We've got a super-sized merge at 13 — and Stephen starts randomly quoting poetry.
Credit: Monty Brinton/CBS

Oh, if I were a leaf

I would soar in the breeze

I would do as I please

I would float like the man on the flying trapeze

Oh, If I were a leaf

Oh, if I were a sail

With the wind at my tail

And the majesty of the ocean beneath me

Pressing onward without fail

Oh, if I were sail

Oh, if I were a locket…

You know what? I just can’t. I’m trying to come up with something super deep and meaningful so that Stephen Fishbach can start quoting me next time he plays Survivor, but poetry has never been my strong suit. (Some might say recapping Survivor has never been my strong suit either, but that’s another topic for another day.)

But maybe this was not Stephen Fishbach at all putting his Bachelor of Arts degree to use (and speaking from experience, let me assure you that attempting to impress relative strangers by quoting poetry in the rain is the only known use for a Bachelor of Arts degree). Perhaps this was not Stephen at all. Perhaps Coach pulled some sort of Freaky Friday experiment and switched bodies with Fishbach. What? It’s totally possible! Body switching is totally a thing. Just ask Jodie Foster and Barbara Harris. Or Lindsay Lohan and Jamie Lee Curtis. Or Kirk Cameron and Dudley Moore. Or Charlie Schlatter and George Burns. Or Fred Savage and Judge Reinhold. Need I go on? Because I could…which probably speaks more to Hollywood’s inability to try anything even remotely original, but the point is that pretty soon Fishbach is going to start wearing feathers in his hair and draping his jacket over his shoulder as he goes up to vote at Tribal Council.

Seriously! Who else but Coach would go up and start quoting with such reckless abandon? God, I miss Coach. Remember when he told us, “‘Some of the greatest inspiration is born of desperation,’ Marcus Aurelius once said,” yet that quote was actually never said by Marcus Aurelius but was instead uttered by Comer Cottrell? Instead of a Roman emperor, Cottrell was a man who made his millions concocting a strawberry-scented oil for afros. That’s right, Cottrell was a Jheri curl magnate. And Coach turned him into a Roman emperor. Again, I miss Coach.

But now Coach is back! Clearly rattled by his piss-poor performance in some of the past challenges, Fishbach has decided to channel the Dragon Slayer! Of course, this is not the first time a former contestant has taken hold of a current player’s body. Erik Reichenbach inhabited Brandon Hantz to give away another immunity idol on South Pacific, and then Brandon Hantz in turn inhabited J’Tia’s body on Cagayan to throw out all the tribe rice. However, Brett from Samoa holds the current Survivor record for possession by occupying Purple Kelly from Nicaragua, Cowboy Rick from South Pacific, Julia from Caramoan​, and then both Monica and Wiglesworth from this current season. So Brett simultaneously carries records for both the most and least amount of Survivor screen time ever.

But maybe Coach can turn Stephen into a brand-new Fishbach. We’ll have to wait and see. But for now, let’s go ahead and recap the latest episode of the unwieldily titled Survivor: Cambodia—Second Chance.

It’s day 17 of the game, and Andrew Savage seems to be taking the tribe turning on him in stride. “They are incredible liars. I thought I could read people pretty well. These folks are professional.” Well, that’s nice. At least he’s not taking it personally and recognizes the savvy gameplay of his… “And f— them. Pieces of s—.” Wait, WHAT?!? Where did that come from? Savage showing a crack in that calm, smooth exterior. Didn’t see that coming.

Andrew says he needs to take a step back and find a way to blend in and be “a wimpy non-leader.” (Once again, all roads lead to Fishbach.) He then goes to shake Spencer’s hand and pledges, “I will never write your name down again,” which seems like a hell of a promise to make with 13 people still in the game. Also, not to get too technical, but does that mean he is now bound to not vote for Spencer to win should Bledsoe make it to the very end? This whole deal seems like a lose-lose for all parties involved.

NEXT: A super-sized merge

And Savage probably wishes he could have that promise back once he realizes it is tribe merge time. At 13? That is a big number for a merge and especially odd coming just one episode after they contracted from three tribes down to two. I can’t figure this one out from a production standpoint. (Luckily, I’m able to pick up the Batphone and ask Hostmaster General Jeff Probst about such things, and I did exactly that in this week’s Q&A, so see his response there.)

But why stop at 13? Why not have an individual game at an even higher number? Now that the producers have finally taken me up on my hiding-idols-at-challenges offer, I’ll return to another idea I have floated on occasion — starting the season as an individual game. That’s right: Go straight out of the gate with 18 or 20 people as an individual game. Then, after you get a few weeks in, divide into tribes and see what happens. They kind of did a mild form of this in Palau by starting everyone together on one beach for the night (complete with private concert by Wanda) but not to the extent I’m talking about where they would play through a few immunity challenges and Tribal Councils as a single tribe at the outset of the game. Anyway, something else for me to pester producers about.

