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Thursday was the eagerly awaited premiere of Survivor: Fiji, and this year there are several firsts. There are an odd number of castaways for the first time ever, one team will have all the luxuries from the very beginning, and two immunity idols look to shake up the game. How will things go with these new changes? Let’s find out! The season begins with a shot of a biplane, flying over the barren ocean. Awesome, I’ve been hoping they would do Survivor: Amelia Earheart for years now! Alas, my dreams are crushed as a logo on the side of the plane welcomes us to Survivor: Fiji. The plane flies over two kayaks bearing the nineteen contestants that many of us will come to love and hate over the next four months. Well, four months and a week, with a break for March Madness.
Probst’s traditional beginning voiceover tells that the Fiji islands are famous for cannibalism, deadly sea creatures, and fierce warriors. The fear of the unknown was apparently so scary that someone quit hours before the game started. Given what we know later, I think she was just afraid of being given a stupid nickname. Also, Exile Island is now full of deadly sea snakes, and I’m wishing they had come up with that development before Adam had been sent there last season. Also, there are two hidden immunity idols this time. What he does not tell us is that this season you have to use the idol after the votes are cast, but before they are read, which should be interesting to watch. Up in the plane, Jeff is all, “Thirty-nine days, nineteen people, one…Survivor!” which means it’s time for the credits! I love seeing the credits for the first time every year, because you get to hear the remixed theme music and meet all the people.
But I keep waiting, and they…never come. I’m kind of torn about this, because if it means we’re getting more content, then I’m all for it, but hearing the remixed theme music and seeing the epic shots of the contestants was one of my favorite parts. I think they did this a couple of times during Exile Island, so it could go either way. Who’s with me?
The castaways arrive at the beach and greet each other for the first time. It looks like they’ve all been given their own identical bags as well. As they greet each other, Edgardo (ad executive, and also, Latin Lover) tells us that he was expecting Jeff to show up and tell them, pointing, “You go over there, and you go over there, but he never came.” Yes, Edgardo, without Jeff Probst giving me direction, I am often helpless as well. Probst is always following me around like, “Schoonie, it’s time to go to the grocery store, because you are out of ricotta cheese and you are making lasagna tonight. However, you will need the directions to the store, which are buried in a chest across that obstacle course.” I do a lot of unearthing of things, and puzzles, but it’s a good life.
And because there were no credits, this is when we get to meet our major players for the episode. A large fellow in a red shirt asks a small, older Asian man what his name is. The Asian man introduces himself as “Yau-man”, and Red Shirted Guy replies, “Yao Ming?” because he has mistaken this tiny man for a seven foot tall NBA Player, such are his powers of observation. Yao Ming spells his name for the guy. ”Y-A-U-M-A-N.” Red-shirted guy is then quite awesomely like, “Hi, I’m Boo, B-O-O.” He’s clearly seen this show before, and fully expecting to have a vote cast for him that reads “BOUGH”.
The camera pans over to a dark haired Italian guy in a red tank top, and someone shouts, “He looks like Sylvester Stallone!” and punches him in the arm in a friendly manner. “Rocky”, whose real name is James, then tells us in a confessional that he’s had a lot of nicknames in his life, and people think he sort of looks like a smaller version of Rocky with his droopy eyes and dark hair, and they are not entirely wrong. I thought I was going to hate this guy because of all the pre-game material I saw, and because he looks weird and porn-y in his CBS cast photo, but he will actually end up not being that bad.
The group decides to go exploring and takes a walk around the island. When they find the water supply, Boo tries out for the TVGasm production of Helen Keller! The Musical by shouting “WATER!” about eight hundred times at the top of his lungs. They also find a cave that they take to be their shelter, and there are plenty of bananas and coconuts to eat.
A group of Survivors decide to climb the hill that rests right behind their camp. In a confessional, one of the guys on the trip tells us that his real name is Dre, but on the beach he just goes by what the captions spell as “Dreamz”. He also displays a firm command of the English language by telling us that he chose the name a long time ago as a “name of strive”. What? As the group climb the hill, Dreamz continues to make an ass of himself by talking the entire time and annoying the crap out of everyone, calling the country in which he will be spending the next month and a half “Fuji” instead of Fiji, and telling everyone when they reach the top of a mountain that because he’s standing the highest, he is now king. His first decree: all plurals must now end with the letter Z.
