by Ian Walker
The finale of Survivor: Cambodia was the culmination of one of the most gripping seasons of Survivor ever, partly because this season didn’t start when the players hit the beach. All of the campaigning done the previous May by the pool of potential contestants made the fans more invested than ever, as we had a hand at putting some of our favorites back onto the show. Now, at the beginning of the end, one of the most competitive casts ever had been whittled down to the final six, all posturing for position so they could finish their second chance story $1,000,000 richer.
The moment I am referring to, of course, is this:
In all seriousness (although the above moment is phenomenal), the final six tribal council, where all votes cast were negated due to multiple hidden immunity idols, will be a moment discussed by fans for as long as Survivor continues. The idea of all votes being canceled had been a Survivor fantasy tossed out into the ether of the internet for years. But this move immortalized it into the history books, and the best part about it was that it all started with the player, both the other competitors and the audience, least expected.
The final six of Cambodia comprised of five players representing either Season 28, Survivor: Cagayan, or Season 29, Survivor: San Juan del Sur, leaving Kimmi Kappenberg, hailing all the way back from Season 2, Survivor: The Australian Outback, as the sixth person left standing. She voted with Spencer Bledsoe, Tasha Fox, and Jeremy Collins at the previous tribal council, seemingly leaving Keith Nale and Kelley Wentworth to be picked off in the next two votes.
However, feeling the need to make a big move to add to her endgame resume, Kimmi seizes the moment to put her own plan into action. Idol paranoia is still rampant at this point in the game, so Kimmi goes to the Spencer/Tasha/Jeremy group and stresses the importance of splitting the votes. Her hope is that those three take the bait, splitting their votes 2-1, while Keith, Kelley and herself can cast their three votes on whoever they want, effectively setting up the patented Cirie Fields 3-2-1 plan. (Side note: The fact that Cirie Fields and Kimmi Kappenberg can exist within the same realm of Survivor strategy speaks to both the tremendous growth Kimmi displayed as a player this season and the remarkable potential that a second chance season has for a lot of old school players.)
While Kimmi’s idea is great in theory, in practice she makes it a little more obvious than she probably intended. Spencer sniffs out pretty easily what Kimmi is up to, and stresses to Jeremy the need to vote as a united bloc. In a rare misstep for Jeremy, he isn’t so sure, still feeling the need to split the votes, and that’s where things stand heading into tribal council. When the votes come in, Spencer’s plan wins out, as his group puts three votes on Kelley, while Kimmi’s team puts their three on Jeremy. Kelley and Jeremy, in turn, play their respective hidden immunity idols and utter confusion immediately breaks out between the players, the jury and the viewers watching at home.
The action that follows is some of the most riveting and befuddling Survivor play ever. A new vote takes place, which again ends in a deadlocked tie, forcing the players to talk openly about who to send home, Spencer and Jeremy taking Tasha’s side while Kelley and Keith argue on Kimmi’s behalf. The discourse is hard to keep track of, as the audience’s collective heads are still spinning trying to determine who’s safe and who’s in danger. But none of that matters because the players have reached something truly unprecedented, something that’s really cool to say for a show that’s 31 seasons deep.
Ultimately, Jeremy and Spencer refuse to budge, prompting Kelley to decide on sending Kimmi or Keith to “The House.” After Kelley convinces Keith to stay, Kimmi is eventually voted out, ending a historic tribal council and giving a great capper to Kimmi’s story. She may have lost the game here, but the history books will always remember her effort to shake the game up, and she should be commended for doing so.
The finale treads slowly downhill after that epic moment, but there’s still some highlights. After valiantly winning the final five immunity challenge and fending off elimination one last time, Kelley reaches the end of her line at the final four and joins the illustrious Day 38 Club. Don’t feel too bad for her, though; she may not have won the game, but Underdog Wentworth fulfilled the Christy prophecy, becoming a true badass and a Survivor household name, ending her run as one of the defining players of the season.
The final big moment comes at the end of the final tribal council. For a season with so many exciting twists and turns, this final tribal is a rather short and unremarkable affair, but it closes out with Jeremy’s big baby bombshell. After being questioned by Kelley to explain his second chance story, Jeremy speaks from the heart, explaining the importance of playing for his family and dropping the news that he and his wife Val are expecting a son. If there was ever an example of a KO punch in Survivor, this would be it. Jeremy had played the best game and was the favorite heading into the final tribal, but playing the baby news as perfectly as he did not only clinched the victory but a unanimous 10-0-0 victory- the largest margin in Survivor history.
It was an emotional and exhilarating end to Survivor: Cambodia – Second Chance, a season that will go down as one of the very best that Survivor has ever seen.