Survivor is back! You guys, I’ve been doing this blog for three years now, and this show was the reason I started it up. I love this show, and watching it all unfold with different personalities every season. I still think it’s such an interesting study in human nature. What will people do for $1 million? How do people from completely different walks of life interact when they’re isolated with only each other? How do people act on camera? It’s always so interesting to me.
I feel really good about the mix of players this season. The returning players – Mike Skupin, Jonathan Penner and Russell Swann – are all rather strong personalities. The group is a diverse range of ages and backgrounds (though the racial diversity is, as usual, rather lacking). It’s not just a recruited cast of hot, L.A. twenty-somethings. I have a good feeling about this season.
The returning players have all been medically evacuated from the game, which is a good reason to bring people back. Though they’ll never know “what could have been”, as Probst said, because that’s the nature of Survivor. You can’t recreate any situation.
The Facts of Survivor
Immediately, I thought Lisa Whelchel was making a mistake by keeping her The Facts of Life past a secret. Someone would recognize her, and that can often make you look untrustworthy. That show was so long ago, it would have been just as easy for her to say “Yeah, that money is long gone. It wasn’t that much to begin with and I’ve been a minister for ten years now.” Lucky for her, Skupin is the only person to recognize her thus far, and he feels it’s to his advantage to keep the middle-aged people on his tribe around. He didn’t out her, and offered up a bit of advice.
Same goes for former pro baseball player Jeff Kent. Sarah, one of the girls on his tribe, knows who he is. And she’s holding onto that information until it’s useful to her. (I like the strategic thinking – she’ll be higher up on my office pool list.)
However, I do think it’s smart of RC to say she’s an executive assistant rather than an investment banker. Wall Street doesn’t win you Survivor, and it’s a lie she can keep up the whole time if she’s smart – which I think she is.
Leopard, Spots, Etc. Etc.
It’s funny how the returning players have immediately fallen back into previous habits.
Skupin played Survivor twelve years ago and hasn’t played since. He was a force to be reckoned with back then – the alpha male of the tribe who was catching and killing pigs to eat – and then got injured. Apparently the injury wasn’t an anomaly. He had, like, twelve cuts and gashes within only the first few days! Someone take that machete away!
Jonathan Penner has always been a favorite of mine. He’s looking a little worse for the wear since he last played this game, but he’s smart, funny and wears a straw hat. Those are all important attributes. He’s also a writer, so I’m bound to connect with him. I like his blue eyes. But man oh man, does he have a habit of running some people the wrong way. This time, it was by being far too blatant in his search for the Hidden Immunity Idol. Buddy, you need to be more subtle about that! And also, spend some time bonding with your tribe. Geez.
Worst of all was Russell Swann, who said he’d be a fool to jump back into a leader position and then did just that. He can’t help it. He’s not even a leader, really, he’s just a very bossy person. I don’t care if he almost died during a challenge – it doesn’t change the fact that I disliked him as a player in Samoa and I dislike him now. The way he acted before the challenge was so obnoxious.
Come On Baby, Light Our Fire
We spent a lot of time with the Matsing Tribe because they were going to Tribal Council, and I actually rather like most of them. Malcom obviously stood out as a strong player. He’s young and very fit, but he’s smart as well. I liked the way he allowed Russell to build the fire and have that glory, because he knew it was the wiser move. He spent a year in Micronesia teaching ESL and has some useful outdoorsy skills. I like that he’s built a relationship with Denise, who as a sex therapist has very keen observational skills. If their tribe doesn’t get decimated, I think that’s a potentially great partnership.
I was surprised by twenty year-old Angie, who I expected to be a nauseating sorority girl. She’s actually got a good head on her shoulders, and if her track background is of any use she could be good in challenges. And I liked Roxy as well. She has a quiet but strong demeanor, and I think her background in the military and religion could come in handy.
Odd Ones Out
There are definitely some outsiders already in the game. Poor Lisa, she’s so excited to play and obviously thinks she has great people skills, but her tribemates don’t trust her. I was really glad her tribe didn’t end up going to Tribal Council because having three more days of safety could go a long way in helping her form those bonds. I love players who are fans of the show, and she’s an uber-fan. I hope that meltdown they previewed for next week is just a momentary lapse.
Zane’s an odd duck (more on him later), as is Denise. Can we hook them up after the show?
There are still a lot of players we barely know. We didn’t see much of Abi, Pete or Artis on Tandang, I’m not sure we even heard Carter from Kalabaw speak once, and we didn’t get a lot from Katie or Sarah on that tribe either.
Run, Paddle, Puzzle
The Immunity/Reward Combo-Challenge this week was pretty good. Everyone was paired off for different tasks, and doing that always brings out interesting team dynamics. Who will step up for a high-pressure role, who will say they’re good at something and then fail, etc.
This is where Swann went from obnoxious to unbearable. Despite the objections from his tribemates, he assigned everyone roles without considering what each individual considered his or her own strengths. When people tried to calmly speak up, he’d “shush!” them and tell them to calm down. Ugh! There’s nothing I hate more than a man telling a perfectly reasonable woman to calm down. He squashed any sort of reasoned discussion and just made decisions like a dictator. Thus, he ended up putting the former track runner on a puzzle she knew she couldn’t solve, and had a guy out running who only quit smoking YESTERDAY. What a moron.
Surprisingly, Swann and Zane didn’t come in last for the first leg – that embarrassment went to Dana and Katie from Kalabaw. I wonder who the weak link was there? Luckily, their tribemates made up for it. Carter and Jeff rocked the leg where they paddled out to retrieve a heavy box of puzzle pieces, and then Penner and Sarah secured the win by solving the puzzle. (If I remember correctly, Penner is quite good with puzzles.) They won Immunity and a handy fire-starting kit for coming in first place, while second-place tribe Tandang received Immunity and flint.
After the challenge, I thought there was a very good chance that Russell Swann would be voted out first. And I wouldn’t be sad to see him go. He definitely annoyed Angie and Roxy, and Malcom was pretty fed up with him as well. But then Zane went and made the dumbest possible move.
Immediately after returning from the challenge, Zane stressed what a disaster he’d been and basically encouraged his tribe to cut their losses and send him home. And then, just as I was wondering if someone would hand him a shovel to help him dig his own grave, he revealed to the camera that it was all a “ruse”. What? Dies he know what “ruse” means? Has he confused it for the word “error” or “mistake”?
Angie wasn’t going down without a fight and tried to convince Zane to stick around. But the seed was already planted with the rest of the tribe, and they had to face the facts – Russell is relatively strong, and Zane incredibly weak. As Malcom put it, “quite literally, he’s the one who’s weighing us down.” Just to make matters worse, Zane told everyone that Russell might have the Hidden Immunity Idol. Gee willakers, Zane, now people will really want to vote him out! Yipes.
Even though I was pretty sure this tribe would do the pragmatic thing and eliminate Zane, I was hoping Russell would be voted out. I mean, he thought his “one mistake” was stepping into “Chief Mode” before the challenge? He was in that mode from the first minute of the game! His switch is permanently stuck on that mode! What a lack of self-awareness. But Zane was out. Sorry, kid. Peel off your Nicotine patch and head home. Better luck next time? (There likely won’t be a next time.)
Like I said, I like the Matsing Tribe, so I hope they don’t end up back at Tribal Council for a while even though I dislike Russell Swann so. I was really happy with the season premiere, and I think we’re in store for a solid season. What do you guys think?