I love the excitement of the first episode of Survivor. Before it begins each time, there's just no way of knowing if this season will be full of drama or if it will fall flat. Considering that Micronesia last season was one of the best, most shocking season of backstabs and cunning alliances, I am trying not to expect miracles from Gabon.
The first two episodes, however, played back to back last Thursday night, were full of drama. Right away, Probst picked the eldest male and female players... Bob and Gillian, and charged them with picking their tribes. Now, this may sound like an easy, early in the game decision, but I don't think people had their heads in the game just yet, looking at their choices. The way it worked was that the last person picked for the tribe got to choose the next person, until everyone was on a tribe. Here is the order in which both tribes were picked, as well as some of my personal notes and opinions about the picks:
Bob (old guy)
Ace (big, strong guy)
Sugar (Cute, young girl)
Marcus (big, strong young guy)
Charlie (young, scrappy lawyer)
Sugar (Cute, young girl)
Marcus (big, strong young guy)
Charlie (young, scrappy lawyer)
Paloma (cute, young girl)
Kelly (cute, young girl)
Jacquie (cute, young girl)
Jacquie (cute, young girl)
Corinne (cute, young girl)
*A solid tribe of strong, energetic young people and one boyscout physics professor.
Gillian (an older woman)
Crystal (Strong woman, supposedly)
Susie (another older woman)
Matty (finally a young guy)
Randy (older guy)
Dan (Young lawyer)
GC (fast young guy with an attitude)
Ken (scrawny professional gamer not used to outdoors or physical activity)
Michelle (last picked... only young cute girl on tribe)
*A very strange tribe of mostly weaker people who have no idea what they are doing out in the middle of Africa.
Looking over the initial tribes, it was obvious right away which tribe had the advantage right from the start. While Kota had the young, cute, energetic and strong people, Fang ended up with the older, overweight people mixed in with several guys and only one cute girl. Their first challenge was to run some distance and then climb a steep hill to get to the mat. The first person up from each tribe would get an individual immunity idol. The first tribe to get everyone to the mat would get extra rice and supplies. It wasn't even a competition really. Marcus got to the idol first for Kota and the rest of his team quickly followed. GC made it to the top for Fang to win the idol, but the rest of the guys went down the hill to help Gillian and Crystal and Susie get up the stupid hill. Michelle was the only girl on their team who made it up on her own.
As the new tribes made it to their new camps, they found that they each had some broken down huts and a big lake nearby. It was good to see that they at least had some shelter to start out. Over at KOTA, Bob proved himself to be a handy guy around camp. He is a physics professor and that knowledge is going to be valuable for him as an older man on a young tribe. Ace sort of took the lead on that tribe, but he was also starting to annoy people. I don't think he cares, though, to tell the truth. He seems super confident. What annoyed me more than anything was Sugar's laugh. To me, it was like nails on a chalkboard.
While KOTA was getting their camp together and having fun as a group, FANG was getting a lesson about elephant dung from the most irritating person in the game, Gillian. She kept saying "Awesome" and talking about how there might be things they can eat inside the elephant's poop. Um... no thank you. Maybe on day 39 if I'm starving to death, but on day 1, I'll try the rice. Ken did talk Michelle into eating some termites, though, which was pretty gross. All he had to do was tell her that it would be "hot" and she did it right away. Can you imagine what she might have been doing on the other tribe with all the young hot guys? Hmmm...
That night as they settled down for their first sleep in the wilds of Africa, Randy hit a branch heading towards the hut and could feel the blood pouring down his face. When he asked nurse Gillian to take a look at it, she was kind of a bitch, saying that she had no idea what it was like and that it was dark. Wow, what an amazing nurse! The medics had to be called in right away and he got some stitches and a very large head wrap. He seemed to handle it without too much complaining though. Michelle, however, was complaining enough for both of them. She was freezing, and everyone knew she was completely miserable.
In the light of morning, Ace arranged a Yoga group over at KOTA, which made Corinne and some others laugh at how silly the others looked doing Yoga in the middle of the plains in Africa. I thought it was a good idea to get focused before the challenge though, honestly. And how was the challenge, you might ask? Let's just say that FANG got their butts kicked. It wasn't even close really, and neither was the vote that night at Tribal council. Michelle's crap attitude and ceaseless complaining left her labeled as a "Negative Nancy" and she was the first person voted off of Survivor: Gabon. I think that was a huge mistake for her tribe to vote out one of the only strong and fast people on their team, but apparently they thought a good attitude was more important.
