Wow! What an action packed, fast paced premiere that sure showed Survivor has still got it 17 years and 500 episodes in. It is sad to see someone like Tony go so early, but that is the way this season is going to go. The fan favorites have the biggest targets on their backs so they most likely will go out early. Hopefully this means that some new stars arise, but we will have to wait and see. As for now let’s recap that stuffed 2 hour premiere.
We start as we have been for the past couple of seasons with a boat full of supplies. The castaways are sailing toward Fiji and we get our opening confessionals from legends like Tony, Sandra, Malcolm, Cirie, Debbie, Brad…..wait a minute. Debbie and Brad? That sure is odd. Once the ship is anchored, Jeff Probst officially starts the season by telling the contestants the themes and tribe divisions. We get some great banter from old rivals Cirie and J.T. which gives us insight into past relationships, then Probst tells them about a twist to the marooning. Out off the side of the boat is a life ring which marks the spot of a tool kit tied under water. The first tribe to go untie the knots and release the kit, gets it. As Probst is explaining J.T. mutters that Ozzy has got to go get it which is what everyone was thinking, including the audience. When Probst says go, Ozzy grabs the dive mask and goes right for it for Nuku while Mana sends no one. Malcolm tells Hali its useless because Ozzy went. Eventually Caleb dives in to try for Mana, but he is way too late. In the scramble for the supplies, a secret advantage envelope appears on the deck and eventually Sierra notices it and picks it up. The marooning wraps up and the tribes head to their beaches.
We head to Mana first where Michaela tells us she is going to be a schmoozer and just suck up to everyone so that she does not become a target. The tribe takes a trip around their beach to scout it out and brings back some bamboo to start a shelter. Tony, being the maniac he is, drops some bamboo and then runs off screaming he is going to look for the idol. He tells us he was half joking and thought people would follow him, but since nobody followed him, he is going to look for it anyways. Eventually Sandra and Caleb follow him and joke with him about how crazy everyone is being.
At the other beach not much is going on at Nuku, everyone is getting along and they find some goats living near their beach. They debate whether they should catch one and try to eat it. Sierra goes off to look at her envelope and sees that it is the legacy advantage that first appeared last season in Millennials vs. Gen X. There is a slight twist though in that she can use this immunity at 13 people or at 6 people. Like last time she must will it to someone if she gets voted out. We then cut to Brad who is saying that he is trying to be more easy going and let people come to him. He tells us that in his mind he is asking “What Would Monica Do?” a.k.a #WWMD and we have the return of Thirdpersonica even in a season Monica Culpepper is not competing in. (P.S. If you don’t know what Thirdpersonica is, go type it into Youtube and you will find out). We then see Sierra pairing up with both Brad and Ozzy while they all worry about Cirie.
The next day Cirie decides to clear things up with Ozzy because she is worried their history from Micronesia. He says that they are cool and she believes him. We then see Ozzy, J.T. and Tai talking where they bring up Cirie’s history while worrying about her not being a physical player. Cirie thinks she is perfectly cool with Ozzy until Tai slips up and says she might need to still patch things up. Watching Cirie turn Tai’s brain into mush is a thing of wonder and you can see Tai’s eyes go blank real quick.
Back at Mana you can see Tony is already being ostracized, so he decides to dig a spy bunker near the water well so that he can lie down, cover himself in debris and listen in on conversations. As he is digging, Troyzan comes along and discovers him digging. Troyzan is worried that he is looking for an idol so he tells Malcolm who tells Hali and the game of telephone has begun as she tells Ciera, Aubry and Michaela. We then find out that apparently Tony and Caleb are close as Hali, Varner, Ciera, Aubry, Michaela, and Malcolm all talk about targeting Caleb and Tony. After that conversation though Malcolm is worried that Ciera is becoming too gamey too soon and wants to target her.
We next get to the challenge. Before we start Probst unveils the new tribal immunity idol and its awesome. One of the best they have ever done in my opinion. Probst then reveals that there is a new twist in the voting processes. The revote is now a thing of the past, in the event of a tie there is going to be an open forum discussion about who to vote off. If there is no unanimous decision then they go straight to rocks. The contestants are shocked about this and you can already start seeing the wheels turning in some of their brains. Probst also tells them that they will be playing for flint. The challenge is a big one as 7 members of each tribe will paddle out to a platform and then send one person to swim out and retrieve a key. From there they must return to shore by climbing over three obstacles. From there they must dig up two bags of puzzle pieces and then use the keys to unlock a chest. Then two castaways will do the puzzle which is a ship’s wheel and then use it to raise their tribe’s flag.
The tribes are pretty much even when paddling, but Nuku pulls ahead with Ozzy swimming compared to Hali for Mana. Mana catches up at the digging, but Nuku finds both of their bags first. Mana almost catches up again as Varner unlocks the first padlock really quickly, but he has trouble with the second one so Nuku gets to their puzzle first. Its pretty even and Ciera is on the puzzle for Mana and she has done this puzzle before. In the end though Zeke and Cirie figure it out faster for Nuku and they win.
