Credit: Monty Brinton/CBS
S31 E8

People on Survivor sure do love giving the finger. In fact, I can honestly say the only place I’ve seen anyone give the finger over the past few years is on Survivor. Personally, I haven’t given anyone the finger in probably over a decade. You know why? BECAUSE NOBODY GIVES THE FINGER ANYMORE!

That’s not entirely true. Norman Reedus has turned finger-giving into something of an art form, but aside from The Walking Dead star, it just doesn’t seem like something that people really do in this millennium. And why should they? For one thing, it’s simply not very effective. Am I supposed to be upset if someone raises his or her middle finger at me? Because, honestly, the only emotion that elicits is mere confusion. Like, is that supposed to make me angry? Because it just doesn’t. Instead, it just makes me think, “Why is this person doing something that has not been done since the 1990s?”

Am I out of the loop here? Do people still flip the bird with the regularity that a Survivor episode would have you believe? I will admit that Sugar’s topless double middles in the first Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains challenge was pretty epic, but more often than not, the finger just feels like a relic from another era. Am I all turned around on this? Do you walk about flipping people off? Is this really the sort of thing intelligent adults still do in modern society? It is if your name is Kass or Andrew, apparently!

While this middle-finger salute can’t help but strike me as somewhat antiquated, at the same time I can only hope this trend catches fire among the entire Survivor: Cambodia — Second Chance cast. Here’s to Ciera giving a one-digit salute to Probst when he gets too lippy during a challenge. Here’s to Abi flipping off everyone. Here’s to Fishbach attempting to give the Joe the finger but straining a ligament in the process and having to be medevaced off the island. It’s all fair game from here on out!

But I would be extending a big metaphorical finger to all of you if I did not recap this stellar episode of Survivor, so let’s get to it! After we get some choice repeat footage of Fishbach crying in the “previously on…” segment, we cut to day 20, where Savage is boasting to Jeremy about how their “brilliant plan played to perfection.” I don’t know how much brilliance was required for an overwhelming majority to take out the easiest target, but sure, well played. Andrew goes on to talk about how his dream of making the jury has come true…and even sooner than he thinks!

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Savage wants one of the women gone, but Ciera is still busy working the margins. She tells Stephen she’d love to work with him in making a move against Joe if he doesn’t win immunity. Giving Stephen this information is akin to asking a Deadhead if he’d like to join in a game of Hacky Sack while smoking some weed out of an old can of Mello Yello. The answer is basically going to be HELL TO THE YEAH! “I don’t want to sit around and be run over by a bunch of bros,” says Stephen. To be completely fair, Stephen has already been run over by a tree branch, so I’m not sure exactly how he is going to fare against the “bunch of bros.”

Oh, I give Stephen a hard time because I genuinely like the guy and know he is laughing just as hard at himself as we all are. Also, I’m sure he won’t do anything embarrassing at the reward challenge. Speaking of the reward challenge, it is water-based but unfortunately, once again, not really in the water.

Regular readers know how passionate I am about real water challenges in which players are diving down 13 feet deep to unhook things or what have you, and unfortunately Cambodia has proven to be another location (like Nicaragua and Samoa) in which you can only do so much in the water. You can paddle on it, and you can run in it or swim in narrow stretches, but that’s about it. Bummer. But I know how tiresome it is to hear me complain about this over and over, so I’ve tried to keep my grumbling to a minimum this season, especially because I do otherwise like the locale.

