Woo begs for nothing crazy to happen — obviously that didn't work out.

Credit: Monty Brinton/CBS
S31 E3

There’s a lot to get into for this week’s Survivor recap. We had our first-ever tribe expansion (from two tribes to three), a return to the Haves and Have-Nots twist from Fiji, and Joe literally choking the chicken…which is not nearly as dirty as it sounds. But first, can I make a request? It’s a simple request, really. I’m looking for volunteers. Even one volunteer will do. But it’s time we rise up as a community and give back. It’s time we stand up and make a difference. Because our help is clearly needed.

My request is this: Can someone please form an alliance with Woo? Someone? Anyone? Because I can’t take it anymore. That lost look when he finds out after a challenge that deals are being made behind his back. That helpless gaze when the vote does not go the way he thinks it’s going to go at Tribal Council. That sad-sack disposition when he says out loud, “Jeff, are we still in an alliance? Why didn’t you make a deal with me?” This stuff is breaking my heart, ladies and gentlemen.

Woo looks like that dog that keeps waiting at the train station for his dead owner to come back from work in some weepy Richard Gere movie — a mixture of confusion and mild depression. I want to reach out, scratch his head, tell him he’s a good boy, and hook him up with a Milk-Bone or something.

I honestly don’t know how much more I can take of this. It’s bad enough the dude made a million-dollar mistake last time around by bringing Tony to the finals. Now he has to constantly look clueless — whether being ignored strategically or butchering the spelling of people’s names at Tribal Council. The guy just needs a rock steady alliance partner that can navigate the trickier social and strategic waters and keep Woo afloat. Anyone can do it. Well, almost anyone. Requirements include:

  • Not believing the last thing someone tells you
  • Telling Woo he does not need to believe the last thing someone tells him
  • Checking whether someone makes eye contact with you when they talk
  • Informing Woo that if someone is not making eye contact with him when they talk that they are probably lying
  • Periodically asking Woo about his favorite martial arts maneuver to keep him in his happy place
  • Acting as power of attorney to make and/or break deals with other players on Woo’s behalf so he can hang back at the shelter and talk to himself about surfing and other things he is “stoked” about

That’s really about it. Applications are now being accepted online at www.woosvacantgaze.com. A friend in need is a friend indeed. Won’t you be Woo’s friend?

Okay, it’s recap time and there ain’t nothing to it but to get to it, so let’s jump right in. We begin after Shirin’s exit from Tribal Council. Spencer talks about his need to change as a player and how people who have been able to change in past returning-player seasons have been rewarded. It is an underdog speech that appears be have been ripped cleanly out of the Winner’s Edit Handbook. The only question is whether Spencer’s name will be added next to Cochran and Tyson’s. (Hopefully so, because it has been 15 seasons and counting since I picked a winner from the start, and Spencer was my pick this go-round.)

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Meanwhile, Terry is loving the latest development, which saw him go from the very bottom to the top of his tribe totem pole. “Boy, I’m on top of the world right now,” he exclaims. “Life is good.” And this speech has been ripped cleanly out of the Say Something About How Perfect Everything Is So We Can Screw You Over With a Tribe Swap Handbook. Because guess what’s coming next…

This whole prop-you-up-to-screw-you-over theme continues when both tribes meet Jeff Probst on the beach. Varner and Woo talk all about how they have team unity back at camp. Kass mentions about how happy she is. It’s a freakin’ Kumbaya moment. Time to tear it all down. It’s tribe switcheroo time.

NEXT: Three is the magic number

I still remember the first tribe swap back in Survivor: Africa when Silas, Frank and Teresa went on a “quest” that ended up being a switcheroo with Kelly, Big Tom, and Lex. I thought it was the most unfair thing in the history of things. I cried foul! I cried conspiracy! How could you do that to them? These people had mapped out their entire 39 day strategy, and many came completely undone because of the switch. This game should be about skill, not luck! If the producers can just switch things up like that, what’s to stop them from constantly meddling with the contestants to undo any and all work they had put in to get to where they were at that point in the game? Bottom line, I was aghast.