Back at Mana, Varner bemoans the fact that he always loses. (Fun fact, Varner has not won a challenge since Australia, which is October 2000). Meanwhile Tony is holding court and they want to vote out the weakest (physically) threat (strategically). Caleb tosses out Ciera’s name to which Malcolm and Aubry agree. Eventually Ciera shows up and they tell her they are all voting Michaela because she is an unknown quantity. Sandra who was involved in that conversation passes on to Troyzan, Michaela and Hali that they all want to vote out Ciera. Michaela asks who Ciera thinks is going home and is told that it is her. She is really upset about this and lets her emotions show. The others are worried she is going to screw up their plans so they constantly try to calm her down and tell her she is fine. At tribal there is a lot of talk about perceptions coming into this season. After a little more conversation the obvious happens and Ciera is voted out 9-1. (Another fun fact, Ciera now holds the record for the most votes received by a player in Survivor history with 33).
Let’s take a minute to stop down and appreciate that Tribal Council set. That ship wreck theme is amazing and the art department really outdid themselves this time. From the broken boats to the lighthouse voting booth everything is awesome. This could be one of their best ever.
The next day Tony is itching to get the game moving at a faster pace. He wants to shake things up and pulls Aubry to the well to talk. He says that in this group of nine they need five to hold the power. He proposes they make a threat alliance and rope in Malcolm, Sandra and Caleb. They all eventually talk and decide to lock it down. Our dreams are coming true as Tony and Sandra are aligning to protect each other.
Back at Nuku, Tai is once again making friends with the seemingly half dozen chickens they have. He ties the rooster down, but lets all of the others roam free. This starts to get on others nerves. J.T. and Tai get into an argument about the amount they are feeding the chickens and others are frustrated by how they are just all over everything. Will be interesting to see how this plays out in the future.
At Mana, Tony waits for everyone to go to bed before going to finish his spy bunker. While he is doing this he hears Troyzan and Sandra coming and decides to listen in. He hears his name, but does not realize that they are talking about him not being a threat at the moment. He gets paranoid and confronts both of them who make up excuses about what they are talking about. Sandra gets pissed about this and basically says their alliance is done and that they are now going after each other. The dream alliance lasted all of 15 minutes in show time and that sound you hear is the Survivor fan community crying out in frustration all at once.
The next day at Nuku J.T. and Ozzy are buddying up and talking about how they are safe for now. Cirie sees this and is becoming more and more wary about her position in the tribe. She tries talking to Sarah who says they are good, but Sarah tells us she is not playing that straight up game any more and is willing to do anything to get further. Cirie then talks to Zeke to solidify her position their. Zeke, similar to Sarah, says he is good with her, but is willing to cut her if necessary. Then we see Debbie and Cirie talking and basically the same thing happens. I think the swap cannot come soon enough for Cirie.
Over at Mana we see Sandra pulling in Troyzan and Hali into her alliance to target Tony. She then pulls in Jeff and Troyzan pulls in Michaela so they now have their five. The next day Tony talks about how he is worried about Sandra with Aubry. He shares the same concerns with Malcolm and Caleb. They want to keep the tribe strong and so they are targeting Sandra now.
We then head to the challenge where they will be playing for fishing gear as well as immunity. In this challenge they have to cross a balance beam to a cage and climb into it. Inside is a 400 pound snake which they have to untie and lift it out of the cage. They must bring the snake across the balance beam and if they fall off they have to go back to the beginning of the balance beam. Once they get the snake back into its holder they must untie tiles from the snake and use them to solve a combination lock. The lock releases some rings for a ring toss where they have to land rings on paddles to spell out immunity. Cirie is going to sit this one out and that probably is good idea given the intensity of this challenge.
The tribes are even at the when they get to the cage, but Nuku gets a huge lead in releasing the snake and getting it across the balance beam. It does not help Mana that Varner is doing nothing, but barking orders in the cage and then they have a lot of trouble with the balance beam. Mana does catch up as Malcolm quickly lands a lot of the rings, but Nuku pulls out the win. The lead was too much to over come and you can tell Mana, especially Michaela is frustrated. She was chomping at the bit to contribute and she did not get to do much.
Back at Mana camp Hali and Troyzan try to solidify their majority by getting Caleb to vote against Tony. Meanwhile Sandra tells Tony that Aubry is the target tonight to keep him off the scent, but he realizes that this is all a ruse. Tony feels that they can flip Michaela because she would want to keep the tribe strong. They talk to her and she seems on board. We also see conversations between Malcolm and Caleb where they are trying to figure out what they should do.
We then head to tribal where there is a lot of talk about keeping the tribe strong. Sandra eventually takes the conversation in a more straight direction and says they are talking about her. Troyzan tries to beat around the bush when talking about Tony, but he is way too obvious about it. Tony defends himself and says he is playing it straight. Varner, Caleb, and Malcolm say they believe him. We then head to the vote and Tony is voted out 7-2. The two votes are for Aubry as both Tony and Sandra voted for her. Sandra seemed to saving face in case Tony had an idol, that’s the only real explanation.
Overall this was a fantastic premiere with a lot happening. There are a lot of interesting threads that have been started for the rest of the season and the strategy is already at a high level place. Though I am sad to see Tony go we sure got our money’s worth and that is all I can ask for. Overall a great start to what seems like it will be a great season.
Next week and in the future we have a tribe swap already. Idols being hidden at challenges again! A chase for a goat! And J.T. stranding his tribe at sea so he can look for an idol? Should be very interesting and I cannot wait for next week. Until next time!