NEXT: Fishbach wins and loses

For today’s challenge the teams will be split schoolyard pick ‘em style into two squads of six. They will then paddle out, untie some crates, and bring them back and stack them up so there are no repeating colors on any side. Winners get to take a trip to the Survivor Café, where they will be treated to iced coffee, bagels, cookies, and other assorted goodies. “You’re going to OD on caffeine and sugar and return to camp hopping around like little bunnies,” says Probst. Left unsaid are the sugar and caffeine withdrawal symptoms sure to follow. Good times! After the pick we are left with the following teams:















The green team is immediately all over the place with their rowing, causing Stephen (of all people) to scream out, “What are you guys doing?” (Pot. Kettle. Black.) But it is the purple team that falls behind when they have trouble retrieving their crates. Green takes a big lead onto the beach, but hold on! Why is Stephen Fishbach jumping up and down like a lunatic? Because they’ve done it! Purple has made a miraculous recovery! They’ve solved the puzzle! Why, just look at Stephen! “We got it, Jeff!!!!!” he yells in pure delight and the self-assurance that this will surely be his least-awkward challenge celebration yet.

Orrrrrrrrrrrrr not. Whenever I fool myself into thinking I am a nice person, I take stock of the glee I feel over people celebrating something they have not actually won, and I am reminded that I have no redeeming qualities whatsoever. I mean, what sort of a-hole would go out his way to create and post a vine of someone mistakenly celebrating and then juxtapose it with them looking super depressed after losing? THIS A-HOLE! Enjoy…

That is pure 100 percent uncut Fishbach for you right there, ladies and gentlemen. Only the good stuff. Stephen is extra upset about missing out on the reward because Joe gets to go off with the ladies, and “this gives them a chance to get in his head, and that could ruin everything.” And sure enough, the strategy talk begins almost as soon as the winners climb off of what Kelley with an extra e describes as “these little…uh, I don’t know what they’re called — these little bike things?” Oh, Kelley. How silly of you. Just ask Keith. He knows what they’re called: to-tos! Or, you know, tuk-tuks, but close enough.

Ciera goes back to work, telling the others that Jeremy, Tasha, Stephen, and Savage are a strong four. “They’re not breaking up, I promise you,” she says, having no idea how wrong she is. Still, it gives Joe both food and food for thought. Something to think about as he and the others hurl up their lox while being driven around by a joyriding Keith on the tuk-tuk. Speaking of which, at what point do producers begin to worry that Keith is just going to take off on that thing and never come back? And on a related note, can Jeff Probst please deliver the final votes to Los Angeles via a tuk-tuk…with Keith driving? Tell me that would not be the best thing ever in the entire history of things. You can’t. Because it would be.

Meanwhile back at camp, Fishbach is still mourning his loss in the challenge. “I can’t deal with it. I’m having a low moment,” says Stephen. “Get over it,” responds Abi. Wow, you know you’re in a bad place when Abi-Maria Gomes is telling you to get over something. If that’s not a call for re-examining your life, I don’t know what is. But Stephen is upset he missed an opportunity to work with some of the other women, so guess what? Time to get to work with the others. He talks to Jeremy, Spencer, and Tasha about wanting to get rid of Joe.

Only one problem: Savage overhears it. “The scheming, the lying, the deceit — it’s disgusting,” says Andrew…which is curious because wasn’t it just two episodes ago when Savage went behind Spencer’s back and lied to Spencer’s face while trying to vote him out? THIS IS SURVIVOR!!! This is exactly what you are supposed to be doing! Deep down, Savage knows this, but this is a little bit of a case of do as I say, not as I do.

NEXT: It’s déjà vu all over again

“I love the guy, so he’s not going anywhere,” says Andrew of his new man-crush. “So if I have to go toe to toe with Stephen, bring it on.” Savage goes and tells Joe what Stephen is up to and informs Adonis that “On my kids’ lives, I will never write your name down.” This makes two weeks in a row he has promised someone that. If he keeps this up, there will be no one’s name left to write down. Of course, we all know he will not have the opportunity to keep this up, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

Of course, Joe can protect himself by simply winning immunity, which is our not-so-subtle segue to get to the next challenge. This particular competition forces players to balance a ball on a disc attached to a rope which they will have to move their hands down on at 10 minute intervals. Allow me to pause for the pause for a second and ask the following question: SERIOUSLY?!?! Look, I don’t mind the occasional balancing contest, but two straight ball-on-platform balancing immunity competitions in a row?!? That’s some straight up Cypress Hill insane-in-the-membrane type stuff right there.

