It’s a basic law of nature: What goes up, must come down. But “Survivor: Cambodia – Second Chance” has defied gravity this season…its excitement beginning well before the show even aired, once it was announced that the fans would vote for the 20 contestants who would appear. Quite frankly, the momentum has never stopped. Pretty much everybody agrees that this was a solid, unpredictable season, with some actually calling it one of the best seasons of Survivor ever (what do I think? My season and winner rankings will come out tomorrow). But like all good arcs, it’s all about the finish. To disagree with Aerosmith, life’s a journey AND a destination, when it comes to judging a season. And while Season 31 has been a high-flying act, was it able to stick the landing? Well pick a number between one and ten, and get out your Survivor Rule Book…..here is what went down during tonight’s two-hour Survivor Finale:
Anybody’s Game. Keith and Kelley returned from Tribal Council (which saw Abi getting the boot), finding themselves clearly on the outside of the newest voting bloc of Jeremy, Spencer, Tasha and Kimmi. On the attack (or maybe just tired and delirious after 35 days of starvation), Keith comes right out and tells the others that he wanted to sit next to Abi in the end, and that he did not want to sit next to Spencer or Jeremy. Funny? Yes Keith is. Tactful when it comes to laying out strategy? Not quite. But not so fast…Kimmi – sensing she is on the bottom or her four person alliance – is ready to make a big move of her own. She quietly tells Kelley that she wants to vote along with Kelley and Keith at the next Tribal, to try to get Jeremy or Spencer out of the game. “Now is my chance to shine,” says Kimmi.
Immunity Challenge #1. It was a step-puzzle challenge, where they constructed a step puzzle, one step at a time, that led them up to another puzzle at the top of the staircase. Probst announced that this challenge marked the end of the second chance “throwback” challenges (which, ironically it was not, since a familiar ball challenge was used for the Final Immunity Challenge…but I digress). Spencer, the puzzle-genius and bona fide Survivor “Brain,” dominated (of course), winning himself what would become a much-needed Immunity Necklace.
Plan In Motion. With Spencer having Immunity, Kimmi’s plan was now in motion to blindside Jeremy. Her plan was to get her alliance to split their votes, two for Keith, two for Kelley, then vote along with Kelley and Keith to blindside Jeremy. It was a great plan! But in running around camp setting things up for herself, the always-aware Spencer (and Tasha) was able to sniff out the plan, since Kimmi wasn’t all that discrete with her conversations. They fill in Jeremy about the shade that Kimmi was throwing, and he doesn’t believe it. Jeremy is 100% loyal to Kimmi. He approaches Kimmi and tells her the others are getting suspicious, and Kimmi cries and gets emotional. We see though from a confessional, that it was all an act. What an ep for Kimmi! Where have you been all season? Spencer and Jeremy get together and they vehemently disagree with one another: Spencer wants to vote all together so that they have the clear majority, but Jeremy wants to split their votes in case someone has an Idol. Spencer is convinced Kelley does not have an Idol (she does) and convinced Kimmi is about to flip. Jeremy is convinced that Kelley DOES have an Idol but wants to split the votes because he trusts Kimmi so much. Something was about to give.
An Epic Tribal Council. So did you grab your Survivor Rule Book? Keep it close, you’ll need it in a few minutes. Jeremy talks about the whole voting bloc strategy this season, saying, “The whole game has been voting blocs, but it’s been tightening up into alliances now.” Keith mentions that they have to “lie, cheat and steal” in order to stay in the game. Suddenly, the game ramped up. Spencer bluntly laid it all out there in the open for the world to see: Himself, Jeremy and Tasha were voting together, end of story. This was a direct threat to Kimmi, a “you’re either with us or you’re against us” sort of statement. Jeremy just assumed that if Kimmi was still loyal, she would vote along with them and form a majority alliance. Keith though, said, “There’s going to be a showdown.” That would imply a 3-3 tie was about to occur? Spencer leans in and tells Kelley that she’s safe, but she knows better than to trust him. Jeremy reassures Kimmi that he is still good with her.
