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'Survivor: Cagayan', Episode 1 recap: Brain dead

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So is this what we were all waiting for? The two-hour Premiere Episode of "Survivor: Cagayan" on Wednesday night is now behind us and although we were treated to two blindsides, it felt more like watching a giant train-wreck. The dysfunction of the appropriately named "Luzon" (aka "losin'") Tribe pretty much overshadowed the episode and might have started us viewers off on the wrong foot, because really, did anybody feel as if this was a strong beginning? Let's not lose hope or jump to conclusions just yet. But come on.

Here's how it all went down in Episode 1:

Beauty vs. Brawn vs. Brains. The much ballyhooed "B vs. B. vs. B" format began with the three tribes of six arriving to the game by various methods. The Brains Tribe were flown in by chopper, the Beauties were brought in by boat and the Brawns took a long and bumpy truck ride. We were slowly introduced to our contestants, all a bit cocky and hopeful that they were about to begin their domination of the game. But never forget that in Survivor, the game starts immediately. And as in many of the show's 28 seasons, the first few minutes in the game would be crucial.

Leaders of the Pack. Jeff greeted the three tribes as they stood separated on mats matching their tribes colors. There was some fun guessing games that commenced as the contestants tried to guess which tribe they represented. But the fun would be short lived, because soon after Jeff had each tribe choose a leader. The Brains chose the Miami Marlins Team President David Samson, the Brawns chose Sarah, the police officer from Iowa and the Beauty tribe chose LJ, the horse trainer from Boston. The three were then immediately tasked with making their first decision as tribe leader, a decision that would also become the game's first big twist: Each had to personally select their tribe's weakest member.

Weak Links? LJ selected Morgan, the ex-NFL cheerleader, saying something about trusting cute girls, but not trusting hot girls...and Morgan is hot. Sarah chose Trish, a pilates instructor who, at age 48, is the oldest contestant this season. David surprisingly chose as his team's weakest member Garrett, a professional poker player who is a physical specimen and just ripped like maybe nobody has ever been in the show's history. Being placed on the Brains Tribe though, David felt threatened that there must be a lot more to this guy than just his build, so therefore he became a threat.

Decisions, Decisions. The three "weakest" players - Morgan, Trish and Garrett, were then told that because they were chosen, they would get a 30-minute head-start to their respective camp sites, where they would need to make a huge decision. That decision, unbeknownst to the rest of the players, was to either accept a clue to a hidden Immunity Idol at their beach, or to get an extra bag of rice for their tribe to start the game. Garrett did not hesitate and chose the clue, as did Morgan. Only Trish elected to get the extra rice.

Day One Idol. Garrett unbelievably arrived at his camp and shortly thereafter, he found a hidden Immunity Idol! Not a bad start after all. Morgan wasn't as lucky when her clue led her out into the water. Her tribe arrived and found her out there, inexplicably, but she covered for herself and told her tribemates that her "big decision" was in choosing the few supplies that were there waiting for them. Her story seemed to have worked...except it did seem like LJ was on to her. "She's acting way too calm and collected for someone just voted out," he said. He figures she must have the Idol or at least a clue. Brice, the flamboyant social worker from Philadelphia, approaches Morgan and befriends her, knowing that she was feeling a bit ostracized having been targeted as the tribe's weakest member.

The Brawn Tribe. Trish arrived to her camp with the extra bag of rice for her tribe and quickly tried to squash the thought that she was weak. The 6-10 former NBA great Cliff Robinson was immediately recognized by Woo, the 29 year-old martial arts instructor, but other than some initial praise, nobody seemed to mind his former occupation.

Cop Out. Sarah - being a police officer herself - immediately can tell that the bald and brawny Tony is a fellow cop. She asks him, but instead of telling the truth (he is a cop), he lies and says he's in construction. Why does Tony lie? Tony is intent on lying, backstabbing and spying (more on that later) his way to the end of the game. Did he miss a golden opportunity to bond with a potential ally? Only time will tell. Knowing that he is lying, Sarah pegs Tony as someone she wants gone immediately.

Brain Fart. Spencer, a student from Chicago and self-proclaimed diabolical Survivor genius, comments to the camera that his tribe-mate David made a huge mistake in voting off Garrett, who is big and strong and can clearly help them in challenges. His Brain Tribe gets together to build their shelter and the nuclear engineer J'Tia steps in with a plan. Her plan though, consists of giving direct orders to others and rubbing most everybody the wrong way. There's always one like J'Tia it seems in the first episode. Kass, an attorney from California, comments that, "We're not very smart for being the Brains Tribe." Oh, those were the truest words spoken of the night, and we hadn't even learned the half of it yet.