I honestly for the life of me cannot figure it out why they would do that. Challenge producer John Kirhoffer and his team are some of the most creative folks I have ever met in my entire life, so why be repeat offenders? Again, I get having a balancing act from time to time, and I have a new appreciation for them after I smoked former champ Parvati Shallow in one while testing out a San Juan del Sur challenge, but two in a row? At the very least, space them out a bit for crying out loud.

On the flip side, we do get to hear Jeff Probst say the phrase “Joe’s balls start to move.” And not just once. He says it over and over again. The guy can’t stop talking about Joe’s balls! It’s almost as if he knows he’s already said that one balls comment that is going to have everyone at home snickering and doesn’t want to give us any more fodder so would rather repeat the balls-moving comment over and over again instead of giving us more ammunition.

In any event, Joe wins immunity yet again, proving that Joe’s balls move only so much. Whether the show’s obsession with Joe’s balls has anything to do with Stephen then referring to him as Moby Dick is open to debate, but now that the Man Bun King is safe, he wants Fishbach out. He works the two Kelly/Kelleys while his BFF Andrew floats it by Tasha and Jeremy. “He prides himself on being the greatest strategist in the history of Survivor,” Savage says of Stephen, which I suppose is true considering the fact that Fishbach has been known to repeatedly refer to himself publicly as a KNOW-IT-ALL (in all caps, no less). But the group doesn’t want to cut Stephen loose, so Savage has to stand down on his request, and he has no idea how much he will end up regretting that. It’s back to the Wentworth-Ciera-Abi trifecta as the target. But which one?

We head to Tribal Council to see the onset of Fingergate, which I now realize sounds waaaaaay more disgusting than I intended. Like, it shouldn’t sound disgusting, but it totally does, right? Anyway, Kass flips everyone off when she walks in to take her seat on the jury, after which Ciera shifts immediately into attack mode. As she should. When you’re on the bottom, you need to convince others in the majority that it is in their best interest to make a move, and you want to target those on the bottom. The problem with her plea is that nobody thinks they are on the bottom.

NEXT: To split or not to split?

And from watching what little we are shown on the beach, I’m not even completely sure who’s on the bottom. Keith and Wiglesworth, I guess? Spencer, too, maybe? But there are so many different sub-alliances going on it is truly hard to know. So while Ciera is absolutely correct that “some things are never going to change — in an alliance, somebody’s on the top and somebody’s on the bottom,” again, that doesn’t help if the people on the bottom don’t know they are on the bottom.

And then there is this to consider: When there are dueling sub-alliances happening (maybe, say, Stephen, Jeremy, and Kimmi on one side and Savage, Joe, and Tasha on the other), if you are Keith, Wiglesworth, or Spencer, your best move might actually be to stay put and let those factions eventually battle it out and then you make your move. Just because Ciera says someone needs to make a move now doesn’t mean they necessarily should. At least not yet.

Wentworth is making some noise as well, talking about how someone (i.e., Joe) came up to her wanting to make a big move. “Why wouldn’t you out those people if you truly are on the bottom and are desperate?” asks Probst, clearly looking for blood. “Well, what if I’m here tomorrow, and I need to work with them?” responds Kelley. Smart. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: One of the most underrated aspects of Survivor is how you play Jeff Probst. He is another element in the game — just like other players, challenges, and twists.

There is an inherent need, players have told me, they feel while out there to please Probst. He hammers them for info and will curse them out if they shut down and don’t give him anything to work with, so you need to realize how to give him something while also not actually revealing anything that could be detrimental to your game. The great players know how to do this well. The bad players? Not so much.

