Survivor is back! Can you feel the excitement? I know Stephen Fishbach can, judging by that super awkward post-challenge hug we saw him attempt within the first 30 seconds of tonight’s season premiere. (There has never been a more awkward self-conscious celebrator in human history than Fishbach. I want him to win every single challenge ever just to revel in his endless confusion over how to properly congratulate others.) That’s right, folks… it’s time for Survivor: Cambodia—Second Chance and the rambling, nonsensical recaps that go with it.
And this week will be even more rambling than normal because I will be bringing you some on-location insights from my time on the island during filming. There was tons of stuff edited out of that Tribal Council that I will let you know about. Which is my way of saying — as perturbed as you may get with this recap, it’s worth soldiering on, if for no other reason than to find out how Jeff Varner completely freaked everyone out right before the voting. Also, we have a few exclusive deleted videos waiting for you at the end, and the return of EW.com’s Survivor Talk show on Thursdays, which you can start looking forward to right now.
But before we can get to all that, can I ask a simple question: WHERE THE F#%& IS MY BRACELET?!? Seriously, I can’t possibly be expected to continue if my bracelet — which has no bearing whatsoever on anything even remotely having to do with this recap — is not found. You know what? EVERYONE STOP EVERYTHING AND LOOK FOR MY INCONSEQUENTIAL WRISTBAND!!! Anyone seen it? Anyone? Bueller? Oh, forget it. I won’t allow that stolen bracelet — and I’m looking at you, Peih-Gee (who, it should be noted, is a jewelry designer) — hijack this column the way it just hijacked the entire Ta Keo tribe. So without further ado, let’s get to it.
The episode begins with a greatest hits — or misses, I guess — of past contestant failures. “A relentless nightmare of what-ifs,” Probst calls it. (Incidentally, Relentless Nightmare of What-Ifs is the name of my new indie goth band.) We are treated to contestants reminding us of their backstories inter-spliced with super dramatic slow-motion Local Action News Team-type shots of them walking through Angkor Wat. Personally, I would have preferred the action be sped up instead of down to Benny Hill levels of hilarity put to the sweet, sweet sounds of “Yakety Sax,” but maybe that’s just me.
They finally make their way to Probst just off the coast of Koh Rong, and their delight in seeing him is matched 100 percent by mine. Why? Because he’s busting out the orange Survivor hat! It’s clearly the most super-dope-fresh hat in Probst’s entire baseball cap collection (which, rumor has it, numbers 3,728). I honestly don’t know why he even bothers with the others. So Probst begins by reminding them what losers they all are (“You failed in your goal”) while Kelly Wiglesworth gets a sitting ovation (don’t want to tip over the boat after all) before telling us that she replays her Tribal Council loss in her head every day… which is the exact opposite of what she told me just the day before, but whatever. This fits the narrative better!
Probst tells them they can find a bag with their buffs and map in their boat, but in actuality he threw the bags to all four boats, which was wisely edited out because it took too long and none of the throws really landed so let’s just get to it already. And when I say it, I mean the first twist. You all know how much I love it when they force contestants to make choices in challenges. And while this is not technically a challenge, both tribes have to decide how much time to spend gathering supplies on a big boat before leaving to try to claim a large bag of rice on a smaller boat about 100 yards away.
The scene immediately turns into chaos with people and things bumping into and falling down upon Jeff Probst. One thing you did not see: At one point Terry Dietz had to swim back to the small boat he started on to retrieve a pair of shoes he had left there. Not an auspicious debut for Deitz. With both tribes paddling rafts in a race for the rice, Wiglesworth dives in to try and win in, but she has underestimated how far away it is. Joe and Woo both dive in as well, and in the end it is the self-proclaimed Ninja Stealth Assassin who claims the food for Ta Keo.
I’ve been to some seasons with amazing maroonings (Heroes vs. Villains, Micronesia) and I’ve been to some seasons with terrible ones (Nicaragua, Redemption Island). This one was pretty cool. I mean, it’s hard to go wrong when you have people jumping off of a boat. Throw a race in the mix, and you have good stuff all around. Plus: orange hat.
NEXT: What’s up with everybody doing yoga?