Immunity Challenge #1. The first challenge was an intense physical and mental challenge, where each tribe had to maneuver a cart around a course to retrieve three different keys, which would then be used to open three different chests. They then had to disassemble their carts and fit it through another part of the obstacle course, before opening their chests, revealing their puzzle pieces and then using their pieces to solve a puzzle. First place would be immune and would win fire and lots of wood. Second place would also be immune and would win fire in the form of flint. Third prize? You're fired...or in this case, you are sent to Tribal Council where someone would be the first person voted out of the game. The Brawn Tribe dominated and the Beauty Tribe was going strong, but the Brains were a complete mess. Jeff Probst just continued to rip into them, finally blurting out, "This is one of the worst performances out of the gate in the history of Survivor!" The Beauty Tribe actually ended up finishing in first, with the Brains Tribe coming in a distant third. Brains were headed to Tribal.

This Is Your Brain...On Survivor. "We're book-smart, but when it comes to playing this game, we're dumb," says Tasha, an accountant from St. Louis. The tribe begins to scramble to figure out who is going home, although J'Tia seems to be the lead candidate after her abrasiveness in building the shelter. David and Kass seem close, but when David brings up the idea of voting for Garrett, Kass quickly squashes the notion. J'Tia asks Kass to her face who she is voting for and Kass actually tells J'Tia "you!" Kass seems to be a very straight-shooter, even adding some backhanded advice for J'Tia: "I guess it's time to scramble." J'Tia starts to see the writing on the wall when Tasha also mentions she will be voting for her, but Garrett brings up another name: David. It seems David and Garrett have it out for each other. But when Spencer becomes paranoid that David may have found an Idol (even though there has been no mention or talk of a clue or an Idol?), they agree that J'Tia is the safe choice. Garrett knows that David doesn't have the Idol (because he has it), so he is put in a tight spot and decided not to tell Spencer about his hidden Idol.

Tribal Council #1. After Garrett freaks out when a spider crawls on him, talk begins. Most of the talk surrounds J'Tia and also David's decision to choose Garrett as the weakest. "It's a game," David confirms.

The First Vote. The votes are read...right after this commercial break. But when it comes back, it's J'Tia - David - J'Tia - David - David - and...no not David??? As the "#blindside" graphic comes up on the screen, it is confirmed: David Samson, the President of the Miami Marlins, whose team finished last in the Majors last season, finishes last himself in the game of Survivor. "Unbelievable," is all he can manage to say as his torch is snuffed by Probst. And with that, the season's first blindside. Surely J'Tia just received a one-time-only get-out-of-jail free card...

No Fun. The next morning everything seemed to change for Garrett. Through the first three days, he went from being voted the "weakest" to finding a hidden Idol and then orchestrating a blindside that would wreak revenge on David. But he admits now that this whole surviving thing is not very fun. "I want to play Survivor to outlast and outplay people," Garrett said. "I don't want to play Survivor just to survive out in the wilderness!" Ha! Garrett has to survive more than just the elements though: Kass was not told of the David blindside so in effect, was blindsided herself. But now Spencer and Garrett - who seem aligned - need Kass, since J'Tia and Tasha seem tight. Kass shakes their hands and feigns an alliance, but utters the famous Sandra Diaz-Twine line, "Hey, I don't care, as long as it ain't me."

Wing-Man. Big man Cliff and little Woo go out on the boat together to catch some fish. "Batman has Robin, Jordan had Pippen and Cliff has Woo," jokes Cliff. Shortly thereafter they flip their boat and embarrassed, return to shore. Tony assesses his Brawn Tribe and realizes that everybody seems to love the fun-hearted Cliff.

Crayons. Over on the Beauty Tribe, Brice is similarly assessing his fellow tribe mates. He notices that Alexis is really using her sexuality with the guys and that about Jefra, "All of her crayons in the crayon box aren't bright." He also notices how Jeremiah, the male model from North Carolina, seems to be drooling over Morgan. Brice not-so-subtly approaches Jeremiah and Morgan and says that the three of them need to be the "brains" of their tribe.

Lighting A Fire. Trying to gather as much firewood as possible, Trish asks Lindsey - the tattoed, dredlocked hairstylist from Indiana - to lend a hand and Lindsey takes exception. The two get in a bit of a spat. Lindsey goes so far as to mimic and make fun of Trish's physical appearance behind her back.

#spyshack. Good ole' Tony. He reveals that he is building a "spy shack" on the sly, which is a place where he will be able to spy and gather intel on the others without them knowing. Good luck Tony! "I have more brain than brawn," he says. "Little do they know."

