Swaney Strategy Blog – Kaôh Rōng Episode 1

Welcome back to another season of the Swaney Strategy Blog! After an exciting season of twists and turns with our “Second Chancers”, we now turn our focus to the second iteration of the Brains vs. Beauty vs. Brawn twist – Survivor: Kaôh Rōng.

First, we must bear in mind the timeline of this season. Survivor: Kaôh Rōng airs as the 32nd season, even though it was filmed directly before Survivor: Second Chance. The entirety of this season had occurred before the Second Chance cast was even finalized. Hiding idols at challenges is not being repeated (more accurately, has not happened yet), while any mutterings of a “voting bloc” will have happened entirely independent of Season 31.

Also, the first season of the Swaney Strategy Blog was formatted to best cater to the second chance format. For instance, I noticed the lack of an animal themed award in the Survivor community and took it upon myself to fill the void. Honoring current events, I have decided to forego the Swan Award in favor of a segment I have titled “The State of the Survivor Union.” In honor of the impending 2016 Presidential Election, the State of the Survivor Union will be a place where I lay out the situation at hand on each tribe: who is aligned with who, who is in a better position than others, and how individuals or groups should move forward. Cesternino, this might be the closest you get to your beloved #TribalCaucus , so enjoy!

So, without further ado, onto Survivor: Kaôh Rōng Episode 1!

The cast of Survivor: Kaôh Rōng.
The cast of Survivor: Kaôh Rōng.

After a long offseason, Survivor fans were overjoyed when CBS finally announced the cast of Survivor: Kaôh Rōng, along with complimentary bios and videos. From these tiny bits of information, viewers can build their impressions of each castaway. Here at Inside Survivor, we also took the opportunity to roast-assess the new crop of million-dollar hopefuls. As a fan, it’s hard not to imagine, based on these small tidbits of information, whom I would get along with, who I would align with, and who I would be sure to target.

Just like our preseason media, Survivor thrives on first impressions from both a production level and during the game. In seasons such as Survivor: Thailand and Survivor: Gabon, the two eldest castaways split the group into tribes without knowing any more than their name, age, and occupation. Similar situations occurred in Samoa, Tocantins, Cagayan, and Worlds Apart when tribes had to single out a member before they had the chance to interact truly. First impressions are also critical in the early moments of a season, where castaways scramble to build alliances and attempt to ensure their safety.

In a season such as Survivor: Kaôh Rōng, which is put under the label of Brains vs. Beauty vs. Brawn, first impressions are completely different. Here, first impressions are created under the lens of the seasonal theme and not pure and unbiased. For instance, a player like Alecia (who doesn’t have the jaw-dropping physique of Cydney) will be viewed as a “brawn” before she is seen as “just another member of the tribe”. On a typical season without tribe divisions based on attributes, she could fall through the cracks without the additional exposure.

Aubry and Liz of the Brains tribe attempting to complete challenge puzzle.
Aubry and Liz of the Brains tribe attempting to complete challenge puzzle.

While it’s incredibly tough to quantify “beauty” and fall short of being beautiful at a challenge, the skills of both the Brains and Brawn tribe are on full display at challenges. If there’s a puzzle, the person that volunteers on the Brains tribe are expected to outperform the other two tribes. If they fail at that or the puzzle altogether, they likely face massive scrutiny. The same could be said for a member of the Brawn tribe and a similarly appropriate challenge with any show of sheer physical strength. Even though the labels of Brains, Beauty, and Brawn might just appear as a way of dividing the tribes, these characteristics often seep into strategy.

Enter Scot Pollard. The former NBA player has been very candid about his professional sports background to his tribe, but his position as the vocal leader of Totang quickly means that his views and opinions become canon. While I have never been an NBA player and my basketball career peaked in the eighth grade, I do know that professional sports cultures strive to see the players reach their maximum potential and perform at the highest capacity. This is the reason I am not surprised that, when hindsight is 20/20, Darnell was voted out over Alecia.

During the immunity challenge, the first instance where castaways can prove themselves, Darnell called for the ball in being the first diver, only to lose the mask and severely cripple Totang’s chances of winning. Continuing with the basketball analogy, Darnell effectively called his own number for the last second, game winning shot and did not even come close to hitting the rim. When the Brawn tribe had lost, and the dust had settled, they decided that Darnell calling his own number and coming up short was far more egregious a Survivor sin than Alecia just being Alecia.

That’s not to mean that Alecia is out of hot water. If the Brawn tribe is favoring strong challenge performances and wants to uphold the “Brawn” characteristic, Alecia is still the outlier. Totang knows exactly what they’re getting with Alecia and are fattening her for the slaughter if they have to go to tribal again. The most important question for Totang now becomes “How do we placate Blondie to the point where she won’t be an issue if she makes it to a tribe swap or the merge?”


The Brawn tribe aka Totang.

Totang’s main alliance seems to consist of Scot, Jason, and Jenny, with Cydney close as well. From what we’ve gathered, Cydney and Darnell had an alliance, which is why Cydney chose to vote Alecia over Darnell during the first round of Tribal. Darnell was targeted because he was incredibly likable (Subtext: Darnell actually had an alliance with the girls and was a threat to the other main alliance). I really love the move by Cydney to switch her vote from Alecia to Darnell on the re-vote. A second divided vote only fractionates the tribe, and her vote shows loyalty to the majority alliance. The first vote can easily be played off as an attempt to flush an idol. Note: This situation reminds me so much of how Erinn Lobdell maneuvered herself through Tocantins. While we’ve only seen a fraction of this season, Cydney’s decision making is on point.

If Totang loses the next immunity challenge: Alecia is the obvious vote.

The Brains tribe aka Chanloh.
The Brains tribe aka Chanloh.

The Brains tribe easily maneuvered through the challenge and earned themselves an impressive fire making kit. The ability to build and maintain a fire in the harsh Cambodian weather will be a huge priority.

The members of Chanloh quickly divided themselves by age. Liz, Neal, Aubry, and Peter are aligned, leaving Debbie and Joe. (Sidenote: please don’t refer to yourselves as the younger alliance. Your average age is 32, and neither of the male members would be on the younger tribe from Nicaragua or Panama). According to a confessional by our beloved jack-of-all-trades, Debbie and Joe are solidly in an alliance of their own and are working together. Interestingly, we never saw this alliance being formed, only spoken about by Debbie.

During this episode, we saw Aubry have a panic attack (as diagnosed by Liz) over being dehydrated. Liz’s confessional about this situation strikes me as incredibly important. When the going gets tough, Aubry has shown to crack under pressure. As a result, I see Liz getting closer with Neal and Peter in case she needs to ditch Aubry.

If Chanloh loses the next immunity challenge: Debbie is the obvious vote, although the scenes from the next episode seem to suggest that Joe and Liz might start to grate on each other.

The Beauty tribe aka Gondol.

Very quickly, the three girls on the Beauty tribe (Michele, Julia, and Anna) teamed up. This alliance, to me, looks to be solid and not just a loose agreement based on gender. Additionally, the girls know that three is not a majority and were actively seeking a fourth. While Tai was the original pick, doubts arose when he sought out to look for the idol. A “budding bromance” seems on the horizon with Tai and Caleb, but it might be too little too late.

If Gondol lose the next immunity challenge: Tai has created enough paranoia that he likely will be voted out.


Written by

Shawn Swaney

Marine biologist by trade who stumbled into the world of tech start-ups. Nerd who was born into an athlete’s body. Los Angeles resident. Once dreamed of being the first Inside Survivor contributor to actually play Survivor... hopefully settling for second. Follow @ShawnSwaney for hot takes and a tendency to overthink every tweet.

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