Kelly might make for boring TV, but she's not done yet.

By Dalton Ross
October 22, 2015 at 10:03 AM EDT
Credit: Monty Brinton/CBS
S31 E5



SUBJECT NAME: Wiglesworth, Kelly

TRIBE: Ta Keo/Bayon

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS: Tall, athletic, unfortunate back tattoo, suspiciously smooth forehead

PERSONALITY: Quiet, motherly, non-confrontational

OVERVIEW: Subject was considered the poster girl for the entire Second Chance concept after losing the first-ever season of Survivor by a single vote but has since disappeared completely. Inside sources report the subject was seen in the first few days of the game being berated by one Jeffrey Probst for providing super-lame answers to any questions from the host about her past in the game, in effect not allowing any narrative to be built around her triumphant return. Subject then continued her gradual disappearing act by refusing to engage in any sort of “strategy” or duplicitous dealings while continuing to provide the most boring one-on-one confessional interviews this side of Cowboy Rick.

LAST SEEN: Serving food to tribe; avoiding cameras.

ACTION PLAN: The subject is considered harmed and extremely boring. All cameramen should approach with extreme caution.

Oh boy, that report was officially filed last night with the SMPB by millions of viewers at 9 p.m. EST. You may not have even noticed what happened in the episode, but it was far more shocking than the Bayon Four’s decision to turn on Monica and vote out one of their own. Let me set the scene for you so can fully appreciate how disappointed producers appear to be in Kelly Wiglesworth’s ability to create compelling television.

As the SMPB report outlined, Kelly was the most high-profile returning player to come back this season. More than 50 million people watched her lose by one measly vote to Richard Hatch back in season 1. She had been away for 15 years and 30 cycles of the show. Of course, this would be a huge storyline — the hugest — going into the season. But as soon as Kelly showed up in Cambodia, it was clear the producers had a problem, and that problem is this: Kelly Wiglesworth is just not a charismatic television personality.

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I want to be absolutely clear here: I like Kelly. I enjoyed my chat with her before the game and found her to be open, honest, and a genuinely good person. But that doesn’t mean she makes good TV. And she is down to earth enough that I’m guessing she would wholeheartedly agree with that assessment. I saw it firsthand when I was out there for the first few days of filming. Every time Probst asked Kelly about her last time out or feelings about returning to play, she whiffed. He kept coming back to her — for obvious reasons — and she kept giving clipped, boring responses. I remember thinking to myself, man, they are in trouble with this one.

Now let me be clear about something else: There is an inherent contract you make as a player to give Probst something when he comes to you with a question. After all, they are making a TV show, and so you do want to do your best to make it entertaining. This doesn’t mean yelling or screaming or creating a scene. Nor does it mean sabotaging your own game. Go back and watch Boston Rob. He rarely ever directly answered Probst’s questions, but he gave entertaining enough responses (even if they said nothing) so that Probst got something out of him and moved on.

That’s all you have to do as a player — make a joke or a witty comment as a misdirect, and you’re good. Kelly was incapable of any of this. I watched Probst chew her out at that first Tribal Council (which Probst does to pretty much everyone at some point), and my spies tell me that was not the last time that happened with her. And the proof is in the confessionals. While we have heard ad nauseum from Spencer, Varner, Kelley with an extra e, Jeremy, and Fishbach this season narrating the action, we have heard barely a peep from the most high-profile person on the show.

This next part may have escaped your notice, but here’s what was so shocking: We went to Tribal Council believing that it would be either Monica or Kelly voted out, and guess how many words we heard from Kelly between losing the challenge and Tribal Council? ZERO! Not a peep. Not a single confessional spot, even though we got them from Monica, Spencer, Kimmi, Jeremy, and Stephen. Yep, that’s right — everyone else on the tribe got at least one confessional interview between the challenge and Tribal except the person who we were being led to believe might be voted out. Is Kelly just that bad when being interviewed? It would seem so.

NEXT: Shut your clam!

The problem is, by not having Kelly say anything whatsoever, it also telegraphed the vote. If Kelly Wiglesworth was truly being sent home, they would have had her say at least something, even if that something was something positively riveting along the lines of “Um, I hope I don’t get voted out. I would not like for that to happen. That would be bad.” Since Kelly said nothing, it was pretty obvious Monica was going to be the one leaving us (speaking of people that have on the receiving end invisible edits this season).

