Survivor returned last night for the twelfth go-around; this time honoring the tradition of silly season names by calling itself Survivor: Panama — Exile Island. I have to admit that at first, I was fairly skeptical of the whole “Exile Island” thing. For those of you who hadn’t heard, the whole twist this season — among others — was that every episode, one person would be banished to the titular island, Janu style. Seemed kind of gimmicky, but then we found out that an immunity idol would be hidden on La Isla Del Exilio. And furthermore, that idol had some powers we’d previously never seen in an immunity idol. Now when tribes banish someone to Exile Island, they’ll have to think twice. Or three times (four, if we’re lucky). Bottom line: I know it’s only been one episode, but this season could turn out to be awesome.In general, Survivor seasons tend to alternate between good and bad, with a few exceptions. The first two iterations (Borneo, Outback) were great, but Africa faltered. Then we had the truly awesome (and overlooked) Marquesas followed by the dreadful Thailand. The rare back-to-back excellent seasons occurred with Amazon and Pearl Islands, but they were followed by back-to-back blah seasons (All-Stars and Vanuatu). Since then, we’ve had Pulau (great) and Guatemala (dull), which means based on the completely non-scientific pattern established, Exile should be solid. It certainly started off well, IMHO (as the kids say these days).
This twelfth season kicked off with the ominous sight of seagulls swirling in the sky. Perhaps they’d encountered the carnage of a shipwreck? Even worse: they’d encountered… EXILE ISLAND! Yes, from gulls to skulls and everything -ull sounding in between, Exile Island had it all. And even though his name doesn’t rhyme with “lull,” Jeff Probst was there too. Yes, in true Survivor fashion, we found our intrepid host in the wilderness, bellowing about the current season. “Thirty-nine days, eighteen people, ONE SURVIVOR!” he yelled as the camera pulled back to reveal him standing on a giant skull. You know, considering that skulls seem to be the theme of this season, couldn’t the producers have come up with a scarier name for Exile Island? Maybe Island of Banished Souls? Island of Ill Repute? Island of Death? Okay, I suppose those are grandiose names, but Mark Burnett could have just taken some made-up tribal name like Cacavaxa and said “It means Island of Tortured SPIRITS!!!”
Anyway, for those of you wondering what this island is really like, just imagine a smaller, less King Kong-y version of Skull Island. Instead of giant apes and dinosaurs, Exile Island had worms and a quaint gathering of trees. So you see, the similarities were quite striking.
Well, after the opening credits, we soon found four boats speeding towards Exile Island (and no, an ominous fog did not enshroud them once they approached the general area). Excitement was in the air. Even all the creatures of the sea were eager to see the new survivors as a ray jumped out of the water. This pomp and circumstance was nice and everything, but I would have preferred the traditional Jeff Probst military convoy.
Anyway, the survivors finally disembarked at Exile Island and holy cow! What was that hair I just saw? Big, blond, mullet-y. Was Dog the Bounty Hunter on this season? That would be awesome. (Random question: whatever happened to Mad Dog from Outback. I’d like to see her and Dog have babies. Beautiful, hair-challenged babies).
Well, everyone lined up in front of Jeff, and wouldn’t you know it, they were already pre-grouped. Four tribes this season (or at least, for this episode): younger men, younger women, older men, older women. At this point, older woman Cirie said, “Uh, I thought I was young.” Ouch, that smarts. Sorry, Cirie. The reality gods have turned you into an old spinster (and at the age of 35, she’s clearly an ancient relic. I guess Exile Island has one dinosaur after all. Oh yeah! High five!).
Oh, and for those of you wondering, alterna-names to the tribes have already been created, courtesy of Bobby. There’s the young beefcake crowd (young men), Loveboat Crowd (older men), Golden Girls (older women. Including YOU, Cirie), and Spice Girls (younger women). You know, it seemed a lot more amusing in the context of the show.
Well, Jeff then explained the rules of Exile Island, and before anyone had a chance to digest this new twist, he then announced that the reward challenge would be starting right then. Winners would get flint while the losers would have to send someone to Exile Island. Or as Nelly would call it, EI.
