The days are shorter, the leaves are changing, and “Survivor” is back. All’s right with the world.
Quick Note: I hitchhiked my way to Samoa to catch the filming of tonight’s premiere episode. Throughout this fun-filled recap I’ll be tossing in little behind-the-scenes tidbits. You’ll know where they are because I’ve conveniently tagged them as “Behind-the-Scenes Tidbits.” I may even bold them.
We kick this party off with All Stars Ozzy and Coach making their way to Redemption Island in a helicopter. Next up we meet the new contestants as they row their way to Redemption Island on little bamboo rafts. That hardly seems fair. They’re coddling those All Stars.
Behind-the-Scenes Tidbit: The Savaii raft must’ve gotten stuck on a reef or something because they were stuck out there for about twenty minutes. Hilarious.
Cochran claims that he’s never missed an episode of “Survivor.” Elsewhere, the Internet high fives itself.
Elyse goes with the Phillip strategy, hoping that her ancestors will help her survive the wilderness. If this involves her wearing outfits like Phillip wore, I’m all for it.
Russell Hantz’s Nephew compares being Russell Hantz’s nephew to being Hitler’s nephew. Feel free to make your own jokes about that one. Also, Russell Hantz’s Nephew has a few “Hantz” tattoos. That won’t possibly come back to haunt him.
Finally, four-time Emmy-award-winning host Jeff Probst says something about…
39 Days, 18 People, 1 “Survivor” Blog
Quick Aside: What would I do with four Emmys? Build an Emmy table.
Let’s take a gander at these tribes…
The Savaii Tribe (wearing red)
Cochran – 24, Harvard Law Student
Dawn – 41, English Professor
Elyse – 27, Dance Team Manager
Jim – 35, Medical Marijuana Dispensary Owner
Keith – 26, Water Treatment Tech
Mark – 48, Retired NYPD Detective
Semhar – 24, Spoken Word Artist
Whitney – 27, Country Music Singer
The Upolu Tribe (wearing blue)
Albert – 26, Baseball/Dating Coach
Brandon – 19, Oil Tanker Crewman
Christine – 39, Teacher
Edna – 35, Anesthesiologist
Mikayla – 22, Lingerie Football Player
Rick – 51, Rancher
Sophie – 22, Medical Student
Stacey – 44, Mortician
The tribes meet up with Probsty (and his green shirt) at Redemption Island. He welcomes them and lets them know that they’re about to be joined by two All Stars.
As the helicopter lands, Edna turns to Russell Hantz’s Nephew and says, “I just hope it’s not Russell.” He replies, “That would suck.” This kid could grow on me.
Ozzy and Coach pop out of the helicopter and it’s pretty much unanimous that everybody wants Ozzy on their team. What?! Does Ozzy even have any cool stories about being captured in the Amazon?
Christine even disrespects him by calling him “The Dragon Warrior.” She follows that up by referring to them as temporary players. Way to make friends there, Christine.
Cochran then gets on Probst’s good side by asking to be referred to by his last name. Why? Because Probst calls all the greats by their last names; Mariano, Penner, Donaldson.
Sadly, XFINITY TV’s standards and practices won’t let me print what Probst calls me.
To determine which tribe the All Stars should be on, Probst has each player smash a paint-filled egg. Ozzy ends up wearing red, while Coach was doused in blue. Savaii is thrilled, Upolu…not so much.
Behind-the-Scenes Tidbit: Probst made the suggestion that if someone was really passionate about his tribe, that he’d smash the egg against his forehead. Neither guy took him up on that.
Redemption Island Hero Challenge: Ozzy and Coach will have to climb a 12-foot pole to retrieve a wooden turtle. From there they’ll have to dig under a log and shimmy underneath it. After that, they’ll have to complete a pyramid puzzle. The first person to complete their puzzle will win flint and Samoan potatoes (taro).
Ozzy jumped out to an early lead as he was able to scale the pole quickly. However, Coach wasn’t too far behind him. Ozzy was also able to get under the log first.
Behind-the-Scenes Tidbit: This puzzle took forever. As in for-ev-er. And, Probst had to describe how the puzzle worked a dozen times. It was ugly.