So the 13 players meet on the beach for a giant feast and to sport their fancy new red merge buffs. This also leads to one of my favorite moments of the episode, when Savage just throws his old Ta Keo flag down on the beach with all the disdain of Jeff Probst chucking down quitter Osten’s torch in Pearl Islands.

Before anyone even has a chance to scramble, Kass starts telling everyone everything that happened at Ta Keo, including who voted for whom and how she saved Spencer. She’s not saying anything particularly inflammatory, but it still seems odd and awkward in the large group setting and perhaps better suited for smaller gatherings. And then everyone starts working on their numbers. Stephen says they need an alliance of seven for the majority. Savage and Jeremy talk about their potential seven — marking Wiglesworth and Joe as folks they need to pull over — while Wentworth and Kass discuss the need to lock down Joe and Abi.

When the dust settles, Spencer and Joe appear to be the swing votes on the new Orkun tribe, which is most likely named after someone’s daughter’s stuffed animal or as an anagram for someone else’s grandma Nurko. (I wish. It is actually the Cambodian word for “thank you,” as in thanks to the fans for voting them into the game.) Savage goes to work on Joe while Wentworth accosts Spencer in the hammock. Finally, the two swingers — sorry, ladies, not in that way — talk down on the beach, and Spencer starts literally drawing up plays in the sand.

This attempt by Spencer to have a bro-down throwdown with Joe through relating to him on a sports level by diagramming strategy in the sand is cute. Even better is the fact that it is not followed by a half-hour speech by Spencer on how he has changed and evolved as a player his second time out (which, by the way, I do not blame him for — he’s just fulfilling the narrative producers have laid out for him, and he’s not in the edit bay putting all those soundbites into the final cut).

After Fishbach’s Poem of the Day, we get to the Cagayan catfight. Kass starts things off by telling Tasha that she could be on the hit list because she’s a “big challenge person,” but Tasha sees right through it as Kass continues to fish for information. And Kass is not done fishing — unless by “Fishing” we mean listening to Stephen’s poetry, in which case she is totally done.

The next day, she approaches Tasha again, this time talking about apples and toppling over apple carts, most likely using food analogies because she is practically starving to death. But Tasha is not biting. And after Kass accuses Tasha of having not learned anything from the first time she played, Tasha drops the hammer: “I did. I learned not trust you.” Game. Set. Match.

NEXT: Awkward immunity necklace time!

And then, Kass literally draws a line in the sand between them. (I’m positively loving all these sand-related clichés being acted out in real life.) The two follow this up by taking their show on the road and arguing in front of everybody at the shelter, with Kass announcing that she’s voting for Tasha. To make things even more bizarre, Ciera then enters ring No. 2 of the three-ring circus and starts just making up (what I assume are) blatant lies about Savage and Woo wanting to get rid of Jeremy and Joe. “Dude, you just woke up a raging bull,” Savage informs us before countering Ciera’s claims. And all I can think throughout this entire ordeal is: Oh, how I wish Jeff Varner were here to take part in all of this.

If Jeff Probst is looking down at his feet and saying “C’mon in, guys!” it must be time for a challenge and, in this case, our first individual immunity competition. That means the contestants will now be playing for some pimped-out gold necklace that it appears Probst stole from Iman and Eddie Murphy off the set of the music video for Michael Jackson’s “Remember the Time.”

The challenge is a redo from the Cagayan season as the players must stand on narrow beams while balancing a ball on a platform. As the challenge progresses they will keep moving down to a more narrow beam and have to move their hands down as they… Wait, what? Oh, Fishbach is already out. That didn’t take long. He barely made it past the Probstastic instruction, “Everybody put your balls on top of your platform.” (Easier for some than others.)

Eventually, more fall, and we’re down to newbies Joe and Jeremy and repeat performers Spencer and Tasha. Then it is swingers — again, I implore you not to read to much into that term — Joe and Spencer battling it out, with Joe eventually putting on the necklace and automatically looking like he has magically transformed into an extra from freakin’ Stargate.

For his part, Savage is a little bummed he did not win. In what sounds a bit too much like the dude who graduated high school yet keeps showing up at keggers anyway, Andrew tells us that, “I just wanted to make a statement. We’ve got these young studs. I wanted to show I could hang with them.”