Isn’t that 2001 outrage cute by today’s Twistapolozza standards? The truth is, I had it all wrong. Survivor is not about the best person winning. Yes, sometimes that happens, but often it does not. You need a lot of luck to win, no matter whom you are. Boston Rob pulls a different buff at the beginning of the Redemption Island season, and you could have a completely different result. Not saying he didn’t play a flawless game. He did. But that may not have mattered if he had ended up on the tribe with the older and wiser people (i.e. not sheep) far less enamored with having a returning player in the midst. On the flip side, maybe someone like LJ wins Cagayan if the tribe switch does not happen. And maybe Spencer or Stephen (who both appeared to be one immunity loss away from being voted out here), go on to win this season because of the game-saving switch.

The point is: You just don’t know. It’s a move that can kill you (see: Wentworth, Kelley — San Juan del Sur) or give you new life in the game. Is it fair? OF COURSE NOT! But it is as much a part of the game now as hidden immunity idols, food auction advantages, and other new twists players must navigate and cross their fingers on. And in a game that is all about adaptation, it fits. So I guess what I’m saying is “Chill out, 2001 Dalton! Don’t make me come back there in my time-traveling DeLorean to slap some sense into you! Because you have no idea how bad Gabon would have been without those two tribe switcheroos.”

So back to Cambodia. We learn that not only will we be expanding to three tribes, but that one of the tribes will have to start from scratch and build a completely new shelter. Holy Survivor: Fiji, Batman — it’s the Have-Nots twist!!! Are Dreamz, Eduardo, and Mookie going to all of sudden appear out of nowhere, Outcasts style?!?

After everyone picks a little Cambodian box (of which I have several myself after purchasing some delicious Kampot pepper while over there), they open to reveal their new tribe, and the breakdown is as follows:






















So new Bayon and new Ta Keo both have four former Bayon and two former Ta Keo members, while the new Angkor tribe has the reverse. Boy, pretty big bummer for Savage and Tasha. Guess there’s no way out of that predicament. Savage says as much, telling us, “If they go by tribal lines I’m in serious trouble… I gotta tell you, it’s devastating.” Whether it is more or less devastating for Savage than being on a tribe with someone so clearly lacking in morals, values, loyalty, dignity, and courage as Stephen Fishbach remains unclear. On the other hand, Spencer is literally thanking the Survivor gods for smiling down upon him. Like I said earlier, you can never underestimate the role luck plays in this game. Just ask Shirin. One less vote at the last Tribal and she is the one who could have had a completely new lease on life in the game, while Spencer would be cooling his heels and playing chess by himself at Ponderosa. So let’s check out the three new tribes and see what is what.

NEXT: Can someone please explain to Terry Deitz how Survivor works?


Good news! The new tribe has been given flint.

Bad news! The new tribe seems to have little-to-no food.

And there are other problems as well. Savage and Varner do not seem to be clicking. “That dude is going to get on my nerves,” says Jeff. “I can feel it.” But who cares, right? The Ta Keo four is in control, so just vote him out. Woo even publicly begs for nothing crazy and the four of them (Jeff, Woo, Peih-Gee and Abi) to stick together. Why wouldn’t they? What could possibly go wrong?

Later, the rain beings to fall. And while Jermaine Jackson and Pia Zadora may have once opined that “when the rain begins to fall, you’ll ride the rainbow in the sky,” when then rain begins to fall at Angkor, people start bitching at one another. In one of my favorite disagreements in the history of Survivor, Peih-Gee and Abi actually begin arguing about whether Abi is too dry. I’m serious. That is the crux of their dispute. But they wouldn’t blow up their own games and numbers advantage over petty nonsense, would they? WOULD THEY?!?


Ah, poor Terry Deitz. The guy went from the outhouse to the penthouse of his tribe, and then the swap comes around and all of a sudden he’s on the bottom again. That man must be hardcore bumming. Au contraire, mon frère! Instead, Deitz is going on and on about his “incredible luck” with the switcheroo. “We don’t have the numbers, but I don’t think we’re going to need the numbers. I don’t know if we’re going to lose a challenge!”

