Survivor: Cambodia has one of the best castaway casts in recent memory. There is no one on Survivor season 31 who isn’t playing the game and playing it hard. Yet not everyone’s game is equal. Obviously only one can walk away with the million-dollar prize. We can’t tell who that will be (yet) but we can judge the castaways’ games. For most of them there is a straight answer. They are either playing a bad game (like Ciera) or a good one (like Jeremy). Then there is Spencer who is enigma. Spencer, who could be eliminated every week or could just win the entire thing. Is Spencer playing the best or worst game on Survivor: Second Chance?

Why Spencer Is Playing the Best Game

It’s pretty much a phenomenon that Spencer has lasted to the merge on this season of Survivor. Spencer has been a target at nearly every tribal council since the first one. Every time Spencer has met Jeff Probst at night there is a pretty good chance that the dimply host will be snuffing out Spencer’s torch. Spencer’s cockroach-like survival skills should suggest that Spencer is playing a good game. 

People recognize Spencer as a threat but he still manages to stay in the game. Spencer’s own game has to be a part of that decision. He has been able to adapt and keep playing Survivor by putting the crosshairs onto someone else’s back. Spencer hasn’t a solid ally since Shirin was eliminated in Week 2 and he’s made it all the way to the last 12 castaways in the game. This is nothing to sneeze at, far from it.

This season of Survivor has been especially brutal. If you get multiple votes at tribal council, there is a good chance you’re going home soon. There have been blindsides but if a castaway is named as a target at a tribal council, their days are usually numbered. Maybe not in the episode they are first brought up but soon they could be leaving the game. Spencer is the exception to that rule. 

Why Spencer Is Playing the Worst Game

While we’ve seen a lot of Spencer in Survivor: Cambodia, rarely an episode goes by without at least one Spencer confessional, we haven’t seen a lot of his gameplay. Spencer, in an effort to not be a target, hasn’t done much serious gameplay. In fact, Spencer doesn’t seem to have much of a clearly defined strategy at all but make people like him. Not only is that a pretty nebulous “plan” but it’s what every Survivor cast member wants to do. Well at least every Survivor castaway not named Abi wants to do.

Spencer’s survival can also be attributed more to luck than actual skill. Spencer has put himself at the mercy of his tribe more than once and they are really the ones that keep him in the game. From what we’ve seen, Spencer hasn’t tried to persuade his tribe mates very hard to keep him. He just acts generally cordial and agreeable and hopes that it will work out. Woo, who was about as close as Survivor: Cambodia has gotten to a clueless player, fought harder to stay in his tribe when they were considering getting rid of him.

Spencer was known on his first season for being a keen strategic mind. There has been none of that this season. Granted he hasn’t really had anyone to work with and plan out things. Still it’s hard to say he’s playing an amazing game if it’s just him alone with his thoughts and occasionally telling those thoughts to the camera.

The Verdict

In my heart though, I think that Spencer is a playing a good game. A game that will end with him being victorious. I’ve watched enough Survivor to mark the signs of a winner’s edit and Spencer really appears to be getting one. Spencer is so present in every episode and you can chart his progression. About halfway through Season 30 of Survivor you noticed the same thing begin to happen with that winner, Mike. Mike was shown a lot and there was very clear narrative told about he ended up as the sole survivor. We haven’t gotten to the end of Spencer’s story but you can almost see him as the “main character” of this season.

Now it might just be that the Survivor producers like Spencer. He didn’t win his first season but he still got a lot of screen time. A lot of time on camera isn’t necessarily a qualification to be the winner of Survivor but considering how long Spencer has lasted it doesn’t hurt. Spencer might be playing a different game than his first time but it could be a better one because this time he might win.

But what do you think? Is Spencer getting a “winner’s edit”? Is he playing a good or terrible game? Is there someone else who you think has a better chance of winning? If it’s not Spencer, who is playing the worst game this season of Survivor? 

Survivor season 31 airs Wednesdays at 8pm on CBS.

(Image courtesy of CBS)

Derek Stauffer

Contributing Writer, BuddyTV

Derek is a Philadelphia based writer and unabashed TV and comic book junkie. The time he doesn’t spend over analyzing all things nerdy he is working on his resume to be the liaison to the Justice League.