Survivor: Kaôh Rōng Episode 4 Review – All Fall Down

Survivor pushes its castaways to the limit in a terrifying episode of Survivor: Kaôh Rōng.

In the build up to the Survivor: Borneo premiere in 2000, the show was promoted as a “survival of the fittest” competition. Sixteen men and women from across America were going to be pushed to their limits in the ultimate test of endurance until only one survived. The details of the format were kept strictly under wraps. The general public only had a vague idea of what the show would entail. But basically, the prevailing sentiment among the American population was – holy s**t, they’re going to kill someone on television! When does it start?

However, outside of a few bug bites and a naked Richard Hatch, the conditions of Survivor’s inaugural season weren’t particularly extreme. It wasn’t until the second season, in The Australian Outback, when viewers realised just how real Survivor could be. When Kucha tribe member Michael Skupin passed out and fell into the campfire, it stunned audiences and sent shockwaves through the Survivor community. The skin dripped from Skupin’s hands; he yelped in pain as his fellow cast members rushed around in a mad panic, openly conversing with production crew members. Eventually, he was airlifted to a hospital in Cairns and later sent to a burn unit in Brisbane due to the severity of his injuries. It was Survivor’s first ever medical evacuation and a truly unique, scary and compelling episode of television.

There have been many medical evacuations since Skupin’s accident in 2001, from the downright terrifying to the seemingly minor. The exit of Caleb Reynolds in the latest episode of Survivor: Kaôh Rōng is up there with the scariest.

In a reward challenge for what was essentially coffee and condiments, the three tribes battled each other, and the 120 degrees heat, in a grueling course that required digging up bags buried 2 feet beneath the sand. It’s hard to do justice to the events that transpired on screen, but the result was three players collapsing due to heat stroke and heat exhaustion. Debbie Wanner was the first to hit the ground; her body had overheated and required medical assistance to get her temperature back down. Then as soon as the challenge was over, Caleb and Cydney Gillon dropped, causing an unprecedented scene where the entire Survivor crew and medical team descended onto “set”. It was a unique experience for a production that is usually very self-contained and doesn’t like to show the mechanics of what goes into making Survivor happen. Viewers got an extraordinary peek behind the curtain at the sheer number of people involved in bringing Survivor to life.

Debbie Wanner was the first to hit the ground; her body had overheated and required medical assistance to get her temperature back down. Then as soon as the challenge was over, Caleb and Cydney Gillon dropped, causing an unprecedented scene where the entire Survivor crew and medical team descended onto “set”. It was a unique experience for a production that is usually very self-contained and doesn’t like to show the mechanics of what goes into making Survivor happen. Viewers got an extraordinary peek behind the curtain at the sheer number of people involved in bringing Survivor to life.

Medical crew tend to Caleb Reynolds on Survivor: Kaoh Rong.

Medical crew tend to Caleb Reynolds on Survivor: Kaoh Rong.

The quick efforts of the production staff, medical team and even the cast members was astounding. With so much happening at once, it’s a testament to everybody involved that they were able to effectively deal with the situation. But while Debbie and Cydney were able to recover well enough to continue, Survivor’s resident doctor, Dr. Joe, determined Caleb was too unfit to continue, and he sadly had to be airlifted from the game. It was a scary and emotional moment to see Caleb barely conscious, his chest purple, and his fellow tribemates distraught. It certainly stands right alongside Skupin’s exit as one of the most shocking and affecting scenes in Survivor history.

There has been a significant debate over whether Survivor is at fault for what happened or whether it was just a case of unfortunate freak circumstances. It isn’t an easy question to answer. It would be rather heartless to say that Survivor wanted this situation to happen. While the hunt for ratings is always on the mind of producers and executives, risking the health and lives of your contestants for the sake of entertainment would be a step too far – even for CBS! After all, even though the episode was compelling television, it wasn’t exactly what one would define as “entertaining”. But there is something to be said about Survivor’s in-built mantra of “push until you can’t push anymore.”

Caleb Reynolds is medically evacuated from Survivor: Kaoh Rong.

Caleb Reynolds is medically evacuated from Survivor: Kaoh Rong.