Memo to Terry Deitz. YOU NEED THE NUMBERS! Contrary to what is about to happen over on Angkor, numbers are everything. Stop being so happy! Also, Survivor has changed a lot since season 12. There is far less of a premium placed on physical strength in challenges. So while he’s correct that Ta Keo seems to have the strongest tribe members, that may not mean a whole lot at many of the competitions.

This is an example where Terry’s “old-school” mentality could be blinding him to the actual reality at play, and unless someone else goes down to the beach to cry that he can offer a sympathetic ear to, he could be the first to go if and when they lose a challenge. And why is that? Because his one fellow former Ta Keoian (is that a word?) has just bought a controlling interest in Greyhound Inc. and is lining up her entire fleet of buses to throw him under. Yes, Kelley Wentworth is already worried about what happens when it is time for someone to go, and she doesn’t want it to be her. Instead of trying to find cracks and bringing people over like Savage and Tasha are doing, she decides to just sell Terry out to keep herself in the game. She tells them how Terry “went off for hours” looking for the idol when the idol is already in her possession. Cagey, but maybe not too smart. If I’m one of the Bayon four, I’m much more suspicious of the person spilling the beans and gaming so hard than the person just trying to get along with everybody. We’ll see how this plays out.


Holy crap, Monica just said something! I swear it! I mean, I don’t think what she said was particularly interesting. It did not provide any insight into anything whatsoever. Instead, her comments are more of the expository variety — just sort of stating the obvious that the old Bayon was still in the majority on the new Bayon. She shouldn’t look for that spicy meatball of a quote to end up in the Sound Bites section of Entertainment Weekly celebrating the best lines of the week in television is all I’m saying. But still, she spoke! Progress!

NEXT: Another challenge idol is found

Fishbach is certainly excited about the tribe swap. Now that Keith, Joe, and Savage are all gone, that means Jeremy has no choice but to work with him.

“It is so liberating to not be in Camp Macho anymore,” says Stephen. Camp Macho? That sounds like either a rare Village People B side, a 1970s John Holmes porno, or a Fox reality show where a bunch of jabronis are trained by Lou Ferrigno in the art of doing manly-man stuff like, oh, I don’t know, cutting a coconut in half. Something that Stephen is failing at miserably right now, not coincidentally.

Spencer comes over to check on Fishbach’s progress. Not because he actually cares, mind you, but because “I’m trying to have feelings.” Spencer then goes on to prove he has feelings by confiding in Jeremy that when his girlfriend told him she loved him, he didn’t say it back. Read that sentence back real quick just to realize how absolutely perfect it is. Again, to prove he had feelings, Spencer decided to tell a story about how he was incapable of reciprocating his girlfriend’s declaration of love. I mean…amazing. You don’t know it because internet recaps cannot transmit sounds, but I am sitting on my couch slow clapping right now in a major way. It is the mightiest slow-clap ever. Mightier than the one in Rudy. Mightier than Cool Runnings. Mightier than Mystery, Alaska. Mightier than them all!

Sorry, Spencer. You’re going to have to do better than that, especially when the Bayon four are all out looking for that idol (clue). Jeremy finds it in a tree full of leaves, and the clue says the idol will be hidden on the third box at the challenge. Speaking of which, let’s head there now. The immunity challenge is one that was previously run in Cagayan. All three teams need to push a cart through an obstacle course, retrieve keys, unlock chests, disassemble and then reassemble their cart, and then — natch — do a puzzle. First two tribes win immunity.

It’s a fun contest with a lot of moving parts, but like most of these things, it’s really all about the puzzle. (Also, tip of the cap to Jeremy for retrieving his idol in a super stealth fashion. As a fellow idol-grabber, I commend thee.) Ta Keo easily wins (Deitz was right!), and you can see all the players from the other teams blatantly looking over at their puzzle to help complete their own. My theory on why Survivor does not use blinders anymore for puzzle competitions to stop copying like Big Brother does is that the producers like that it gives teams that are behind the opportunity to catch up. A come-from-behind victory is super-exciting. By allowing players the opportunity to copy what others ahead of them have already worked out, it makes for a closer —and therefore more exciting — finish. To be clear, nobody on production has told me this. Just a guess. But it would seem to make sense. (Okay, challenge-copying rant now over. I’m always good for a few of those a season.)

