Tonight, on Survivor: I’M NOT WATCHING LYDIA AND NATALIE ANYMORE! YESSSS! Also, some attention-loving jerk burns a few things.Majestic waves! A big tree! Crashing water! We’re in Samoa, and I cannot tell you how relieved I am that I’m not watching Natalie lumber around the backyard in her basketball shorts anymore. Our new Survivors paddle toward the beach in long kayaks, two tribes of ten. Some chick with a phenomenal mullet tells us that she’s “a people magnet”, and that people she meets think “Man, this chick rocks!” I am skeptical, probably because the people she meets are following Cinderella and Ratt around the country.
“YEAH! Play Round and Round again!”
After a shortened credits sequence, which was slightly disappointing (am I the only one who looks forward to seeing the new credits every year?), the Survivors wash ashore and discover Probst waiting there for them. He tells them that they’ve already been separated into two tribes: the purple tribe is now “Galu”, and the yellow tribe is “Foa Foa”. They have made it easy on me this year with the tribe names. That one season where I had to type “Zhan Hu” a million times made me want to break my own fingers.
Probst lays a twist on the newbies immediately: each tribe will have to elect a “leader”, based only on appearances. Mick (33, doctor) says that he has “some leadership qualities”. He also has a blazer, which I am not sure is advisable at this juncture.
Galu gets to vote first. Someone votes for the chick with the mullet, who declares that her name is “Shambo”. That is a thing that happened. Probst’s WTF face is not to be denied.
“Shambo” explains that she’s had the nickname since ’86, when Rambo came out and she was in the Marines and had a bandana or something. It’s no worse than “Dreamz”, I guess. Perhaps I am in a forgiving mood or something, I don’t know. Most of the other people vote for the older African=-American guy with braids, whose name is Russell, so he is now the leader for Galu. Over at Foa Foa, it ends up being a close vote between Jaison (28, law student) and Mick the doctor. Mick wins out on the last vote, so I guess the professorial ambiance of his khaki blazer has convinced the rest of the tribe of his abilities.
The commercials here tell me that there is a new burger at Red Robin that is topped with mozzarella sticks. I love America, you guys.
The leaders are immediately tasked with making their first decision: they’ll be choosing the participants in the opening challenge. Probst tells them to pick the best swimmers, the strongest, the most agile, and the smartest people based on appearances. There are some interesting racial comments by some of the contestants here: Liz (33, attorney) thinks she was chosen as the smartest because she’s Asian, and Jaison (who is African-American) comments that he was surprised to be chosen to be the swimmer. I hate to keep bringing this up, but I spent my summer watching people get called terrorists and beaners, so this is like watching everyone hold hands under a rainbow.
So the chosen swimmer will be swimming out into the water to retrieve a key, which they will bring back to the strong person. The strong person will unlock some heavy logs and haul them to a balance beam, creating stairs for the agile person. The agile person will then use the stairs to get onto a balance beam and retrieve a key, which will unlock a bag of puzzle pieces for the smart person. The first team to solve the puzzle wins reward, which is the gift of fire. Bravo to whoever came up with this challenge, because it’s extremely well designed and thought out.
So Jaison gives Foa Foa a nice lead coming out of the water, and Russell H (oil company owner and future douchebag, 36) hauls his logs quickly and builds on the lead. Foa Foa has enough of a lead going into the puzzle portion that Galu can’t catch up, so they win the first reward challenge and will be taking fire back to camp. But, as we will discover, they’ll also have to take Russell back to camp, so it’s kind of a wash. Unless they use the flint to light him on fire, that is.
Back at Foa Foa’s new camp, they quickly get to work on building a shelter. Ben (28, bar manager) declares himself a hillbilly, announces that he has lots of experience with the outdoors, and takes the reins immediately. Mick watches as Ben directs the building of the shelter, content to have a break from the burden of leadership that he’s had to bear for…three hours now. Oh no! You must be crushed under the weight of your responsibility!
“Wait, where did my blazer go? Great, now my shirt is missing, too.”
Meanwhile, Russell watches while the others work their asses off. “My strategy is to have a secret alliance with each dumb girl,” he says. They’re dumb because they’re pretty, get it? You cannot be both pretty and smart; this is how the world works. There’s a quick montage of Russell making alliances with the “dumb short-haired blonde” (Ashley), “the dumber long haired blonde” (Natalie), and the “dark haired girl”. What, no quips about brunettes?
Anyway, it’s obvious that Russell is trying to make the viewing audience hate him, and he’s trying way, way too hard at that. It’s more pathetic than anything else, really. Here’s how we’re going to play Russell this season: if we actually start to hate him, he wins, right? So let’s just all agree to be bored by his attention-grabbing antics and move on to things which are actually interesting, namely: anything else.
So anyway, I am obligated to tell you that Russell also decides to align with the “old lady”, who is not actually that old. Her name is Betsy (48, police officer), and she’s got a read on Russell almost immediately, pegging him as untrustworthy and generally douchebaggy.
Must be the boxer briefs and sneakers combination that makes him seem so trustworthy.
Meanwhile, over at Galu, Russell S takes charge, telling everyone how and where to build the shelter. “Shambo” is happy that Russell is taking charge, but comments that the other males on the tribe are doing a lot of talking and no acting. John (25, rocket scientist) talks and talks and talk about the direction of the wind, and coconut currency, and taking inventory, and it’s a lot of middle management, corporate groupthink bullshit that means that John’s spent a little too much time in meetings recently. He is That Guy Who Won’t Stop Talking, except he’s That Guy Who Won’t Stop Talking In Hour Three Of Your Boring Staff Meeting.