Back at camp, Cassandra (who is basically Cirie 2.0) tells us that the farthest she’s ever been in the wilderness is about forty or fifty feet off the highway. She’s working on gathering food with Yau-Man, who shows her how to open a coconut without the aid of any tools (sorry, King Dreamz: toolz). Turns out that Yau-Man grew up on the island of Borneo, where the very first edition of Survivor was filmed, and so he knows all sorts of neat survival trickz that are sure to come in handy during his stay. He tells us that the old men are usually the first ones booted off, and that he hopes this stuff will keep him here because all of the other guys are much stronger than he is. Well there’s that route, or you can just be awesome and grumpy like Rudy and stick around for a while.
Anthony the Expert Witness Locator tells us again how anxious they are because there are so many castaways, and they haven’t been given any instructions yet. Quick, turn on the Probst signal! He will see it in the night sky and come calling. A plane flies overhead with Jeff hanging out of it, and for a second I really hope that he is about to jump out and glide down like a flying squirrel wearing one of those special suits and giant goggles, but instead he drops a box into the water near their camp.
The castaways retrieve it, but they quickly realize that they have no way to open it. Boo and Rocky attempt to smash the box by throwing it against a big rock. When this does not work, they draw up plans for an elaborate Rube Goldberg style machine where you first put a piece of bread in the toaster, and then when toaster is done it sets off a loud alarm, which wakes a large chicken, who then is scared and flies away, tripping a wire tied to its foot which brings a hammer down on the box, opening it.
Yeah, not really. If you can’t smash the box by hurling it against a rock, what do you do? You hurl the rock at the box instead. I’m surprised they can hold their heads upright, such are the brains of these two geniuses. After a particularly brutal attempt to smash the box under the giant rock, Yau-man intervenes, saying “We’re looking pretty bad here,” which: yes, in every way that sentence could be construed. He then picks up the box, taps the corner against the rock a couple of times, and it splinters perfectly. “It’s simple physics, the weakest point is the corner. I dropped it on the corner, and it opened up,” he says in confessional, with this look on his face like, “Yeah, they’re not very smart.” He is awesome.
In the box are instructions for building a large, complicated shelter, including elaborate plans for a kitchen, a toilet, and a picnic table. Alex, an attorney with luxurious, flowing hair, tells us that he was concerned because “This is Survivor. Something very cruel is going to happen, very soon.”
Back from commercials, the group follows the map that leads to supplies for the camp, which are helpfully labeled so that they know which parts are for the shelter, and which are the bathroom and whatnot. This is good, because I can see Rocky and Boo holding the toilet seat up and peering through it at the camera like, “This is the roof for the shelter, right?” They have tools, some huge bags of rice, and even some paint.
As everyone carries the materials back to the campsite, they talk amongst themselves and in confessional about how unbelievable they find all of this provided material to be. It’s like they’re on Extreme Makeover: Island Edition, and I half expect Ty Pennington to show up and scream at all of them while holding a bullhorn mere inches from their faces. I think that’s close to what it’s like to have Dreamz around, honestly.
Sylvia the architect tells us that when she discovered the site plans for the camp, she figured that she could use her building experience to lead the charge. She begins to order everyone else in camp around, making demands and wondering who has the tools and who wants to build the kitchen and who has the lumber and who can find the water pot and, most importantly, who can vote her off, because she’s clearly looking to get her ass booted. Gary the bus driver tells us that he appreciates her taking the lead, but that she’s upsetting the other castaways and is probably not long for the game. He then turns around and screams at everyone behind him to shut up and quit with their horseplay, or he will make them sit in the front.
As Sylvia attempts to erect something (hehe) she’s telling Rocky and Gary that the post they’re all putting in the ground is a bit ‘askew’, but that they’ll deal with it. Rocky looks at her (and this is verbatim) and goes, “Wha? Ascoot? Well, here’s the deal. Every time somebody uses a big word, we’re all gonna have a time out and teach James the word.” This is awesome because it turns Survivor into Pee Wee’s Playhouse, and also because Sylvia responds by saying that it means “not orthogonal”, just to fuck with him.
As the castaways continue to work on putting everything together, Erica (who has big hair) is talking to Jessica (who is wearing a giant shirt and also showing off her very nice abs) about a possible alliance. They decide to stick together, and also decide that they’re going to need a guy in order to make it work. At this point, they could be voting in a big group of nineteen, so I don’t think that three people is going to do it, but dare to dream!