We hear it every season; more and more in recent years. Survivor wants people to give 100%. Players should push themselves to the brink. Quitters face admonishment. Jeff Probst yells from the sidelines at every challenge for people to “Pick it up!” and “Dig!” Players are critiqued and embarrassed if seen falling behind or slowing down. The intention is to create competitive spirit but in the most extreme circumstances, it can lead to situations like this. There has to be a point where the well-being of the players takes precedence over the competition. After watching 12 physically exhausted humans, digging in the sand for over 45 minutes, in 120 degrees heat, with no water (after already spending nine days with little sustenance), there should have been a moment where production considered stopping the challenge. According to Jeff Probst in an interview with Dalton Ross, he did begin running through options in his head in case the players couldn’t complete the challenge. But realistically, it would have seemed wise to stop the challenge once Debbie went down.

So is Survivor fully at blame for what happened? No. But they should take some responsibility rather than having Probst lecture the tribes afterward and tell them what happened was due to them not keeping properly hydrated and pushing themselves too far.


Alecia Holden, Kyle Jason and Scot Pollard at Tribal Council on Episode 4 of Survivor: Kaoh Rong.

The episode didn’t get any lighter after the evacuation. For some strange reason, Survivor decided to go ahead with the immunity challenge and tribal council instead of heading straight into a swap – which judging by next week’s preview was the original plan at 14 castaways. That meant more time spent with the disastrous Brawn tribe and more scenes of Kyle Jason and Scot Pollard berating and belittling Alecia Holden.

One of the frustrating things about Survivor is the edit can sometimes lead you to believe that an underdog will at some point get redemption or revenge. Most people watch television for some cathartic release. In scripted tv shows the heroes and underdogs almost always prevail, and the villains suffer comeuppance – unless it’s Game of Thrones which takes perverse pleasure in torturing its audience. The unscripted nature of Survivor doesn’t always allow that to happen and therefore despicable people can sometimes triumph over the heroes and the underdogs. Alecia was mocked and cast aside seemingly from Day 1, with tribemates refusing even to call her by her name, and then strong-armed out of the game with no chance at revenge. It was the same major flaw with Survivor: Worlds Apart which turned it into such a dismal season, and the tone set at the end of this latest episode suggests we could be heading in the same direction.

Hopefully, the upcoming tribe swap will shake things up and return us to some of the fun that made the first three episodes such a refreshing change. Otherwise, it won’t just be the players evacuating this season.

Martin is a 28-year-old writer from Hull, England represented by Berlin Associates. He graduated from the University of Hull in English and Creative Writing. But if you have found yourself on this website you probably know him better as “Redmond” – the Survivor spoiler.

  • Abc

    Exactly what I’m afraid of – a worlds apart scenario where we are left with almost all villains, and not great villains like coach, but villains like Jason.

  • Trintex

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I loved Worlds Apart. No one enjoyed watching Will and Dan and I don’t think anyone is enjoying watching Jason and Scot. But if this season ends up like Worlds Apart I don’t think that would be such a bad thing. Ultimately watching as Dan getting voted out and Will being blasted at the final tribal council was so refreshing, and in my mind those event along with Mike’e victory and Shirin being voted to return in Cambodia made Worlds Apart worth it. If Jason and Scot go down like Dan and Will did I personally will always look back fondly at Survivor Kaôh Rōng. I’ve always found it strange that people who call themselves Survivor fans will threaten to never watch the show again if a season doesn’t go their way. I hope that no Survivor fan (or Inside Survivor writer) plans on “evacuating this season”. Also, by sending a message to the producers that people refuse to watch a season that includes vile behavior, people are basically pressuring producers to hide the fact that such bitterness occurs. I don’t think this is really what we want. Even though Alecia wasn’t able to get her revenge in Kaôh Rōng, I think she is getting it now. Jason and Scot are not incredibly popular at the moment because the producers called them out on their actions. I think it would be best not to try to force the producers to hide how despicable these people are. You can’t go through life ignoring and hiding everything that is unpleasant. Worlds Apart was a tough season to watch, but it was also very rewarding. I feel that Worlds Apart actually had a plot, people actually cared about who would win. For this reason I enjoyed World Apart even more than Cambodia. In Cambodia, after Andrew was voted out I really didn’t care who won, which made it less captivating. So far Survivor Kaôh Rōng is off to a terrific start!

    • Martin Holmes

      I’m not evacuating. Just wanted to end on a thematically punchy line. But casual viewers might!

      • Red

        I have never heard of a casual Survivor viewer.

        There are people who live and breath it and there are those that don’t care. I have never met or heard or heard of someone in the middle

        • Martin Holmes

          Survivor gets around 9 million viewers. About 50,000 of them are the ones that live and breath it.

