Survivor is back and this time it's personal. The 27th season kicked off on Wednesday night with the 90-minute premiere episode of "Survivor: Blood vs. Water," a season with more twists than ever before, the biggest of which being that 10 returning players would be playing against 10 of their loved ones. This first episode - as expected - spent a good amount of time trying to get us to know the new players as well as reacquaint us with the old. It also set up some story-lines that we can expect to see play out over the coming months.
So let's get right into recapping the first episode!
Hello Again. Wasting no time at all, the premiere episode of Blood vs. Water introduced us to this season's cast. As everybody knows by now, there are 20 players - 10 returnees and 10 of their loved ones - but unbeknownst to them, they weren't going to begin the game together...rather, they would immediately be separated into two tribes. Click here to get up to speed on the new cast.
Day Zero. The much talked about "Day Zero" twist - where each couple would spend the night out on the island isolated from the other couples, a day before the actual start of the game - came across as a dud entertainment-wise. All of about 20 seconds was spent showing the various couples adjust to their new temporary lives on the island. As quickly as it started, the contestants awoke and met up with Jeff Probst on the beach to get Survivor on its way.
First Impressions. As all of the couples assembled on the beach, the season began by Jeff having them applaud 27 seasons of Survivor, which is truly a remarkable accomplishment. Then Probst started laying out one twist after another. First, they learn that they will (at least initially) be competing against one another on two separate tribes. Brad Culpepper - the ex-NFL husband of former player Monica from One World - put his foot in his mouth early when he implied to Probst that he really may not have the heart to win a challenge if he were to see his wife struggling on the other side. This didn't sit well of course with his fellow newbies, who can't have him throwing challenges. Probst then introduced the tribe names. The returning players would be known as the Galong Tribe with the new players forming up the Tadhana Tribe. Probst wasn't finished delivering important news and his next bit of news made the game very real, very quickly.
Immediate Vote-Outs. Right there on the beach, Probst announced that each tribe would vote off one of their own. "First impressions are going to speak very loudly right now," said Hayden, former winner of Big Brother and current boyfriend to the returning player, Kat. Without much to go on, the new tribe decided to vote out Laura B., Rupert's wife. The returnees voted out Candice, although Laura M. received a few votes.
Redemption Island is Back. As the twists kept on coming, Probst then told Laura B. and Candice that they are not out of the game just yet, but that they would be going off to Redemption Island. This year, they would be joined by a third person, the person who gets voted out at Tribal Council and the three would Duel with the loser being sent packing. But can you stomach one more twist? Both Rupert and John (Candice's husband) had a chance to replace their loved one on Redemption Island, putting either Laura B. and/or Candice back in the game. The honorable Rupert did the unthinkable and volunteered himself to take Laura's place...sending him to RI and her to the returning players' tribe. John on the other hand, talked it over with Candice and decided not to make the switch. Needless to say, it was game on for both tribes.
Galang Tribe. So the Galang tribe now consisted of Gervase, Tina, Colton, Monica, Aras, Tyson, Kat, Laura M. and now Laura B. Laura B. was instantly met with contempt and she in turn felt quite intimidated to be put on a tribe with a bunch of people that have played Survivor before.
Tadhana Tribe. Over at Tedhana, you have Marissa (Gervase's niece), Hayden (Kat's boyfriend), Ciera (Laura M.'s daughter), Caleb (Colton's fiance), John (Candice's husband), Brad (Monica's husband), Katie (Tina's daughter), Rachel (Tyson's girlfriend) and Vytas (Aras's brother). Brad held the season's first tribe meeting, to clarify his opening comments back on the beach. He tells the group he will always go 100% at challenges. To us and the camera, he tells us that he's learned from his wife that in Survivor, you have to "hit the ground running," and he does just that. He immediately approaches the other guys with the idea of forming a five-guy alliance and the all oblige. Heck, at this point, why not?
