a better Survivor player than The Physical Space Occupied by Joe. Mark should have been digested weeks ago and yet everybody keeps playing with him and feeding him protein-heavy grubs and he's become indispensable. I'd love to see Joe reach a final three situation and have at least one jury member vote for Mark to get the million dollars instead.
Bottom Line, IV. Has Cydney moved ahead of Aubry in my personal pecking order -- no Mark the Chicken pun intended -- for the season? Perhaps. Aubry went back to the slightly unstable condition we saw her in back in the premiere, even crying about what a tough choice this was for her. Cydney made a gut decision and followed through on it, also showing up Jeff at immunity. Go Cydney, at least for now. Aubry would win back my support next week.
That's it for this week...