Survivor: Kaoh Rong was the 32nd season of the show and aired in the spring of 2016.
Survivor: Kaoh Rong is one of the most underrated seasons in the history of the show. For one, it gave us an amazing cast who provided us with both epic pre-merge and post-merge portions of the show, something that isn’t all that common for the show. It also didn’t go overboard on idols and advantages, giving it more of an old school kind of feel.
A fun fact before we get into the most memorable moments from Kaoh Rong is that this season was actually filmed before Survivor: Cambodia. With Cambodia allowing fans to vote on the cast, Kaoh Rong was filmed prior to it and then Cambodia filmed once the cast was officially announced after the Worlds Apart reunion. This isn’t earth shattering or anything, but still some fun trivia nonetheless.
Now, let’s get into the most memorable moments from season 32!
Brains vs Brawn vs Beauty Part Deux
Cagayan was the first season to utilize the Brains vs Brawn vs Beauty twist and what do you know? That season is one of the best ever. It only made sense that Mark Burnett would want to use it again not long after its inception, so it was brought back for Survivor: Kaoh Rong. Unlike the first go around, the brains tribe did well with the brawn tribe being the train wreck. A beauty ended up winning the season (more on that in a bit).
The Return of the Super Idol
The Super Idol is one of the worst twists Survivor has come up with, but they made it much more interesting when it returned for Kaoh Rong. In order for an idol to become a Super Idol, two Hidden Immunity Idols had to be played together to form said Super Idol. This made for some fun drama down the road, which we’ll get to in a moment.
There’s really no debating that Kaoh Rong was the toughest season Survivor has ever had. Three players were evacuated (Caleb Reynolds, Neil Gottlieb, and Joe del Campo) and one challenge saw three players go down due to heat stroke/exhaustion. The challenge had one particular part where the players had to dig in the sand for three bags and this took the tribes over an hour to do due to the sweltering heat.
Once the challenge was over, Caleb, Debbie Wanner, and Cydney Gillon all went down due to heat exhaustion and it was terrifying to watch unfold. Caleb had to be medically evacuated from the game because he literally almost died. It was that scary.
Kaoh Rong gave us a well-rounded cast and it’s honestly one of the best groups the show has ever put together. Aubry Bracco was one of the stars of the season as well as Tai Trang, two people who made it to the end. Villain wise we had Scot Pollard and Kyle Jason, who as unlikeable as they were, sure provided a lot of entertainment (remember when they put the fire out? Wild). I had honestly forgotten how great Kaoh Rong‘s cast was until I rewatched it, but it’s truly one of the best ones Survivor has ever had.
Remember when I was talking about the Super Idol and said that it led to some fun drama? Well, we’re going to talk about that now. Jason and Tai each had a Hidden Immunity Idol and that meant they if either of them (or Scot) had the most votes at the next tribal council, they could combine their idols together AFTER the votes were read.
The problem here was that Tai didn’t like how Jason and Scot were treating other people and he decided he didn’t want to be a part of their alliance anymore. When Scot received the majority of the votes and turned to Tai for his idol, Tai quietly shook his head to which Scot asked “You’re not doing it? Wow.” and grabbed his torch. EPIC.
Voting Off a Jury Member
For the first time in Survivor history, a challenge was held where the winner would earn the right to vote off a member of the jury. Michele Fitzgerald won the challenge and decided to vote off Neil, who on his way out gave her a cringeworthy speech about how she wouldn’t win or something. Michele made the right decision by voting Neil off, as she won in a 5-2-0 vote over Aubry and Tai.
Michele’s Controversial Win
Speaking of Michele’s win, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how controversial it was at the time. Many people felt that Aubry deserved to win Kaoh Rong and while Aubry did play a flashier and more aggressive game, that doesn’t mean Michele’s win wasn’t valid.
Michele did benefit from not having to go to tribal council until the merge, but that shouldn’t be held against her. She also won individual challenges and managed to form strong enough bonds with people that she was kept around too long. Also, Kaoh Rong was a BRUTAL season and anyone who survived 39 days in that humidity deserves their victory.
I wrote an entire article about winners who don’t get their due diligence and Michele made that list. Check it out if you want to hear more on why Michele was deserving of winning Kaoh Rong.
Michele became a fan favorite when she returned for Winners at War and once again made it to the end. She might have been a zero vote finalist, but her ability to win challenges when she needed to the most and constantly be a thorn in the side of the majority alliance proved she was a good player and deserved her win the first time around.
What were your favorite moments from Survivor: Kaoh Rong?