South Pacific – Episode 1: I Need Redemption

And there we are. Survivor 23rd season is underway in the South Pacific!

I am pretty pleased with this first episode. After last season’s debacle, I didn’t know what to expect (and let’s be honest, we still completely don’t) with another season with two returning contestants associated with Redemption Island, but so far so good. It was an interesting episode (but then again last season’s first episode was the best first episode ever and it lead to the worst season ever, so…)

Before I get started with the tribes and players assessments, I want to say that I liked the intro: random assignment to a tribe for Coach and Ozzy (was it really random last season? I still have doubts) followed by a reward challenge for both. However, they really sucked at the pyramid puzzle to a point that it was embarrassing. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve known how to do this puzzle since I was 9 or what, but I was almost yelling at my TV screen when I saw how bad they were at it.

 

Savaii

 

On paper it looked like this tribe was going to smoke the other one. Now, I wonder if it’s not actually the weaker tribe. Sure Ozzy will win them some challenges, but at camp, it will soon become dysfunctional I’m afraid. I guess their main problem is that they all look up to Ozzy to be the leader, but Ozzy is no leader and he proved it right off the start when he suggested that they all take a swim instead of building a shelter. They got lucky it didn’t rain that first night. Sure, he has experience, and they should expect him to teach them a thing or two about the game, but… Ozzy is no leader.

However, I think that they won’t follow him blindly for too long, actually they have stopped already as he wanted to keep Semhar, and well… It didn’t work…

 

 

Dawn Meehan: She had a rough start. Funny how it happens a lot of women her type (a bit older, used to be in a position of control, but used to a very controlled environment). Funny how she was supposed to be on Survivor Nicaragua and she was replaced by Holly Hoffman, and the same happened to her. The only thing I wish now is that she recovers and becomes a player as strong as Holly was. I think she can. I also think she should do it quickly as she’s near the bottom of the pecking order in this tribe.

Elyse Umemoto: I had a bad vibe about her in her pregame interviews, and I must admit that so far she seems better than I expected (prettier too). I still don’t know how strategic she will be, but she may be able to have a solid social game. She may even be able to put herself in a solid position in her tribe quickly (well, she seems already there, right in the middle). We’ll see what she has to offer in the coming episodes, it could be more than I was originally expecting.

Jim Rice: On the other hand, I’m a little disappointed in Jim. Sure, so far he has delivered in the role of the “villain mastermind”, after all it seems that he’s the one who orchestrated Semhar’s ouster. But he really should be more careful with his mouth. I understand why he doesn’t want to tell about his job. It’s still a quite controversial one, but telling you’re a science teacher? Not smart, unless you’re really good at science. I’m not sure he is. Being confrontational with Semhar the way he was so early in the game? Not smart. Sure he has nothing to be afraid of from her, but his tribe mates may get worried about how he will behave with them later on. To be a good villain mastermind, people around you must not know you’re one. Sure right now he is in a safe spot, but it may not last if things go south for Savaii.

John Cochran: Another disappointment. Pregame we were all comparing him as the second coming of Rob Cesternino, Todd Herzog and Stephen Fishbach, but not only he has yet to deliver, but he may not even have time to try to deliver if he doesn’t get his social game together quickly. Ok, John, you suck at challenges and I assume you knew it before going to the game, right? I know the feeling. You’re such a big fan of the strategy that you tend to forget that Survivor is also made of ruthless challenges. I make that mistake too a lot. The difference is that I’m not applying to be on Survivor and if I could, I would sure prepare myself physically before it. Also, when you go and tell Jeff Probst right at the beginning of the game that you want to be called by your last name, because he calls every great player by his last name, you’d better not be plagued with tons of insecurities, or at least not show them. I don’t know about Herzog, but Cesternino and Fishbach (see, I’m calling them by their last names because they’re great players, for now, I’ll call you John) were full of insecurities going into the game. But if I remember correctly, never they made them apparent to the rest of the cast. To the camera during interviews, yes, but not in front of the other contestants. On the other hand, John really wears them on his sleeve. I understand that it’s disheartening to hear that you’re on the chopping block to be voted out first when you’re such a big fan of the game. But we – Survivor fans – need to keep in mind that what we’re a fan of is the TV show. The reality of being out there is very different.
Also, analyzing situations is good. Over analyzing them, not so much. From what I understand (and seeing how the votes went) he never was in real danger of being voted out, and he is the one who made such a big deal out of it that he could have gotten voted out because of it.
Now, seeing how he is being edited (and how he’s the most talked about contestant this season, almost more than Coach and Ozzy), I suspect that he will get his shit together, and he may even last long and leave a mark on the show (either as a great strategist or as a great goofball).

Keith Toleffson: Not much about Keith so far, but the few things he said (can’t remember exactly what) always seemed to be very wise and sensible). I really like him and I really like his chances. His only problem will be that he won’t be cutthroat enough when needed and that could cost him the game.

Mark “Papa Bear” Caruso: I don’t really like it when people give themselves nicknames (a nickname is something other people give you), but I don’t want to be mean to a nice old guy who’s most likely out next. Just like I said in my preview about him, he seems very likable, but I don’t see how he can survive for very long out there. Although it seems to me that he was edited as the “narrator”, you know the guy that explains what’s going on in the tribe during the interviews and then gets eliminated right before or right after the merge.

Ozzy Lusth: At first, he seemed a little wiser (well not really) and it almost seemed like him in the position of the tribe leader could work. Almost. Because minutes later, his strategy seemed to be trying to get into Semhar’s pants with dibs on Elyse‘s and Whitney‘s. I’m not sure how not having his way with the vote will affect his position in the tribe. Sure they still need his experience, but for how long? Especially if they keep losing challenges? Could he be voted out pre-merge? I don’t see that as being totally unrealistic right now.