Again, I like Kelly. I just wish she was a bit more dynamic so we could see more of her beyond being whispered at by Jeff Varner after a challenge. And maybe we will. After all, she’s still in the game…whether you see her or not. Okay, let’s recap the rest of this S.O.B!

The episode begins with Woo thanking his Angkor tribemates for not voting him out. “Thanks for believing in me,” he tells the other three before they all turn their attention to Jeff Varner. “He’s in a better place,” says Andrew of Jeff. Yo, Savage! Chill out, man .The dude is not dead! He’s in a better place? That’s what you say for someone who perished in a demolition derby, not got voted off of a reality television show — although, to be fair, I suppose being voted off of a reality television show does automatically put you in a better place. Save your death-like remembrances for the Rites of Passage, Savage. Oh, right — they don’t so that anymore. Never mind.

Meanwhile, in the foreshadowing department, we head over to Bayon to see Kimmi and Monica out catching crabs, which sounds much dirtier than it is. They’re also out collecting clams, though they have a disagreement about exactly how many they should be collecting. Monica is worried they may be depleting their supply while Kimmi fires back with the very scientific argument of “I want to eat.”

Not only does Kimmi want to eat, but she also wants to hear less from Monica about it. “I’m not used to someone giving me their opinion where it’s not welcome.” This is kind of a fantastic quote because why is her opinion not welcome? I’m not saying who is right here, but Clamgate appears to be a tribal issue, not an individual one, so Monica is well within her rights to share her opinions — even if editors choose to constantly not air them. While these two ladies might not be seeing eye to eye on the food intake, I’m sure Kimmi would never allow this personal disagreement to influence her strategic decision as to whom to vote out later in the episode.

Yo, check it out! Another two-challenge episode. I am generally a fan of two-challenge episodes, but I will say that with three tribes, that does leave scant time for coverage of what is happening on all the beaches. Two tribes and two challenges seems to be the perfect mix in terms of getting sufficient time at both. Still, I’m not complaining.

This particular reward competition was run in the first Blood vs. Water season, and I know it well because I was also able to do it as a member of the press when I was on location that season. Running challenges is always a total blast, but some are more fun than others. I remember doing this one and, even after winning it, feeling a bit underwhelmed. It’s totally fine, but not an all-time great by any means.

In it, three members are tied together and have to push a barrel to three stations and retrieve bags of balls. At each station a fourth member has to jump out of the barrel they have just been spun in to get the balls. Then the whole thing ends in a game of skeeball. First tribe wins comfort in the form of chair, blankets, a tarp, and refreshments, while second place wins a tarp. Ta Keo sits out Deitz and Kass, while Bayon sits Fishbach (whom I would have LOVED to have seen in the barrel… In fact, if I’m going to be completely honest, I’m a little pissed at Bayon right now for denying us that pleasure) and Wiglesworth.

NEXT: The Spencer redemption arc chugs along

Honestly, there’s not a lot to describe here. Bayon falls behind when barrel occupant Monica is slow retrieving the bags (SHOULD HAVE BEEN FISHBACH!). Probst says Monica is acting “like it’s a Sunday picnic for the church,” and I can only assume that church is close to the school where Terry Deitz was waiting for teacher to call on him last week and the party space where Deitz was the guy no one would talk to that was waiting for an invitation to dance. Anyway, Ta Keo wins, and Angkor gets the tarp. Bully for them!

There’s not a lot of time back the camps before we’re back to another challenge, but this is basically what goes down at each:

Ta Keo

Remember back in the day when folks like Jan from Thailand and Tom Westman from Palau would get rip-roaring drunk off reward booze? I do because I replayed those moments on a continuous loop. Now the winners just get…orange juice?!? Still, that’s good enough for Terry Deitz, who once again professes how amazing his new tribe is. Little does Terry know, however, that while he is out fishing, the rest of the tribe is making a five-person alliance without him. “This is the final five,” says Ciera. “But keep Terry happy,” adds Kass. Looks like someone’s in line for seconds on OJ!


