Survivor:  Cambodia, Second Chance—Season 31 Finale

CBS

Aired December 16, 2015

Epic tribal council. One of the most riveting finales in the show’s history. And yes, we will be revealing the winner of Season 31 as well as other spoilers regarding the two-hour finale. If you haven’t watched it yet, then don’t read any further.

You’ve been warned.

Last episode, the insufferable Abi was finally, mercifully voted out. This week, in the season two-hour finale, things pick up right after that last vote and Keith stupidly reveals how disappointed he is that Abi was sent home because she was a weak link that he could’ve won against. Spencer, a usually annoying figure because of his propensity to show off his deep knowledge of the show despite his shortcomings, explains to Keith that Abi’s overwhelming unpopularity amongst the other survivors is the reason why she had to be voted off:  if she had been granted an easy path to the final three then it would’ve made it that much tougher for Spencer and others to reach the finals.

Spencer wins immunity at the next challenge. Then it’s Kimmi’s turn to bring the stupid. Realizing that she’s on the bottom rung of her alliance with Jeremy, Tasha, and Spencer, she conspires with Kelley and Keith to split the votes at the next tribal council and blindside Jeremy. But she’s so obvious in her move to meet “secretly” with Keith that Spencer and Tasha easily suspect her plan. Jeremy is less suspicious, once again showing his naivety regarding alliance trustworthiness.

Like a lot of fans, we’d been pulling for Joe for most of the season because he was so good at challenges, so useful to his tribe around camp, and so amicable as a person… and yes, he was also so dreamy to the point that he made most men want to be like him and most women to be with him, but that’s another story. Since his departure via tribal council, Jeremy has emerged as the one we most root for to win, largely because he is just as likable as Joe, nearly as physical (though he rarely shows it in challenges), and superior in the social aspect of the game; and that was always Joe’s downfall, the interpersonal part of becoming the sole survivor.

Jeremy, on the other hand, excels at the social and political aspects of the show with smart or daring moves. We hate some of his choices in voting, but in the end, they work for him. We also hate the way he overlooks the loyalties of some of his supposed allies as he does with Kimmi whose loyalty he refuses to question despite Tasha and Spencer spelling it out for him.

All this leads to the most intense, the craziest tribal council in the show’s history. As the jury is introduced by Probst and they take their positions on their benches, Abi delivers the snarkiest, screw-you look at the remaining survivors that we can remember. Obviously she isn’t happy that she’d been voted off previously, and we can’t help but engage in some giddy schadenfreude at her displeasure.

Probst then begins the prerequisite discussion among the remaining survivors regarding their allegiances and the overall state of the game. Spencer decides to reveal that his alliance no longer trusts Kimmi. Is it an attempt to force Kimmi to change her vote? Tough to tell, but it does succeed in raising the suspicion of other survivors and after they cast their votes, Kelley decides to play her hidden immunity idol which draws an ear-to-ear grin from Jeremy who looks to be the only one truly enjoying the moment other than Kelley; and for good reason. Jeremy also has an immunity idol which he decides to play, drawing jaw-dropping reactions from the remaining survivors as well as from the jury members.

Probst counts the votes and all of them are for either Jeremy or Kelley, so those votes don’t count, meaning for the first time in the show’s 31-season history, no valid votes have been cast for any survivor, a fact that is muttered by another so-called student of the game, jurist Fishbach.

Another vote is called for, but because three members are immune from the vote (Spencer who had won the immunity necklace, and Kelley and Jeremy who had played their idols) only three people can be voted for which results in a tie for Kimmi and Tasha. And in an unprecedented move, by order of rules never before revealed in the show’s history, the remaining survivors are allowed to actually talk out their next move aloud to see if they want to change their votes.

No one appears ready to change their votes, and if they had, somehow Keith would’ve ended up as the de facto member forced to leave—he even briefly considers volunteering to leave simply because of Kimmi’s personal financial status. Thankfully he reconsiders that position which spared him from becoming one of the dumbest contestants in the show’s history (remember the contestant who gave up his immunity necklace only to be voted out himself? Yeah, that dumb). We want the winner of this competition to be someone that is most worthy of winning based on his or her decisions and actions in the game; but not based on whoever is in most need of the million-dollar prize. Otherwise, why have a show? Just hand out a check every season to the person in most dire straits. Where’s the drama in that?

Getting back to the vote, Kimmi does not survive her amateurish ploy at a blindside and is voted off in the craziest, maybe longest-lasting tribal council ever. The resulting group dynamic is obvious and Kelley and Keith know they are on the outside looking in with regards to the alliance of Jeremy, Tasha, and Spencer. Later, in a second-straight physically demanding challenge, Kelley wins immunity.

There’s no doubt that Jeremy, Spencer, and Tasha will now vote off Keith, which would leave Kelley alone in the next tribal. Up to that point we’d been torn about Kelley because she hadn’t played an especially strong game and she’d been graced with dumb luck in that she stumbled upon two clues to hidden immunity idols in the past without any skill required at all. But she was clever enough to secretly recover the idols and smartly chose the perfect moments to play them in order to save her ass, and in the process, threw the game into unexpected new directions each time.

And now she demonstrates her cunning by making a fake idol, perhaps the best fake ever devised on the show, with items she’s sneakily been hoarding throughout the season. The result is a more-than-passable fake idol that she hands to Keith in an attempt to ruin the strategy of the alliance of three. Surely once Jeremy, Spencer, and Tasha see Keith’s fake idol they will turn on each other.

Right there Kelley became our new favorite to win.

But Keith, instead of flashing the fake idol to one or more of the power allegiance of three, chooses to subtly suggest he has an idol. It does succeed in casting some doubt in the allegiance, but had he blatantly flashed the fake idol in their eyes he could’ve likely succeeded in forcing them to turn on each other and vote one of their own off. Instead, the power three stick together, and Jeremy in particular shows a pair of brass ones, as they vote off Keith. His believable fake idol goes to waste and seals Kelley’s fate.

The next challenge is more of a concentration contest won by Jeremy. Kelley realizes she has little chance of progressing to the final three, and Spencer makes a clumsy play at securing her vote by declaring how much he views her as a threat in an attempt to smooth over the ultimate vote that would knock her out of the running. In the next tribal council, after Probst paper-cuts the final four with leading questions, Jeremy replies in an enigmatic way that he may vote out his largest competitor, who just may be Spencer.

In his boldest move yet, Spencer responds by threatening to vote for someone else in the final council should Jeremy turn on him. It’s a brilliant tactic to scare a competitor from going against him, but Spencer’s timing is poor. We’ve long waited for a survivor to more or less tell someone in his or her alliance that s/he will vote for someone outside of the alliance in retaliation for being voted off by allegiance members. But the timing of such a threat would be best if delivered in private at camp, not at tribal council in front of jury members where it can come off as a bully tactic, which it does in Spencer’s case. Though Jeremy does not vote him off, and instead helps vote off Kelly, Spencer’s threat comes back to haunt him as a juror questions him about it later.

No telling if that may have cost him the million-dollar prize, but Spencer doesn’t receive a single vote as winner in the finale, and neither does Tasha. Jeremy takes all votes as the unanimous winner of Season 31, one of the most enjoyable seasons in recent memory. More proof that Survivor knows how to cleverly change things up, and remains the best reality show on TV today.

 


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