[“Survivor” recaps have typically been in the Monkeys as Critics blog, but they’ll be migrating over to my blog starting this season. That way, my recaps and exit interviews and whatnot will at least be in the same place, which ought to be more convenient. Click through for the recap of Wednesday’s (Sept. 14) “Survivor: South Pacific” premiere.]
Pre-credit sequence. Forget about those newbies. Coach and Ozzy are back!Coach is planning to control his sense of self-righteousness. He wants to prove that he can win this game “with honor and integrity.” Based on previous play, I’d say Coach’s best chance to win would be less “honor and integrity” and more “aliens abduct the remaining castaways.” For his part, Ozzy feels like he’s almost been there, but he hasn’t been able to grasp the million dollars. Yes, getting blindsided with an Immunity Idol in your pocket definitely yanks the million from your hands. Oooh. There are other contestants in the game. Nerdy John says he’s the most “Survivor” savvy player ever. Rick has trained for the game. Trained his mustache! Mortician Stacey vows to be like a mother, but to keep an eye on everything. And Brandon Hantz instantly mentions his Uncle Russell, a situation he compares to being similarly related to Hitler. “I don’t think Hitler’s nephew was running around saying ‘I’m Hitler’s nephew,'” Brandon observes. But it’s too late. Having forced the invocation of Godwin’s Law, this “Survivor” season is now over. Thanks, Brandon!
Team Blue Goo vs Team Orange Goo. No time for commercials. The castaways come up on the beach. They’ve been divided into tribes — Upolu and Savaii — but they haven’t yet seen the two alleged all-stars. Brandon’s keeping his identity secret, or at least he’s going to try to. This is going to be a problem, since he has “Hantz” tattooed on his arm and “Hantz” tattooed on his back. This, I suspect, is similar to the problem little Brandon Hitler had with his prominent “Hitler” tattoos. Thus, Brandon is planning on keeping his shirt on for the entire season. No. Really. That’s what he’s planning. The two all-stars land and everybody’s excited by the possibility of having Ozzy on their team for fishing and strength purposes. Nobody presses a desire to have Coach for storytelling and early morning yoga purposes. Not one to mince words, Christine blurts that while “it’s good to see them,” “they are temporary players. Here, Nerdy John asks Jeff to call him Cochran, in honor of Probst’s respect for such last-name-friendly players as Donaldson and Mariano. OK. If he insists. Cochran admits to being a “huge fan” (again) with a buff collection at home and praises Ozzy and Coach as “huge assets.” There are two eggs. Ozzy’s egg contains Orange goo, which puts him on Savaii, Cochran’s team. Coach’s egg is blue, which puts him on Upolu with Christine and dragon-defier Rick. There’s an immediate chill. “I feel like I was received a lot more warmly than Coach,” Ozzy smiles. After explaining Redemption Island to them, it’s time for our first challenge between what will now be known only as Team Ozzy and Team Coach.
I need a Hero. Probst describes this as a Hero Challenge. That means it’s Ozzy vs Coach. I’m glad Probst explained that, because it was only two years ago that Coach was categorized by this same game as a Villain. That was silly, but he’s not any more a Hero now. Anywho… They have to climb a pole, collect a turtle, dig themselves under a bar and then solve a puzzle. Surely Ozzy’s physical advantage should be sufficient to give him a big edge over Coach’s nothing advantage, right? They’re playing for Reward. Want to know what they’re playing for? Flint, of course, but also taro. Indeed, Ozzy gets to the puzzle with a pretty fair lead, though Coach shouldn’t be ashamed of anything other than losing his pants. The puzzle proves too complicated for both Ozzy and Coach, forcing Probst to explain the rules over and over again. Ozzy is first to seek the help of his teammates and with them cheering him on, he extends his lead, as each member of Team Coach shouts something different. Ozzy is triumphant. “Ozzy, I feel like I have to congratulate the entire tribe,” Probst says, referring to the assistance he received. “Damn right you do,” Ozzy agrees smartly. Team Ozzy leaves happy. Team Coach leaves grumpy and dysfunctional. Only Edna sticks around to befriend the Dragonslayer.