I feel like producers are being about as subtle as a Kim Kardashian plunging neckline when it comes to the Spencer redemption arc this season. For weeks now we’ve been force fed this narrative of Spencer becoming less of a robotic strategist and finding a way to connect with people on a personal level. This is always done with sweeping, soaring music in the background, as if Spencer has just had some huge breakthrough in his life that will make him not only a better player, but a better person as well.

This week was no exception as we get an expansion of said narrative with Spence going on about how he used to feel like the geeky kid but now he’s actually out there doing it! He’s fishing! He’s contributing to the tribe! He’s living the dream! And I’m having déjà vu to the exact same story arc presented for John Cochran in Survivor: Caramoan. Seriously, it’s the exact same story line, recycled and repackaged from season 26 to now.

Oh, also, when exactly did Spencer become some pathetic wallflower needing to come out of his Survivor shell? I’ve met Spencer and watched him for two seasons now. The dude always struck me as super self-confident and bordering on cocky (“Kass, zero-percent chance of winning the game”). Now they’re trying to sell us some story about him being a pathetic loser who couldn’t fit in? I’m not buying it. Spencer is better than that. He’s no wallflower. It’s why I picked him before this season even started to win the game, and judging by the sweetheart edit he has gotten so far, I may be right.


Can we just stop everything for a second to acknowledge the fact that apparently Woo’s hot dating spot is Chuck E. Cheese? Don’t get me wrong: I love Chuck E. Cheese. I even had my 10th birthday party there. But why in the name of killer animatronic mice would you take a date there? First off, the pizza tastes like cardboard. Second, the entertainment involves robot animals who any minute now will be reprogrammed to mobilize and turn on their masters resulting in a bloody killing spree that will leave mankind defenseless against their Teddy Ruxpin-like assault. And third, I just want to circle back to the taste of their pizza, because it really is quite disgusting.

NEXT: The Fishbach moment of the week

But Woo credits his Chuck E. Cheese skeeball practice with allowing him to secure the challenge tarp for the tribe. The victory has clearly lifted his spirits, and he opens up to the others about his mother needing a heart transplant. The rest of the tribe is clearly moved, with Andrew Savage even being moved to suddenly speak French for no reason whatsoever. (Show-off!) But one person is not so impressed, and I’ll give you exactly one guess as to whom. Yes, Abi! However did you know?

“Woo kind of annoyed me a little bit,” says Abi, who points out that her grandma and aunt died after similar medical maladies. Abi thinks Woo is just using the story to garner sympathy. And then comes the kicker in the form of the most Abi-like thing Abi has said all season: “Sure, he might have had that situation happen with his mom, and I feel for him, but hey, I had, like, a tendon transplant on my knee. I have part of someone else’s body inside me, too.”

I take that back. Seeing as how she did not punctuate that statement with “You’re dead to me,” it can’t be the most Abi-like thing Abi has said. But still, Abi talking about having someone’s else’s tendon in her makes me wonder if she is the victim of some sort of Body Parts-type scenario. Now, see, there I go assuming anyone reading this has any clue what Body Parts is. It’s basically an old horror movie where a perfectly nice man looses an arm in a car crash so they sew a new arm onto him. Just one problem: The arm originally belonged to a serial killer and is now turning him evil. What if Abi was the kindest, most rational thinking lady you ever met in your entire life…until she got that tendon?! So what if the tendon came from some Brazilian psychopath? Oh my God, WHAT IF THE ORIGINAL ABI IS NOT EVEN BRAZILIAN?!?!? I just blew my own mind.

Okay, let’s head to the immunity challenge to see what’s cooking? Clearly it’s going to be a good one, because we have an #OrangeHatAlert. (Full-on obsessed with Probst’s orange lid.) And indeed, this is a fun competition that we saw last season as the tribes must race up a tower through a series of obstacles and then launch sandbags to hit targets. Ta Keo sits Ciera and Kelley with an extra e, while Bayon sits Monica and Jeremy… Wait, what? Why are they sitting Jeremy? Why the hell is Kimmi running this thing and Jeremy is not? Is this some sort of convoluted reverse psychology Jedi mind trick they are pulling? Bizarre.

But maybe I’m all turned around on this thing because Bayon actually takes the lead after Wiglesworth hits their second target. And then Stephen Fishbach happens. We’ve been providing full team round-the-clock coverage of the 2015 Stephen Fishbach Humiliation Tour this season. We’ve had his fruitless waist-deep search for the idol. We’ve had him being duped into looking in trees for an idol clue that has already been found. We’ve had him attempting to chop a tree limb. We had him not being allowed to touch the immunity idol. But this week, Fishbach took it to a whole new level.