As group of guys (including Dreamz) are taking a break for some water, Sylvia comes over to order them around some more. She emphasizes how important it is that they get everything done before nightfall, and Earl is backing her up. They all look at each other like “Would I rather hang out here with Dreamz and have to listen to him talk about nothing and bug the shit out of me, or should I go get ordered around some more by this crazy lady? Hmmm..”
Cut to the first night on the island, and a giant storm is punishing the castaways, who are hiding under a tarp because the roof is not yet complete and no more work has been done. Does this mean Sylvia is more annoying than Dreamz? My worldview is so messed up right now. To their credit, they don’t seem to be complaining too much. They’re joking with each other, like “Sooo…you guys wanna put up the shelter tomorrow?” because it’s the first day and they’re not constantly angry at each other yet. Give it a little while guys, it’ll come.
In the morning, the group gets to work again, wrapping up the rest of the campsite construction. Rita (who is Nick from Project Runway 2’s sister) puts the finishing touches on the outhouse, telling us that they’re eager to hear the next set of instructions now that they’ve wrapped everything up. I am surprised to find that she is not running around attaching brightly colored swaths of fabric to everything, given her lineage. Stacey hangs the ‘Home Sweet Home’ sign, ending the construction process to a round of applause. Dreamz then begins an “I’d like to thank the Academy” acceptance speech, and there are literal crickets chirping, is how funny he is. Then he tells us in confessional that he was homeless from the age of seven, and had to sleep behind trash cans and in alleyways. So, the reason why he can’t read a room is because he’s never slept in one? Booyah! The homeless jokes will be coming all season, I can guarantee you that.
Now it’s Night 2, and all nineteen of the castaways are trying to sleep under the shelter. The problem is, Dreamz doesn’t seem to want to let them sleepz. Also, and even in confessional, this is when you notice that Dreamz has one volume, and that volume is: loud. He continues to annoy the other Survivors as he tells us that his strategy is to kid around with everyone, just so that they know that he’s there. I’m thinking with a name like Dreamz, it’s going to be kind of hard to fly under the radar anyway.
Dreamz then asks all of the white people to raise their hands. Since all of them are too busy preparing their taxes and purchasing cheese and doing what white people generally do, Dreamz calls out Rocky, asking him what his nationality is, and bugging him over and over about it. Rocky answers him, mostly just to shut him up, and Dreamz starts to make fun of the way he talks, all marbles in his mouth just like Stallone, pretty much. This pushes Rocky off the deep end, and he takes Dreamz aside to tell him to chill out a little bit. Dreamz can’t understand why Rocky is mad, and Rocky just keeps raising his voice at him, growing increasingly frustrated. Just as it looks like it’s about to escalate into a Bumfight, Rocky walks away, deciding to sleep on a raft away from everyone else. Rocky, don’t you know that to get a homeless person to listen to you, you have to promise him alcohol first? Or possibly wave a dollar in front of his face.
On the morning of Day 3, Jeff welcomes the castaways to their first challenge. After asking the Survivors a couple of questions about how the shelter construction went, the other Survivors identify Sylvia as the leader on the campsite construction and Probst calls her over. He tells her to divide the rest of the team into two tribes. He doesn’t give her any guidelines at all, so she is free to make it men versus women or whatever, and at this point I am hoping for Dreamz versus everyone else, but it is not to be.
She instead attempts to divide the teams up evenly, which I think is the smart thing because she’s not really sure which side she’s going to end up on or how she’s going to end up there, so she might as well give herself the best chance possible. She begins by dividing up all the women, sending Cassandra, Liliana, Stacey, and Lisi to the green line and Michelle, Erica, Rita, and Jessica to the orange line. She then begins dividing up the men by sending Dreamz to the green line and “Boston” (Rocky) to the orange line, which I think was her first mistake. Why not put them on the same tribe and allow them to destroy each other with constant bickering, taking two players out of the game? There are definitely enough large and strong guys to make this happen without making the teams uneven. She could even make it look like a mistake as she does it. As Rocky heads to the orange line, Jeff asks him to clarify what his name is so that he can shout it to the heavens whenever he screws up at challenges. Probst doesn’t want to be like, “Poor Man’s Boston Rob, having trouble with the paddling!” somewhere down the line. After sending Boo to the green and Earl to the orange, she then sends Gary the bus driver to the green, who we discover is nicknamed ‘Papa Smurf’, probably because he turns blue in the face whenever his kids won’t stay in their damn seats and start throwing spitballs at the back of his head. She sends Yau-man to the orange, and she is clearly attempting to group people by strength and weakness, because if you look at the pairs of people, most of them are pretty even. For instance, Yao-man is small and Gary is large, so they both have their drawbacks and advantages. Smart move by Sylvia to distribute both evenly. After Alex and Edgardo are sent to the green and Anthony and Mookie are sent to the orange tribe, Jeff gets the buffs out.