Poetry in motion and a bikini. We’re starting with a jubilant Team Ozzy. For his part, Ozzy vows to play a strategic game this time. Everybody introduces themselves, including Semhar, who does a little snippet of poetry to prove herself. Ozzy describes Semhar as “beautiful to look at” and he also loves her “passion” and her “poetry.” He wants to have somebody on his side like her. Does he mean as a cuddle buddy? Ozzy gushes “I’ve had a few tribes, but this is my best tribe ever.” While the normal tendency when tribes get to camp is to build shelter and do practical stuff, Ozzy suggests that now is the time to relax and go swimming, which makes Cochran with his self-confessed “translucent skin” very self-conscious. “It’s just going to make me look more like a pathetic twerp than I already do with my clothes on,” he squirms, while also ogling the “bevy of bikini babes,” making a reference by comparing this to the “90210” tribe from whichever season that was. To his eternal credit, Cochran eventually strips down and joins the tribe. Whew.
Ozzy ain’t rushin’, but Coach speaks Russian. Team Coach goes to their camp and Coach is afraid, but unbowed. “You can’t run away from fear. You can’t run away from obstacles,” Coach says before calling everybody together and reassuring them that he’s not a threat or a strategic player. Nobody says, “Um, yes. We know. We watched you play for two seasons.” It’s time to start introductions, including recent college grad Sophie, who says she was a Russian major and quickly begins a rudimentary palaver with Coach. While Team Ozzy is off splashing, Team Coach begins the process of shelter-building. “I think he’s a team player. He’s definitely working well with others,” Edna says of Coach. Another “Survivor” superfan, Christine sneaks away in an unsuccessful quest for Immunity Idol under the guise of getting firewood. Nobody is fooled and Coach views her as a threat.
Stir it up. Team Ozzy continues basking in the water. “Boom, bikini time! Love it,” slobbers Jim, who describes himself a “a cool high school teacher.” He’s not a high school teacher, though. He’s a liar, also a poker player, medical marijuana dispensary owner and MBA. Gay former cop Mark, older than the other contestants explains to everybody that he’s “daddy bear,” tries hard to give himself the nickname Papa Bear. English professor Dawn was happy with their initial success, but she worries that they’re spending too much time hanging out. “I have six kids. I’m used to being in charge,” the antsy Dawn says, comparing Ozzy to Bob Marley and questioning his leadership. It doesn’t help that as far as Ozzy’s concerned, they can sleep outside.
Loco on his neck and Lust in his heart. Out in the woods, Coach and Mikayla discuss Brandon’s neck tat that reads “Loco.” Brandon sheepishly admits that at one point in his life he was crazy. “I tried to act like Russell in high school,” he says, but he swears that God is No. 1 for him. Brandon is so committed to God that when Russell suggests that Mikayla is “a pretty girl,” Brandon calls her a Delilah. Damn. But lingerie football player Mikayla’s not a little princes, she’s taking charge and climbing trees and doing it all in short-shorts. The guy with the camera is impressed. The guy with the Hantz bloodlines is sketchy. “I don’t feel comfortable around Mikayla,” Brandon says, criticizing her “flaunting.” Uh-oh. Brandon describes himself as “a young married gentleman,” but he’s giving Mikayla looks that are more “dirty old man” or “crazy, crazy religious fanatic stalker.”
Even though I know how very far apart we are, it helps to think we might be wishing on the same bright star. A portion of Team Coach is out on the beach staring at the stars. Initially, it seems like they’re making fun of Coach, but it soon comes across as affectionate. There are only five of them under the stars and Coach observes that with a Strong Five, you can go far in this game. He’s got Sophie, Rick, Brandon and some guy we haven’t met and he figures he’s gone from outsider to insider in a day. “I think I’m sitting pretty right now,” an increasingly confident Coach says, while also declaring that Coach 3.0 is here to win.
