The 23rd season of Survivor began Wednesday night with a helicopter shot. Of another helicopter. Which was carrying former contestants Coach & Ozzy, both back for a 3rd time. Coach says he’s back to prove you can win this game with honour & integrity, but I’m pretty sure he’ll be same Coach who just really, really wants you to like him. WHY WON’T YOU LIKE HIM? Ozzy says he’s totally going to try to be more strategic, & not simply rely on his ridiculous athleticism (due to being raised by a family of otter-monkeys), & has he always sounded so zen surfer? Dude.
Jeff Probst & his ever-present dimples show us this season’s Redemption Island Arena, where contestants will be sent after they’ve been voted out of their tribe. They get one more chance to stay in the game, or they will be sent home. For really realz this time. I’m not a fan of RI as it lessons the impact of the once tense tribal council vote, & also last year it was completely useless. For all Matt’s triumphs on RI, as soon as he got back in the game, he was voted out immediately & sent back to RI, where he failed the final duel. Sucky. Also, last year’s RI Arena (mock stone ruins) looked way cooler than this year’s (giant fire pit).
Everyone else is on their tribe’s raft, heading for the shore. Obviously, they’ve rowed all the way from
, so it’s no wonder Elyse is struggling with the oars. She’s tired, you guys. The tribe names are America Savaii and Upolu, but I won’t remember those, so from now on they are tribes Steve Vai & OompaLoompa.
The first contestant to get an intro piece (aside from returning rock stars Coach & Ozzy) is John Cochran. I admit right now I have a nerd crush on this super nerd, & he is my pick to win it all. The man wrote a prize-winning essay on Survivor. An article from his local newspaper revealed he wrote Survivor newsletters in high school, & wore buffs on Survivor days. He asks Jeff to call him by his last name, because he does that with all the cool players. Way to embrace the nerd, Cochran. I LOVE HIM.
Elyse admits to having no outdoor skills, but says “I’m Native American, so I’m hoping that somewhere in my ancestral background, the great spirits of my past will impart on me some wisdom.” I’m fairly confident that Native Americans have always believed in Darwinism. They sure do now.
We meet Rick, the rancher: a hard-working hard-ass who calls Coach out by reminding the world that there are no dragons, so he’s a man in his forties, calling himself a dragon-slayer. I imagine Coach sitting at home in his Asian-themed home, sobbing into a bear-skin throw. WHY WON’T YOU LIKE ME?
We meet Brandon, the troubled-but-saved-by-God nephew of the infamous Russell Hantz. Says no one will find out Russell is his Uncle, & that should be no problem at all as he only has one tattoo that says Hantz on his back. Oh, and one more that says Little Hantz on his shoulder. People keep their shirts on in Survivor, right?
Ozzy is received way more warmly to his Steve Vai tribe than Coach is welcomed to his OompaLoompa tribe. Coach looks sad. WHY WON’T YOU LIKE COACH? Probst pits Coach & Ozzy against each other in a first challenge to win food & flint for their tribe. The challenge entails climbing a tree, digging under a log (where Coach must’ve scraped 2 layers of skin off his chest), & then the most confusing puzzle I have seen on Survivor. There were 3 platforms, stacking pieces, & a turtle for some reason. I didn’t understand it, & I watched it twice. Ozzy wins & defers praise to his tribemates. Maybe Ozzy does have more strategy this time around. Coach slumps back to his tribe in defeat where they barely make eye contact with him. It’s not like he failed miserably. Let’s see how Ozzy would do against a dragon, am I right? Besides, the OompaLoompas were all yelling different things at Coach: a man who just wants to please everybody, so WHY WON’T YOU LIKE HIM?
Back at Steve Vai camp, Ozzy has a bunch of puppies following him around in the form of super hot girls. Semhar shows off her poetry prowess with a spoken word piece that references Billie Jean. Semhar says “It’s important that when people challenge you that you step up to that.” Let’s all make a note of that quote, shall we?
Ozzy goes on for 3 minutes about Semhar that translates to “I love her boobies”. And then, like a true zen surfer, he gets everyone swimming instead of building a shelter. Is this the kind of help they expected from a former contestant? What does Ozzy care about a shelter? He’ll curl up in a tree branch to sleep, just like his otter-monkey family taught him.
Cochran’s hesitation to strip down in front of all the hot girls & fit guys is charming & endearing. He’s worried about how pale he is & says “You can see my organs beating underneath my skin.” The most adorable neurotic ever.
Over at OompaLoompa, Coach starts speaking Russian with Sophie, a Russian major. He then goes around giving extremely helpful tips on everything around camp. WHY WON’T YOU LIKE HIM? Should’ve gone for a swim, Coach.
Ever since Russell, people think they can just find the immunity idol without any clues. Christine is no Russell. Calling the returning players “temporary” & then blatantly going off to look for “wood” in tree hollows is not that smart. I don’t like her.
Back to Steve Vai where we meet Mark Anthony, who says he’s so gay that “feathers float around my head”. There’s a touching moment when he tells of how he came out while on the job as a cop, to make it easier for younger guys. “I’m older, and experiencing life free of everything that would restrict me.” I like him. Even after he gives himself a nickname. “Do I look like a bear? I think I do. Call me Papa Bear”. Um, ok?
