Just over two years ago, Spencer Bledsoe (A.B. ’14) traded the city life of Hyde Park for the shores of the Philippines as he competed on the 28th season of hit reality show Survivor, Survivor: Cagayan. Although host Jeff Probst predicted that Bledsoe had a “zero percent chance” at winning the game and its $1 million grand prize, Bledsoe exceeded expectations, finishing in fourth place by lasting 37 days on the island, surviving 11 tribal councils, winning two immunity challenges, and showing his strategic prowess along the way. An instant fan favorite, Bledsoe was elected by audiences as one of 20 former castaways to compete on the show’s current season, Survivor: Cambodia, Second Chances. Does Bledsoe have what it takes to outwit, outplay, and outlast his new competition? Here’s a look at what Bledsoe’s accomplished so far in the first half of the season. (WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD.)
Episode #1 (“Second Chance”): Willing to admit his mistakes from his first appearance on the show, Bledsoe, an avid chess player at the College, concedes that he approached the game “in terms of chess” in the beginning. Eventually, he realized that the approach could only go so far. “People are not chess pieces,” he says. “They need to be related to on a human level.” Since returning from the Phillippines and graduating from UChicago, Bledsoe says he has done “a lot of maturing and emotional growing.” Ready to capitalize on that growth, Bledsoe adds, “I’m in a better emotional place in life than I’ve ever been to play and win this game.” Although Bledsoe’s tribe, Ta Keo, loses the first immunity challenge, he secures his place in the majority alliance.
Episode #2 (“Survivor MacGyver”): The second immunity challenge comes down to the wire as Bledsoe subs in on the closing puzzle. Despite a valiant effort, his tribe loses the challenge, earning another trip back to Tribal Council. Unfortunately for Bledsoe, his tribemates begin to see him and his closest ally, Shirin Oskooi of Survivor: Worlds Apart, as dangerous strategic players, and the top targets for elimination. Bledsoe is brought to tears when he is left with no alternative but to cast his vote for Oskooi, with a slim margin of one vote saving Bledsoe from elimination.
Episode #3 (“We Got a Rat”): Narrowly surviving a nail-biting vote, Bledsoe remains at the bottom of his tribe and in line to be the next person voted out. However, in a twist, a third tribe is added and the 18 remaining players are divided among them. In a random tribe drawing, Bledsoe places in the new Bayon tribe, which, to Bledsoe’s relief, avoids Tribal Council.
Episode #4 (“What’s the Beef?”): Bayon wins immunity once again, ensuring Bledsoe’s safety for another week. However, Bayon tribemate and Survivor: Samoa contestant Monica Padilla is suspicious of Bledsoe’s strategic motives and views him as a threat to a potential women’s alliance. “Once challenge is lost,” Padilla tells us, “Spencer needs to go first.”
Episode #5 (“A Snake in the Grass”): In need of some extra food, Bledsoe goes out fishing in the Gulf of Thailand. Bledsoe grew up watching former contestants fish, spearfish, and snorkel. Looking back, Bledsoe recounts, “I always saw myself as an awkward, geeky kid who couldn’t do those things. But here I am, doing those things. I feel like I’m not enjoying Survivor by proxy anymore; I’m living it.” Back on land, Bayon loses the immunity challenge and Padilla continues to target Bledsoe. In a stroke of fortune, Bledsoe forms three new allies and, while purposefully holding back his gameplay, helps set the stage for a voting blindside at Tribal Council. Padilla goes home on a 3–2–1 vote (Spencer receives two votes) and, once again, Bledsoe finds a way to avoid elimination.
Episode #6 (“Bunking With the Devil”): Yet another tribe swap! With 14 contestants left, three tribes become two and Bledsoe joins a new tribe with his Survivor: Cagayan nemesis Kass McQuillen. McQuillen urges her tribemates to vote Bledsoe out at the next vote and they oblige. When the tribe loses the immunity challenge, it appears as if Bledsoe’s luck has run out. However, Bledsoe exploits a power struggle to survive elimination again by one vote. (Yes, this was insanely nerve-wracking to watch with my parents via FaceTime in my room. No, I am not ashamed to admit that.)
Episode #7 (“Play to Win”): With 13 contestants left, the two tribes merge. At the first individual immunity challenge, Spencer comes in a commendable second place. (Clearly, his workouts at Ratner are still paying some dividends!) With Tribal Council looming, Bledsoe finds himself in the middle of a voting dilemma. Ultimately, he sides with the majority, who votes McQuillen out of the game.
Episode #8 (“You Call, We’ll Haul”): At last, Bledsoe finds himself in a nice strategic spot—he remains in the majority, he trusts some of his allies, and he is staying in most contestants’ good graces. At Tribal Council, the majority’s decision not to split its nine votes backfires as Kelley Wentworth (Survivor: San Juan Del Sur) impressively plays her immunity idol and cancels all nine votes against her. In the midst of such strategic chaos, the fact that Bledsoe’s name does not come up is a strong indication that he will be able to fly under the radar for the next few votes.
With 10 people left in the game, can Bledsoe go the distance and make it to the Final Tribal Council? To watch the rest of Bledsoe’s quest to become the Sole Survivor, be sure to check out Survivor, airing on Wednesday on CBS at 7 p.m. CST. From the entire Maroon community: Best of luck, Spencer!