Background, Check. The next portion of the episode spent some time introducing us even further to a few members of the Tadhana Tribe. We learn that John has a lot of guilt for not swapping with Candice. We also learn that the young Ciera is married with two children, but one of which was not born to her current husband. In fact, she was a teen mom. Vytas admits to them that although he is 14 years clean, he was a heroine addict. Vytas also tells the camera that giving up this personal information is somewhat a strategic play, to establish some trust and honesty with some of the other players.
Working the Crowd. Something similar might be going on over at Galang (returning players). Colton seems to have matured quite a bit and around the campfire on Day 1, he breaks down and cries to the rest of his tribe. Is this a strategic play for sympathy and to overcome the stigma of his past reputation? As Monica states, his turn-around could be a great story, "Then again, he is Colton Cumbie."
Redemption Island. At Redemption Island (RI), we see how Candice and Rupert are getting along. Candice had her feelings hurt with her immediate exit from the game, but now just finds herself pretty darned annoyed by Rupert. She is doing all the work, gathering all of their wood for the fire and doing all the cooking. She perceives Rupert to be lazy. Rupert on the other hand has one thing in mind: Retain his strength so that he can win the Duel. Gone are the days, apparently, when Rupert expends all of his physical energy taking care of the camp only to suffer fatigue during the challenges.
Immunity Challenge. When the returnees tell Probst they easily got fire, Brad lies to the returnees and tells him that the newbies have it to...a bit of a bluff seeing that they have struggled mightily for fire. To win immunity and flint, the tribes compeed in a water challenge that ended in with a puzzle. Those that remember season 1 know that Gervase notoriously was a poor swimmer, and he lived up to his reputation even 13 years later by totally slowing down his team this time around. But Galang came back strong when Tina and Laura M. proved to be way better at the puzzle then their daughters, Katie and Ciera. They won the Immunity Challenge for Galang, meaning that one of the new players would join the two former players on RI.
"Don't Let That Fool You!" But soon after winning and despite his piss-poor performance in the water, Gervase celebrated his team's victory a little too exuberantly. His antics really caused the others to question him, leading Brad to point out - to us - that Gervase really must not have much game-awareness...gloating after a win? Doesn't he know that a loved one is going to be sent packing? How can he be so happy then, to rub the victory in their noses?
The Brigade 2.0? Any fan of Big Brother remembers "The Brigade." On that show, alliances often carry with them silly names and this was the name of Hayden's alliance that led him to win the show. It consisted of all guys, just like this new five-person Tadhana alliance. Could Hayden be building a bigger, badder version of "The Brigade"? Only time will tell. He seemed to be the least involved thus far, but the others decide to take out Marissa, especially now after her uncle's unfortunate outburst.
Tribal Council. The new players go through their first Tribal Council with very little drama, up until the vote. It was unanimous, but that didn't make Marissa feel like it was less of a blindside. Yes, Gervase's niece was sent packing (Marissa voted for Katie), mainly due to her uncle. She shoots a death-stare back at her former tribe mates and then heads off to meet up with Rupert and Candice for the show's first Duel of the season...which of course, will come to us next episode.
Analysis. So wow. Nearly too much to process. There is so much potential for drama to be created and this episode showed us just how complicated having a loved one in the game could be. Brad was given a ton of screen time...but can he last? I was impressed personally by Hayden, Vytas and even Aras. Hayden already seems to be in a power alliance with someone in his group (Brad) who will take most of the attention. But Survivor is not Big Brother and there is so much that can still happen. But overall, next week should enlighten us further on how this season may shape up when we see the results of the very first three-person Duel.
Next Time On...We are teased that the "old Colton" is back. Was he ever really gone?
Join me next week Wednesday when I preview Episode 2 followed by another recap and my first "bonus analysis" of the season. Then on Thursday, join me for my exclusive interview with either Candice, Rupert or Marissa...I mean, any or all of them could have swapped out, except we see all three of them in next week's preview competing in the challenge. So who will be the first boot? Rupert? Candice? Marissa? Post your thoughts below!
Also, make sure you check out one of my favorite Survivor sites, Survivor Fever.