Survivor: Philippines Episode 1 Recap
Well, here we go. Time for more outwitting, outplaying, and outlasting. Sit back, relax, and get ready for more SURVIVOR!
In typical fashion, we get introduced to the season with breathtaking HD views of the Philippines, Russ Landau creating dramatic background music by jumping on his orchestra with a pogo stick, and Jeff Probst looking epic as he sets the stage for the game. This time, he's pretending to drive a boat! Isn't that cute?
During the intro, we get introduced to the three returning players, whom shall be referred to in these reviews in Probst fashion: by their last names. We have Michael Skupin, who burned his hands in 'Survivor: The Australian Outback,' Jonathan Penner, who got a life threatening infection in 'Survivor: Micronesia," and Russell Swan, a.k.a. "The OTHER Russell" from 'Survivor: Samoa," who nearly died of dehydration. They're all back to play the game, and I already have impressions of them:
Swan: He was already a big guy in Samoa. Now he looks like the human equivalent of a Toyota Hilux!
Penner: Still as boisterous as always. I expect him to get into lots of verbal scuffles, including some with Probst.
Skupin: Jeez, look at him! He's 50 years old and has grey hair! Has it really been over a decade since he was last on this show? Man, Probst must feel old looking at the guy.
Of the new castaways that may or may not -- okay, WILL UNDOUBTEDLY -- suck up to the vets, three are particularly featured, all on separate tribes. We have Lisa, who starred in one of those cheesy 80s sitcoms I am too young to know about. We have Jeff Kent, a National League MVP for the San Francisco Giants who is too big of a dugout hothead for me to not know about. And we have Zane, a ginger with a goofy accent and a bunch of tattoos. One of these three is not like the other, and that one is likely to be the first boot. It's basic reality TV editing analysis, people.
Swan goes to Zane's tribe, which wears blue and is called Matsing. Skupin is sent to Lisa's tribe, the yellow-wearing Tandang, and he almost blows her cover when he recognizes her from her sitcom (have to say it again: Skupin is OLD). Finally, in a move that I sure is completely coincidental and was by no means a move by the producers to create drama, Penner is put on Jeff Kent's tribe, the red-buff-wearing Kalabaw. Oh, boy, these two could get explosive.
The tribes are informed that hidden immunity idols are in play this season and are then marooned in the same way the original Borneo castaways were 24 seasons ago: they have one minute to grab as many supplies as they can off the boat and jump overboard. Immediately, in a move of cruel irony, Kent loses his footing as Kalabaw's raft is cut off from the boat, and he pops something in his leg. He thinks that his MCL might have torn, but he keeps it to himself. 60 seconds, 42 spilled melons at the bottom of the ocean, and one drowned chicken later, the tribes are off.
First we get to Matsing, where Swan declares to everyone that he's going to do things differently from the last time he played and NOT be the leader. So what's the first thing that not-leader Swan does? Give people order on how to build a bamboo shelter and makes the fire without any flint. Way to shake it up, Other Russell! Fortunately, it's not all about him. Malcolm, a bartender, spent a year in Micronesia as an English teacher and knows just as much as Swan. He helps Swan build the fire, and pretty soon Matsing has all the essentials. It's a good day one for this tribe, especially for Malcolm, who proves he can be an asset to the tribe without being overbearing in the process like Swan did.
On to Kalabaw, where Kent is really starting to hurt. His previous surgeries during his baseball career have taught him to know how bad an injury is based on how it feels, so he can tell that the situation is bleak. But Kent won't allow himself to be the first one out of his tribe so easily. He gathers the other newbies together to discuss what to do with Penner, and they all agree that he's got to go the first time they head to Tribal Council. Maybe I spoke too soon with that Penner vs. Kent fight prediction.
Then we head to Tandang, where we have our first Day 39 alliance between Abi-Maria, a Brazilian-American dual citizen, and RC, a Wall Street investment banker who's already got my pick for the "Chosen By Casting For Sex Appeal" award. The two quickly get along because they're both cute girls with experience in the business world and promise to the end together. The duo quickly bring Skupin into their alliance, as well as Pete, who they picked just because they think he's stupid. Guess what, gals: he's an engineering graduate, and an engineering student just won 'Big Brother.' Could a pattern develop?
As for Lisa, she's trying to work hard at building a fire, but she's not having a good time of it, and her attempts to cover her TV career have led to her being on the outside of Tandang's social ring. RC pulls the others aside and voices her suspicions about Lisa and suggests making her the first target of her new alliance. Skupin, on the other hand, isn't so sure, and she goes to Lisa that night and tells her that he knows about her past but won't reveal it to the others. Skupin feels conflicted, because he knows he will need to stick with his alliance, but would hate to sacrifice Lisa, the closest to him in age, to do so. You know what can bridge that conflict? A few more days. And what gives you a few more days? The Immunity Idol.
