Over the coming months, Inside Survivor is undertaking its biggest list ranking yet, as we count down the 100 best episodes of Survivor ever. As always with these kinds of lists, it’s entirely subjective, and we’re sure many fans will have different opinions. This is simply Inside Survivor’s ranking. Join us each weekday for a new entry.
Episode: “Lie, Cheat, and Steal” (Episode 14)
Original Air Date: December 16, 2015
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The finale of Cambodia is the culmination of one of the most gripping Survivor seasons ever, partly because this game started long before the players hit the beach. All the fan-vote campaigning had made fans more invested than ever, as we personally had a hand in picking the cast. Now, this dream cast has been whittled down to the Final 6, all posturing for position so they can finish their second chance story $1 million richer.
Viewers anticipated a huge shocking moment heading into this finale, as the previous episode promised an event that would excite the fanbase like never before. The show certainly delivers, as what unfolds in this finale is one of the most tension-filled, edge-of-your-seat sequences in the history of Survivor, one that is still talked about today and will be for years to come. Of course, I’m talking about the moment Jeremy Collins tries to get the attention of a completely oblivious Keith Nale.
In all seriousness (although the above moment is phenomenal), the Final 6 Tribal Council, where all votes cast are negated due to multiple hidden immunity idols, is an all-time classic. 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 is that it all starts with the player that both the other competitors and the audience least expected.
Kimmi Kappenberg, who last played all the way back in Season 2, decides that she needs a big move to add to her endgame resume. With idol paranoia still rampant, Kimmi goes to Jeremy, Tasha Fox, and Spencer Bledsoe and stresses the importance of splitting the votes against underdogs Kelley Wentworth and Keith. She hopes that this power trio takes the bait and splits their votes 2-1. Meanwhile, Kimmi plans to vote with Wentworth and Keith, giving the underdogs the majority and voting out whoever they want.
However, while Kimmi’s idea is great in theory, she leaves a lot to be desired in practice. Spencer sniffs out what she’s up to pretty quickly and tells Jeremy they need to vote as a united bloc. While Jeremy doubts that Kimmi has flipped, he ultimately listens to Spencer, and, at Tribal, we end up with three votes on Wentworth and three votes on Jeremy. The complications arise when Jeremy and Wentworth both play idols (laughing with each other as they do so), leading to utter confusion breaking out among players, the jury, and viewers at home.
The action that follows is some of the most riveting and befuddling Survivor play ever. A new vote occurs, which again ends in a tie, this time between Tasha and Kimmi. The players are now forced to decide openly about who to send home. Spencer and Jeremy take Tasha’s side while Wentworth and Keith argue on Kimmi’s behalf. If no one can come to a consensus, then usually a rock draw would happen. But that can’t happen in this scenario as Spencer has the Immunity necklace, Jeremy and Wentworth played idols, and Tasha and Kimmi would become immune, meaning Keith would automatically leave the game.
Ultimately, Jeremy and Spencer refuse to budge, meaning that Wentworth has to decide between sending Kimmi or Keith to “The House,” as Keith calls it. While Keith considers falling on his sword, Wentworth ends up convincing him to stay, meaning Kimmi is voted out. The discourse is hard to keep track of at times, as the audience’s collective heads are spinning, but there is no denying this all makes for compelling television.
The Final 6 Tribal is what most will remember from this finale, but there are other highlights. After valiantly winning Immunity at the Final 5, Wentworth reaches the end of the line at the Final 4, joining the Day 38 Club and proving herself worthy of a spot on the cast. There are some classic Keith comedy moments, like the aforementioned scene with Jeremy. And, speaking of Jeremy, his well-earned victory is filled with emotion, even if the Final Tribal itself is a rather unremarkable affair in terms of where the vote is going.
Jeremy speaks from the heart, explaining the importance of playing for his family, and he drops the bombshell that he and his wife Val are expecting a son. If there were ever an example of a KO punch in Survivor, this would be it. Jeremy didn’t need the baby news to win; he had played the best game and was the favorite going into the Final Tribal. But it might have clinched him a couple of on-the-fence voters, giving him the unanimous 10-0-0 victory, the largest margin in Survivor history at that point in time.
Some people criticize Cambodia for being too “game-botty” and lacking in character and emotion. But this season’s finale has the best of both, with the game-breaking moment at the Final 6 and a heartfelt finish with Jeremy’s victory. It’s an all-time great Survivor finale.
Check back tomorrow when we reveal which episode placed at number 50. You can check out the previous entries here.