“I was just pumped that we had a challenge right off the bat. I mean, that’s my forte. That’s my thing,” said Danielle of the younger women. Okay, clearly she’s going to fail in a major way. Gotta love cocky reality stars.
For the challenge, one teammate from each tribe had to run to the other end of Exile Island where he or she would find a pile of skulls (natch). Players would have to crack open the skulls until they found an amulet inside. First three tribe members to return to Probst with an amulet would win. Sounds simple enough. Let’s get this shiznit started.
The players all lined up, and Probst did his little hand thing (“Survivors ready? GO!”). Everyone zipped off — except younger guy Austin who tripped on what seemed to be a blade of grass. He soon rebounded and was right in there, crushing skulls with the rest of ‘em. The old guys finished first, followed by the young dudes. Now it was down to the two women tribes. Looked like Danielle had the lead, which would make sense since this was her forte and everything. But in the end, Ruth Marie from the older ladies ’rounded the corner first, which meant those young lasses had to send someone to (booming, echoey voice) EXILE ISLAND!
In a move befitting The Gauntlet 2, the girls duked it out with an old tournament of rock, paper, scissors. “Please god, I don’t want to start off Survivor on the losing end,” Misty pleaded to us in an interview. Well, tough luck. Misty lost the RPS challenge (I guess this won’t be in her future) and was therefore doomed to stay on the island until the next immunity challenge. And speaking of immunity, funny thing about this Exile Island. Somewhere hidden amongst the skulls and whatnot was an immunity idol, and if found, the holder could choose to reveal it after votes were read at tribal council (unlike Gary’s idol last season). Oh, and if that’s not already cool enough, if the tribe votes someone out, and that person then reveals the Exile Island immunity idol, then the person with the second highest number of votes is out. A brilliant addition, if I do say so myself. After all, this could completely empower minority alliances. Jeff didn’t say whether or not the Idol would be hidden again if used, but either way, this addition really opens up the entire game, especially in choosing who to go to the island.
But anyway, back to the show. The tribes headed off in boats, leaving Misty alone with Jeff Probst on the island. “You have a lot of time to think about why fate chose you to be the first one out here, which is why immunity is already so important. And as for your first clue as to the whereabouts, I’ve already given it to you,” Probst said. Wait, what? He did? Did I miss something? Clearly. Oh Probst. So tricky!
Nevertheless, with nothing but time on her hands, Misty got to work searching for that idol. “He said, ‘Why did fate leave you behind?’” Misty said, incorrectly remembering Jeff’s words. Well, she based her whole treasure hunt on her mistaken memory, searching behind her for the idol. Oh Misty. So mistaken. Kind of reminds me of this one time I went to one of those Murder Mystery things, and in one of the skits, a performer dropped a devil stick. I based my entire case off that incident (That woman was clearly not the cheerleader she said she was! She dropped the devil stick! Therefore, she is a MURDERER!!), but in the end, it turned out the actress simply dropped the devil stick because, well, she was a klutz. Point is, Misty and I would be terrible detectives.
Back on the high seas, Tina The Bounty Hunter pounded her chest like Tarzan (if Tarzan had a mullet, natch), and then she and her tribe arrived at their campsite, officially known as Golden Girl Beach. Almost immediately, the women got to work building their shelter, and Cirie (pronounced like Suh-Reeh) proudly stepped into the role of “The useless but funny one” by announcing, “Clearin’ areas kind of scare me because when you clear an area, the things that used to live there come out.” Kind of like when Star Jones gets a Brazilian. BOO-YA!
Later, Cirie revealed a deep-seeded fear of leaves, and hey, who ISN’T afraid of leaves? Light, delicate — they might as well be scorpions! Anyway, Tina the Bounty Hunter couldn’t quite understand Cirie’s phobia, saying “Did anyone tell her what show she was going on?” To be fair, she thought she was gonna be on The Price is Right, so let’s cut Cirie some slack.