Stephen got to the top of the platform, ready to finally prove his worth to the tribe, ready to show that all that physical training he did in the months leading up to filming were about to pay off. He grabbed the projectile, pulled back the launcher, aimed, released, and SCORED A POINT…for the wrong team.

Go ahead. Let it sit. Let it settle. Because indeed that is exactly what happened. Stephen actually hit a target, but it was Angkor’s target. “That will count!” bellowed Probst with just the slightest tinge of delight in his voice. “Fishbach was only successful in giving Angkor a point!” Okay, that was definitely more than a tinge. That point helps Angkor take home first place (and to my earlier point about Kimmi participating instead of Jeremy, she, too, almost hit an Angkor target; it should also be noted that Stephen was not allowed to sit this one out because he did not compete in the reward contest).

NEXT: The thin line between strategy and social. Plus: an exclusive deleted scene

Eventually Keith gives Ta Keo second place, and it’s time for Bayon to vote out their first member. Of course, we figure it will be Spencer or Kelly, right? Why wouldn’t it be? But then, once it appears Kelly is the consensus choice to leave, Monica goes to Kimmi and broaches the subject of keeping Wiglesworth so the girls keep their numbers up just in case the men decide to gang up against them. This causes Kimmi to go ballistic and then suggest getting rid of Monica instead.

Alright, a few things on this one. First off, I don’t blame Monica for this. It’s always smart to think out all the future possibilities and protect yourself as much as you can numbers-wise. If you believe keeping one person is the better play because they could be a potential ally down the line, then you very gently float that idea to others you think may be receptive and able to benefit by it, as well. Which brings us to point No. 2: Why is Kimmi freaking out so much? What Monica is proposing has the potential to benefit Kimmi, as well. I get her concern that Monica is already thinking outside the basic Bayon alliance, and that definitely merits monitoring and keeping an eye out on. But seriously, CALM THE HELL DOWN! It’s not like Monica advocating keeping Kelly to vote out Jeremy. She suggested keeping her to get rid of Spencer instead, and here’s the thing: Spencer is the better player. You should be getting rid of Spencer. He’s more likely to do damage later than Wiglesworth. So why is Kimmi losing her mind over this?

Well, that brings us to point No. 3: This reeks of a personal move over a strategic one. Judging by the Clamgate clip we saw earlier in the episode, Kimmi does not like Monica. And once Monica gave Kimmi any excuse to turn the rest of the original Bayon tribe against her, that’s exactly what she did. And it’s working. We know it’s working because, as previously pointed out, Wiglesworth does not even get a single confessional interview before Tribal Council, meaning she is obviously safe because they would not send her home without a last word.

But let’s go to TC anyway just so we can get the official vote, a vote that Monica is says is “locked in,” but little does she know it is locked in against her. The look of absolute shock on Monica’s face as the votes against her came rolling in was pretty priceless. A true blindside. Still, I remain a bit distracted by Spencer’s comment while voting for Kelly: “You invented the phrase ‘I didn’t come here to make friends,’ yet you have more than I do on the other side.” Guess what? He’s right. Kelly — not Richard or Sue — does hold that distinction for being the first person to bust out the now-cliché comment about not being on a reality show to make friends. But luckily for Kelly, she doesn’t have enemies here either, which is why Monica is gone while she remains.

Monica was not so lucky. But you will be lucky enough to see her again on Thursday afternoon on the latest episode of Survivor Talk with yours truly and special guest co-host Parvati Shallow. You can also read our weekly Q&A with Hostmaster General Jeff Probst. Also, don’t forget about our exclusive deleted scene from last night’s episode in the video player below, along with our pre-game interview with Monica and past episodes of Survivor Talk. And for more Survivor scoop, follow me on Twitter @DaltonRoss.

But now it’s your turn. Did Bayon make the right call in getting rid of Monica over Kelly and Spencer? Are we starting to hit levels of Spencer confessional fatigue? And what sort of hilarity will Fishbach provide us with next week? Hit the message boards to weigh in, and I’ll be back next week with another scoop of the crispy.

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