THE Vote. After the votes were cast Probst asked if any Idols were to be played…and Kelley played her Idol! She would now be safe. Seeing that and knowing that he voted for Kelley and could be in trouble, Jeremy reacted by playing his Idol as well. And that’s where things got sticky. The votes were read: Kelley – Jeremy – Kelley – Jeremy – Kelley – Jeremy. A 3-3 tie. But because each played their Idol and were immune, technically it was a 0-0 tie, as if no votes had been cast. This was the first time this scenario had ever occurred in Survivor history. As Probst would explain, Spencer won Immunity so he was safe. Jeremy and Kelley were also safe having played their Idols. So there would be a re-vote of the remaining eligible players: Kimmi, Tasha and Keith. Of course, the re-vote came back a 3-3 tie, with Kimmi, Kelley and Keith voting for Tasha, and Jeremy, Spencer and Tasha voting for Kimmi. Now here’s where it gets crazy, so pay attention. According to the Survivor Rule Book, when there is a deadlock after a re-vote, those without votes against them (Spencer, Jeremy, Kelley and Keith) would have to UNANIMOUSLY decide on who to vote out, Tasha or Kimmi, after discussing among each other. If there was a unanimous agreement between them, that person would be voted out of the game. If no unanimous decision was made? The remaining players who were not immune would go to the dreaded “draw rocks” tie-breaker. But in this unique and crazy case, there would only be one person who would qualify and that be Keith…and that would mean Keith would automatically go home. So basically, the four could unanimously decide on Kimmi or Tasha, and if they didn’t unanimously agree, Keith would go home. Got all that? Having just been betrayed, Spencer and Jeremy were adamant that they would choose Kimmi to go home over their ally Tasha. Keith, in a very strange position, at one point almost decided to quit the game to let Kimmi have his spot. Ultimately though, he decided against that, and Kelley and Keith agreed to go along with the unanimous vote out. With that crazy Tribal now drawing to a close, it was Kimmi who was sent packing, in one of the absolute zaniest Tribal Council in the show’s history.
Why No Fire? For those wondering why this didn’t go to a fire-making tie-breaker between Kimmi and Tasha, there is precedent for that. If there is a tie before Final Four, the “drawing of rocks” method is used, but only if the group has unanimous consensus. The fire-making tie-breaker only occurs if there is a 2-2 tie after a re-vote, at Final Four. So there you have it.
Jeff Probst Live. Knowing that we just witnessed a complicated Tribal, Probst joined us live from the Reunion Show studio, complete with a pen and a diagram, to try to explain to us what just happened. I think it might have helped some, but I was still reeling from what I had just witnessed. “You can probably put that one in the record books,” said Keith once the show was back on.
Immunity Challenge #2. The next, crucial challenge required the players to navigate a giant obstacle course to find puzzle pieces, then return and complete the puzzle. Now with Kimmi out of the game and with no Idols in play, Kelley and Keith both knew that this was a must-win challenge for them. And wouldn’t you know, Kelley ended up pulling it out, ensuring herself a spot in the Final Four.
Fake Out. Desperate times call for desperate measures, so Kelley approaches Keith back at camp and tells him he needs to make a fake Idol. “I have to look out for my one ally in the game,” Kelley says. She makes an Idol using a medallion from a tree mail, and some beads she had been collecting. And wow, she made what might be the best looking fake Idol the game has ever seen (sorry Yau-Man). Keith tells us the intention is to “scare them into doing something stupid,” and it almost seems to work. Jeremy notices Keith and Kelley are acting weird, so in an effort to make sure that he isn’t the target, he tells Keith and Kelley to vote for Spencer. This wasn’t a move on Jeremy’s part to try to flip things on Spencer, but it was a move to ensure that his name didn’t get written down, just on the off-chance that Keith really did have an Idol. Keith is holding out hope that his bluff worked, telling us, “The last nail ain’t in the coffin.”
