Survivor: Kaôh Rōng Episode 5 Review – Khait and Switch

A much-needed tribe swap shakes up Survivor: Kaôh Rōng and brings about some interesting new dynamics.

After last week’s scary medical situation, and the uncomfortable elimination of Alecia Holden, Survivor: Kaôh Rōng was in desperate need of a shake-up to wash away the bad taste. Thankfully, the tribe swap this episode provided the perfect palate cleanser. While it didn’t quite bring back the fun and frolic of those first three episodes, it did give us two interesting new tribe formations and a solid episode of alliance building and strategy.

The episode wasted little time getting to the switch, only stopping in on the Brains tribe for a cursory idol search by Neal Gottlieb. Before we knew it, the three tribes were stood in front of Jeff Probst, who shoved a platter of wrapped buffs in their faces, like an overeager server at a wedding reception. Due to Caleb Reynold’s evacuation in the previous episode, the originally planned swap at 14 was now at an odd-numbered 13. It still doesn’t make a whole lot of sense why they didn’t just cancel last week’s vote-off, much like in Survivor: Samoa after Russell Swan was evacuated, and go ahead with the original 14 person swap. Not only would it have kept the schedule on track but it would have provided the exciting possibility of Alecia seeking revenge on Kyle Jason and Scot Pollard.

Instead, Survivor decided to add a twist to this season’s swap. The unlucky person who picked the lone red buff would be sent to the former Brawn beach, alone, to fend for themselves for the next three days. The advantage was that this person would be immune from the next vote-off and would join the losing tribe after the next tribal council. It’s a twist Survivor has used to great effect in the past, perhaps most significantly in Survivor: Gabon when the members of both tribes had to rank themselves in order of importance, leaving Jessica “Sugar” Kiper unpicked; resulting in her return to Exile. However, the “Sugar Shack” seemed like five-star accommodation compared to the ToTang beach (also known as the Angkor beach; home to broken dreams and broken toes). Julia Sokolowski, the victim of the red buff and the youngest Survivor player ever, became the lone inhabitant of ToTang. She was shown clearly struggling with the elements. But even more than that she was worried about missing out on forming new bonds and alliances.


Julia Sokolowski the lone ToTang member on Survivor: Kaoh Rong.

Julia was right to be worried because new bonds and alliances were quickly taking shape on the new Chanloh and Gondol tribes. The new Chanloh tribe had a pair each from Brains, Brawn, and Beauty. Debbie Wanner, jack of all trades, mastermind of Kaoh Rong, was quick to get things moving both physically and mentally. In between sets of pull-ups (let’s hope she releases a home fitness DVD after the season), Debbie was pulling in allies to join her and Neal, namely the former Brawn pair of Cydney Gillon and Jason. Meanwhile, Nick Maiorano was trying to do the same thing for himself and his former Beauty tribe-member Michele Fitzgerald, who was commiserating the separation of the Beauty girls alliance. Why the Brawn members were such sought after despite losing three out of four challenges was baffling, but regardless, they found themselves in the perfect position with options on either side.

The other former Brawn tribe-member, Scot Pollard, was in an equally strong position on the new Gondol tribe. Even though he was the only Brawn against three Brains and two Beauties, his impartiality made him a desired number of the battling alliances. He quickly fit into Caleb’s old spot as Tai Trang’s bromance buddy and was also the object of desire for the Brains, who wanted to remove a former Beauty and remain in the majority; knowing that Julia would be joining their tribe should they lose the next immunity challenge. Anna Khait was the most in danger post-swap. She had gone all-in way before it was necessary, throwing Tai under the bus and making everyone aware that he potentially had the idol. Anna’s moves only helped to paint a bigger target on her back, and after Gondol lost the immunity challenge, no amount of talking or boob-squeezing could save her.

What was interesting here, and what made this tribe swap so successful, was the added element of the combo-idols. This season’s twist of combining two idols to make a super idol is a little convoluted, but in this episode, it added yet another layer to the strategy. After teasing the idea of blindsiding Dr. Peter Baggenstos, Tai revealed his idol to Anna and Scot. The plan to blindside Peter with an idol was a tasty one, but Scot showed some game savviness when he realized that he now knew the whereabouts of two idols, and they were both in the hands of his allies. If he makes it to the merge with Tai and Jason, both with idols intact, that is a potentially impenetrable alliance. Scot being able to convince Tai not to use the idol, and instead just letting Anna go, was a smart move with potential long-term benefits.

While the tribal council was rather anticlimactic, and the humor lacking, this episode introduced some interesting new alliances and tribal dynamics. Last week, everybody was dying, but this week showed that there’s still life in Survivor: Kaôh Rōng yet.

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.

  • Chad

    Can you explain exactly how Anna outed Tai and let everyone know he had an idol? The show that I watched this week showed Tai revealing his idol to Anna and Scot (as you point out later in the article).

    I don’t recall Anna telling anyone that Tai had the idol and yet you say she let everyone know he had it. She had the perfect opportunity to out him at tribal council when he didn’t play it for her like he said he would, yet she kept quite even then.

    What part of the episode did she out him and tell everyone??

    • Martin Holmes

      I said: “throwing Tai under the bus and making everyone aware that he potentially had the idol.” Which was in reference to the scenes on Gondol before the immunity challenge when she was telling everyone that she’d caught Tai looking for the idol. It was a bad move because that could make people think that Tai potentially found the idol, and therefore they’d be more scared to target him and more likely to target Anna. 🙂

  • Chad

    Got it. I misunderstood what you meant. I mis-read it and was thinking you were saying she outed him after he showed it to her.

  • Steven

    If I was Anna, I would’ve stood up at Tribal after the votes and told everyone Tai had the idol. That’s just me though, and I can be a vindictive bitch. lol

    • Marionete

      I really don’t understand why anyone would do that. You’re already out of the game, it’s not going to help you or change anything.
      Besides, Tai didn’t have that strong of a bond with Anna, so it wasn’t like he had sworn on saving her and then screwed her. And even if that had been the case – it was still Tai’s idol, he could do whatever was best for him.

    • José Zepeda

      No just no. If she had done that, then you would find seeing comments saying “She is so pathetic and such a bitter looser for telling that, she’s already out, why to screw him?”

      And it’s kinda true.
      She’s already out. No need to go without class out of the game.

      Props for her for being classy and go out like that.

      • Abc

        A better move would be when Jeff asks if somebody has an idol, to ask Tai if he gonna give it to her or not. The pressure everybody knows you have an idol might cause him to give it up and secure his numbers.

  • Vncnt

    “a potentially impenetrable alliance”

    Is the superidol really that powerful? It seems to me that the best thing about the superidol is the idea of a superidol. In practice, its powers are rather limited: unless it is used at a crucial moment in the game when there is an equal split in terms of power alliances and the playing of the superidol results in the tide turning in favor of one or other group. Otherwise, the superidol requires two idols to be played at one tribal council. Except for the scenario described above, how is this ever a good thing – unless one player is in possession of two idols himself/herself? Kyle and Tai, for example, could play their idols to save Scot (or each other), but this would also mean they forfeit the use of the idol for themselves. How often can we really expect this to occur, if at all? There is no way Kyle is playing an idol for someone else; unless it allows him to take control of the game (the benefit would have to be direct, not indirect). Since the superidol idea was not carried over to Second Chances, it seems likely to me that it didn’t quite have the effect that the producers were hoping for. We shall see.

    • Martin Holmes

      Some good points there. Although the reason the combo-idol twist wasn’t used in S31 was because they filmed out of order. It wouldn’t have made narrative sense for people in S32 to be talking about this “new twist” if the audience had already seen it last season.