At tribal, Jeff pointed out that there really wasn't a clear leader in the tribe, which led GC to sort of half-ass volunteer for the job. I thought this was hilarious since the earlier challenge had shown lazy GC sitting back and giving up halfway through the digging. This tribe is already making some really bad decisions! Back at camp, GC used the flint they were given at tribal to get a fire going very quickly. I was impressed with his skills because KOTA had gotten flint the day before at the challenge and were still working on getting their fire started the next day. I think they decided to give both teams huts and fire pretty quickly because of the dangerous nightlife in Africa. There were elephants and crocs and rhinos right by their camp!
Throughout the episode, I started to like Randy more and more, and I started to feel like I had originally underestimated him. He told the viewers that his new operation is "Operation let other people crash and burn." He was really good at keeping his mouth shut when it was obvious he wanted to say something. I think that is an excellent strategy at this phase in the game.
Over at KOTA, Corinne, Marcus, Jacquie and Charlie were already talking alliance strategy. I guess it's never too early to start, but then again, which alliance you put yourself in makes all the difference in getting past the merge, so we'll see if they did the right thing or not. Marcus and Charlie have certainly become tight friends, but I think Charlie has a little schoolgirl crush on Marcus that is simply not returned. Marcus is playing it up, though. I wonder if it will backfire on him later though if he starts paying attention to the girls too much. Only time will tell. For now, KOTA doesn't have too much to worry about since FANG is just not up to par on the challenges.
Speaking of FANG, GC's leadership status only lasted one pathetic night. Due to some seriously annoying snoring, he couldn't sleep and got up to do some work around camp instead. Apparently he woke up the snoring Gillian who just laid there and let herself get angrier as other people started to wake up and make noise outside the shelter. When it got to be more than she could take, she got up and told them to be quiet, which only made GC mad, causing him to resign his leadership role. It's so obvious that FANG is in deep trouble.
Later that day, the second immunity challenge was just more of the same. Granted, FANG was actually ahead for a little while... but they started slowing down towards the end and just could not pull through. The challenge was like a giant croquet game where they had to push a giant ball through some flags and finally up a hill to the finish line. Not a very original challenge, and honestly not that exciting since it was obvious who was going to lose... again.
Here is where Exile Island comes into play as well. The winning tribe got to pick someone from the losing tribe to go to Exile. The first one picked was lawyer Dan, who was met with a choice once he got there: Comfort or Clue. He could either choose a gated hut that had a fresh apple, lights and blankets for the night... or he could choose a clue to finding the individual immunity idol. The clue seemed to be pretty clearcut since it told you which way to look and that you were looking for a sandy "Crater". Dan just couldn't not figure it out, however. He was looking in the water, digging up the dirt, and he was getting very tired and frustrated. The crater seemed to be quite a trek away, but still, he should have just walked until he saw sand in a crater! I guess it's always easier to judge from your living room, but I thought the clue was pretty easy.
When FANG got back to camp, they tried to keep a positive attitude and kept saying "We did pretty good." WTF?? You guys sucked!!! If they keep trying to convince themselves that they did a good job, they are never going to improve. Their only real accomplishment was that even though KOTA won the fishing gear in the last challenge, Randy somehow managed to create a fishing hook out of his glasses. Everyone pitched in, gathering worms and making line.. and they actually caught five fish! To me, this was the most exciting part of the whole two hours, because it literally shocked the hell out of me that they did that! Randy might be a tough competitor just hanging back till it's time to make his move!
When talk turned to elimination, however, they were back to fail status. I was cheering them on when they first decided as a group to vote Gillian out. She is, after all, the one holding the tribe back the most physically, and face it, she was annoying the hell out of everyone. It seemed to be a done deal. Until Dan got back from Exile Island, that is. When they asked him how it went, he told them that it was torture and extremely difficult. He also told them outright that he did not find the idol and he wished he had chosen the comfort option. Crystal didn't buy it, though, and tried to convince everyone to vote Dan out, forcing him to use the idol.
I was literally yelling at the screen at this point!! It was obvious that Dan did not have the idol... and anyway, who cares at this point??? You can't vote out one of your only strong guys just because he might have the idol! This is the second vote for god's sake! Luckily, Dan told them all at tribal council that he did not have the idol, even dumping out his bag to prove it. They decided to vote out Gillian instead, which was the only really smart move they could make at that point.
My sister and I watch Survivor together every season, and this time we decided to make a bet about who would win. We each put $5 on our favorite player at the very beginning before the episode started. Her choice was Crystal, the former gold medalist who, so far, has not really impressed me that much. My choice was Matty, the personal trainer who also ended up on FANG. If neither of them win, our money will roll over to the next season. I am cheering Matty on and I hope he does well, but there doesn't seem to be any light at the end of the tunnel for FANG just yet... and I'm wondering if this will be another Stephanie / Bobby Jon type tribe that they will let fade away to one person. I hope not, but we'll just have to wait and see! Who is your favorite so far?