Survivor: Cambodia — Second Chance is the 31st season of the American CBS competitive reality television series Survivor. Unlike previous seasons, which were completely cast by producers, this season featured 20 contestants chosen by an online public vote. The ballot, with the 32 finalists that were considered for this season, was revealed on May 6, 2015, the same day that voting began. The final cast was revealed on May 20, at the reunion of the preceding season. After the reveal occurred, the chosen cast members immediately began the trip to Koh Rong, Cambodia, where the season was filmed. The season premiered on September 23, 2015 and concluded on December 16, 2015 when Jeremy Collins was declared the winner over Spencer Bledsoe and Latasha "Tasha" Fox in a unanimous 10–0–0 jury vote.
It is the tenth season to feature returning players, and the third to feature a cast consisting entirely of returning players, after Survivor: All-Stars and Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains. Though this season was the 31st to air, it was the 32nd to film, after the subsequently-aired Survivor: Kaôh Rōng; the two seasons were filmed back-to-back in the same location.
This season featured several new alterations to the game format. Hidden immunity idols, typically hidden either at tribal camps or Exile Island, were hidden this season at immunity challenges before the merge. Additionally, this season marked the first time the number of regular tribes increased over the course of a season (in this case, from two to three), and the first time the tribes merged with 13 players remaining. It also introduced the vote stealer, in which one player could prohibit another from voting and cast a second ballot in their stead.
According to host and executive producer Jeff Probst, 75 former contestants were initially considered regarding returning for this season. On Twitter and in an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Probst revealed that Greg Buis from Survivor: Borneo, Ian Rosenberger from Survivor: Palau, Shannon "Shambo" Waters from Survivor: Samoa, Roberta "R.C." Saint-Amour and Jeff Kent from Survivor: Philippines were contacted to return but all of them declined the offers. Josh Canfield from Survivor: San Juan del Sur tweeted that he was contacted, but was unable to participate due to his contract with the Broadway production of Doctor Zhivago. Jaclyn Schultz from San Juan del Sur stated that her fiancé and fellow San Juan del Sur castaway Jon Misch was contacted, but was cut after not responding to a voicemail from the producers in time.
The vote was conducted on the CBS website, and was open to residents of the U.S., Canada (where the show is simulcast on Global) and Australia (where the show airs the following day on Go!). On the website, each candidate was featured in a video displaying a series of clips from their original season followed by a plea to voters as to why they should be selected for Cambodia. Registered voters were required to submit ballots of exactly ten men and ten women, and each voter could only submit a ballot once every 24 hours. This public voting process was similar to one CBS used in 2006 for the all-star edition of reality program Big Brother.
Voting commenced on May 6, 2015, while the Worlds Apart season of Survivor was still in progress. The ballot consisted entirely of players who had played only once before and had not won; however, two of the candidates from Worlds Apart (Mike Holloway and Carolyn Rivera) had not yet been eliminated from that season when voting began; if either of them were revealed to be that season's winner, they would be deemed ineligible for Cambodia and, if they were among the top ten vote receivers of their gender, their spot would be given to the person on their ballot with the 11th highest vote total. Holloway won Worlds Apart while placing in the top ten among male candidates for Cambodia, thus the 11th place male candidate joined the cast instead. Probst has since stated that, out of respect for the contestants, there is no intention to reveal the final vote counts or ranks.
Ciera Eastin and Jeff Varner returned for Survivor: Game Changers. Eastin was the first person voted out and placed 20th.
The 20 returning castaways were initially divided into two tribes of ten: Bayon and Ta Keo. Bayon was led by a core alliance spearheaded by Andrew and Jeremy, the entire tribe promising to stay loyal in the face of upcoming tribe swaps. Throughout the two tribe shuffles, the original Ta Keo tribe fractured while most original Bayon members continued acting in the interest of reforming at the merge. However, some—such as Ciera and Kass—were not as loyal, creating a new alliance on the second Ta Keo tribe. On the third Ta Keo tribe, Ciera and Kass' new alliance came into conflict with Andrew, and they blindsided his ally Woo.
The tribes merged the next day with 13 players remaining, setting Andrew and Jeremy's reformed Bayon alliance against Ciera and Kass'. Though the Bayon alliance initially held the majority, the tribe's large size and multitude of intertwining relationships as a result of the tribe swaps caused the players to eschew long-term alliances in favor of creating temporary voting blocs to get rid of common threats.
While the voting bloc strategy prevailed well into the merge, stable alliances began to form as the numbers dwindled. With seven players remaining, Jeremy formed a majority alliance with Spencer, who had had no consistent allies throughout the game, and original Bayon members Tasha and Kimmi. However, Kimmi later betrayed them to align with outsiders Keith and Kelley Wentworth. Kimmi was eliminated after the ensuing deadlock tie, and Jeremy, Spencer, and Tasha reached the end of the game together. Ultimately, at the Final Tribal Council, Jeremy was awarded for his strategic and social dominance throughout the entire game, earning the title of Sole Survivor by a unanimous jury vote.
The premiere episode was watched by 9.70 million viewers and received a 2.5/8 rating/share in the critical 18–49 demographic. Though the ratings were down from the San Juan del Sur premiere the year before, it ranked first in its timeslot and third for the night, behind Empire and Modern Family. Including three-day DVR figures, the premiere was watched by a total of 11.4 million viewers and scored a 3.1 18–49 rating. The first and second episodes were consistent with the average ratings of the last seven seasons of the show (from One World to Worlds Apart), which averaged 11.5 million viewers and 18–49 ratings between 3.1 and 3.5.
Live + SD ratings
The season received favorable reviews among both critics and fans. Daniel Fienberg of The Hollywood Reporter reviewed the season positively, saying "The episodes this fall were a reminder of why this show works so well and why you can never rule out Survivor to produce twists and turns that rival what you might find on a Netflix or HBO drama." Dan Heaton of the Survivor-based fansite Rob Has a Website gave the finale—and the season—a favorable review, saying,
"This week's very satisfying finale included one of the show's greatest Tribal Councils and barely took a breath in the rush to the finish. Three different players won immunity, tears were shed, and no one backed down. There were no horrible gaffes at the Final Tribal Council, and the jury mostly avoided the bitter route. Kimmi emerged from a quiet edit to nearly dethrone the champ while Keith remained his unique self. Spencer and Tasha made a strategic error by sticking with Jeremy, but both showed real determination throughout the season to make the end. To put it mildly, I enjoyed this season."
Dalton Ross of Entertainment Weekly ranked Cambodia as his fifth-favorite season, only behind Borneo, Micronesia, Heroes vs. Villains and Cagayan. He stated that despite some confusion with the season's constantly-shifting "voting blocs" and his disappointment with some of the challenges, he found the season appealing due to "how hard the bulk of the cast was playing," while also praising the numerous twists such as the fan-vote, the idols hidden in challenges, the tribe swaps, and the vote-stealing advantage. Caroline Framke of Vox raved the season, saying "The high level of game play in Survivor: Second Chance made a 15-year-old formula feel new again."