Anyway, Tina certainly knew what she had signed up for as she quickly stepped into a leadership position by first spearheading the shelter effort and then lighting the campfire (all to the tune of “Disco Inferno” — the old version, not the 50 Cent one. Although, I would certainly have enjoyed seeing Tina’s take on 50 Cent). Of course, Tina balked at Cirie’s fear of nature, but we could turn her incredulity right back at her. Did TINA know what show SHE was on? Because everyone knows that bossy bitches don’t last long. Actually, I didn’t really think Tina seemed bossy at all. In fact, she was pretty cool. Okay, she was my favorite so far, but I think that’s just due to the mullet.
Meanwhile, over at the younger men’s camp, the guys were busy building a fire and a shelter. Sort of. All right, they were playing baseball. In a move that did not bode well for their quality of life ratings, the young whippersnappers decided to toss some coconuts around the beach and frolic around as if this were Club Med. Eventually, they decided to get down to work, but not before Aras insisted on some weird hand-hovering meditation techniques. And yes, Aras was a yoga instructor. Anyway, this hand thing was supposed to maybe hone energy or help everyone focus. All it really did though was cause snickering across America. I personally was surprised the other guys participated in this silliness with a straight face.
Sadly for Aras, the meditation did nothing for the men as they were incapable of starting a fire or building a semi-adequate shelter. I can’t really describe the structure they somehow fashioned. It was sort of like a haphazard arrangement of branches and palm fronds — one that would surely crumble at the faintest breeze. Question: why doesn’t anyone ever study ways to build a shelter before coming on the show? Wouldn’t that make sense?
Over at the younger women’s tribe, building a shelter wasn’t even an option, but at least the girls acted like it was. They spent what seemed like hours wandering the beach, trying to find the perfect shelter location. “We were being women. ‘Huh, do you think this will work? I don’t know. What do you think? I don’t know. Is purple my color?’” mocked Courtney, who happens to be a fire dancer. Maybe she would have been happier had the tribe been filled with New Age mysticals — the type that would truly appreciate a dead tortoise, which, as it happened, was exactly what the girls found on the beach.
“To me, it just seemed really significant… It seems like a such a symbol. Like, the turtle is Mother Earth,” Courtney told her uninspired tribe mates. It was pretty sad that one of these tortoises had come to a demise on the beach, but exactly what was symbolic about it? Did this mean that Mother Nature died at their camp? It’s the death of Mother Nature! The modernization of the Ancient World! A stirring commentary about reality shows entering the natural realm! Or… it was just a dead tortoise. Yeah, probably that.
Anyway, Courtney proposed rolling the sea tortoise into the ocean at high tide, an activity the girls greeted with restrained smiles and looks that seemed to say, “Exactly how long do we have to be polite to you?”
Over at the older men’s camp, it was all about building, building, building. Unsurprisingly, we saw footage of Bruce, the older Asian man of the bunch, chopping wood with a certain Mr. Miyagi intensity. “Samurai cut!” he announced proudly. Meanwhile, the goofy Terry boasted to us about how wonderful his tribe would be. “When people come over here, if they do, they’re gonna see a roaring fire, and they’re gonna see some shrimp on the barbie!” he said, chuckling to himself. Oh Terry. You are hilarious. That shrimp-on-the-barbie bit kills every time!
Later, astronaut Dan (also known as the most sickly-looking Survivor contestant EVER) approached Terry and asked, “Can I trust you?”
“Yeah,” replied Dan. For those of you watching at home, that means “No.”
“I’ll never lie to you, and I expect you never to lie to me,” Dan said. You might as well put on a giant crown that says “SUCKER.” Well, the guys shook to this promise, and then Dan revealed that he had a secret to share. Why? I don’t know. “I flew on the space shuttle,” he grinned, revealing a set of giant, nasty teeth. I guess there’s no dentist in space, huh? Well, actually, yeah, that makes sense. Let me revise that. Guess there’s no dentist when you come back from space, HUH? Got him.
Well, turned out Terry had a secret for Dan. You see, he’s a pilot for American Airlines, but when he was younger, he was in the military, flying all sorts of F-18s and everything. I don’t know why these two were sharing secrets unnecessarily, and furthermore, I wasn’t quite sure why they wanted to keep this information secret. Would there be some sort of F-18 challenge coming up? Or would the survivors be heading to space camp? I guess maybe these guys were concerned that their backgrounds might make them more of a threat physically, but I mean, have these guys even seen Dan? He was like Gollum with peach fuzz. (But he also seemed really nice, so now I feel bad.)