It’s Night One over at Foa Foa, and Russell is busy telling the group a heart rending story about how he decided not to leave his home in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina came though, and then the water was rushing in and he couldn’t find his dog and I’m pretty sure it’s the beginning of Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey but in New Orleans. The other tribe members (especially the younger girls) eat it up while Russell tells us that he made up the whole story, of course.
But wait, he’s not done! Once everyone’s asleep, he goes and empties all of the water from the tribe’s canteens. He says it’s to “weed out the weak players right off the bat” as he throws socks into the fire for no reason, except for camera time. He’s boring and lame, and I’m already tired of him.
Great, now we’ll have to cancel the Sock Puppet Showcase.
In the morning, the rest of the tribe discovers that all of their stuff has been sacrificed to the attention gods while Russell watches with a smirk on his face. Of course, people are crabby because they woke up to no water, and Marisa and Ben begin bickering at each other over how to cook the food and get water. “This is working like a dream,” Russell says. Ignore him, Gasmii! I BEG OF YOU, discussing him will only make things worse. If you feel the need to talk about Russell, let’s call him something else entirely unrelated to him. That way, he’ll never know that we’re talking about him, and thus we can deny him the satisfaction of knowing it. I vote that we call him Urkel. Thoughts?
Immunity Challenge! Six members of each tribe race through a course filled with steep obstacles dragging a rope; they’ll attach the rope to a crate, which they will then pull to the finish line. The other 4 members of the tribe will disassemble the crate and use the pieces to solve a puzzle. Jeff reveals the immunity idol, which is a badass spear this year. I hope no one trips near that thing, or there are going to be some prop-related injuries occurring this season.
Hey, at least he’ll have an eyepatch handy for the next pirate-themed season.
You can tell that Galu really, really the win right from the beginning, because they’re helping each other mount the obstacles, working together to get people to the end of the course, and pushing themselves as hard as they can. It’s yet another really cool challenge to watch, because it’s much more complicated than it appears initially. I complained about the challenges last season in Brazil, but thus far I’m really impressed. It’s really nice to have this show back again, I cannot say that enough, especially after a summer of watching people count change on Big Brother.
Human pyramids never get old.
So anyway, Galu gets their crate to the finish line first, but Foa Foa is right behind them. Galu again manages superior teamwork on the puzzle, absolutely smoking the other team and winning themselves well-deserved immunity from the vote. They’ve got a celebratory chant going and they rub it in after the victory, and you can tell that there’s going to be some nice rivalry between these tribes this season. I gotta say, I’m getting a really good feeling from this season already, and it’s only the first episode.
Back at Foa Foa, Ashley says that they lost, and that sucks. What clutch commentary! I am enlightened. Mike (chef, 62) tells Mick that the weakest person should go, and that he thinks that person is Ashley. To his credit, he admits that he’s just trying to avoid getting voted off himself, since he’s the oldest and most out of shape person on the tribe.
“If you keep me in the game, I’ll let you touch my beard.”
Meanwhile, Russ talks to Marisa about the upcoming vote, and she calls him out for making little alliances with everyone on the tribe. He gets all fake-offended about it, because he realizes that Marisa’s already gotten a pretty accurate read on him after a grand total of two days and this is his only option. He decides that Marisa has to go because she angered him, but really it’s pretty easy to tell that he’s actually afraid of her. He takes the suggestion to a few different people on the tribe, who are all ready to vote her off pretty quickly, given that they’re all just trying to protect their own asses. You don’t really need a reason to vote someone off during the first vote other than that, right? It’s like watching that show Tool Academy: you just thank God you’re not That Guy and move on.
Betsy the cop, meanwhile, watches Russell fidget about in the water and warns a younger girl with too much eyeliner not to trust him. I’m hoping this is foreshadowing, leading to some sort of showdown between the two of them in which Betsy smites Russell right back to wherever the hell his fake ass came from. Fuck Urkel, seriously.
Tribal Council! Oh, how I have missed you. Ashley gets asked how it feels that someone’s going home, she says “sad”, providing more of the trademark insight we’ve come to expect from her. Mike tries to tell Probst that the puzzle portion of the competition was luck and Probst calls him out for it, pointing out that it wasn’t even close. Betsy gets asked who the weakest person on the teams is, and she calls out Ashley, who tries to defend herself by saying that she’s actually very fit, especially “cardio-wise” when it comes to getting through those obstacle courses. A nice argument, frankly. Marisa tries to make a point about how there are different levels of weakness, and Ben starts rolling his eyes at her almost immediately, calling her out for not answering the question. Of course, he’s just being a dick, because she was answering the question, but so is Russell, who points out that Ben and Marisa obviously don’t like each other. Pay attention to me! I burn things!
Russell takes this opportunity to call Marisa out some more, talking about how she was confrontational earlier with him as well. People are already rolling their eyes all Coach-stylee over him, because he is oblivious in much the same way that Coach was, in that he thinks this is working but it obviously isn’t. Marisa worries here: “If I do something to get marked, than that was really dumb on my part, and I apologize,” she says in a last ditch effort, reading the writing on the wall. This is too bad because she appears to be pretty smart, but in this early stage you don’t even really have to do anything to get your ass chopped.
Look how sad she is…
I think we all know how this voting is going to turn out. Ashley gets a few votes, but the majority are for Marisa, and that’s the end for her. She looks genuinely sadder than anyone getting voted out in recent memory, and you can tell that she was really excited for this whole thing and bummed that it’s ending so quickly, especially thanks to stupid Urkel. Damn him, always barging in the front door and ruining things with his wacky schemes.