        • Josh

          what my view of a casual survivor fan is a person who has only seen season 25 and up
          they also like players like Julia (the one that quit in BvW2) and Angie
          they also like to overly use words like “slay” and “mom”
          XD thats my view on them though

          • Trintex

            They also say things like “Why isn’t Ozzy coming back for second chance?” and “I hate Kelley Wentworth because she evicted Joe!”. I cringe every time someone says “evicted” when talking about Survivor. “This isn’t Big Brother!” – Gervase

    • José Zepeda

      I loved and agreed in everything you said, excepto for the Cambodia thing.
      After Andrew was voted out was when the really GOOD stuff started to happen and shake Survivor!


      • Trintex

        Don’t get me rōng, I also love survivor Cambodia, and I see the appeal in knowing that I can be happy no matter who wins (as in the case of Cambodia). But the stress and the worry of the possibility of a Rodney, Dan, and Will finale (such a first world problem) made Worlds Apart exciting and wonderful when everyone I wanted in the final three made it there. And yes, I did want Will in the final three because I wanted a speech from Shirin, and boy did we get one! But yes, Cambodia did get even more exciting even after Savage was eliminated

  • Steve

    Just not a very satisfying episode at all. But the people who say there are “only villains left” are being as silly as those who said, “Caleb was going to win the game!” It is so early, and most of the characters aren’t even developed yet. But that is the reason this episode fell flat for me. There was pretty much zero new character development. Evacuation drama doesn’t do much for me. We knew, ultimately, that Caleb would be fine, so while I’m sure it was rightfully terrifying in the moment, there just isn’t much payoff in seeing a potentially good player leave the game like that.

  • SolidEther

    Superb article up to the point where Martin actually talks about the episode, beginning with,
    “The episode didn’t get any lighter after the evacuation….”

    And then it dies a horrible death.

    Instead of preaching morality, Martin would have been better of saying,
    “The episode ended as we have expected for 3 weeks; Alecia finally got the boot.”

    • Martin Holmes

      But that would be ignoring the wider implications.

  • Jack

    If you look very closely at Jason’s edit, you can see it was pretty positive, which is hard to see. When Scot made his Cheerleader comment, Jason calms both of Scot and Alecia down and told them to just do the puzzle. He also walks away from the shelter to collect himself and not blow up on Alecia. Also, the Previously On segment showed how Brawn finally won. but the one segment they show is Jason’s voice screaming “LEFT LEFT LEFT”. I think that this is showing him carrying the three brawn members throughout the season. Please tell me your take on Jason. 🙂

    • Martin Holmes

      Will discuss Jason’s edit in Edgic this week. 🙂

    • Taubs

      Add the fact that Jason was constantly shown supporting Cydney and holding her hand when she collapsed. I would say he had a good edit.

      • IRONic

        Yeah Jason is just a polarizing character who gets a bad edit, I mean are we honestly supposed to believe that in every situation unseen and seen, that Alecia is being tormented by Jason and not the other way around. The scene when he stayed with Cydney like a fellow soldier, proves he’s more than our personal perceptions because I doubt anyone else from this season would’ve done the same.

  • sunshine

    Will, Dan, Rodney and the others fell to the challenge run by the eventual winner who, don’t forget, had a lousy edit the first few episodes with his bossiness and all around arrogance.

    Plus, Will, Dan and Rodney were all shown somewhat pleasantly comedic in their first edits but turned l80 degrees.

    I just think it’s too early to figure out who is going to become endearing and who will be a jerk or worse. One of the reasons I love this show is in getting to know the characters as time passes and loyalties build. It’s also why I hate being deprived of that interesting journey when they bring back previous players.

  • Alan

    I live in the Central Australian desert. Last month we had 8 days in a row where the maximum shade temperature was 120F. Because we get large numbers of tourists from more benign climates we have signs in most tourist venues stating: ‘Drink a half-litre of water every hour or you will die’.

    If Survivor is going to make TV in hot countries it is their responsibility to find out the dangers of extreme heat, especially for people who are exerting themselves and may not have appropriate hydration. Even with immediate medical care heat stroke can do permanent organ damage, including brain damage. In my town almost all outdoor activities, including film and TV shut down when the temperature passes 104F. A TV or film production that continued shooting in 120F temperatures would be prosecuted for reckless endangerment.