Monty Brinton / CBS

And Then There Were Three

An unusual tribe swap results in a reversal of fortune for some Survivors; fast and furious strategizing ensues.

Who Are You Calling Yellow?

Fresh from having voted out Shirin, the Ta Keo tribe regroups. Spencer expresses gratitude for his second second chance...except he kind of also got a second chance the first time he played, and then there's the literal second chance of getting to play the game again, so technically, I think this is his fourth chance.

Terry is particularly impressed with himself -- specifically, with his newfound ability to play the social game, and with the fact that he's now in the majority alliance: "I'm on top of the world. Life is good." Which couldn't possibly portend an ironic twist of fate in which life ceases to be good, could it?

Oh yes, it could. Over on challenge beach, Jeff Probst gathers the Survivors and makes them all reiterate how happy they are with the status quo, before upending the whole game on everyone's heads. Anyone who's ever seen a season of Survivor could have called this, although at least this is a slightly new spin on the traditional tribe swap. For the first time ever, the two tribes will be shuffled into three new tribes with six members each. The third tribe will get buffs in a soothing yellow shade to complement the very Lisa Frank-y pink and green that's already in play.

You're never going to remember who's on what tribe without making a list...and by "you're never going to remember" I actually mean "I'm never going to remember." So I've written it down for us:

Ta Keo (green buffs): Kass, Joe, Keith, and Ciera from Bayon; Wentworth and Terry from Ta Keo.

Bayon (pink buffs): Jeremy, Monica, Stephen, and Kimmi from Bayon; Spencer and Wiglesworth from Ta Keo.

Angkor (yellow buffs): Varner, Abi-Maria, Peih-Gee, and Woo from Ta Keo; Tasha and Savage from Bayon.

Savage reminds everyone that weird game twists have not gone well for him in the past, and indeed, he's looking pretty boned in this tribe shuffle. Not only does the swap put him at a considerable numbers disadvantage, he's been shuffled onto the one tribe that has to go to a brand-new beach, with no supplies, and start entirely from scratch.

A New Numbers Game

Angkor beach is even less well-appointed than Savage feared. They've got a flint and a machete but pretty much nothing else. Peih-Gee tries to look on the bright side: at least she's in the majority, and Tasha and Savage are on the outs. Plus, Varner's already irritated by Savage, so their first vote seems like it might be pretty cut and dried.

Over on new-Bayon and new-Ta Keo, it's kind of the same situation. Some people are happy that there are more people from their original tribe than from the other tribe. Other people are unhappy that they're outnumbered. Seriously, the same conversation plays out about three times.

The one entertaining saving grace from this sequence happens on Ta Keo, where Kelley Wentworth has retained only one of her old Ta Keo tribemates, namely Terry. Terry isn't too worried about his position on the tribe -- between Keith and Joe, he's got a great pair of manly men to bro down with, so, he says, "maybe we don't even NEED the numbers," thereby demonstrating a keen understanding of how Survivor (and indeed, democracy itself) works. Wentworth, on the other hand, is doing everything she can to make sure the target's on Terry and not her, eventually conducting, via confessional, an infinitely gif-worthy full-body demonstration of her plans to "kick him under the bus. Get! Under! That! Bus! Terry!" But let's be honest: watching Wentworth flail around is probably also funnier on fast-forward.

Here's Another Clue For You All

Angkor tribe's minority alliance, Tasha and Savage, begins to strategize. One at a time, they approach their tribemates to probe for cracks. Savage boldly promises that if Varner flips and votes with him, he will make sure that Varner makes it to the jury, which would be an improvement over Varner's first time out.

At Bayon, Spencer resolves to continue shaking off his gamebot reputation, and takes a stab at connecting on a human level. It remains to be seen whether Jeremy is buying it when he gives Spencer advice on how better to connect with his girlfriend, but honestly, if you're looking to hook up with a new alliance, telling them about your commitment issues is probably not the wisest move.

