Stephen Fishbach’s Survivor Blog: ‘Brutal Challenge’ and a Medical Emergency Test the Castaways in New Ways

This week on Survivor, everybody almost died. After a brutal challenge in scorching 118 degree Cambodian heat, three contestants zonked out from heatstroke, and Caleb took a (Russell) Swan dive that ended with a medevac.

It’s really the humidity that kills you.

Stephen Fishbach's Survivor Blog: 'Brutal Challenge' and a Medical Emergency Test the Castaways in New Ways| Celebrity Blog, Survivor, TV News, Stephen Fishbach

Robert Voets / CBS / Getty; Inset: Monty Brinton / CBS / Getty

The Fishy Award goes to Dr. Joe. He stayed calm, cool, and collective while the entire cast twitched and foamed at the mouth like they were extras on The Walking Dead. First Debbie went loopy, then Caleb collapsed and Cydney broke down. Dr. Joe had ice packs, water bottles, and battlefield wisdom for them all. (Though for some reason, just one umbrella?)

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Moments of crisis bring out the best in the Survivor team. It looked like chaos, but it revealed such incredible order and discipline: Dr. Joe summoned choppers and intravenous injections with a wave of his hand.

Meanwhile, Jeff Probst hopped from Debbie to Cydney to Caleb, all while narrating the reward challenge, translating what was happening for the viewers, and overseeing a genuine medical crisis. Let’s get this guy a fifth Emmy. He really is the best in the business. When was the last time Tom Bergeron called in the helicopters for Dancing with the Stars?

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The medical team takes tremendous care of us contestants, but they never coddle us. Dr. Joe monitors our wounds for infection, but he doesn’t kiss our booboos. Even when my feet were swollen to prehistoric size, the only aid he could give me was the advice to “try and keep them dry” – not so easy in a monsoon. He reminds me of a very handsome high school gym coach. If you have all your limbs intact, his general prescription is “walk it off.” But if you do lose that leg, by god he’ll sew it back on with bamboo fiber.

That’s exactly how Survivor is supposed to be. Tough – but survivable.

Poor Beauty tribe. You could tell what they were all thinking: “Leave us Caleb, our charming challenge champion. Take Nick instead!”

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But alas, the Survivor Gods are cruel, and Caleb was whisked to the skies – though with the promise that he would one day return to save us all.

Oh, And Alecia?

The episode’s other elimination was an afterthought. Even Jeff kind of shrugged his shoulders about that whole Tribal Council thing.

“You guys want to just do it here? We spent a ton of money on that chopper. I’d love to save on torch fuel.”

I wonder if Scot and Jason let Alecia flub the Immunity Challenge by not tagging in. Losing Alecia before a swap or a merge is a pretty good plan for the two of them, given how thoroughly they’ve alienated her.

Stephen Fishbach's Survivor Blog: 'Brutal Challenge' and a Medical Emergency Test the Castaways in New Ways| Celebrity Blog, Survivor, TV News, Stephen Fishbach

Stephen Fishbach on Survivor Cambodia: Second Chance

Timothy Kuratek / CBS

(Another good plan would have been – maybe don’t alienate Alecia in the first place.)

Alecia to her credit didn’t “pull a Posley” and agree to an early Tribal Council demise. She refused to be bullied out of the game. Nevertheless there was no question at Tribal whose torch would be snuffed.

Poor Alecia. I had high hopes that she might upend the Aggro Trio of Jason, Scot, and Cydney. Though apparently they’re actually bullying her as an inspirational lesson to young girls everywhere?

To be fair, it’s easy to judge players like Jason and Scot without having walked a challenge in their sneakers. I might get testy with Alecia too, after an hour of digging in scorching sand while she kicked around little clumps in a pointless attempt at “helping.”

I’ve survivored with a couple maddening players myself, who taught me new depths of patience. They come off as bullied underdogs, but ask anybody who played with them, and you’ll hear tales of homicide narrowly averted. The long buildup, the agonizing hours of enduring their complaints and sullen glares, never quite translate to TV. When someone finally snaps, that plays great on camera.

I’m not defending Scot and Jason. At best they’re being dismissive jerks. At worst, they’re sabotaging their own games by treating another player with disdain in front of the entire cast.

But everybody on Survivor is struggling to be their best selves in the brutal elements. Everybody acts a little crazy, irritable, weepy, or mean (with the exception of beautiful, transcendent Tai.) Nobody keeps it completely together for 39 days. That’s why it’s such an amazing show.

We’re lucky if we can walk out of the game ourselves – instead of being shuttled away into the sky.

Survivor: Kaoh Rong airs Wednesdays (8 p.m. ET) on CBS.

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