Tribal Council #2. How do you live up to that last Tribal? Probst announces that this Tribal would be the last where an Idol could be played, and Keith really plays up the fact that he may have “some tricks” up his sleeve. He may have played it up a bit too much.
The Vote. No Idols – fake or otherwise – were played, and the votes were read: Spencer – Keith – Spencer – Keith – Keith. With that, good ole Keith became a member of the jury, losing the vote 3-2 (Spencer, Tasha and Jeremy voting him out).
Day 38. The Final Immunity Challenge was one of concentration, the ball contraption where they had to place several balls, one at a time over some timed intervals, into a wired circular track. All they had to do is catch the ball once it went through the track and not let any of their balls hit the ground. Easy enough right? Concentration is hard to come by after 38 days on Survivor. Just ask Kelley, who was the first one out of the challenge, a challenge that was once again a must-win for her. Down to three, Jeremy ended up winning the Final Immunity! His first individual win and the most important of the season. Jeremy immediately broke down and became emotional, as did Kelley, both of them for different reasons. It was a touching ending to a season where every single competitor had pushed themselves well beyond their own limits…to see the emotional releases from two of the show’s fiercest competitors really hit home.
Final Scramble. “Well guys, it’s been real,” said Kelley. Everyone knew she was the one going home, but Jeremy was shown entertaining the thought of forcing a fire-making tie-breaker between her and Spencer. But why do that if you’re Jeremy?
Tribal Council #3. It seemed like it was pretty clearly going to be Kelley who was the target, but Spencer’s paranoia was getting the best of him. He basically threatened Jeremy to keep him in the game, when he told him, “I’d vote for [Kelley] and I would spend all of my energy making sure she won,” if he was in fact sent to the jury. It may have been unnecessary, but Spencer wasn’t going to take any chances. Tasha smartly decided to stay out of it.
The Vote. In a unanimous 3-1 vote, Kelley was in fact sent out of the game, becoming the final member of the jury.
The Final Three and Final Tribal. Jeremy. Tasha. Spencer. They were in it for the long haul for quite some time, and they celebrated by feasting and reflecting (literally, when a mirror was brought out as part of their final feast). Sadly, once again this season, there was no “Rites of Passage” segment on their way to their Final Tribal Council.
Savage. The game was now in the hands of the jury, and Savage started things off by letting the Final Three know that his – and several other jury members’ – votes were still up for grabs. He reminded them to give full, honest and heartfelt answers to the questions they’d be asked. He then went on to question both Spencer and Jeremy about their arrogance in the game, Spencer’s at the last Tribal and Jeremy’s after Kimmi had betrayed him (he skipped up to the voting table and was chirping at her a bit). Spencer agreed that “arrogance is a mask for insecurities,” but that he had “gained a lot of self-awareness” this time around. Jeremy just marked it up to in-the-moment anger. “I was upset,” he said. “She hurt my feelings and that was my reaction.”
Fishbach. Fishbach questioned Tasha about her perception in the game, of having just done Jeremy’s dirty work, but she assured him she was playing her own game from the get-go. He also questioned Spencer about how he had put voting blocs ahead of relationships, to which Spencer had no real answer.
Ciera. Ciera asked, why should flipping be rewarded? Jeremy said it was because the caliber of the competition was so amazing this season, it was a necessity. Tasha said it was the result of the multiple swaps that had occurred early on. Spencer said that when there were blurred lines in the game, he had to take advantage of them.
Keith. Keith asks them to convince him of why the other person should win the game (Tasha is left out of the discussion again, and it was apparent that she was becoming the long-shot to win). Spencer and Jeremy talked up each other’s games.