The green tribe (composed of Cassandra, Liliana, Stacey, Lisi, Dreamz, Boo, Gary, Edgardo, and Alex) will be called Moto, and the orange tribe (Michelle, Erica, Rita, Jessica, Rocky, Earl, Yao-man, Anthony, and Mookie) will be Ravu. Overall, Sylvia did a good job dividing the teams, although the green team may have a slight strength advantage. Sylvia herself will be going to Exile Island, where Jeff tells us that there are “thousands of sea snakes”. This causes one of the castaways to be all “Whoa! Whoa!” in the background, and I crack up laughing, wondering how I missed Joey Lawrence being there the whole time. Also, I am terrified of snakes, so this prospect would not excite me. Sylvia will be rejoining the team that loses, and will take the place of the person who is voted off at the next tribal council, so means that she is immune for the first vote. Jeff also tells her that there will be a clue that should help her find a hidden immunity idol. He does not mention that there are two, which could end up being kind of awesome at merge time.
After he sends her off, it’s time for the challenge, which today is a Roman Fijian chariot race. Two tribe members will be riding the chariot and untying bags of puzzle pieces along the way, and the other seven will be pulling them. Once they’ve untied all three bags, they can return to the beginning of the course and put the puzzle together, which will give them a code to what is basically a giant Fijian Master Lock. When they’ve unlocked the lock via the combination on the solved puzzle, they’ll untie the package inside to reveal a knife, which they will use to chop a rope that will raise a flag.
The first team to raise their flag wins immunity, and more importantly gets to return to the awesome camp, which will now have some plates and cups, hammocks, a shower, and a freakin’ couch. The losing team? Is going to the Isle of the Damned, where there will be one pot and one machete. And no couch!
The challenge begins, and it’s Michelle and Jessica on the chariot for Ravu, and Lisi and Stacey on the chariot for Moto. The challenge is pretty neck in neck until the puzzle portion, when Moto takes a commanding lead and the Ravu women cannot seem to get the puzzle together. Moto gets their combination and finds their knife, and with that, Moto will be returning to the Camp of Couch, and Ravu will be voting someone out from their camp deep within the seventh circle of Hell.
Moto returns to the luxury camp to find their additional rewards, including their couch. It would have been hilarious if they had just started complaining about the quality of the stuff they got. “What the fuck, the couch doesn’t fold out? Get Probst on the line, this is a travesty. Are these cups from Pottery Barn? Gross. And what’s the number for room service? I’ve been waiting for my danish for forty-five minutes. Also I was told that there would be a midget butler. Fetch him!” The couch is white, which seems like a poor design choice, given that it’s going to be so full of gross stains by the time all of this is over with that it might as well be upholstered in Monica Lewinsky’s blue dress.
As Moto toasts their victory with their new mugs, we zoom over to Exile Island, where Sylvia is being dropped off. Exile Island looks much larger than normal this year, since it’s usually a pretty tiny island. Judging from the shots we get, this thing could easily be a square kilometer or so, and it’s pretty full of greenery and trees. At the top of a hill sits a giant tower, which is going to serve as this year’s Giant Skull Hut of Doom/Wrecked Pirate Ship home base for the exiled castaways. Turns out Probst wasn’t lying about the sea snakes, as Sylvia spies a couple of them right when she arrives. I wouldn’t have believed him either, its cool Sylvia. He’s kind of a drama queen. Sylvia climbs the tower to fetch her first clue (written in old school Survivor rhyming verse, when was the last time we saw that?) which tells her that the idol is not actually on the island, but back at camp. She tells us that she’s going to have to figure out a way to go look for it without everyone wondering why the hell she’s wandering around the island like a crazy lady. My solution: make them watch Driven. Rocky will be mesmerized, and the rest will fall asleep halfway through, and you’ll have plenty of time to find the idol.
