‘Survivor: Cambodia – Second Chance’ Review: ‘Play To Win’ Brings Glorious Merge Drama

Recap and review of Survivor: Cambodia – Second Chance – Episode 7 – Play To Win:

Survivor: Cambodia – Second Chance has been a pretty dynamic season so far, due in large part to the number of shuffles in the pre-merge game. Alliances haven’t been allowed to really set, the way they would if there had been, say, only one tribe swap this season. In short, almost everyone has had the chance to play with everyone else, long before we reached tonight’s merge. So it’s no surprise that “Play To Win” complicates allegiances by questioning whether they were ever solid in the first place.

This was the biggest merge in Survivor history, as thirteen people land in one tribe, so fireworks were destined to spark. Scheming was basically the order of the day here, with the Bayon and Ta Keo alliances trying to re-establish bonds in a race to see who would form a seven-person majority first. Savage approaches Jeremy about staying Bayon strong, and both men talk about forming a majority by getting Stephen, Wiglesworth, Kimmi, Tasha and Joe in on the alliance. However, Joe is also being courted by the Ta Keo alliance, with Spencer, Keith, Wentworth, Ciera, Kass and Abi-Maria serving as the rival faction in this equation. Spencer tries to approach Joe by making the argument that they’re caught in the middle between these two tribes. And he’s not wrong about being a swing vote in his own right (even after Joe wins immunity — in a Survivor: Cagayan ball-balancing challenge that, coincidentally, comes down to himself and Spencer). Last week, Spencer was saved when Kass decided to stick her neck out for him, and so that choice has reverberations for the post-merge point of the game, as tonight’s decision ultimately came down to Spencer’s vote. In essence, the narrative of the episode was a misdirect: it shouldn’t have been Joe people were courting the whole time, but Spencer. In this case, the failure to secure Spencer’s vote spelled bad news for Ta Keo. More specifically, for Kass.

Survivor Cambodia - Second Chance - Recap and Review - Episode 7 - Play To Win

Credit: CBS

More so than the story of Spencer the Swing Vote, the narrative of the episode centered on the struggle between Tasha and Kass. In attempting to fish for information on Bayon, Tasha lies and says Bayon is no longer voting together. However, when Kass discovers that Tasha was lying to her, she decides to get back at her by telling all of Bayon about the “no more Bayon” comment. Ciera, in a peculiar moment, sees this as her opportunity to throw Savage under the bus by stating that he’d been planning to get Jeremy out of the game once the merge came. I could see what Ciera was going for here, but this only has the net effect of infuriating Savage and distracting from the more pressing matter, which is namely that Chaos Kass is back. Unfortunately, for all the talk of playing a different game than last time, Chaos Kass was out in full force tonight.

'Survivor Cambodia - Second Chance' Review 'Play To Win' Brings Glorious Merge Drama

Credit: CBS

Strangely enough, the attempted Tasha blindside failed for a combination of reasons. In addition to the Spencer issue (which ended up being moot since he voted for Ciera anyway), the final vote tally revealed that Kass couldn’t even depend on Ciera’s or Wentworth’s votes. Wentworth voted for Kass, for reasons that are never really explored in the edit. And then, perhaps as a result of the massive blowout they had at camp, Ciera ended up throwing a random vote at Savage, meaning Kass had now had two less votes for her alliance to use against Tasha. So even if they had been able to get Spencer and/or Joe on their side, they still would have come up short. The idea was to throw six votes against Tasha, which would have been enough to overcome the Bayon plan to split the vote 5-4 against Kass and Ciera, in the event either had an idol. But we only saw three votes for Tasha, one for Savage, and the rest for Kass, implying that Kass didn’t have the broader support she thought she had. Perhaps the real story of the episode was that playing a different game on your second go-around doesn’t really matter if your reputation precedes you.

Survivor Cambodia Second Chance Tribes Merge

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The myth of “Chaos Kass” became larger than Kass McQuillen, the person. I would argue that Ciera is far more of a trouble-making strategic threat than Kass, but Kass has a reputation as someone who will do whatever she can to get rid of someone she doesn’t like. It’s not even a reputation she deserves, necessarily, considering she saved Spencer last week, and was more than willing to work with him again this week. Okay, yeah, she wanted Tasha gone, to the point of stubbornness, so she basically made her own bed by being intractable. But Ciera? She’s flying under the radar, and even though she’s prone to making wildcard choices like the vote against Savage, I’d argue she’s just as big of a threat to get to the end, since she isn’t really on anyone’s radar besides Savage’s. She’s someone who could go deep into this game, if left unchecked. Which isn’t to say that ditching Kass was the wrong move, since she was going to become a problem sooner or later. But I just don’t think she was the all-encompassing threat that she was perceived to be. Then again, Survivor is often a game of perceptions, and it was hard for Kass to change hers, considering how large she she loomed in Cagayan, and how aggressive she was in her vendetta against Tasha tonight. Now, Kass is the first member of the jury, and I would imagine her vote is going to be absolutely crucial to whomever ends up winning this game.

Survivor Cambodia - Second Chance - Episode 7 - Recap and Review - Play To Win

Credit: CBS

“Play To Win” was a fantastic merge episode for Survivor: Cambodia – Second Chance. The game is in a state of flux right now: on the one hand, it seems like Bayon has the majority, but it’s easy to imagine that changing, since the net effect of everyone having played together before the merge is that there’s no guarantee that alliances have had enough time to truly solidify. Who knows who’s going to look for better options in the next vote? This is as exciting as Survivor gets, and I can’t wait to see the game blow up as the post-merge game deepens.

But what did you think of Survivor: Cambodia – Second Chance, “Play To Win”? Sound off in the comments!

And for more on Survivor: Cambodia – Second Chance, watch deleted scenes from last week’s episode to see how attitudes have changed around camp!

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