The 32nd season the CBS reality show Survivor came to a dramatic conclusion and was one of the most exciting years for the show. Filmed on Cambodia’s beautiful Kaoh Rong Island, the show pitted three unique groups against one another: brains, beauty, and brawn. The three groups were to prove which is the most important quality to have, and was the second time the show has used this format in its history.
The premise for this show was beauty (attractiveness and charisma), brains (intelligence), and brawn (athleticism). The filming of the show began in the spring of 2015, but the show was not aired until February of 2016, concluding on May 18, 2016. Interestingly enough, season 31 was also shot in Cambodia, but was filmed after season 32, however it aired before the 32nd season. Both were filmed in the same location, much like the show did in Fiji.
Included in this past season were hidden immunity idols which allowed those who discovered them to avoid being selected to be removed. The hidden immunity idols had to be played prior to the vote being announced, meaning that the contestants who used them were taking a risk of playing it. If they used it and they were not voted off, then they simply wasted their idol.
One new feature to this past season was the blending of two idols. If combined, then a person could still claim immunity even after the vote was read. The person would have to have at least two immunity idols. There were three hidden idols for this show, one for each tribe, but this did not mean that a person in one tribe could not locate the hidden immunity idol that was intended for another tribe.
One additional change to this season was the allowing of a finalist to remove a jury member. This gave them the chance to eliminate those who they felt would be a bad choice to be on the jury for the final reward challenge.
There were 18 contestants for this show, divided into the three groups. That put six members in each tribe. The three tribes were broken up as follows:
The Chan Loh tribe, which was the Brain tribe, had three men and three women. The three men were Neal Gottlieb (Sausalito, CA), Peter Baggenstos (Minneapolis, MN), and Joseph Del Campo (Vero Beach, FL). The three women were Elizabeth (Liz) Markham (New York City), Debbie Wanner (Reading, PA), and Aubry Bracco (Cambridge, MA).
The beauty team was the Gondoltribe and also had three men and three women. The men were Caleb Reynolds (Hopkinsville, KY). Nick Maiorano (Redondo Beach, CA), and Tai Trang (San Francisco, CA). The women were Anna Khait (Brooklyn, NY), Julia Sokolowski (Boston, MA), and Michele Fitzgerald (Freehold, NJ).
The final tribe was the Brawn group, which was the To Tang tribe. Included in the tribe were three men, Darnell Hamilton (Chicago, IL), Scott Pollard (Carmel, IN), and Kyle Jason (Detroit, MI), and three women were Jennifer Lanzetti (Salt Lake City, UT), Cydney Gillon (Douglasville, GA), and Alecia Holden (Dallas, TX).
The two big “celebrities” in this season’s show were Scot Pollard and Caleb Reynolds. Reynolds had appeared on another CBS reality show, Big Brother, in season 26. Pollard was a former NBA player.
Quick Episode Recap
Episode 1 – “I’m a Mental Giant” – the show started with each tribe ransacking the boat for the supplies. Alliances formed from the very start. Alecia was seen as weak in the brawn team and Scot, Jennifer and Cydney formed an alliance right off. The brains group saw Aubry, Liz, Neal and Peter join forces, looking to exclude know it all Debbie. Anna, Julia, and Michele formed an alliance in the beauty tribe.
The immunity challenge was to retrieve paddles and come back to shore with their boat which they would turn into a cart. Those who were able to accomplish the immunity challenge were the winners. The brawn team lost when Darnell could not find the mask during the initial part of the challenge. He was voted out.
Episode 2 – “Kingergarten Camp” – Kai found the first hidden immunity idol. He also found a set of instructions that led to the key for the box, but he could not locate it. Kai made a friendship with Caleb. Debbie’s boasting got on the nerves of her fellow teammates and Alecia continued to be the outsider in the brawn tribe.
In the immunity challenge they groups were to race down a rive moving a 300-pound log. When they reached the end of the course they were to remove balls that were attached to the log and use them to hit targets using a slingshot. Once against the brawn team fell. Surprisingly it was not Alecia that was voted off, but Jennifer.
Episode 3 – “The Circle of Life” –Alecia’s fortunes changed when she discovered one of the clues to the hidden immunity idol. However, she made the mistake of telling Cydney about it. She informed the two guys and the four went out searching for it. Jason and Scot plotted to steal the key. Kai found the one key to another idol. In the brain tribe Liz and Peter decided to trust the older Debbie and Joe.
In the immunity challenge, the three tribes were to jump from a platform into the water. There were three balls in a bag of rice that they had found in the water and they had to retrieve the balls and work their way through a maze. The beauty team won for the second time in a row, but the brawn narrowly beat the brain team, giving them their first loss. They voted off Liz.
Episode 4 – “Signed, Sealed, and Delivered” – the show started with Peter being angry that Liz was voted off and vowing to get even. There was a reward challenge and an immunity challenge. The reward challenge allowed one team to win a kitchen set, with the second place team getting a smaller set. The brains team won. Caleb, Cydney, and Debbie suffered from heat stroke, and Caleb had to be taken from the island.
The immunity challenge included a race through the jungle where the two competitors were to find two puzzle pieces at the top of a ladder. The rest of the team swam out to get the other pieces in the water. The team that solved the puzzle won, and the brawn team lost again. Alecia had been saved before, but not this time. She was out.