The OompaLoompa who most resembles one, Brandon, is as loco as his neck tattoo states. Coach comments on Mikayla’s beauty, to which
replies “That’s Delilah, son.” He then states that he doesn’t feel comfortable around Mikayla & “the way she flaunts herself”. You know, in her tank top & shorts, in the jungle while building a shelter. What a tramp. Brandon thinks he’s going to get into trouble if he spends time with her because he’s married, & he’s in the church. LOCO. The best moment of the entire episode is the shot the camera got of Brandon peeking at Mikayla through the structure of the shelter, as his voice over tells us he wants nothing to do with her. Survivor editors are the best. Brandon
Coach makes an informal alliance of 5, yet Edna, the one person who actually was nice to him after his defeat, is not there. WTF Coach? You said you liked her smile.
Dawn has a complete breakdown at Steve Vai camp. Overwhelmed with everything, or maybe because she SLEPT ON THE GROUND WITHOUT A SHELTER, she just starts bawling in front of everyone & Ozzy becomes surfer Jesus as he is sweetly supportive. If you need to cry in Survivor, just find somewhere to do it privately. I’m very emotional, & I’m sure I would breakdown at some point in this game. But possibly losing a million dollars because I cried is enough for me to scrape out my tear ducts with the branches they’re using as toothbrushes.
OompaLoompa Brandon says he doesn’t want to be judged by his Uncle’s reputation. However, he’s clearly fine with being judged on wearing his shirt in the weird, twisty manner that my 7 year old favours as he undresses. That’s not suspicious at all when you’re fishing in the water. It’s not like you’re trying to hide something. Or 2 things. That say Hantz. He spears a tiny fish who probably came closer just to find out WTF is up with that guy’s weird twisty shirt.
yells that he needs something to put this tiny fish in. Rick brings him a comically large bag that he himself could fit in, all for the tiny, curious fish. We never see anyone cooking, or eating the fish. Perhaps they lost it in the enormous bag. Brandon
The Immunity Challenge is an obstacle course followed by coconut basketball. Choosing shooters, Semhar tells her Steve Vai tribe, “I’m good with it. I can aim & I can shoot. The basket is big, I’m good.” Remember, she thinks it’s important to step up when people challenge you.
Semhar fails spectacularly. After 2 decent throws, she switches her form to that of Benjamin Button, a Grandma in a toddler’s body. Watching her makes me feel athletic, which is really something. With boobs like hers, you think she’d feel comfortable with those heavy coconuts. Zing! Probst rubs it in by saying “Every coconut is going to count, that’s how close this is.” Steve Vai loses, much like in that movie where Ralph Macchio bested the real Steve Vai on guitar solo virtuosity. Semhar says she feels “sorta bad”, which I think her tribe, or at least Jim, sees as her biggest failure.
Upon winning, the OompaLoompa tribe chants their name joyously & I swear I hear a “doompity-doo” in there. They win immunity & flint, & they are happy. MAYBE YOU’LL LIKE COACH NOW?? They go back to camp & start looking for the Immunity Idol clue. Stacey looks in a tree hollow, walks away. The camera zooms in on the hollow, where we see the clue wrapped around a branch. If only you’d turned around, Stacey! WHEN LOOKING FOR SOMETHING, ALWAYS WATCH WHERE THE CAMERAS ARE POINTING. This goes for you too, Amazing Race Contestants.
At Steve Vai, Ozzy pushes to keep Semhar’s boobs around, & vote off the translucent nerd, Cochran. How can Ozzy not see the value of a smart guy like Cochran? He keeps the mood light around camp, he won’t steal any of your babes, & he idolizes you. Keep him around. Cochran goes paranoid, saying his “achilles heel is crippling insecurity.”
They head to Tribal Council, which this season looks like a Tiki Bar. Pina Coladas for everyone! In the firelight, Semhar suddenly has Probst-like dimples that won’t go away. They are so noticeable here I can’t believe I didn’t see them earlier. It’s literally all I can think about, these mysterious fire-triggered dimples. Mark Anthony tells Probst he can call him Papa Bear. “That’s my nickname. I love it, don’t worry.” Of course you love it, YOU GAVE IT TO YOURSELF. From now on, everyone can call me MostAwesomeChickEver. It’s ok, I don’t mind.
Cochran, once again, is absolutely charming as he forgets Semhar’s name (I think he almost called her Seminar), & is truly apologetic about it. I LOVE HIM. He’s a Harvard Law Student, but doesn’t do too well defending himself on account of his self-deprecating humour. But it’s ok, as everyone votes for Semhar & she looks pissed at Jeff (& I think this is the perfect time for her to have sung “I’m gonna wash that man right out of my hair” because that’s a song from the musical South Pacific, & they’re in the South Pacific. Get it?) as he snuffs her torch, & she stomps off to
. Passionate poetry was written that night, I’m certain. There is over-dubbed audio of crying as she stomps off, but I’m not sure if Semhar was actually crying, or if Dawn started again. Redemption Island
All in all, a more entertaining first episode than usual, but that may be because of that Prime Suspect commercial that kept coming on, where Maria Bello is sitting on a chair with a fedora, head down & the text says “There are 34,000 police officers in NY….but only ONE like her…” I was surprised EVERYTIME when she doesn’t start tap dancing. When will the cop show/musical ever become a reality? Sigh.