Wednesday night's 90-minute premiere of "Survivor: Caramoan" - the 26th season of Survivor and the second Fans vs Favorites edition - started out with a bang and ended with someone vowing to leave the game with a bang, according to next week's preview.
In case you're new to the party or to this column, the following is about as in-depth of an episode recap that you'll find on the web, and we'll be here each and every week to share in what transpires on Survivor. Towards the bottom of this article under the paragraph entitled "Analysis," you will find a link that will take you to my more opinionated analysis article, where all of my true feelings towards the episode are laid bare and where we break down the events of the episode.
So let's get to it! Survivor: Caramoan - Fans vs. Favorites was upon us for the second time. And for a second time, one particular contestant would experience the ultimate low. Onward!
An Introduction. The mandatory introductions took up the first 10 minutes or so of tonight's premiere episode, where the 10 new "fans" were driven into the Caramoan islands by boat. Above them, by helicopter, the 10 returning "favorites" made their way into the game. As always, the infamous, "39 days, 20 people, one Survivor" line was uttered by host Jeff Probst, from atop a rocky mountain peak as the choppers flew overhead. This shot was as impressive as any you'll see on the show and has become a staple opening moment for the series.
Chow Time. With the ten members of the Gota (Fans) Tribe on the beach, the returning ten players were brought out. "This is lunch meat right here," said one of the Fans, the hulk-like ex-military man Shamar. "It's about to be chow time." With Shamar stood Laura, Sherri, Matt, Hope, Eddie, Julia, Allie, Michael and Reynold. Some oohs and aahs accompanied the entrances of the returning Favorites when, in no particular order, Andrea, Brandon, Brenda, Corinne, Dawn, Erik, Francesca, Cochran, Malcolm and Phillip Sheppard appeared on the beach. Without much time to make any acquaintances, Probst announced that the first challenge was about to begin.
Reward Challenge. The challenge consisted of contestants being paired up in about knee-deep water, where each pair had to claw, scratch and fight their way to retrieve a floating ring, then returning it to their team's pole. Get a hand on the ring and the pole at the same time to win a point, with four points winning the challenge. As reward, the winning tribe would get fire in the form of flint, plus a 20 pound supply of beans.
Drop Your Buffs, Drop Your...Pants? Did I mention that Shamar was huge? His physicality led to the Fans scoring the first point over Dawn and Erik (he was teamed with Julia). The next point went to the Favorites courtesy of Andrea and Francesca scored the Favorites a third point. The final Favorite pairing was Corinne and Malcolm and Malcolm lost his shorts in a fierce struggle for the ring. With female onlookers giggling in...shock?...they watched as Malcolm scored the winning point sans pants.
Getting to Know Gota. So the Gota Tribe - er, the Fans - wasn't exactly off to a great start. After losing the challenge and returning to camp to build shelter, it didn't take but 10 minutes for Shamar to butt heads with Matt, the professional bearder and BMX Bike Salesman. "You're putting a lot of energy into s##! that we don't need right now," Shamar told him. Matt didn't exactly back down, but bad blood this early is never a good sign.
Remembering Bikal. Over at the Bikal Tribe - er, the Favorites - Malcolm knows that he is the new kid on the block and tries to immediately work his "impression management" skills so that he can win people over. Phillip - who we knew the camera wouldn't avoid for too long - was back in his red tighties telling the camera, "I'm ready baby."
Fool Me Once...Francesca - the first Survivor contestant to play again after being voted out of her previous season first - had a history with Phillip, when the two didn't get along back during Boston Rob's Redemption Island season. She maintains that Phillip is a crazy person, but thinks that having been voted out first last time may work to her advantage in that she won't be seen as a threat. Dawn, Andrea and Fran seem to make an alliance and then Fran is seen trying to patch things over with Phillip. "She's stuck in a time warp," Phillip tells the camera. "She annoys me greatly." Fran tells the camera, "If I'm voted out first again, I will eat this rock," as she reaches for a rock along the beach. "It's not going to happen." Oh, but those of us familiar with Survivor editing know that this was a classic foreshadowing moment. Or was it?
Creating a Spark. Shamar, early on, seemed to be getting the classic "first guy voted out" edit and when we see him again he is still highly annoyed with his tribe and their choices around camp. But then he gets up and helps and wouldn't you know...he helps them achieve fire! Matt and Shamar shake hands and Shamar shows his value, at least for now.
The "BR" Rules. So who misses Phillip Sheppard? Now a wise old crazy person, he tells us that he has learned a lot from playing the game with Boston Rob (BR). In fact, he has created what he calls the "BR Rules" for playing Survivor. BR Rule #1: Get in an alliance. BR Rule #2: Get in an alliance within an alliance. BR Rule #3: Get rid of your alliance before it gets rid of you. Continuing to scheme and fancying himself as in control of the game, he approaches others to join his alliance. He even comes up with names for them. For Corinne, he names her "Dominatrix." Andrea is "The Eliminator." Then he recruits "The Intelligence" with Cochran. Upon approaching Erik however, he seems to give him the old George W. Bush ultimatum: You're either with me or you're against me. This doesn't sit well with Erik, the former fan famous for giving away his Immunity Necklace at the Final 5 of his season before promptly getting voted out. "He's a combative, idiot loser who makes everybody crazy," Erik says about Phillip.
