Survivor: Tocantins, week 1

Survivor’s back! Hooray!

So yeah, two things real quick, I guess:

  1. Yes, I watch Survivor. I won’t apologize for it.
  2. Yes, I’m a few weeks late. I won’t apologize for that either.

I’ve got the first few episodes of the new season (pronounced “token cheese” if Jeff Probst is to be believed) on the ol’ DVR, and Girlfriend and I started making our way through them tonight. This means we didn’t watch tonight’s episode, and it means a week’s worth of Survivor posts if I want to get this blog current by next Thursday.

The first thing I noticed about this new season is the cool tribe names: Jalapao and Timbira. This has to be the best pair of tribe names since Drake/Morgan in Pearl Islands. Weren’t those the names of the bad guys in Golden Sun? Anyway Jalapao is the red tribe and Timbira is the black tribe. The contestants were already split up before the trip out, which spares us the dreadful and awkward schoolyard pick.

Instead, they opened with a dreadful and awkward immediate first vote. Probst talked a lot about the importance of first impressions, blah blah blah, now everyone vote someone out. Since nobody knew anyone’s name yet, the votes were all along the lines of “old southern lady” and “chick with zebra stripes”. Not surprisingly, Jalapao voted out their old redneck lady and Timbira voted out the girl with strep throat who looked like she was about to die.

Now alarm klaxons are going off. Obviously they aren’t going to run a season with just fourteen people. No, instead of being voted out of the game, they were voted out of the grueling cross-country hike to camp. The two losers were taken to their respective hovels via helicopter and given a choice: get started building a shelter, or search for the hidden immunity idol.

Sandy, the old redneck lady, decided them durn young’uns weren’t gonna like her no matter what in tarnation she did, so she started digging up the beach. Unfortunately she didn’t know what “ten paces” meant so she essentially just dug up a lot of holes and then got the stink-eye when her tribemates got home and she had been sitting on her ass for four hours.

Sierra (and forgive me sweetheart if you’re reading this blog and I misspelled your name, but there are like twenty thousand ways to spell your name and I’m afraid if I check Wikipedia or cbs.com I’ll spoil the next few episodes for myself) had the opposite thought: get to work. By the time her tribe got back at about, oh, midnight she had no kidding built the entire goddamn shelter by herself.

I’ve been watching Survivor for years and I’ve often wondered if the reason shelters took so long is because the tribes do more bickering than work. Well, now we know.

So the problem with the early game is that it’s boring. Especially the first episode. The game doesn’t get really good until the merge, but a few characters jumped out at me right away.

Taylor is strong as an ox and got naked in the first episode. Well done, sir.

The cattle ranch guy, who shall remain “Rancher X” until next week when I inevitably learn his name, is the take-charge guy who knows what he’s talking about. I always like this character, but they never last long. Asserting yourself as leader is synonymous with making yourself a vote magnet. Godspeed, Rancher X.

Carolina is the walking cliche who has more opinions (and cleavage) than sense. This character usually gets booted immediately (or as close to immediately as possible) or finagles her way into the bottom of someone’s alliance as a useful fourth vote then gets cut loose without much fanfare and peters out with a well-rehearsed scathing tirade at the final tribal council.

There’s a Sassy Black Lady. There’s always a Sassy Black Lady.

Jerry is the big black guy. There’s always a big black guy, but I really like this one because he’s also an army sergeant. I’m going to call him Sgt. Jerry. What I like about Sgt. Jerry is that he has the ability to take command, but he is not doing it because he’s already identified that as a quick way to make yourself a vote magnet (see Rancher X, above).

There’s a 19-year-old kid who says he has watched every episode of Survivor ever. He was ten years old during the first season. Ten.

Let’s see… who else. Oh yeah, “Coach”. He’s the guy with the goofy nickname. I don’t know what to make of Coach yet. He is cocky and pretentious, a self-described “adventurer” who insists he’s going to be the one to finally change this game from “survival of the weakest” to… I dunno, “survival of the coachiest”. Coach’s problem is that he’s set his goals far too low; he’s only identified weak players inasmuch as the actual survival-in-the-wilderness aspect of the game. Fun fact: the past few Survivor winners have been Old Science Teacher, Skinny White Girl, Huggable Gay Mormon, and Low-Key Guy Who Never Won a Challenge. Every single season we get Crocodile Dundee out there, and every single season I start out rooting for him, hoping he will wise up to the social aspects of the game, and every single season he gets snaked by someone he thought he had under his thumb. Want to change the game, Coach, turn this trend around.

First challenge was pretty typical. Wade out for puzzle pieces, build a staircase, solve a maze, raise a flag. Sandy and Sierra, the women who were targeted by the first fake vote, both kicked ass getting their stairs built. In the end Timbira took a flint and immunity, leaving Jalapao the afternoon to decide which Sandy they were all voting for.

Then something wonderful happened: Sassy Black Lady took Carolina aside and told her, look, you are bossy and headstrong and you are getting on folks’ nerves. Wise up. This isn’t really that strange… I mean, that’s Sassy Black Lady’s job after all. No, the part that impressed me is that Carolina listened. She took the criticism and, instead of flying off the handle and putting her finger all up in everyone else’s business, actually started changing her attitude. She even apologized for it at tribal council.

That’s why it was so disappointing to see her voted off first. Yep, Jalapao decided that the old redneck lady was, in the end, more useful than the bossy Latina. So what could have ended up being some interesting character development ended up being a big waste of time. Aside from that, it’s just awful to see such a wonderful pair of breasts leave the game so early. Well, here’s hoping for an Outcast Tribe twist just before the merge.

Who’s gonna win? Way too early to tell, of course. I mean, the game hasn’t even started yet, and won’t for at least seven or eight episodes. Strategy is what wins this game and so far there hasn’t really been any. Alliances haven’t even started to form yet. Still, if I had to take a shot in the dark and just go on my gut instinct, I’d say Taylor. He’s a good competitor and he makes people laugh (er, with his pecker, but still). Both of these qualities can get him far in the game, if he can keep it up.

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