Eventually, both tribes started shouting tips to the players. After what seemed like a month, Ozzy was able to bring home the win for Savaii
Behind-the-Scenes Tidbit: One of the challenge producers told me that Coach was super close to making a move that would’ve given him a huge advantage over Ozzy, but he got confused and used the wrong tactic.
In a very telling moment, Ozzy was greeted with open arms by his tribe. Coach? Less so. In fact, the only person to help him gather his things was Edna.
Jeff Probst’s Thoughts on the Opening Challenge: “The puzzle was way too hard for any human to solve. What I love about that is it speaks to ‘Survivor’s’ unpredictability. You really don’t know what’s going to happen. We rehearsed this thing and it went perfectly. We have two people do it and I stand over there and say interesting and witty things. Then the real challenge comes out and the tribes take over and you have no idea what’s going to happen. In the end you have a dynamic where Ozzy is welcomed by his tribe and Coach is really blocked off. Not only verbally but visually. It was very telling.”
Later at Savaii beach, the Savaiians let Ozzy know that they’re going to be relying on his experience. However, before they can get to building a shelter or starting a fire, they decide to take a break to listen to some of Semhar’s poetry. It wasn’t all for naught though, as Ozzy found himself inspired by her words.
Next up, you know, before fire or shelter, Ozzy decides they should go for a swim. However, Cochran isn’t crazy about taking off his shirt in front of everyone. He claims it’s because he has pale skin. I’m assuming it’s because he has “Mariano” tattoos.
Meanwhile at Upoluisiana, the Upolotians are getting to know each other. In a jaw-dropping moment, Coach and Sophie communicate in Russian. Holy crap.
Behind-the-Scenes Tidbit: While I was at the Upolu camp I followed Sophie and Coach when they wandered off. They weren’t discussing specific strategies but they were talking as if they hoped to work together in the future.
While everyone else is building the shelter, Christine goes on an immunity idol hunt. She doesn’t find anything, but everybody figures out what she was up to.
Back at Savaii, Jim busts out his first lie of the season by telling everyone that he’s a science teacher. That’s a pretty bizarre thing to pick. What if someone calls you on it? Might be tough to come up with science facts on the fly.
Mark lets everybody know he’s gay. Nobody seems to have a problem with this. I certainly don’t. What I do have a problem with is the way he gave himself a nickname. You just don’t do that. However, since nobody called him on it, he’ll now be known as Papa Bear.
Behind-the-Scenes Tidbit: During our visits to the tribe camps, Upolu was getting along much better than Savaii. Upolu seemed to do things as a tribe, while Savaii was split up with some people working on projects while others were just hanging out around the fire. Upolu also had a shelter up much quicker than the Savaiians.
Later that night, Coach tells Russell Hantz’s Nephew, Mark, Sophie, and Albert about his radical strategy of trying to win every immunity challenge. Dude makes sense. Everyone else seems into it, and it looks like we have the season’s first alliance.
Quick Note: I know I’m supposed to be impartial, but “Go, Coach.”
The following morning at Savaii, things aren’t looking good for Dawn. She’s not drinking enough, she’s cramping up, and she totally wiped out while trying to break branches off of a tree. Ozzy shows some All Star flavor by talking her down and letting her know that she has what it takes to make it in the game.
Another Quick Note: Ozzy has a ton of the Savaii red paint on his shirt. It looks like a gunshot wound.
Over at Upolu, Russell Hantz’s Nephew is doing his best to prove that he’s nothing like Russell Hantz. This includes catching the tribe’s first fish, not putting the moves on Mikayla, and not burning anyone’s socks.
Immunity Challenge Time: All nine players from each team will run through a series of beams. At two points, the beams cross each other. The players will have to crawl under the beams at those intersections. From there, they’ll have to navigate their way through a cube that is filled with strands of tribe-colored coconuts. After that, they’ll have to scale a 10-foot wall. Once everyone is over the wall, one player from each team will have to dig in a pit for a machete. After they’ve uncovered their machete they’ll have to chop through five ropes. Those ropes will release hundreds of tribe-colored coconuts. From there, three tribe members will have to shoot coconuts into a net. Once the net is full, it will lift a counterweight and raise a tribe flag. First tribe to raise their flag wins immunity and a clue to the first hidden immunity idol.
