Friday, February 12, 2010

Heroes Vs. Villains, Episode One - Sugar High

As the 20 all-star contestants made their way to the beaches where they will fight it out in the toughest Survivor competition ever, I felt like I was in Survivor Heaven! It was truly a "Sugar High" so to speak. There were two helicopters full of ten people each. One for the Heroes: Amanda, Candice, Cirie, Colby, James, JT, Sugar, Rupert, Stephenie, and Tom. And One for the Villains: Coach, Courtney, Danielle, Jerri, Parvati, Randy, Boston Rob, Russell, Sandra, and Tyson. The short interview clips they showed at the beginning proved one thing: everyone has a mission this time around. A reason for coming back. And everyone feels like they have something to prove.

For most people, they want to prove that they can still do this. That they truly belong on the cast of the toughest season ever. That they can play with the big dogs. Most people are determined to come out on top - but as we all know, there can only be one person who will win the title of sole survivor.

As the contestants touch down on the beach, Jeff immediately tells them they will have a reward challenge for flint. Four contestants will run down the beach and search through the sand for a bag. The first person to reach their team's mat with the bag scores a point, and the first team to three points wins. Let me tell you, it was brutal out there. It almost seemed like the Villains were trying to prove themselves as true villains! Right off the bat, Stephenie, one of the toughest women ever to play the game, gets her shoulder dislocated by villains Danielle and Parvati (I blame Danielle there). She's tough, though, and is fine once the doctor pops it back into place.

In the next women on women fight, Sandra plays dirty and unclasps Sugar's bathing suit top. In a moment of bravery, Sugar just let the top fall off as she grabbed the bag and scored for her team. Even though the competition is close, the Heroes come out on top when James dominates the final challenge to score the third point. It isn't without another injury, however, as Rupert's toe is broken. If this first reward challenge says anything about the rest of this season, it's possible that many people will be injured as past contestants struggle to prove themselves.

Having fire is an extreme advantage for the heroes who go to work setting up their camp and working together right away. They are even able to catch four wild chickens! It shows good teamwork right from the start. Rupert, however, is disillusioned as his injury prevents him from fishing. Then, when he has trouble starting a fire with the flint, he begins to doubt his worthiness. As a player who is always valued for his contributions at camp, you have to wonder how long Rupert will last if he can't start giving his all. JT has no problem starting the fire, however, and camp seems to be running smooth.

On the villains' beach, Boston Rob quickly becomes frustrated that his teammates are not giving 100%. Smartly, however, he doesn't rag on them about it. He just complains to the camera. In a rare Survivor moment, Rob works together with the men on his crew to make fire without flint! Randy was doubtful that it could be done, but was equally in awe when it happened.

Alliances and Annoyances
It's no surprise that people were scrambling to make alliances from day one. It's going to be a cutthroat season and no one wants to be left behind. Especially when so many players have played the game together in the past.

On the Heroes beach, Stephenie and Tom hugged in secret, Amanda and Cirie sought each other out right away (but not James, who I think feels jaded by his female costars from the past who blindsided him). Outsiders Colby and Candice seemed to make a connection while JT and James made an alliance to keep the strong men on the team and save them from "flower power" taking over the Heroes tribe. Meanwhile, Sugar committed the cardinal Survivor sin - she annoyed the hell out of people while they were trying to sleep. She was apparently trying to flirt and cuddle with Colby, but instead of taking a hint the first few times he ignored her or moved away, she kept following him around like a puppy dog. This put a target on her back right away whether she realized it or not.

On the Villains beach, guess who was the first to approach the women about an alliance? Russell, of course! He did exactly what he did in Season 19 - he singled out the prettiest women and offered them an alliance to the end. This actually worked for him last season - except that Natalie ended up beating him! Russell approached Danielle and Parvati. Danielle said she trusted him, but you could tell Parvati saw right through him. Parvati's smart, though, and didn't want to deny him and get on Russell's bad side. "I feel like I'm making a deal with the devil," she said, "But I want the devil on my side!" Other natural alliances also began to emerge, like Sandra and Boston Rob, as well as the "Black Widow and the Dragonslayer" (Jerri and Coach) who seem to have made a love connection.

In the first immunity challenge, we got to revisit an old Cook Islands challenge where one team had to put a boat together, paddle out to retrieve puzzle pieces, then come back and let the second team put together the puzzle, then a ladder, and everyone had to go up the ladder to light the fire. I was a little disappointed to already be seeing challenge repeats. Jeff said we can expect more difficult puzzles and challenges this season, so I hope they won't all be repeats of old challenges.

Right away, the Heroes were dominating the physical portion of the challenge. It all started to fall apart with the puzzle, though. Rupert, Amanda, Cirie and Sugar just couldn't work together to get the puzzle going. They didn't have any of it put together by the time the Villains caught up and started working on it. Boston Rob and Sandra worked together perfectly to put their puzzle together and lead their team to the first immunity of the game.

In an all-star season, no one wants to be dubbed the first to go home. When the Heroes got back to camp, everyone immediately began scrambling to make sure it wasn't them. Sugar suggested that Amanda should go first. She's a huge threat, after all. Colby wasn't hearing it, though. He wanted Sugar gone after she annoyed him and kept him up all night. (As a note, I'm not sure this was the smartest move for Colby. Sugar would have been extremely loyal to him and he could use an alliance in this game.)

Cirie and Amanda stole away to discuss the possiblity of eliminating strong players with easy alliances, like Tom or Stephenie. Tom, on the other hand, wanted everyone to look at one of the most strategic players in the game - Cirie. By the time they all headed up to the amazing 40 foot in the air tribal council area, I had no idea who was going to go home.

In the end, I think Stephenie's opinion that it was too early to worry about strategic votes and that they should vote out the weakest links to stay strong in challenges, won out. Even though Amanda received at least one vote, it was Sugar who got the majority and was sent home first.