Budding Alliance, Romances? Over at the Fans camp, the physically fit Reynold - who stood out during the challenge - aligns with physically fit fireman Eddie. We then see Reynold propose a Final 2 deal with Allie, whom he describes as the perfect candidate to go to the end with because, "She's not the cutest." Ouch! Elsewhere, Eddie expands the alliance by flirting with the beauty queen Hope. At night, Reynold must not have cared who the cutest was, because he decided to grope all over Allie. Laura notices this and immediately targets them as a potential power couple who may need an early break-up.
Burn, Baby, Burn. Poor Cochran. He wants a new image this time around as having more of a swagger and being a bit more confident. But in the first few days he has gotten horrific sunburn all over his pale frame. "He's as red as a little tomato and swollen like a little pregnant lady," says Brenda. "If we had a challenge right now, I would die," said Cochran.
High School High. As Reynold, Allie, Eddie and Hope continue to bond, they all mention and laugh about how this is just like high school, where they are the cool, popular and attractive kids. Michael isn't a part of that conversation, but he is shown as having an alliance with Reynold. Noticing the "cool kids" alliance, Laura, Sherri, Julia and Michael decide to make an alliance. This seemingly leaves Matt (the beard) and Shamar (hulk) on the outsides. Michael has a connection with Matt as well and the two seem to form an alliance. So Michael, three days in, finds himself in three alliances. Smart? Or otherwise?
Immunity Challenge. In pairs, they must race up a four-story tower to throw crates off of the side, to crash below revealing sand bags. The remaining pair on each tribe then throws the sand bags into six different holes, with the first team to do so winning Immunity at the first Tribal Council. While close throughout, the Favorites pulled ahead, but Reynold absolutely crushed the sand bag toss portion to sneak out a narrow victory for the Fans. Only three days into the game and one episode, and we would soon be saying good-bye to a Favorite.
A New Dawn. Fran becomes paranoid, considering the idea that she could be voted out first...again. "It would be the worst thing ever." She mentions Phillip to Cochran as a possible target but then mentions Corinne, which seems to lose Cochran. Andrea seemed on board to vote out Phillip, but then in a confessional tells the camera that she may be better off sticking by the former federal agent. She tells Phillip of Fran's plan to target him and after quoting Machiavelli, Phillip calmly goes about his day. Fran does seem to have the support of both Brandon and Erik, who at the last minute seemed to shift gears and decide to blindside Andrea. Stuck in the middle of all of this chaos is Cochran and Dawn, who were on the same tribe during their previous season. Although Cochran's betrayal led to Dawn's ultimate demise, Dawn tells him that he is like family and that she would love to work with Cochran. Cochran agrees and the two seem to forge a pretty convincing alliance. "It's a new Dawn," Cochran says, before laughing uncontrollably at what he just inadvertently said. Fran senses something isn't right, but without enough time to investigate further, she is off to Tribal Council.
Tribal Council. Brandon tells Probst that because they are all returning players, "Nobody is going to get done like they were done the last time," but Probst points out that that can't be true, since they are sitting at Tribal Council. "Well, if you put it that way," says Brandon. Phillip comes clean, that last time in the game he actually could pronounce Francesca's name (not "Franchesqua" like he kept calling her), but he mispronounced it on purpose simply out of disrespect. With some grilling of Fran and also Andrea, it was time to vote. Could it be? Could Francesca be the first person voted out of Survivor...twice?
Probst began the vote by giving players a chance to play a hidden Immunity Idol (confirming to the viewer that there will, indeed, be hidden Idols in play this season, although there was not one mention of them this episode until now). As the votes were read, the first three were for Andrea and it looked like Francesca was going to survive her first Tribal Council. But the next three were for Francesca. Then a fourth for Andrea was read. But then the "worst" possible nightmare scenario for Fran was realized. All of the remaining votes were for Francesca.
With that, Francesca made Survivor history: The first player to be voted out of the game first...twice.
(For the record, votes for Francesca: Malcolm, Phillip, Andrea, Dawn, Cochran, Corinne. Votes for Andrea: Francesca, Brandon, Brenda, Erik).
Analysis. Ouch. Well, it was hard not to feel for Francesca's unfortunate fate, but once the Favorites didn't win Immunity I had a bad feeling she was in trouble. Not that we wanted to see any of the returning players leave so early in the game. But as many players said throughout the night, Francesca had a tendency to play too hard too early. We seem to think that getting voted out first is an unfortunate stroke of bad luck, but remember: Often times, a person is voted out first for a reason. For my take on the entire episode, on Fran and her fate and for some early season predictions, please click over to this link, my Survivor Analysis at TheTVKing.com website.
Next Time On...Voting with the minority is never a good thing, putting an instant target on the back of those remaining in the game. It appears that Brandon has already crashed and burned, as it appears he has flipped out in the preview's for next week. Vowing to go all Russell Hantz on his tribe, Brandon also vows to "go out with a bang."
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