Soon Ravu is paddling up to their new camp, which looks pretty crappy compared to the other one. Plans begin for them to build their shelter, and they’re trying to maintain a good outlook on things despite the lack of a midget butler. Well, everyone except Erica, who should have smuggled some of the other camp’s luxuries out in her giant hair. She tells us that she’s pissed because, well…because no one else is pissed that they lost all that great stuff. Dude, you might not have all the luxuries, but they have to deal with Dreamz. I would consider that a fair trade.
Talk turns to tonight’s vote, and Rocky approaches Erica to figure out a plan. Here are his exact words: “We’ve gotta figure out a plan. You smell me?” I am going to start saying that everywhere and anywhere I can. Rocky figures the two of them and Jessica can figure something out, and then get two others to go along with them to make a majority. He approaches Earl to pitch a plan to vote out Rita, based on the fact that she is the weakest female in the tribe. Jessica tells us that she’s happy to have Rocky having her back, because she was kind of the one responsible for the loss, what with working on the puzzle and all.
Cut to Mookie and Michelle telling Earl that they’re thinking about voting off Jessica because of the puzzle. Earl is all, “Well, good point.” And then the game is on. While Rita sells Yau-man on the Jessica boot, Mookie and Anthony get to work on Earl by telling him that Rita is simply a stronger competitor, and it looks like the decision is made. Erica doesn’t seem to want to go along with it, though. She’s telling Rocky later how close the three of them are, and how she simply refuses to write Jessica’s name down. This does not bode well for her chances down the line, this stubbornness. She’s going to need to be a bit more flexible is she wants to make the final three, you smell me?
Earl tells us how nervous he is to go to the first tribal council, and how really it could be anyone that goes home. Then he does this completely awesome thing where he’s like “There are a lot of actors around here, a lot of poker faces. And this is my poker face,” and then he completely deadpans the camera for probably five seconds. It’s great, and definitely the funniest thing in a pretty quality episode.
Tribal council time. Tribal council this year is built into the side of a mountain, and is a giant wooden platform with skulls embedded everywhere. As Ravu takes a seat for tribal council, Jeff rubs it in by asking how they’re dealing with knowing that the other team has almost everything, while they have nothing. Most of the tribe members basically say that while it sucks, they’re going to overcome it and defeat the other tribe through sheer will and force. What else can you say? “Well Jeff, we’re jealous, and we’re planning on going over to their camp under cover of darkness and abducting and killing all of them, one by one.” Like it’s going to turn into the first season of Lost all of a sudden or something. Mookie tells Jeff that they’re basing the vote on whether the person that is voted out can be replaced by Sylvia.
With that, it’s time to vote. We see Jessica’s vote for Rita, and we see Yau-man vote for Jessica. The rest of the votes are hidden and then Jeff goes to tally, for which he will need a graphing calculator and dry erase board. Jeff begins to read the votes; the first vote is for Mookie, and he is like “WTF?” when it’s read. The next vote is Jessica’s for Rita. Then there’s a vote for Jessica, and a vote for Yau-man. That’s four different people, for those of you keeping track. The rest of the votes are for Jessica, who becomes the first person voted off of the island. Sorry Jessica, you seemed nice and were sort of hot. It’s just the way the first boot usually works, I guess; people usually take advantage of any perceived shortcomings at the beginning of the game, so I guess the puzzle was enough to do her in.
When was the last time that four different people got votes at tribal council? That’s a pretty insane thing to happen nowadays. From the credits, it looks like Rocky and Erica decided that they wouldn’t vote for Jessica and go along with the rest of the group, so they decided to vote for random people to avoid making an enemy by voting for the same person. Basically, they sort of compromised, not going with the Rita vote, but not booting Jessica. If you’re going to do that, though, you’re basically giving in to the outcome and allowing Jessica to be voted out anyway, so I don’t see the reason not to vote for her, since the outcome will be the same no matter what. I do not smell them on that particular decision. Jeff sends the remaining eight back to camp without fire, which is pretty harsh. Usually even the losing team is given fire after night three.
Looks like Rocky and Erica are going to have to make some moves if they want to stay in the game longer, what with a five person majority established after this vote. Also, Yau-man is kind of lucky that he went to the crappy camp because he can be of much more use there and probably stay around much longer. But a lot could change, given that it’s only the first three days. Overall, it was a good first episode; there are lots if intriguing characters, the luxuries twist already looks to be paying off, and it will be interesting to watch the rest of the season play out. What do you guys think? Oh, and throw me a vote, so we can talk next week!