He literally has peach fuzz.
Not seeming nice at all was Shane, a marketing guy who looked like he lived and died by the words of the Trendy Gods. He had that sardonic, “I’m so over this” attitude about him — the type that’s annoyingly prevalent in Los Angeles hipster society and the type that will quickly make him the villain of this cast. Off the bat, he complained about how the older guys just wanted to work all the time, then adding, “I smoke three packs of cigarettes a day for twenty years, and I haven’t had a cigarette in thirty-one hours.” Well, what the hell did you expect? A roving cigarette girls to stop by the island every morning? Oh, but shane really irked me when he called Bruce “Daffy Duck.” No one makes fun of Bruce. Bruce rocks. And if you are to make fun of him, it has to be in a loving way (rules may change, depending on if Bruce remains lovably bossy and/or reminiscent of Pat Morita).
Now that we’d seen what life was like for all the tribes, we then returned to Misty, who had just suffered through the night alone on Exile Island. Pretty impressive, especially since she had to sleep through a horrific thunderstorm. Anyway, with no food or water, Misty plucked a worm from the earth and swallowed it — hey, it’s protein. Remember when that used to be shocking? I just watched Best Week Ever and saw footage of the Boogeyman on RAW chowing down on like hundreds of worms. Nasty.
Anyway, Misty couldn’t find the immunity idol, but just because she didn’t have it didn’t mean she couldn’t act like she did. She resolved to trick her tribemates into thinking she had found the idol, thus ushering in the first scheming of the season. Ah, wonderful. That’s the sort of duplicitousness I like to see from Survivor. Lying about being an astronaut or NFL quarterback is one thing, but strategically misdirecting a tribe to achieve a certain result — that’s what makes or breaks a Survivor season (usually).
Well, soon it was time for the immunity challenge, which meant Misty and her wet ass could rejoin her tribe. Probst questioned her about her stay at Exile Island, and Misty answered all naughty-like, suggesting that she may just have found that idol. Her teammates reacted with puzzled faces, and then Jeff brought out the real immunity idol, which may just have been the ugliest immunity idol in the show’s history. I think it was supposed to be reminiscent of a headhunter’s spear. Whatever it was, Jeff should have covered it up.
Anyway, the first challenge was the typical convoluted Survivor obstacle course. Teams had to start on a pontoon and jump into the water. Then they had to unlock a raft underwater and row it to the beach where they’d find a brainteaser. Teams had the option to spend time digging for the answer to the brain teaser, and then once the puzzle was complete, the tribes had to toss a ring onto a grappling hook and tug, causing a flag to unfurl. If you’re confused, don’t worry about it. It’s really not worth losing any sleep over.
Well, the teams all dove into the water, eventually piling onto their rafts. The younger women took a surprising lead with the older men just behind. As the older women struggled to unlock their raft, Cirie dazzled all with her ample bosom, and yes, that was her right titty hanging out of the bathing suit. Sorry, no nip slip though. The CBS editors caught it. Blast those infernal workerbees!
Anyway, after their disastrous reward challenge performance (thanks, DANIELLE), the younger girls rebounded and completed the task first, followed by the older men, and good God! What was up with astronaut Dan? I’ve seen pale people before, but he was like a fluorescent bulb. I think maybe he encountered something scary and Michael Crighton-ish in outer-space. Either that or he rolled around in flour before the challenge.
Anyway, the younger men came from behind and took the last immunity spot, which meant the Golden Girls would be sending someone home. The obvious choice to go home would be nature foe Cirie, but then again, that Tina is all crazy with her “work ethic” and “strength.” Well, in TV Land, Golden Girls work out their problems over a late-night cheesecake. In Survivor land, Golden GIrls plot and scheme behind each other’s backs (and they walk around with long-sleeved shirts and no pants, but that’s an entirely different issues altogether).
