Swaney Strategy Blog – Kaôh Rōng Episode 12

Most Survivor fans remember Survivor: Samoa for one thing – Russell Hantz. If you ask said fans about the other members/events of the season, the memory bank is far emptier. Sure, you might remember the gorgeous, may I say “Shambo-licious” locks donned by the she-goddess Shambo, Laura Morett from her time on Blood vs. Water, or even Dave Ball being Dave Ball, but on the whole, Survivor: Samoa is very forgettable. Hell, the person who almost won the game was so overshadowed that the running joke on his presence is that he was digitally rendered into the game, hence the nickname CGI Brett. Samoa was basically a season-long commercial and ad campaign for Heroes vs. Villains, which, by the time Samoa was airing, was already filmed and completed. In many ways, Heroes vs. Villains overshadowed Samoa and Russell Hantz (mostly justifiably) overshadowed everything else in Samoa as well.

Survivor: Kaôh Rōng had all the makings to be just like Samoa, being overshadowed by the returnee and fan-voted cast of Survivor: Cambodia – Second Chance. All of the publicity was geared towards Cambodia, leaving Kaôh Rōng as the “what’s left” of the airing cycle. Samoa did have the luxury of airing before Heroes vs. Villains, as production had to introduce Russell before he would join the returnee season. Kaôh Rōng was not fortunate in this regard, as it was taped first, but aired second to spur recency viewership with Cambodia. With all of the offseason hype on the Second Chancers, Kaôh Rōng slid by, garnering the expectation of a mediocre and lackluster season.

Despite expectations, Survivor: Kaôh Rōng has kept on delivering time after time.

Is Kaôh Rōng the season that was just underhyped to accommodate expectations or is the rug going to be pulled out from under us, creating the blemish which subdues expectations? While I appreciate the optimism and would love nothing more than for this season to continue on the same trajectory, I consider myself a pragmatist. As such, I see three main possible blemishes on this season:

1) A late game medevac
2) Mark the Chicken dies
3) An undesirable FTC and/or winner

Let’s break down these possibilities:

1 – A late-game medevac

For months, people branded Kaôh Rōng as the “Season of Death”. So far, we’ve seen nasty infections, heat stroke, and massive dehydration all play a part in contributing to this moniker. This season has already played host to two medevacs (Caleb and Neal), multiple trips from medical, and even two post-vote medevacs (Liz and Peter).

A late game medevac would contribute to the moniker, but it wouldn’t always contribute to being a blemish. This situation is not unprecedented in the game of Survivor, as Erik Reichenbach was removed during the finale of Survivor: Caramoan. To be a blemish, however, the person medevaced must be someone that stands a legitimate chance of winning. The number of options is limited here, but an option like this is possible, especially given Aubry’s check-up with Dr. Rupert after the merge. If this is the blemish, I imagine that the injury would not be something extreme like a broken bone, but something that a viewer would view as lesser, like an infection or a self-pull a la Dana, Kathy, etc.

Realistically, I only think that this option is likely if either Tai or Aubry leave.

2 – Mark the Chicken dies

Working off of the previous section, Mark the Chicken is something that has received an inordinate amount of screentime and emotional investment. Of all the Survivor animals and pets, Mark has, by far, received the most attention. If Mark dies, for whatever reason, fans would be upset, but I don’t think that it tarnishes the season. Mark getting killed could just as easily been edited out, which all but confirms to me that this is not the blemish we could see.

3 – An undesirable FTC and/or winner

If we are looking for a flaw, I think this is it. Throughout the season we have seen four of the five remaining castaways developed as characters. Aubry the vulnerable mastermind, Cydney the independent yet strong player, Tai the loveable and surprising guy, and Michele the under the radar yet intelligent beauty. The edit hasn’t shown Joe enough to make the count and even so, he has been painted in a less than positive light. If these characters undergo massive changes in the final hour, especially in a negative light, we could gain some undesirables (including Joe) that would make for unsatisfactory winners. We could also get an unwanted focus on poor strategic play, such as Tai not playing his idol despite only having one remaining opportunity.

An undesirable winner situation is possible, especially given how positively Jeremy was edited in Cambodia. At this point, however, I don’t see any remaining castaway, except Joe, being viewed as overly undesirable.

All to be said, I think the blemish, if it is even in existence, lies somewhere in a combination of options number one and three. If I had to make a prediction on the most likely and plausible blemish, it occurs when a popular player/likely winner is medevaced at the final four, thus preventing strategic development and moving the second place person into the winner’s role. I would love nothing more than this season to end as well as it has been, but I want to at least entertain the possibility


Joe – Just like his challenge performances, Joe is incredibly likely to finish without the final prize. Aubry’s voting advantage is being fattened for the slaughter, but the most important question is whether the slaughter will occur before or after the final tribal council.

Michele – Michele’s name has been thrown around, but she has avoided being the primary target. Michele’s game is the hardest to pin down, as you could easily point to her being a vital part of the majority alliance or just a tagalong. For her to enter the FTC with the credentials, she needs to start making some of the clichéd “Big Moves” and likely target Aubry, Cydney, and/or Tai as the most viable jury threats.

Cydney – My winner pick is in a good position, but that doesn’t mean that I’m not worried about her chances. Cydney’s slow and steady approach to the immunity challenge last week is a great metaphor for her gameplay. As other players ebb and flow, Cyd has been constant in wanting to be able to make her own decisions and not be swayed by others trying to control her. This steadfastness could be viewed as threatening, but it all depends on who is championing the final few votes.

Aubry – A real Star Wars fan would see last week’s blog and realize that somehow Emperor Palpatine was the winner pick on my Star Wars boot list despite dying at the hands of Vader. Yep, I never proclaimed to be a Star Wars expert, yet Aubry skated by undetected. Aubry’s game is likely to follow suit and bring her to the FTC with a very strong chance of winning. Will another contestant notice this, as I did with my boot list, before it’s too late?

Tai – Tai would honestly have to try very, very hard to be voted out this week. With this being the last tribal to play a hidden immunity idol, Tai would be stupid not to play his idol. On the other hand, a previous Swaney Strategy Blog has profiled the similarities between Tai and Sugar, who gave her idol to Matty in the final moments. Will Tai follow suit? Probably not. Is it possible? Definitely.


Shawn is 24 years old and lives in Virginia. After catching the first season by accident, Survivor has become his passion. A graduate of Washington and Lee University, Shawn has worked in many different jobs, including college volleyball coach, bakery assistant, organic farmer, bartender, and non-profit assistant. Above all, he is eagerly waiting for the day he can play the game he has loved since he was 8 years old.