Email Roundtable #52 – Merge Week on Survivor

This week, Kerri and Katie attempt to discuss season 31 of Survivor: Cambodia – Second Chance. This season features returning players that are all back for a second time, or “redemption” as Jeff Probst likes to remind us.

Joe, with the advantage of being super human.

Joe, with the advantage of being super human (and the advantage of standing on an incline. Come on survivors, try to keep up with Joe).

Katie: So, we’ve officially merged early, at 13 survivors. Every week it seems like these guys are trading beaches.

Kerri: If they hadn’t told me it was an early merge, I don’t think I would have clued into it, to be honest. I guess I don’t keep track of that kind of stuff. I can’t quite understand why they merged early and if it was an “on-the-fly” thing or if it was something they had planned from the start. I will say that the constant swapping of tribes is resulting in more scramble-y gameplay which I am liking a lot. I think it is way more interesting that the contestants are worried about who is on the other tribe, alliances that may have formed in past seasons and previous weeks.

Katie: I suspect that the early merge was not planned but producer-induced, and if the producers planned to airlift Spencer from a bad situation into the best possible situation, then it worked perfectly. Spencer went from no friends and no prospects to no friends but incredible power in one day. At least, that is how Spencer sees it – as having incredible power. I’m not convinced he has any power beyond the one vote, since the alliances shift so fluidly from vote to vote this season.

Kerri: This is what I find somewhat challenging about this season: the hand of the producers is showing. I’m not sure if they are giving Spencer a “winner’s edit”, you can probably talk more about that, but they certainly seem to be saving him or giving him a better opportunity to be successful.

And maybe I’m just reading into it or seeing what I want to see and this was all planned from the get-go but it certainly seems really convenient on the Spencer front.

Katie: As soon as you can see the work of the producers or the editors, the show loses some of its magic.

Well in regards to a “winner’s edit”, as I’ve written before, I can never properly predict who is going to win, no matter how hard I try. Spencer is getting so much air time, it seems likely he’ll be in the final 4, or at least have a very tragic vote off at some point.

Speaking of air time, has Kelly Wigglesworth gotten more than 30 seconds of interview time? She and Keith should team up. They both seemingly have absolutely nothing to say or contribute.

Kerri: That is actually something I wanted to talk to you about. I find it particularly interesting to see who is getting less screen time over the weeks, especially as we whittle down to the nitty-gritty of players. I think Abi grunted once in this episode after weeks of being the person that full episodes would be centred around. Kelly and Keith said maybe a couple sentences each this episode. This is usually pretty telling, although none of these players has really done anything to warrant getting voted out either. Abi on the other hand…

Katie: Changing the subject away from that Woo-hating bummer of a person, why is no one targeting Joe??? He will win challenges. Did you see the ponce-like manner in which he celebrated after his immunity challenge win? Just a casual toss up of the ball and catches it without looking, with a nod to the sky. He knows he’s going to win unless someone steps up and votes him off.

Kerri: You’re right, Joe will win the majority of challenges until someone votes him out.

So Katie, what are your overall thoughts on this Second Chance season and the most recent episode, “Play to Win”? Does the “gimmick” of the season work for you?

Katie: YES! The gimmick is working for me 90%. The 10% that isn’t working for me is the constant commentary by Probst about the second chance situation. Yeah, we get it, Probst. It’s exciting, but you don’t need to remind us with every breath you speak.

Kerri: I can’t stand the commentary about having a “second chance” or learning from your “mistakes” in previous seasons. Last night’s episode in particular was really pushing the second chance element, having Kass berate Tasha for not learning from her “mistakes” (whatever those were) and Jeff telling us that Spencer and Kass could get redemption for winning a challenge they lost in the past. I don’t care one iota about that. All I care about is what is happening now.

I think they are trying WAY too hard to shoe-horn that stuff into a season that has been wildly entertaining for the simple fact of intelligent casting and previous relationships. I think the past does inform what is happening here but I think the audience is smart enough to figure that out without having these constant reminders flying around from Jeff and the players. It seems like the producers were feeding the players talking points and it really this season more than I can remember it happening in the past. And, although I think this season has been more successful than most Survivors in recent memory, this constant hand-holding is hurting the season.

Katie: I’m so happy Kass is gone. Sure, she makes “interesting” decisions but Abi makes “interesting” decisions as well and I’d rather not have the game revolve around either one of them. It’s too bad Ciera is tied up with that Kass mess, because Ciera has some truly thoughtful gameplay. Although, with so many players still in the game, and at the speed the game is being played, I suspect Ciera will have no trouble teaming up with new people next week.

Kerri: Ciera is my girl. I love Ciera so much but I was really worried about her this week. Her explosion at camp was worrisome and her alliance with Kass was a bad move.

I did love her speech at Tribal though. I thought it was intelligent and basically explained how to play the game now in this “new school”. I did not understand her vote though. Why do you think she ended up voting Savage?