Dawn breaks. So where did Team Ozzy actually sleep last night? We don’t know. But Day 2 is starting out poorly for Dawn, who says she’s feeling it and that she’s having “a mini-breakdown.” She complains to Mark, but Papa Bear warns her that as older players, they’re likely to be targeted if they show weakness. Dawn can’t stop whining and she even breaks into tears with Ozzy. “This has nothing to do with the game. This is two people talking,” Ozzy reassures her, but Dawn knows that the person who has the breakdown goes home first. But really, Dawn can’t stop, telling Ozzy how old she is and how little she has in common with everybody. Ozzy’s a good sport, telling Dawn to confront her insecurities. “I am the anchor,” Ozzy informs us, while telling Dawn, “You don’t need to let it get to you.” Ozzy figures if Dawn gets it together, she’ll remember his support and be “a crucial ally” and if she doesn’t? She’ll go home.
And distilled porcupine urine makes a surprisingly effective mouthwash. At Team Ozzy, they’re learning about how to brush your teeth in the wilderness, complete with sticks and a rudimentary toothpaste created from ash. I don’t know why this is happening, but Semhar has a weird skill set. It took a day, but Ozzy has realized that just because he doesn’t need food and shelter to survive, his castmates do. In a precarious moment, Cochran decides now is the right moment to learn how to wield a machete. “I doesn’t seem like he has the most to offer on the physical side of things,” Ozzy says skeptically. Although it briefly looks like Cochran is about to chop his hand off, he instead liberates coconut water. “It’s a coming of age story,” Cochran announces proudly. Cochran’s hoping he has enough social game to outstrip his physical limitations.
Tobias Funke, Analrapist, has a new favorite player. “I think my Uncle Russell lack in the social game,” says Brandon, who really needs to stop talking about his Uncle Russell. Vowing to be a provider, Brandon goes out and fishes. Even after brining home the bacon (in minnow form), Brandon’s insecure. “As long as I keep my shirt on, as long as I make an excuse for why I’ll never take it off…” Brandon hopes, adding “I don’t want to be judged by my uncle’s reputation. He should just tell them he’s a Never Topless, a rare permutation of being a Never Nude. But already, his teammates are suspecting he’s hiding something.
N.V.T.S. Nuts. It’s Immunity Time. It’s a long obstacle course that has to be completed by all tribe members. There’s a heavy coconut component and it ends with the shooting of coconut baskets. Early on, we saw Team Coach strategize how to handle the key wall-climbing part of the challenge. It pays off, while Team Ozzy’s lack of organization causes delays. Machete Master Rick extends Team Coach’s lead going into the coconut toss, but the coconut toss is really the only part of this entire challenge that matters. With Semhar, who vocally desired shooting responsibilities, wearing down with the coconuts, it becomes clear that Team Ozzy made another strategic error. Mikayla, described as a scoring machine by Probst, nails the final basket for Team Coach, which wins by only one coconut in “one of the closest challenges” Probst has ever seen. Team Coach also wins flint. They’re told there’s now a hidden clue to the Hidden Idol back at their camp. Semhar feels “sorta bad” about her performance, while Jim feels a good deal more than “sorta bad.” And Jim’s not feeling bad for or about himself, he’s feeling bad about Semhar.
Eyes wide shut. Team Coach returns to camp and suddenly they’re stoked. But Christine suggests that there’s an uneasiness because of the clue Probst mentioned. Players wander off searching on their own. “That hidden Immunity Idol is here somewhere, but there’s a lot of somewhere it can be,” Stacey says. acknowledging that she could have stumbled over it without noticing it. The cameraman indicates that that was exactly what happened. Ooops.
