It’s a boat. It’s dramatic music. It’s a Jeff Probst voice-over. Yes, “Survivor” is back, and we quickly learn that they’re all probably going to die from the grueling conditions. This could be a short season.
We start with a few introductions and bold boasts, then the three tribes have a couple of minutes to salvage what they can from the ship, throw it and themselves overboard and onto rafts. It’s chaotic and we don’t think PETA is going to be happy with the treatment of some chickens.
To Tang is the Brawn tribe. Players are psyched that one player is a body builder. They ask her to knock down some trees for them.
Chan Loh is the Brains tribe, but the players are confused because President Obama appears to be playing this season. No, it’s really Dr. Peter, who does bear a resemblance to the leader of the free world. Debbie impresses her tribe with her superior survival knowledge, including the ability to make fire by creating, wait for it, friction. She seems to be doing a good job of that, but not in creating fire.
Gondol is the Beauty tribe, and Tai, the San Francisco gardener, is confused about why he was chosen for this tribe. He says he’s bald, skinny and has big ears. But we’re all beautiful inside, he says.
If Tai is confused, Caleb is perplexed. He seems to take it as a personal insult to his own loveliness, but the tribe seems happy to have Tai — he’s climbing trees and gathering fronds, helping to build the shelter and planning to go into the jungle to get food for them. We officially love Tai.
Over on the Brawn tribe, work is being done. Large rocks are hefted, bamboo is cut, egos are expanded.
Alecia doesn’t seem to be very helpful and two male players dislike her.
At Beauty camp, while they’re talking about where they live and what they do, their chickens get out of their coop. Tai, who was sad to see Caleb chopping into a living tree, suggests tying the chickens together and then putting them on a line so they can wander a bit. Julia and Anna love the idea and they immediately create an alliance and want to bring Michele and Tai on it.
Brains tribe is doing pretty well building the shelter, and Debbie is busy doing things her way. She’s so annoying. Joe, who is 72 and working harder than the younger members of his tribe, is also targeted by the four younger players who think he and Debbie are too old and too slow, and therefor need to go first.
Back at Beauty, Tai is hunting for an idol. He thinks he’s found it when he finds three small trees where they shouldn’t be. His teammates get suspicious and go looking for him. Tai has now put a target on his back, they say. Tai replants the trees he pulled up, apologizing for uprooting them.
Anna, the poker player, is unhappy and now distrusts him. Tai knows he messed up. The other five move him to the top of their torch snuffing list.
It’s Day 2 and the Brains tribe is starting to melt in the sun. Aubry gets overwhelmed and asks her tribe to help her with fruit and water. Debbie calms her down and soothes her. Liz isn’t much impressed. She thinks Aubry is having an anxiety attack, not dehydration. Hmmmm, maybe she’s moved to the top of the list over Debbie and Joe.
Jennifer on the Brawn tribe is freaking out because a bug apparently crawled into her ear and she can hear little legs crawling around and burrowing in deeper, eating her brains. OK, we know. It would freak us out too. We should never have watched that old “Night Gallery” episode about the earwig.
Her tribe is sympathetic, but worried that she’ll cause them to lose the challenge, or be pulled from the competition. But miraculously, the little worm creature crawls out and after everyone is disgusted by it, it’s pulled out and squished.
At last, it’s time for a challenge. All tribe members must swim out to a boat, get in it and then members of each team must dive, one at a time, into the water to retrieve paddle boards. They then have to paddle back, convert the boat to a cart, pull it up a slope and then choose between two tasks — solve a puzzle or stack balls while standing on a wobbly board.
Beauty tribe gets back first, but has trouble getting the heavy boat into its cradle. Brawn falls behind, but makes up for lost time. Brains pulls into the lead, following by Brawn and Beauty. All three tribes decide to work the puzzle.
Brains wins immunity and claims the big prize of a massive fire making kit. Beauty wins second place — and a flint to make fire — by the narrowest of margins, and Brawn will be headed to tribal council.
Alecia thinks she’s probably on the chopping block, but she hopes Darnell, who dove for the first paddle and promptly lost the face mask, will be a better candidate.
Back at camp, Darnell begs for his life, promising that if they save him, he’ll be loyal and hardworking and everything. Scot tells him not to worry. They are voting off Blondie, aka Alecia, because they can only take so much dumb.
But Scot tells Alecia that they are voting Darnell off. Scott and Kyle ask her whether Darnell has a hidden immunity idol, and she say no. Scot asks if she has one, and she becomes coy saying she isn’t saying whether she does or not. That does not sit well with Scot, but it appears they’re set on Darnell anyway.
When Probst asks, Kyle says he’s happy with his tribe and most of them live up to his high standards. Some don’t. When Probst asks him to name names, he does: Blondie and Darnell.
Darnell says he knows it’s his fault they lost the challenge because losing the diving mask put them behind; he asked for the opportunity and he failed. But at least he tried, which is more than Alecia did. She didn’t row the boat, she didn’t push the boat and she volunteered to do the puzzle but couldn’t so she stepped out and let Scot take over. She just won’t do puzzles again, she says.
Darnell breaks down a little, describing how he’s had it hard in life and he hates that he disappointed his tribe. His story and Alecia’s arrogance — she claims to have a huge brain — seem to sway the vote. Kyle says they had a plan on who to vote off, but now he thinks they are making the wrong choice. Jennifer whispers that she doesn’t want to vote off Darnell.
Votes are cast and tallied, and the first vote of the season ends in a tie — three for Darnell and three for Alecia.
Probst orders a revote. Darnell and Alecia can’t vote, and the other four can vote only for Darnell or Alecia. New votes are cast, Probst tallies, and the first person voted off is Darnell. Only Alecia looks happy at the news.
Next time: Debbie and Tai create some uncomfortable moments in their camps.