Airdate: December 9, 2015
Boot: Abi-Maria Gomes
Quote: “If people would’ve asked me, ‘You know, hey, where’s Keith been for the last 30 days? Is he sitting in a temple in Cambodia or [did] he just get off the shuttle back from Mars?’ Well, they’d say, ‘Oh, he just got back from Mars cause he damn sure ain’t in Cambodia.’ That’s how amazing this is.” – Keith Nale
Rating: 6 + Tier C (3) = 9
While nobody in their right mind could ever classify Cambodia as “old-school” Survivor–it’s often considered the precursor to if not the start of the convoluted, advantage-heavy modern version of the show–the quote highlighted above inadvertently reveals two factors that separate it from the seasons that followed: the cultural connection and the presence of personalities like Keith Nale.
The absence of the first of those can be forgiven, or at least explained, by the show setting up permanent shop in Fiji. There’s only so many unique and TV-friendly activities the country can offer, while there’s an endless supply of sponsors like Applebee’s and Outback Steakhouse.
The absence of the second is a lot more confusing. Keith Nale was an extremely popular and entertaining contestant, earning a place in two finale episodes a year apart. A fire captain from Louisiana, he was a fish out of water in Nicaragua and Cambodia, and he had even less business playing Survivor. Such was his complete lack of strategy that he nearly volunteered elimination the second time around to spare single mother Kimmi on day 36. Yet audiences loved Keith, and it seems like producers were pretty fond of him too. So why have they made it a mission to stop casting these entertaining outsider contenders who lack an interest in playing the game but somehow are naturally good enough to last long and emerge as major threats to win?
That’s very much a rhetorical question, but man, I could’ve watched an entire episode of Keith justifying his selecting Wentworth and Spencer to join him on reward, forgetting Tasha’s name in the process. The reward itself provided some stunning scenery and rituals in the Cambodian temples where the season kicked off 32 days earlier. It also provided an opportunity for Spencer to showcase his patented brand of emotion that he discovered between Cagayan and Cambodia, which is to say the sort of emotion that requires one to repeatedly confirm they are feeling emotion.
“Seeing the temples in Cambodia really made me feel emotion.”
Spencer emerged victorious in the immunity challenge, solving a puzzle that had been neglected by the players in Worlds Apart. I recall reading that a fan suggested Spencer memorize this particular puzzle before leaving for Cambodia, correctly assuming that it would reappear, and the idea of doing the fans right comes up in a later conversation as Jeremy, Spencer, and Tasha solidify their final 3 alliance. Deciding that they owed it to the viewers who voted them in to guarantee a competitive finish, it leads to Abi-Maria, the perennial goat, to once again get the boot in the penultimate episode. Earlier, Jeremy mused that “I can’t even imagine dating her,” and it makes me wonder if any of Abi-Maria’s exes were watching and had any thoughts. If you’re out there and you happen to be reading this, drop me a line and let’s arrange an interview.
Although I’d wager a guess that most of Abi-Maria’s exes have met the same fate as Carole Baskin’s second husband.
The immunity challenge ended on a dramatic note, as Tasha had to be rescued, fearing that she was drowning. Coming just an episode after Joe collapsed in a challenge, it was an intense moment that caused a lot of reaction.
“Watching Tasha nearly drown really make me feel emotion.”
My favorite reaction, though, comes courtesy of Jeff Probst, who absolutely can’t wait for Tasha to shut the hell up about her terrifying experience. “Shall we finish the other part of this story?” he asks so he can bequeath Spencer the necklace and move on already. Jeff’s unrelenting fixation on “story” and crafting a thematic, easily understood narrative has driven the show for the last few years for better or worse. It’s kind of necessary with the abundance of idol hunts and advantages, as there’s increasingly minimal airtime to dedicate to anything outside of twists. But I love these moments where there’s actual human drama going on and Jeff is visibly shaken because he knows they only have 40 minutes and viewers definitely need to see a fire token exchange between two players.