The mesmerizing power of cleavage. Semhar apologizes when Team Ozzy comes back. She’s guilty, but she’s also pissed off that Jim made the tribe look weak by making faces behind her. How could a poker champion possibly have such a dismal poker face? Semhar worries that her honesty may hold her back in the game and she worries that going off on Jim may not help her. Mark and Dawn agree that they won’t vote for each other, though Dawn knows that she could be viewed as a liability. Mark and Dawn decide that Semhar screwed up by volunteering to shoot the coconut basket and that she should go home. Out in the water, though, the younger and cuter players listen as Ozzy tries telling them that getting rid of Semhar might be a mistake and that Cochran may be too unathletic to help out. His argument is flimsy and Jim isn’t buying it. “Her body is mesmerizing, but it’s not hypnotizing,” Jim says of Semhar, worrying that “the cuddle factor” is on Ozzy’s mind. Ozzy advises Semhar to politic, so she around making sure that all of the young, pretty people are targeting Cochran. This confuses Harvard law student, who doesn’t think he’s the weakest person at all and is hurt that Ozzy has turned on him. This is like being a toddler and finding out that Santa Claus is conspiring to kill you on Christmas Eve.. “This is insulting,” Cochran says of possibly being voted off first, adding, “This started as a dream, but this really is a nightmare now.” He heads off to Tribal Council expecting a sad conclusion to his “Survivor” story.
Tribal Council. Team Ozzy arrives in shame. They all take torches and set them aflame. Why? What does fire represent in this game? Oh. Life. Probst begins by bringing up Redemption Island, which worries Dawn. With very little prodding, Dawn starts chattering about her loss of confidence and her crying, but she compares her breakdown to the flu. Elyse is first to say that Semhar should be concerned and Jim agrees. If there’s a bus, Whitney also tosses Semhar under it. But Semhar says she has heart, which Ozzy says should be an attribute in this game. “Like cleavage,” he doesn’t say. Who else should be worried? Dawn throws Cochran’s name out there. “It’s easy to say ‘OK, he’s one of the weakest people,'” Cochran says, but he claims he went through the coconuts like a hummingbird and seems actively confused when Papa Bear criticizes his wall-scaling approach. After waiting patiently, Cochran decides to take over. The aspiring lawyer stutters and says that Semhar’s job at camp isn’t hard, prompting Semhar to protest that she made sure that everybody had toothbrushes. Well there you go. With Probst’s encouragement, Cochran says he’s a learner and vows to be like a genie in a bottle if he’s given a second chance. “I think you’re so mesmerized by the game that you forget how important it is to be that person who’s working,” Semhar tells Cochran. What’s up with Semhar and mesmerizing?
The vote. Semhar votes for Cochran and says she hopes this will make him step up even more. Cochran votes for Semhar for questioning his intelligence and his commitment to the game. Let’s tally the votes: Cochran. Semhar. Semhar. Semhar. Semhar. Semhar. The first person voted out is Semhar, which means there was a lot of deliberation the editors didn’t want us to see. “I should have taught her how to make a fire,” Ozzy says as Semhar leaves. By “taught her how to make fire,” I believe he’s referring to motorboating. Probst interprets the vote as a validation of the principle that it’s possible for a person to improve. Semhar is sad about being lied to by her fellow tribemates, crying at how “fake” and “cold-hearted” they are.
Bottom Line: I don’t much care for having either Coach or Ozzy back, but I liked the way this episode was arced out, with Team Ozzy looking strong and Coach looking like a hatable liability and then the tables turning as we were reminded exactly how useless Ozzy is at anything other than an individual game. I’m curious about how the vote swayed back against Semhar, whether Cochran was the catalyst or whether Ozzy just changed his mind. I think I like Cochran, Mikayla, Edna, Rick and looking at Whitney. I think I dislike Brandon, Dawn, Jim and the unnecessary All-Stars. And I appreciate that the 90-minute premiere meant that other than Albert and Keith, nearly everybody did something to help me in learning their names. I appreciate that. And is Cochran more “Survivor” Clay Aiken or is he a character played by “Amazing Race” veteran and sometime actor Mike White?
What’d y’all think of the premiere? Who do you like? Who do you hate?