Immunity Challenge #2. The second challenge of the night had the tribes swimming out to a giant bamboo cage in the water, in which they had to climb over and into, before submerging to retrieve a series of giant bamboo traps underwater. They then had to drag the heavy objects back to shore, using the enclosed puzzle pieces to solve a puzzle. This time around, the Brains breezed through the physical portion of the challenge and gave themselves a ginormous lead going into the puzzle portion, where J'Tia was the person tasked with solving it. But oh no. She struggled mightily and soon thereafter the other teams caught up to her. The Brawn Tribe took the victory and even the Beauty Tribe caught and surpassed J'Tia and the Brain Tribe. From first to worst. Ugh. Second straight Tribal Council for the Brains. Oh yeah, in winning, the two tribes received a large and a medium-sized fishing gear kit.

Blood Vs. Water. During the challenge, the Brawn Tribe put blood, sweat and tears into winning second place...literally. Sarah revealed she gashed her finger pretty good, while Tony took a chunk out of his foot. But Tony - who is undeniably playing the game with intensity thus far - figures that there might be a hidden Idol clue in the fishing gear basket that was won as reward...this is something that has occurred in past seasons. Wouldn't you know it, he finds a clue and even more shocking, claims to know right where it is. Tony ends up being absolutely correct as he finds a hidden Idol for himself, an Idol he has no plans to tell anyone else about. "I'm the king of the jungle!" he yells.

Open Survivor Forum. Group talks rarely work on Survivor, and by rarely, I mean never not once. But that's exactly Garrett's plan, who is headed to his second straight Tribal Council along with the rest of the so-called Brains. He decides that they should all stick together and discuss who goes home and he and Spencer choose J'Tia. Tasha wants to just talk to people individually, and, you know, actually play the game of Survivor. But Garrett seems to be strong-arming the situation. "If you don't want to play the game, then get out of here!" Tasha tells Garrett.

From Bad To Worse. Tasha manages to get a brief moment in the water with Kass and pitches the idea of keeping J'Tia in the game. But Garrett quickly crowds them. Spencer by the way, isn't all too happy with Garrett's open forum chat but what can he do? Kass tells Garrett to go back up to the campsite, since they left J'Tia all alone and they don't know what she's capable of. I bet they never considered how cray-cray she really was. When they returned to the camp, J'Tia had dumped all of the rice - well, about 98% of the rice - into the fire, in a tantrum about being the one targeted to go home. Keep in mind that the rice is one of their only source of food for the next month or so. Needless to say, her move didn't go over to well with the others, not to mention it jeopardized Tasha's attempt to keep her in the game. "How did we come up for the criteria for the Brains Tribe?" Kass said, asking the question that all of America had on their lips. "I'd like to see that data."

Tribal Council #2. Tribal Council is usually a place where Probst is in control, needling and prodding contestants to give up some interesting intel or trying to figure out where people stand. But once in a great while - maybe once a season, or less even - he just stands by, wide-eyed, and watches, as worthy TV drama plays out before his eyes. This was one of those rare ones. J'Tia describes dumping the rice as, "Yeah. Not my best moment." "Wow," Probst says in response. Garrett reveals his alliance, and all of them go at each other at various moments. As each proverbial cart derailed one after another, piling on top of one another into a glorious mess, Probst announces: "This is nuts." He goes on to say: "It's been very enlightening and it's been...crazy." But thankfully, it was time to vote.

The Vote. An easy one, right? J'Tia is gone right? She dumped the frickin' rice! She was bossy and abrasive during the building of the shelter! She totally lost the puzzle portion of the Immunity Challenge! And did I mention the rice??? Spencer voted for J'Tia and said, "The fact that you are a nuclear engineer is genuinely scary." The vote was read: J'Tia - Garrett - J'Tia - Garrett and finally...Garrett? Holy crap! Are you serious? In the second shocking and unexplainable blindside of the night, Garrett was voted out of the game! With an Immunity Idol still back at camp that he didn't even bother to bring! Spencer was in shock, but managed a joke with the others. "Who wants to welcome me to the bottom?" Kass very quickly quipped, "Eh, it's not so bad." Probst, usually full of wisdom and words of advice at this point, could only say: "This is the oddest tribe I've ever seen," before sending them on their way.

Analysis. Lots to discuss. As always, follow-up this recap with my personal take, insights and opinions on this week's episode over at my weekly TheTVKing.com column.

Next Time On...Tony is shown revealing to Sarah that he is in fact a cop. Will it win favor? Or will she see burst of honesty as too little too late? Also, the weather is going to get quite rough. We see a shaken and teary-eyed Jefra stating, "I feel like I'm in a Survivor nightmare." Hey Jefra, we can relate...that's what this premiere episode felt like!

What are your thoughts on the episode? Am I being too rough on it? Post your comments and opinions below!

Be sure to subscribe to this column (above by my name) to receive email alerts of new postings, as you will not want to miss my exclusive one-on-one interview with both David and Garrett tomorrow!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter, @tomsantilli, and at tomsantilli.com as well!

Also, make sure you check out one of my favorite Survivor sites, Survivor Fever.

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