And so while Tina sat by herself on a log, Cirie chatted with the other women, reminding them how Tina really didn’t contribute anything that they couldn’t have contributed also. You know, Tina just happened to build the shelter and start the fire and find the water first, but that doesn’t make her a worthy addition to the tribe. I mean, Cirie helped out a lot too — that is, when she wasn’t running scared from leaves and twigs and the occasional pebble. I can’t hate on Cirie too much though. She was scheming, and that’s all I ask for in any episode of Survivor.
As for Tina, she was sitting on aforementioned log, and before we could marvel at the oddity of this scene, the sad music sounded, and we then saw the name “Charlie” written in the sand. Oh no. Get your tissues. This was gonna be rough.
“I wrote this in the sand for my son, Charlie, who was killed in a car accident just about four and a half months ago,” Tina cried. “He was just sixteen years old, and he was my only child. I am sad because I miss him.” Okay, even just typing that quote gets me choked up. Wow. That hit me like a sucker-punch. I can’t be snarky about that.
Luckily, we got back to our normal wacky programming as Tina, no longer crying, stumbled upon a big fish dying on some rocks. This led to some typical Survivor slapstick as our favorite lumber jill attempted to grab the sea creature by the tail (By the way, first, I never knew female lumber jacks were called “lumber jills,” and second, could there BE a more hokey gender assignment??). After a few failed attempts, Tina finally managed to get the fish into her bag and bring it back to camp for all to see.
Melinda, who looked not unlike an older, female version of Dennis the Menace, was wowed by Tina’s catch, but she had some issues about how to cook it. “Don’t we need to fry it?” she asked. Yes, exactly. Fry it. Because there just so happens to be a natural deep fryer over there by the palm tree. Well, Cirie may have been wary of leaves, but she was not afraid to scale that fish. It was a last ditch effort to prove her worthiness to the group. Whatever, Cirie. You’re a goner, and you know it.
The ladies then headed off to Tribal Council, which was held in a cave that seemed to have the highest stalactite-per-square-inch ratio in the entire world. Probst kicked off a round of questions, asking the women how they were enjoying the experience so far.
“I’m currently in Panamanian hell,” Melinda said. She then went on to describe how all-encompassing the experience was, ultimately telling Jeff, “You should try it.” And Jeff’s response? Nothing! Whaaa?? How could you not say anything, Jeff? She set you up for the perfect sass opportunity. I think someone left his snippiness on Exile Island.
As for Cirie, she had some good advice for all of us at home: “For the people at home that are like me on the couch, STAY on the couch!” Done and done! I don’t remember if I’ve told this story before, but I once had a conversation with Jeff Probst and Colby Donaldson, and at the end of it, Jeff said that I had to go on the show. I told him no. I mean, a little reality fame would be amusing and a shot at a million dollars would be awesome, but seriously, sleeping in a crappy shelter is nothing compared to the comforts of my couch. So, yes, Cirie. I’ll be staying right here.
Anyway, Jeff then asked about Tina and her role in camp. Cirie rolled her eyes and said dismissively, “She did know how to start the fire. She found the water.”
Well, nothing rankles Jeff Probst like a slacker who under-appreciates another tribe-mate’s contributions. “Those are two HUGE things! Starting fire and finding the water are gigantic!!” Jeff said. This is what I love about Jeff Probst. He’s the only host that snaps at the players on a consistent basis.
Anyway, the women eventually scrawled down their votes. Tina scrawled down Cirie’s name, saying, “Somebody has to go, and your fear of leaves was my biggest factor because we have to go on the leaves too.” I didn’t really see how that last point fit into the larger scheme of things — maybe Tina was suggesting that Cirie was gonna walk around with a smelly tush instead of wiping her ass with a leaf. Nevertheless, it didn’t really matter because ultimately, the women voted Tina out, ensuring that their camp life will now be miserable, and at the very least, sans flowing mullet. I had to say, I was disappointed. I really liked Tina, but again, gotta give props to Cirie for scheming her way out of the corner.
We then saw Tina’s Febreeze family moment, and I was somewhat puzzled as to how such a clean-cut group of people could produce such a firestorm of mullet beauty. Maybe she was adopted. Anyway, as the show came to a close, we then saw Tina’s final words which were perfectly bitter: “I think the girls made a huge mistake voting me out. I hope they do terrible.” Awesome.