An unfortunate medical evacuation puts the breaks on Survivor: Kaôh Rōng but opens up a myriad of possibilities for next week’s finale.
Survivor: Kaôh Rōng has been a moving conveyor belt of injuries. From the very start – even before the season began airing – we were told how this would be the most punishing and brutal 39 days in Survivor history. That was the case right from the premiere when Jennifer Lanzetti had a bug take up temporary residence in her ear canal. Things didn’t get any easier from there, as Episode 4 saw three different players collapse post-challenge due to heat stroke and heat exhaustion, ultimately ending with the evacuation of Caleb Reynolds. Then at the merge, after a full camp medical check-up, Neal Gottlieb was removed due to an infection on his knee. Joe Del Campo’s emergency exit this episode was just another example of this season’s brutality.
It’s a testament to this cast and the season as a whole that it has managed to remain fun and entertaining in spite of the many injuries and evacuations. It could have quite easily become dreary and depressing viewing, but the game dynamics and colourful personalities have kept things interesting throughout. In fact, this latest episode was probably the first truly mundane episode of the season, and that wasn’t through any real fault of the show itself.
About half-way through the episode, it became clear that it was stalling for time. There seemed to be an extra long focus on the fall-out from the previous tribal council and Tai Trang’s emotional dilemma. Usually, an episode bounces from scene to scene in rather speedy fashion; sometimes to the point where you wished they would’ve spent a little longer explaining a move or a relationship. That wasn’t the case here. The scenes were rather drawn out and after a while became repetitive. Again, this wasn’t any fault of the show because they had little choice given the evacuation of Joe Del Campo.
Joe’s evacuation was a long-time coming in hindsight. From the very first episode, he was labelled by his fellow tribemates as “the most likely to be medivaced”. Throughout we have seen comments about his age, his challenge performance, puzzle blocks falling on his skull, etc. The most telling sign, however, was his lack of screen-time. Similarly to Erik Reichenbach, who was also medivaced at the end of the game in Survivor: Caramoan, Joe was merely a background presence over the course of the season. His main contribution has been the loyal soldier to post-merge orchestrator Aubry Bracco. That was seen again this episode, when after what was an impressive challenge win, Joe immediately picked Aubry to join him on the reward. He had cemented his spot in the finals alongside Aubry, as long as Aubry could keep everything in order.
That is what makes his evacuation from the game such a blessing and a curse. It is sad to see anyone leave the game under such circumstances, especially so close to the end, but with Joe’s exit it makes the game much more open and fluid going into next week’s season finale. Aubry no longer has that comfort blanket; for the second time this season she has lost a close ally due to a medical situation. The removal of that last predictable element now makes the game completely unpredictable. Does Tai stick with Aubry after she managed to sway him back on side? Are Cydney Gillon and Michele Fitzgerald now a solid pair? Will Aubry and Cydney target each other as each other’s biggest threat left in the game? Or will they hold firm and go to the end together?
The penultimate episode of Survivor: Kaôh Rōng might have lacked the intrigue and excitement of the episodes that preceded it, and it was sad to see Joe exit the game due to what was essentially a beef overdose. But what we have left is an interesting final four and a compelling end-game. Oh and Mark the Chicken is still alive.