Semhar Tadesse sent to Redemption Island: Well, it was obvious since the very beginning that she had nothing to do there. Calling yourself a poet? I’m sorry, it’s just like the nickname thing, you don’t get to call yourself a poet, other people do or don’t but not you. And what’s up with the big socks? Well, I think that what’s up is that Miss Tadesse doesn’t want bugbites to ruin her pretty legs (yes, they are pretty, there’s no criticizing that). That’s what I’m saying, she has nothing to do on this show, but luckily for her and for us, she won’t be there too much longer. Actually now, I’m worried that she will die alone on Redemption Island for three days. Actually Ozzy’s last comment was both funny and scary “I should have taught her how to make fire.” Seriously, how will she survive alone there and not die or quit?

Whitney Duncan: So far Whitney does what I suspected she would do: cruise along and make as little wave as possible. I see her getting close to Keith. She could go far if Savaii stays strong, Nathalie White style.

Upolu

We haven’t seen too much of them yet from a strategy point of view (as usual with the tribe who wins immunity) but they seem like a very interesting group that could turn out to be very strategic. Can they keep winning challenges? What will they do with Coach? Those are the questions that need to be answered about them right now.

Albert Destrade : For anyone who had any doubt, yes, Albert will be strong in challenges and he will give Ozzy a run for his money as far as challenge domination is concerned. I don’t have much more to say about him right now.

Ben “Coach” Wade : I’d be curious to know what were Coach’s feelings at the beginning when he received that less than warm welcome. What is a cold shower and reality check for him? Or did he expect it? Either way, so far he seems to have found a spot in the tribe, a possibly safer one than the one where Ozzy is right now. That’s the thing with Coach, first according to almost everyone who has played with him, he’s much more likable in person than he appears on screen, so his tribe mates could have been gladly surprised after spending a few hours with him. Also, we must not forget that if in his first season he was totally unaware of how people would perceived him, he know in his second season, he even cried about it. And that’s the thing. I think he has found his “redemption” in Heroes Vs Villains, and now he’s really in a position when he understands what are people’s views on him and why, and he could really use this at his advantage this season with a non All-Stars cast.
And see, very early on he seems to have forged a solid alliance, although it still remains to be seen whether these people actually see themselves in an alliance with him or they just agree on the principle (because nobody would say no to an alliance offer on day one) but the alliance will disappear at the first sign of trouble.

Brandon Hantz : Isn’t he Russell’s nephew? We’ve seen a lot about him, maybe too much, while there wasn’t much to show. It could mean that he’s gone soon and the production wants to bank on his last name as much as possible before he’s gone. He mentions keeping his secret a bit too much, which obviously means that he won’t keep it for too long. Apart from that, what was that with him and Mikayla (or should I say “with him about Mikayla”)? She wasn’t doing anything special, but he really sounded like these medieval bigots (and some current ones too) who would call a woman a temptress just because they’re pretty. Almost scary, in a strange mix of stalker and witch-hunting kind of way. Is he really repressed or something? Creepy.

Christine Shields Markoski : Why am I not surprised that Christine is already in trouble? You’re not pleased with having two returning players among you? Well, I supposed nobody is, but voicing it so loud and clear just can’t play in your favor, ever. And as it was not enough, starting to look for idols in such an obvious way this early in the game (apparently even before getting to know the other people) is a big faux pas too. Now, she’d better find it if she doesn’t want to be the first out in her tribe.

Edna Ma: Interesting how she was the only one helping Coach after his loss in his first challenge. Interesting too how Coach didn’t include her in his “alliance” afterwards. Finally, interesting how she didn’t make any wave at all and was pretty invisible during these first three days out there (I thought she was going to be a vocal and opinionated one right from the beginning. Let’s keep an eye on her, unless she flies way too under the radar for that.

Mikayla Wingle: Not much from her either except in Brandon’s creepy fantasies and to show us that indeed she will be a strong physical contestant. She was all over that shelter, and then she almost won the immunity challenge for the tribe (with some help from Albert and Rick). I’m surprised that Coach didn’t include her either in his “alliance” as he’s all about strong players. I’m starting to suspect that the way he picked his alliance was “the four people who were sitting next to him at that time while the others were sleeping.” In any case, I don’t see Mikayla being anywhere near trouble right now.

Rick Nelson: Not much from him either, but I’m gladly surprised of how likable he seems. I thought he was going to be a grumpy loner, but right now, I have the feeling that he is pretty popular among his tribe mates. He’s also savvy enough to not show his dislike of Coach (unless meeting the real guy made him change his mind?)

Sophie Clarke: Not too much from her either. She seems to be bonding with Coach, which doesn’t surprise me, apart from that, not much.

Stacey Powell: So far she delivers exactly what I was expecting from her, which is being a bit too negative and not too useful. The way that she was “looking for” the clue to the immunity was quite telling. In “looking for”, there’s “looking.” I suspect that she had forgotten she was not looking for an idol, but a clue. She didn’t feel anything that felt like an idol, and she just went elsewhere without looking. Clearly someone who is not focused, and as she doesn’t seem to have made many friends either…

Next time on Survivor :

-Apparently John learns how to make himself useful at camp and is still useless in challenges.

-Will Semhar survive alone on Redemption Island?

-Who will join her there?

If Savaii loses again, I suspect it could be Mark (unless John Cochran doesn’t pull himself together)

If Upolu loses, Christine and Stacey are on the hot seat. I’d like Christine to stay, but it seems that she’ll manage to alienate more people until the next vote.

What about you? Do you agree with my analysis?

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