The challenge starts off and both tribes get through the beams with little to no trouble. However, Upolu jumped out to a slight lead.
Behind-the-Scenes Tidbit: The press’s exhibition running of this immunity challenge was so violent that they changed the rules so players couldn’t return to the beams after they were out.
Upolu maintained their lead through the coconut curtain and did a great job getting over the wall. However, Savaii was only slightly behind them.
Rick and Ozzy took pit digging duties for their teams. They were neck-and-neck getting the machete, but Rick tore through the ropes.
Ozzy, Semhar, and Keith were shooters for Savaii while Russell Hantz’s Nephew, Mikayla, and Albert shot for Upolu.
Behind-the-Scenes Tidbit: Every “Survivor” challenge is edited to make it look like a squeaker. This one required no such editing. My heart was pounding through my chest.
Unfortunately, Semhar wasn’t doing well. She wanted to tag out but apparently that’s against the rules. Eventually, Upolu pulled it out, winning the season’s first immunity challenge. The margin of victory here was maybe a coconut or two.
Afterward, Probst tells Upolu that there’s a clue to the hidden immunity idol hidden at their camp. What? That’s a bait and switch.
Then, Semhar tells Probst that she feels “sort of bad” that her tribe lost. Jim isn’t pleased. He feels “sort of bad” when he’s out of milk.
Back at camp, Stacey and Christine go looking for the idol clue. Stacey is worried that it could be right under her nose. She searches in a hole in a tree and comes up empty. A helpful cameraman lets us know that it was indeed right under her nose.
Later, claws came out at Savaii when Semhar called Jim out in front of everyone for mouthing off in front of the other tribe. Jim apologized, but I doubt he meant it.
Politicking around camp seems to revolve around Dawn and Semhar. Ozzy also makes a case against Cochran because he isn’t the most physical player.
Jim doesn’t like the fact that Ozzy wants to keep Semhar around. He’s worried that Ozzy might be gunning for a female alliance. Jim spills the beans to Cochran, and he doesn’t take it well. For a hardcore “Survivor” fan, being the first boot has to be his worst nightmare.
That night at Tribal Council, Dawn lets everyone know that she’s over her early-game jitters.
Elyse pegs Semhar as someone who is concerned about going to Redemption Island.
Semhar takes responsibility for stepping up in the challenge and failing, but she doesn’t think having heart should count against her.
Dawn points out that Cochran might be another target.
Mark also chimes in, telling Cochran that he had trouble with the wall. He also made a point to tell Probst to call him “Papa Bear.”
Behind-the-Scenes Tidbit: Mark had about a dozen bear-based nicknames picked out. Probst finally made him decide on one for fear of too many nicknames confusing the folks at home.
Another Behind-the-Scenes Tidbit: Tribal Council goes on for about two hours. Half of this Tribal Council was spent with Cochran making the case for why he should stay in the game. He was driving everyone nuts. What’s worse is; it was clear that everyone wanted Semhar to go. But the fact that his name was even brought up sent Cochran over the deep end. Whitney and Keith were going out of their way to let him know he was safe, but he just kept on talking.
Voting Time: Semhar votes for Cochran, Cochran votes for Semhar, and the rest of the votes gotta wait for some tallyin’.
J-Pro does that tallyin’ and returns…one vote for Cochran, four votes for Semhar, and the first person to be sent to Redemption Island is…Semhar.
Behind-the-Scenes Tidbit: Probst totally called Semhar as the first boot on day two.
Verdict: OK, everyone who thought Coach would be in a solid alliance and Ozzy would be on the outs after one episode, raise your hands. Put ‘em down, liars.
Anywho, that was a good, solid start. Which is encouraging after two sub-par seasons.
Who’s Going to Win? Coach. Doy.
Power Rankings Update: Join us next week when we kick off this season’s “Survivor” Power Rankings. I let my Twitter followers pick my opponent, and they overwhelmingly chose the last person to conquer Redemption Island, Andrea Boehlke. I’m super psyched to have her on board.
Any Questions? Drop me a line on Twitter: @gordonholmes