Katie: That baffles me. She must not have been as worried about her safety as the edit made it seem. Perhaps she wanted to send a message to Savage, that he should watch himself. Or maybe she was taking her own advice, to target the threats and play for yourself. (Voting for Kass or Tasha is a “weak” move in regards to independent thought. It would just be going with the group.)

Kerri: That is a possibility but if her alliance was really with Kass, wouldn’t she be foolish to vote for anyone aside from Tasha on the off-chance that somehow she and Kass both stuck around? What she essentially did was throw her vote. There was no indication of anyone else voting for Savage. Did she actually want Kass gone? I still just don’t understand it. Independent thought is great but it’s not necessarily the smartest move in a game where you rely on the majority rule. Maybe she just hates Andrew that much. Stupid as it appeared, #TeamCiera.

Katie: #TeamCiera4Life

I wish we could’ve heard what she said while she wrote that vote down.

Kerri: I know! Her face was pure venom. I loved it!

Katie: Ciera has a great mix of strategic and emotional decision making.

Kerri: I will never love anyone on Survivor more than when Ciera voted out her own mother. That was stone-cold and the best move she ever made. I love that Ciera legit grew up before our eyes in a single moment. She’s smart but she’s not icy or unappealing. You’re completely right about the emotional factor being important when it comes to Ciera.

What happened to Abi? I mean, where did she go? Not that I’m complaining but it has been two weeks since we heard from her.

Katie: She must still be complaining about something. Although, now that Woo is gone, her main talking point is moot.

Besides Ciera, is there anyone else you’re rooting for this season?

Kerri: There are lots of people I like a great deal. Spencer, Tash, Joe, Wentworth is ok and playing with some gusto this season, and even Jeremy is much more appealing to me this season than he was in his first outing. But no, I love Ciera. I don’t think she’ll win but I’m all in on her. I wouldn’t be disappointed if any of the players above won, at this point anyway, but Ciera is really the only one that I’d be excited about. I think because it would be a surprise.

Have I mentioned that I’m #TeamCiera?

Katie: It’s still very early in the season, so I’m sure it could either go stale or jump the shark quite easily, but I’m very excited for the potential of the rest of the season. What I could use more of though, is comedy, and not the kind of tragic comedy that is Fishy reciting poems. Could someone please build a spy shack or a fake idol or get the poops from a reward challenge, please?

Kerri: I feel like comedy is difficult to come by when so much focus is on strategy and drawing literal lines in the sand (blerg). Woo was helpful in this regard but what we need is a player like the breath-of-fresh-air that was the GREATEST SURVIVOR IN THE HISTORY OF SURVIVOR, Jenn Brown (of the No Collars in Season 30, Worlds Apart).

Katie: Whoa! I forgot about Jenn Brown, but she really was great. She didn’t give an EFF.

Kerri: She gave no EFFs and messed with the gameplay. I think that is my favourite kind of Survivor contestant, the kind that messes with the producer’s and game-maker’s structure. There is little that delights me more than when the show “gods” gets messed with. It is hard to do because so many scenarios have played themselves out at this point but Jenn did it by saying “screw this” to what the show wanted from her. She wasn’t a hero, she wasn’t a villain, she was just Jenn. She didn’t particularly enjoy her time out there or the people she had to spend time with but she didn’t quit. And she was funny in her misery.

Everyone is so obsessed with game play this season which in one way is good but it certainly limits the type of player on the show. The real wild card this season is Abi (who has no sense of game play or strategy or human interaction) but she is so nasty that she’s hard to stomach.

What are your thoughts about the season going forward? Do you think the producers will mess with the players again or will things continue on from here as usual?

Katie: The producers won’t be able to help themselves. Of course they’ll mess with them!! I would even hazard a bet that someone who gets voted off THIS SEASON will get to return for a third chance. Anything you want to see happen?

Kerri: I would suspect that Terry might get a third chance after his game was cut short.

I want to see something happen with those idols! It’s like we’ve forgotten about them after all of the very smart challenge-based idol drama early on. I am sure it will happen but it feels like ages since that was a thing (realistically it was probably only a couple weeks ago but Survivor time works differently than real life time). Other than wanting to see Ciera go far, I get pretty annoyed when one alliance constantly wins. I’m with Ciera on that front, I want people to change allegiances constantly. I find it boring when people stick it out all the way to the end (unless they are a pair that is constantly changing alliances). I want something CRAZY to happen, something that we’ve never seen before and not something that the producers have cooked up. I have no idea what that would be but it would be fun.

Katie: Final shout out time!

Kerri: I’d like to give a shoutout to the genius who came up with the idea of hiding immunity idols at a challenge. The idea immediately added drama to an already dramatic situation. It’s amazing  that simple, brilliant ideas like this can be found after 30 plus seasons of a show. But they can. Sometimes Survivor’s gimmicks don’t work that well and sometimes they work perfectly. This one works.

Katie: Shout out to Woo’s hair! Shout out to Vytas bringing inappropriate bottoms, but getting voted out first, so it didn’t matter! And lastly, shout out how clean and dorky all the survivors look on this cast list:

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