Stephen attempts to chop a coconut with about the same amount of success he's had at every aspect of camp life so far. He decides to switch gears and do what he allegedly does best: strategizing. Since he's got a comfortable majority with his fellow original Bayon members Jeremy, Monica, and Kimmi, he figures that sticking with them is the easiest path to staying in the game, and he offers to help his original tribemates find the hidden immunity idol. If I did not know this show was forty-two minutes long, I would swear they spend at least three hours in real time looking for the idol. Eventually, it's Jeremy who hits the jackpot, and he's unperturbed by the fact that it's only a clue and not an idol: "I'm gonna make it work."

Angkor Anger

Jeff Probst has decided to stop pretending these challenges are remotely original; he just comes right out and reminds the Survivors that a few of them have seen this challenge before: it was the same one they used in the first episode of Survivor: Cagayan. Teams retrieve keys from a series of poles, then use them to unlock three heavy chests that they'll pull through an obstacle course on a cart. Then there's a puzzle, because there's always a puzzle.

Jeremy's got his eye on the third chest, where the idol's hidden, and his grabbing of it is so seamless that it's kind of anticlimactic. It's definitely not as suspenseful as when Wentworth looked for her opening in the first episode.

The challenge comes down to the puzzle; each team has put a Survivor: Cagayan alum on puzzle duty, which appears to help Ta Keo in particular as Cagayan alumna Kass and proven puzzle whiz Joe totally crush it. Jeremy and Spencer are close behind them, securing the victory for Bayon, which means Angkor's Tribal Council-bound.

At this point, Varner looks over to the Bayon tribe and mouths something at Wiglesworth that looks like (but probably isn't) "get me popcorn." He's not particularly discreet about it, so Tasha busts him and makes sure the Angkor tribe, the other two tribes, Jeff Probst, the crew, and the entire population of Cambodia knows "we've got a rat."

This throws the entire operation into chaos as everyone tries to determine what damage Varner could possibly have caused by attempting to convey a message to someone who isn't even actually going to Tribal Council and can't possibly affect the outcome of tonight's vote. With visible concern, Woo asks, "Are we still in an alliance?"

Rated PG For Adult Situations

It's Happy Scramble Fun Times at Angkor, and Savage is acting like he won the damn lottery. Varner's the new logical target, what with his vague demands of snack foods from the other tribe or whatever.

Woo and Peih-Gee consider jumping ship. They figure that they and Abi-Maria will still outnumber Savage and Tasha if they lose one of their own. Separately, Abi considers jumping ship a little more seriously: she knows she's on the bottom of her own alliance, and she'd be happy to throw any of them under the bus if it means moving up in the pecking order.

Peih-Gee gets wind of Abi's willingness to sell them all out and changes her mind: she'll vote with Savage and Tasha, but she wants to vote for Abi. Abi then decides that she'd like to vote for Peih-Gee. Savage gleefully relates how easy it was for him to create conflict between Peih-Gee and Abi, apparently not understanding that when it comes to Abi, conflict generally comes pre-created.

At Tribal Council, Jeff Probst wastes no time in bringing up the fact that "a meltdown occurred" at the challenge. Varner, perpetrator of said meltdown, grins goofily and waves hello. Over the course of Tribal Council, Varner reiterates several times that Savage and Tasha are actually in charge of tonight's vote, with apparently no sense of irony concerning the ridiculousness of letting the minority alliance -- who have eight more potential allies on the other tribes -- dictate how the majority alliance votes.

In the end, Peih-Gee is the unlucky one who gets her torch snuffed in a 4-2 vote (she and Woo voted for Abi; as "#blindside" appears on the screen, Woo wears a gobsmacked facial expression that should be familiar to longtime viewers considering that it's the same one he wore for the entirety of his first season). On her way out the door, Peih-Gee pointedly wishes Woo good luck. Abi gloats that Woo has now made two unsuccessful attempts to vote her out.

Verdict

You'd think that both a revolutionary new twist and three new sets of tribal dynamics would be a little more exciting than this. Still, there's some great strategy in the back half of the episode that might inspire you to get out the popcorn. But make sure you get it yourself or ask for it clearly, lest someone misconstrue your request and brand you as a rat.

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