Big moves require big risks — a fact that 29-year-old bridal-shop owner and former Salani tribe member Kim Spradlin knows all too well.
But for her, the risks paid off: On Wednesday night's "Survivor: One World," Kim deftly positioned two male allies against each other, leading to a stunning blindside that removed banker Michael Jefferson from the game for good. As a consequence of Michael's ousting, the "One World" men find themselves at a complete numbers disadvantage, down two players against the former Salani women.
The biggest result of all of this, however, is the emergence of Kim as the dominant player on "Survivor." As the person who engineered the return of the women's alliance over the men, and as one of two players in possession of a hidden immunity idol, Kim is virtually peerless in the strategy department. Though she appears to be the front-runner to win the game at this point, Kim's path to the finish line isn't set in stone: She still has several hard choices ahead of her, including the possible ousting of her closest ally, medical sales rep Chelsea Meissner, another major threat to take home the million bucks.
Once again, we're joined by two-time "Survivor" contestant and regular commentator Rob Cesternino to talk about the latest episode, including Kim's awesome rise to power and the continued ridiculous commentary from 64-year-old plastic surgeon Greg "Tarzan" Smith.
MTV: Rob, I saw you tweet a prediction last night: that the big scramble leading up to tribal council and through the vote would be the best 20 minutes of the season so far. I think you were onto something.
Rob Cesternino: I thought this was one of the more exciting episodes. This was going to be the episode where Kim was going to pull off setting herself up to win the game, or Troyzan and Jay were going to figure things out and blow it up — and that did not happen. I am so impressed with the way Kim's playing the game. I don't see anybody standing in her way right now.
MTV: For a few weeks now, she's been my favorite player in the game. This week was huge for her, but also extremely risky — one false move and it all would have blown up. As somebody who has played a few times and is hip to the strategy game, I'd love to hear your read on Kim.
Cesternino: You know, I think I have a "Survivor" crush on Kim. I'm experiencing Kimsanity right now. [Laughs] She's playing the game so well. I'm hard-pressed to think of a female player who has played as dominating a game as she has that's not really based on using any sort of sexuality to advance her cause. She's just looking at the players on the board, openly manipulating people. ... She knows what she wants for the finals, and she's doing what she's got to do to get there. I don't know if going to the final three with Chelsea and Sabrina is necessarily her best setup, but she knows what she wants better than I do.
MTV: The thing is, she's playing excellently, but she's also playing aggressively. Historically, that style of playing can create a very bitter jury.
Cesternino: That's fair to say, that she's playing overly aggressive, and we'll see if that comes back to bite her in the butt. But most of these guys, like Jay and Troyzan, do they even know what hit them? Do they even know that Kim was the one calling the shots? I mean, they voted with her last night! That's what's so devastating, is that Troyzan and Jay went with it. Somebody in their alliance went home, but they voted for Michael. That's why it's so bad for those guys, and that's why it was such a great job on Kim's part. I just don't see how after all of that, that Troyzan and Jay went along with the plan to vote out one of the men. That was so brilliant, how Kim told Troyzan that Michael wanted him out of the game...
MTV: The ego is a very fragile thing!
Cesternino: Sometimes, on "Survivor," when someone is giving you a piece of information — just like when you're doing research on the Internet, and you end up on some crazy site that you've never heard of — you can't take the information too seriously. You have to question the source of who is talking to you on "Survivor." You have to ask, "If I believe this story, what does this person have to gain by me believing this story?" You have to question where the information is coming from. Not that I always did that on "Survivor," for the record! It's easier to say that when watching the show on TV and talking to you on the phone than it is while playing the game.
MTV: Of course. I'll say that one of the things worrying me about Kim is her partnership with Chelsea, who is not playing as hard, who isn't ruffling any feathers. You can see her moving into that classic "Survivor" role of the stereotypical pretty blonde who gets first place because her partner did all the dirty work. Even in this past episode, you see how bad her strategic game is: She tries to convince Jay to vote for Mike while speaking in front of the other girls, which gives away that she has a side-alliance with the former Salani women.
Cesternino: Well, I think we'll find out, when push comes to shove, if Kim is the "Survivor" player I think she is. Will she get rid of the sweet and unassuming Chelsea before the finals? When you get to the finals and it's ultimately revealed that Kim was the plotting strategist the whole time, juries have a tendency to say, "Well, we're giving the money to the nice person who really got to know us." If Kim is really playing the game, I think at some point it'll be time to ditch Chelsea ... and time to get on the Tarzan train!
MTV: Speaking of our man Tarzan, I don't want to completely downplay Chelsea's ability to hold a straight face in this game. She did an excellent job of that when Tarzan accused her of hating him because he's a plastic surgeon and she's had some work done — easily one of the most awkward scenes I've ever seen on "Survivor."
Cesternino: It's about time that Tarzan said something. That was obvious to me, the whole time, that the reason Chelsea's been annoyed with Tarzan was that she was unhappy with her plastic surgeon and taking it out on Tarzan. That's textbook subliminal harassment, as Tarzan says.
MTV: Yes, it was nice to see Tarzan taking a stand for plastic surgeons everywhere. [Laughs] But you know, Tarzan actually had a brief moment of insightfulness, I thought. At tribal council, he tells Jeff Probst that he's the one getting played — that the wool is being pulled over the host's eyes. He had a sense that something was up.
Cesternino: It was a fun moment when Tarzan called out Probst, but I disagree with you that he realized something was going on. Ultimately, he voted for Christina. He was so far off the fence. He may think he's onto something, but he's really the most way off on the totem pole as to what was actually going on.
MTV: Oh, give the man some credit! He was off, but I think he definitely smelled something in the water.
Cesternino: He smelled something in the water alright, and it wasn't dirt!
MTV: Fair enough! [Laughs] Let's talk about Michael's blindside. Did you see that coming as the final result of this week's episode?
Cesternino: I had no doubt that it was Michael after the third or fourth time they showed him on camera talking about how safe he was and how surprised he would have been to get blindsided. If you're on "Survivor," if you're at tribal council, and Jeff Probst is asking you if you'd really be surprised if you're going home tonight, then pack your bags. You're going home.
MTV: The seeds for Mike's demise were planted as early as the reward challenge at least. Everyone's enjoying the barbecue, everything's good, and then things took a turn for the sneaky: Kim and Sabrina start talking strategy, about getting rid of the men once and for all.
Cesternino: For the real players, the people who are just the best of the best, the game never stops for them. It doesn't stop at night when you go to sleep, it doesn't stop when you're at a reward. When Leif and Michael are pigging out at the barbecue, for Kim, the game never stopped. It was almost like the fuel she got went right to that strategic part of her brain that said, "OK, this is what I need to do to advance in the game."
MTV: After this week, the women are up in numbers over the men by two. What can the guys do to swing the game back in their favor? Is there anything they can do?
Cesternino: I think for these men, I think they're out of it now. It's ladies' night on "Survivor: One World," and the men are going to be going home one by one. The good news for Troyzan is he still has an immunity idol. Maybe there's some way to play that to his advantage. But I looked at these numbers last night: There are six women, and the men need two of them to defect. Christina is one, but I can't imagine who the second woman to defect would be.
What did you think of this week's episode? Let me know in the comments section or hit me up on Twitter @roundhoward!