Eventually, Bayon gets second, leaving Angkor as the losers. And then the real fun begins. Varner mouths the words “Kimmi” and “Monica” to Wiglesworth. I’m guessing he’s doing that to tell Kelly to try to work with them. After all, Kimmi is from Jeff’s season so they already have a relationship (even if he was the guy who incited that finger-waving incident between her and Alicia), and maybe he senses that Monica could be on the outer ring of the Bayon alliance as well.

But before he can continue on, Tasha inserts herself between them and starts pogoing up and down like some sort of jumping jack-crazed boot camp instructor. “We got a rat,” she says. That sounds a bit dramatic. Whispering between tribes before, during, or after challenges is not that unique. And it’s not as if Jeff was throwing the challenge or anything. But then Varner takes the bait, saying out loud in front of everybody how he made a deal with Savage and then Savage turned right around and made another deal with Peih-Gee. This information causes Woo to make his sad face and all of sudden it’s chaos at Angkor.

NEXT: Everyone turns on everyone

It continues back at camp. Savage brings Peih-Gee and Woo into the woods and tells them they’re screwed without his Playboy-collecting/fashion model-marrying strength in challenges, and Woo — who just a day before begged for nothing crazy to happen and for the Ta Keo four to stick together — agrees and suddenly wants to vote out Varner. Meanwhile, Abi tells Tasha she wants ALL of her previous alliance-mates gone. After Abi tells Woo and Peih-Gee she’s voting with Bayon, Peih-Gee decides she wants Abi out, and then this gets back to Abi, so now she wants Peih-Gee out. And if you’re keeping score, that means the two people in the minority (Savage and Tasha), as well as the person who started all this flipping to begin with via his outburst at the challenge (Varner), are now all completely safe. Weird game, Survivor.

Off to Tribal Council we go to see how all this madness unfolds. Savage and Fox need to get fire since it is their first time to T.C. By the way, is it just me or does Savage and Fox totally sound like the name of a CW TV show about lawyers by day who fight vampires and other supernatural beings in their spare time at night?

Once seated, Jeff Varner says he had “an emotional meltdown that I don’t recall,” which should totally be the title of his upcoming memoir. He also goes on to say that Andrew and Tasha are making all the decisions tonight, which is FLAT-OUT CRAZY BECAUSE I CAN DO MATH AND IT JUST DOES NOT MAKE ANY SENSE AT ALL!!! 2 < 4. Peih-Gee goes on to say how steady and loyal she is, even though she went to the minority alliance saying she wanted to get rid of Abi. This honestly may be the worst tribe-wide show of loyalty we have ever seen as every single former member of Ta Keo is about to vote against one of their own. Incredible. But who will pay the ultimate price for their betrayal?

During the voting, Abi plays the part of the pot while voting for kettle Peih-Gee: “You talk way too much. You can shut your mouth. Take a chill pill, girl.” (Anyone have a mirror handy?) And indeed it is Peih-Gee that is ousted, sending Woo into classic Woo-stunned-bewilderment pose. Another crazy development in what so far has shaped up to a super solid season. Can it maintain this blistering momentum? We can only hope.

Okay, it’s time for goodies! Make sure to check out our weekly Q&A with Hostmatser General Jeff Probst, where he explains the reason for expanding from two tribes to three. We also have an exclusive deleted scene in the video player below along with my pre-game interview with Peih-Gee and last week’s star-studded edition of Survivor Talk. Speaking of Survivor Talk, we unfortunately won’t have an episode this week due to some logistical issues, but we have a full podcast interview with Peih-Gee you can check out right here. And for more Survivor scoop sent directly to you, just follow me on Twitter @DaltonRoss.

Now it’s your turn. Where does the Angkor majority tribe implosion rank in terms of Survivor strategic blunders? Which tribes are you rooting for and against? And are you happy Jeremy found the idol? Hit the message boards to weigh in and I’ll be back next 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!"

  • TV Show
  • 41
  • CBS
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