Finally it’s voting time, and you know what that means: time to hear from Spencer Bledsoe! Because we almost always are treated to a Spencer bon mot while casting his vote. Why? Because he’s Spencer! (And as my pre-season pick to win, as long as he’s shown casting votes, that’s good news for me. As long as he’s not casting the last vote, that is.) We also see Kass wave her hand by her nose as if something stinks when Savage walks by. Truth be told, they all stink at this point in the game. I mean, I cannot overstate how terribly smelly these contestants get after a few days out there. Just putrid.

The vote comes back, and the question is whether Kelley will use the #DaltonRossIdol she found back on day 3. “You know what, Jeff? I may be on the bottom, but I’m not ready to go home yet.” She uses it. Lots of clapping from the entire tribe ensues, which is a bizarre reaction when the result of that action could be any of the clappers now being booted out of the game. Unless, of course, they split the vote. With 9 people on the other side, they could have easily cast 5 votes for Wentworth and 4 for Ciera and the majority would still all be safe.

So that’s the obvious move, right? Not necessarily. As I outlined last week, there is a danger to vote splitting. You open yourself up to defections changing the entire result. Let’s take an example. Let’s say Joe and his biggest ally Savage are assigned to be two of the five Wentworth votes. They know Stephen wants Joe out and wants him out now, so what’s to stop them from saying, “Well, forget that” and going with the women to vote Stephen out? Now Wentworth’s five just became three, and there are five votes to get Stephen out. SEE YA! However, even without hindsight, I still would argue that splitting votes here is the correct move, but it’s not as cut-and-dried as it may seem. Which is why I jut wasted an entire paragraph explaining it.

NEXT: The legacy of Andrew Savage. Plus: an exclusive deleted scene

Alas, they do not split, and after all 9 Wentworth votes get the “does not count” treatment, Savage is shockingly eliminated. “I’m loyal to the people I’m with, y’all,” says Wentworth (which certainly was not true last week when she defected and voted out Kass, but whatever). However, it’s not all bad news for Andrew. “You made it to the jury,” says Abi, mocking the man she aligned with back on Angkor. Which leads us to our next installment of Fingergate, which, again, I want to stress is about as poorly-titled an event as you can get. I am so sorry about the fact that I ever typed that word.

So Savage watches his entire game go up in flames in a matter of minutes. That has to suck. He says as much in his final comments: “I’m not going to lie. It rips my heart out.” My guess is audience reaction will be mixed on Savage this season. I will say this: The guy came out there and played hard from the minute he hit the beach. He made costly errors (chief among them dictating terms at Ta Keo instead of asking for more input from others in his alliance), he was hypocritical (lambasting others for strategizing behind backs while he did the exact same thing) and surprisingly lost his cool several times, which was not a great look for him. But he played hard, which, as a viewer, I always appreciate.

And this mattered desperately to him. In an age where reality-show contestants are often plucked out of bars or beauty pageants because they look good in a bathing suit, I will always take the person who loves this game and will scratch and claw to play it over someone who just wants to have a few minutes of face time on national television. So I give Savage that.

And now I have several things to give you! What sort of things? How about our weekly Q&A with Hostmaster General Jeff Probst? And how about an exclusive deleted scene from last night’s episode, as well as our pre-game interview with Savage and recent episodes of Survivor Talk in the video player below? You can also keep an eye out for the newest Survivor Talk episode on Thursday afternoon, and for more Survivor scoop delivered right to you, follow me on Twitter @DaltonRoss.

But now it’s your turn? Are you happy or sad to see Savage go? If you were Joe, would you pissed your alliance jut refused to vote out the guy that wants you out? And when’s the last time you flipped someone off? Hit the message boards to weigh in, and I’ll be back next week with another scoop of the crispy!

Episode Recaps

SURVIVOR: Island of the Idols


Strangers starve themselves on an island for our amusement in the hopes of winning a million dollars, as host Jeff Probst implores them to "DIG DEEP!"

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