It's now Day 2, and at Matsing connections are starting to be made. Zane talks to the confessional about his past work in retail and in junkyards, which has allowed him to work with all kinds of people and given him the experience that will make him THE ULTIMATE SURVIVOR PLAYER.
Zane then proceeds to break the cardinal rule of early gameplay and makes deals with everybody in the tribe. He says it puts him in control of the tribe, but what it really does is make him look like a rat once everyone figures out he's been putting his hands in every cookie jar available. Saying it again people: Zane = FIRST BOOT.
Malcolm, on the other hand, is proving to be as smart as he is resourceful, picking one partner and one target. He picks Denise, a sex therapist, to go to the end with, and the two of them talk about voting out Swan before the merge, but not too early. They want to milk him for as much camp work and tribal immunity as possible before they cut him loose. Malcolm, you are looking like the early favorite this season.
It's time to get some Immunity, and this is a big one because for the first time in eight seasons, 'Survivor' is in a location that allows the show to create challenges that involve going underwater. Each tribe will divide up into three pairs for a three stage race. Stage one involves pairs going into the woods, climbing up a cargo net, and retrieving paddles. Stage two will have the next pair use the paddles to row in a canoe out to a buoy, then swim down and get a chest. When they get back to shore, the last pair will open the chest to pull out the pieces to a puzzle. First two tribes to complete the puzzle win Immunity Idols. In addition, the first place tribe gets a complete fire-making kit and the second place tribe gets some flint.
While deciding who will do which stage, not-leader-Swan doles out the jobs to the rest of the tribe, even cutting people off when they ask questions. The challenge begins, and Matsing & Tandang pull out to an early lead. In the second stage, Skupin and Pete give Tandang an even bigger lead, as Skupin shows he's still got the challenge prowess he had back in the Outback. Meanwhile, Kent shows a bit of smart decision making by taking part in a portion of the challenge where he can use his upper body strength and not his injured leg. His strong paddling helps Kalabaw come back and take second from Matsing, while his partner Carter swims down to get the chest.
In the final stage, not-leader-Swan, who said he wasn't good at puzzles before the challenge started, is now playing backseat driver and yelling unhelpful advice to his tribe mates. Penner, on the other hand, works quickly on the puzzle and soon finds himself in a race with Lisa to finish the challenge. He comes through and completes the comeback for Kalabaw, earning them first place and the fire kit that comes with it. Lisa finishes the puzzle seconds later, giving Tandang Immunity and flint, something they desperately need since they haven't gotten fire yet.
So Matsing will be going to the first Tribal Council of the season. Back at camp, Zane continues to prove how he is the Ultimate Survivor Player by throwing himself under the bus and telling everyone how poorly he did in the challenge. While he was running with Swan in stage one, he was struggling to keep up and had to be pulled along. In the confessional, Zane says he's doing this to gain sympathy votes and hopes that all the friendliness he has shown in the first couple of days will lead the others to keep him.
Swan is more than happy to let Zane dig his own grave, but then Angie, a student and former pageant girl, begins voicing her complaints about Swan. Before the challenge, she wanted to tell everyone that she was a strong runner and that she should do stage one instead of Zane, but Swan shot her down before she could say anything and sent her to do the puzzles. Now the tribe is considering going after not-leader-Swan, who is now starting to realize just how bad he's messed up his early gameplay.
But when Matsing went to Tribal Council (which looks particularly beautiful this year, by the way), Zane mentions that he just quit smoking before coming to the Philippines, which means his lungs are still recovering. He then says, "I would rather step out of your way than hold you up."
Fine, Zane, if you want to tell people to end your hopes for a million dollars, they are more than happy to
So it was a good start to the season. While the returning players, Kent, and Lisa got much of the screen time as expected, we still got a solid alliance in Tandang to start the game while Penner and Swan feel the heat at their respective tribes. I have to say that if this season turns out well, then 'Survivor' should consider permanently switching to a three tribe format. That way, there's a smaller chance that a group of five can band together and make all the votes predictable.
Next time, Lisa realizes that she's on the outs in Tandang and finds it difficult to cope, while Penner continues his hunt for the idol as the non-celebrity members of Kalabaw mutter about how no one knows their names yet. Hey, you signed up to be on 'Survivor.' Doesn't mean you get to be on camera.