Abi. Pulling out some notes, she asked a great question: Survivor is a game of big moves, but what was a subtle move that each of them made? Tasha revealed (hinted) that she had formed a pre-game alliance with Spencer, and she called it “ten times” stronger than her perceived alliance with Jeremy. Spencer said that it was “shifting distrust” onto Joe instead of himself. Jeremy said that it was his relentless hunting for the two Idols that ultimately put him in a position to possibly win it all.
Kimmi. She calls Spencer a “downright bully” for how he acted at the last Tribal. Jeremy admits, “I was duped by Kimmi Kappenberg!”
Joe. He re-iterates his vote was up for grabs, and then questions Tasha about her ability to take control of the game.
Kelly Wiglesworth – In my favorite jury moment of the night, Kelly reminded them that fifteen years ago, she sat at Final Tribal and lost to Richard Hatch by one vote. That one vote, by Greg that season, was based on having them pick a number between 1 and 10. The closest would win. Kelly did the same to these Final Three. Jeremy picked 2, Tasha 3 and Spencer 4.
Kass. She had one question and it was for Spencer. Spencer had famously said, “Kass: Zero chance of winning,” after Kass had flipped at the merge and re-positioned herself in the game, as she described. “You have played like Chaos Kass,” Kass tells him. So how can you ask me for my vote? Spencer gave a good answer about how he has truly grown personally, and summed it up saying that the person that told her that was not the same Spencer that sat before her now. Kass congratulated him on the change, and ended with, “Maybe we can have a beer later.”
Wentworth. She asked them to tell the jury what their second chance story was. Tasha said it was to build and maintain relationships (?). Spencer said it was the change from who he was to who he is now. Jeremy re-iterated how he was playing for his family. He then got incredibly emotional, and revealed to the jury for the first time that Val (his wife) was pregnant, and how she whispered to him at the loved ones challenge that it was a boy. “I don’t even care about me,” Jeremy said, tearfully. “All I care about is my family. That’s my second chance.” And if he hadn’t already sewn this game up, he just did right there.
The Final (Live) Vote. “I hope he gets on a jet ski,” said Kass as Probst walked out of Tribal Council with the voting urn, and then appeared back live in Los Angeles where the votes were about to be read. For those that know what she was referring to, God bless ya. Probst thanked the cast for “an electrifying season to watch,” and then he began reading the votes: Jeremy – Jeremy – Jeremy – Jeremy – Jeremy – Jeremy. Wow! It’s a landslide ladies and gentlemen!!! In a unanimous (!!) 10-0-0 vote, Jeremy Collins became the Sole Survivor of Survivor: Cambodia. The second chance was fulfilled. Congrats to Jeremy and his family!
Analysis. What an incredible season, truly, and what a Tribal tonight. Jeremy is definitely a satisfying, deserving winner. Kimmi made a move a little too late, but it played out in awesome fashion. I’m a bit surprised that Spencer received zero votes in the end (less surprised that Tasha did), but great performances by all. Jeremy becomes the fourth player in history to win by unanimous vote (joining Earl Cole, J.T. Thomas and John Cochran) and will go ito the record books as having played a “Perfect Game”, although with an asterisk next to it (the coveted “Survivor Perfect Game” is when you win the game by unanimous vote, having made it all the way through without a single vote cast against you. Only J.T. Thomas and Cochran have ever achieved this rare feat. Jeremy technically had three votes cast against him, but they were voided out by his Idol…so you be the judge…does Jeremy’s win count as a Perfect Game?)
Live Reunion Show. So what did we learn from the Survivor: Cambodia Live Reunion Show? Click here for the full article (link will be active once posted online).
All of the questions that remain will be answered tomorrow (Thursday), when I get a chance to interview each of the Final Six. So be sure to check back in and follow me on Twitter, @tomsantilli. Later tomorrow, I will also post my updated lists of Survivor rankings for Most Memorable Seasons and overall Survivor Winners.
A big thank you to all of my readers this past season! It was a great one, no doubt and I appreciate your support and all of the interaction on social media. Looking forward to next season, which debuts in February!