So it looks like it could be Kass’ time to go, but Savage is still sore over Ciera flipping on him at the last vote. “I will never forget what she did,” he says before then labeling her “public enemy No. 1.” That seems a bit extreme. No need to go all Terminator X on the woman, but I certainly understand why he doesn’t trust her. In any event, his alliance is not on board with that plan, but they are on board with splitting the vote and making her option No. 2. With Keith and Spencer now seemingly moving over to the majority, that makes nine, so they decide to vote five for Kass and four for Ciera to protect against any hidden immunity idols. Smart. Or is it?

Because when you do that with a tentative post-merge alliance after two different tribe switcheroos, you open yourself to just one person switching sides and screwing up the entire plan. And once Abi, Kass, Ciera, and Wentworth settle on what vultures are, that’s exactly what they try to do — get Spencer to flip. They approach Spencer — the man they saved just a few days ago — and he says, “You had my back, so let’s do it.” But it is the most half-hearted agreement you have ever heard in your entire life.

And Spencer should not flip. Let’s say he does and they flip the script and vote out Tasha. What next? Now Spencer has gone from a member of a majority alliance to being down 8-5. Long term, it just makes no sense. And while yes, they did save Spencer, he owes them absolutely nothing. They did that for their own anti-Savage and anti-Woo reasons. Also, personal debt means nothing in this game. Nada.

NEXT: Some odd voting at Tribal Council

It’s time to head to the biggest Tribal Council in Survivor history. 13 people! It’s almost standing room only! God, that would have been awesome if they had just put 12 stumps there and whoever didn’t find a seat just had to kind of stand there awkwardly the entire time hovering over everyone. Why aren’t I producing this show? That would be my first executive order.

My second executive order would be to return the goofy-ass gong and trunk of cash from season 1. Executive order No. 3: Sally Schumann appears on every season from now to eternity. Executive order No. 4: Canadians get to play Survivor so they will stop tweeting me asking me if I can put in a good word for them. Guess what, Canucks? YOU’RE IN! Executive order No. 5: I get 10 percent of any Canadian’s winnings. And Richard Hatch will pay all my taxes on that 10 percent. I guess that’s it for now. I’m still mulling over a few things, like possibly enforcing that “Eye of the Tiger” plays over all reward and immunity challenges, while Europe’s “The Final Countdown” blares while players enter Tribal Council, but I still want to sleep on it a bit.

Anyhoo, Kass and Tasha get into it again with Tasha telling her “don’t even play” after Kass accuses of her of saying the original Bayon alliance was over. “Don’t even play” is a weird thing to say to someone who is, by definition, there to play, but whatever.

Then Ciera goes off on some tangent about how she doesn’t like playing with people who are scared to play. This is in direct contradiction to Tasha’s “don’t even play” comment and leaves one to wonder exactly what level of play is the acceptable level of play in which to engage in this game. Ciera brings up some solid points about how people in slots 6-9 in that alliance are not in the top 4, but she keeps continuously hammering on the point that she wants to be a huge gamer and play with huge gamers, and let me ask you something: Do you want to play with huge gamers? I don’t. I want to play with people I can manipulate and predict. So Ciera would have been better served laying off the rhetoric a bit.

We finally get to the vote, and in a shocker, Savage actually gets a vote cast against him. At first I figured this was Spencer, who maybe did not want to side with Kass and Ciera but also did not want to vote them out after they saved him so he threw a meaningless vote over to Savage as a wrist slap for trying to get him out at the last T.C. But no, it was Ciera. Was she so sure Spencer was not siding with them so she decided to go down swinging, or did she make a personal rather than strategic play (which would have been to vote for Tasha) because she can’t stand the guy?

Not sure about that, but either way Kass is gone with 6 votes. (Yep, it seems Kelley with an extra e jumped off the sinking ship and voted for her as well.) But here’s an interesting tidbit: Kass becomes the first member of the jury. With a probable final 3, does that mean we will have a 10-person jury instead of 9? It would seem so. Let’s be thankful of that because Kass should add a little spice with her final Tribal comments.

Speaking of comments, you’ll want to check out Jeff Probst’s in our weekly Q&A. And also treat yourself to an exclusive deleted scene from the episode in the video player below (along with our pre-game interview with Kass and Survivor Talk episodes with Terry and Woo). Make sure to come back Thursday afternoon for our new Survivor Talk with Kass, and for more Survivor scoop, follow me on Twitter @DaltonRoss.

Now it’s your turn. Like the merge at 13? Like the jury at 10? Like who was voted out? Like watching Probst talk about balls? Hit the message boards to weigh in with your thoughts on the episode and I’ll be back next week with another scoop of the crispy!