Episode 5 – “The Devil We Know” – Neal found the hidden immunity idol. The tribes were then reshuffled with there being six members in two tribes. One member was left off of both teams and would join the team that lost the immunity challenge. The brawn tribe was out.
In the immunity challenge, two members from each team swam out to find puzzle pieces. The pieces were then attached to a beam that other members had to retrieve and solve the puzzle with. The brain tribe won the challenge, and so the Gondol tribe saw Aubry, Joe and Peter work together to get a beauty member kick out. Tai told Anna and Scot ant he had the hidden idol. After a series of votes, Tai and Scott joined with Joe and Peter and Anna was out.
Episode 6 – “Play or Go Home” – Peter talked about outing fellow brain member Joe. Julia joined the Gondol tribe as the leftover person. The reward challenge saw Michele lag behind in trying to untie the buoys and the Gondol team won.
The Chan Loh team recovered, winning the immunity challenge, which was a big relief to Michele, as she was sure she was going to be out. Peter wound up being voted out.
Episode 7 – “It’s Merger Time” –Scot was angry with Joe and Aubry for their inability to be trustworthy. Jason and Cydney see a bulge in Neal’s pocket and were sure that he had a hidden idol. Later in the day the tribes combined into one. There were four brains (Joe, Aubry, Neal, and Debbie) in the group, and three brawns (Cydney, Jason and Scot).
In the immunity challenge, the competitors stood on a log as part of a balancing challenge. Balls were added during the challenge and the one who held onto the disc with the most balls won. Nick won and teamed up with Michele and the brawn group. They plotted to vote against Neal so that he would have to play his idol. Before the vote could take place it was discovered that Neal had an infection and he was taken away. He became the first jury member.
Episode 8 – “The Jocks vs. the Pretty People” – with three remaining brains, they attempted to try to split the alliance between the jocks and beauties. The team was divided into two groups of five which competed in the reward challenge for ice cream.
In the immunity challenge the competitors were to balance on a narrow perch while holding the handle. If they removed a foot or hand for any reason they were eliminated. As the challenge began, contestants were offered the opportunity to take food if they quit. Four took the offer. The five women and Joe combined to vote out Nick and he was sent to the jury.
Episode 9 – “The Psychological Warfare” – Tai and Jason admitted to each other that they had the other two idols Jason and Scot decide to hide the axe and put out the fire in retaliation to what happened to Nick.
In the immunity challenge the castaways were to line up blocks much like dominoes. The one that would see the last block fall would win. Debbie was voted out when Julia joined Aubry, Michele and Cydney.
Episode 10 – “I’m Not Here to Make Good Friends”–Tai joins Scot and Jason, and they agree to stop sabotaging the camp. Scot looked to get Aubry as an ally.
In the immunity challenge the competitors had to wear weighted discs while holding themselves up against structures. Jason won the immunity. Scot is eliminated and asks Tai to combine the super idol for him, but he refuses.
Episode 11 – “It’s a ‘Me’ Game, Not a ‘We’ Game” – The new majority alliance of Aubry, Joe, Cydney and Tai celebrate their victory, and make Jason the next target. Tai spends the show trying to justify his betrayal of Jason.
In the immunity challenge the castaways are supposed the symbols with the corresponding numbers that they find. This will unlock a series of puzzle pieces that they are to connect. Michele won and decided to target Julia instead of Jason. Julia is voted off.
Episode 12 – “Now’s the Time to Start Scheming” – the alliances were falling apart, and Michele looked to try to get an alliance going with Aubry and Tai. Tai looked to betray Michele because everyone seemed to like her.
In the immunity challenge, the castaways looked to retrieve blocks and stack them to spell the word IMMUNITY. Cydney won the challenge. Tai looked to vote out Michele and Aubry agreed. However, Cydney did not like Tai’s plan and exposed his plan. The group turned against his plan and voted out Jason.
Episode 13 – “With Me or Not With Me” – Tai realized that his conduct put him in a bad spot so he tried to make amends with everyone. He also confronted Aubry about not supporting him. There was only a reward challenge as Joe began to feel quite ill and had to be evacuated after his condition got much worse.
Episode 14 – “Not Going Down Without a Fight” – two reward challenges occurred. Tai and Aubry decide that they will target Michele again, especially because they know that she has a close relationship with those who are on the jury. They see her as a real threat. Cydney and Michele decide to target Tai.
In the immunity challenge, the competitors were to race to a platform in the waters and get three keys to unlock two levels in a tower. They would then get a bag of puzzle pieces. The first to put together the puzzle won. Michele narrowly defeated Tai. Cydney was voted out, leaving Michele, Tai and Aubry as the final competitors.
Episode 15 – “Reunion” – now before the jury, Aubry and Tai’s worst fears came true, as the jury sided with Michele. In a 5-2 vote, she was declared the winner. Tai was awarded $50,000 to his favorite animal charity for how well he treated animals during the show.
While the show has seen a decline in its audience since the first seasons, this year saw a steady increase in viewership, especially as the final episodes aired. The final seven episodes ranked in the top 10, and drew nearly 10 million viewers each of those weeks.