And…we’re off! Survivor is always a bit of a slow burn, especially in seasons featuring rookie players, but I was pleasantly surprised by this premiere. Though I could do without so much coverage of a small bug boring its way into a contestant’s brain.
But let’s backtrack. To those who don’t know, this season is focused on the theme of Brains vs. Brawn vs. Beauty. This is supposed to split tribes based on the main strategy competitors will employ to win the game. For Brains, it’s all about strategy. For Beauty, it’s all about the social game, creating alliances and bonds which will win you trust (and hopefully jury votes). For Brawn, it’s all about beasting through the challenges so hard that you never go to tribal council. All three strategies have been great success over the years. While the first iteration of the brains/brawn/beauty divide was a bit of a disaster (more on that another time), I’m optimistic that this season will prove that Survivor has learned from its mistakes. So let’s get to first impressions of the tribes.
I immediately pegged the women on the beauty tribe as a fast, lasting alliance and was happy to see this begin to take roots moments into the episode. Anna is my initial winner pick; creating a strong three person alliance within the alliance amongst the women will carry them far into the game, especially since they won’t pose the same physical threats as the men come merge. I love that Anna is on the beauty tribe with a strategic mind. She’s the first woman who I’ve seen in a while that I think has a real chance of playing a game similar to Pavarti’s with great success: she’s beautiful but calculating, scheming but social. And what is a Parvati without an Amanda? Michele is an almost perfect reincarnation—a bit soft-spoken in words but with a deeply magnetic energy which will draw people to her. I can see Anna and Michele getting deep but Michele won’t make moves big enough to win her the million. I am deeply in love with Tai, who is perhaps the most beautiful person we’ve ever had on the show. He’s got such heart and spirit that you can’t help but root for him. I see him as toeing a dangerous line between first boot or getting deep into the game. Unfortunately, he seems to have sealed his fate by searching for an idol that he didn’t need. I cannot stand Nick and wish he was first boot, but know that on a tribe noticeably devoid of muscle, they’ll probably keep him around. I’m pretty neutral about Caleb so far; he’s not as odious as Nick but I don’t see him getting far. Julia is sweet, but she’s young and forgettable on first impression (I actually almost forgot about her). That could work to her advantage if she’s got the brains to back it up, but I see a final three with these beauty women a distinct possibility, with Anna easily taking home the prize. I’m so happy to see Tai given another three days in the game; he would’ve been an easy first boot but with a few more days I’m hoping his gentle spirit will align him with the woman. I'm honestly not sure I've ever seen someone with so much potential to win over the future jury based on one episode alone...if he can only get there. Time to dig deep...mentally, that is. Let's just maybe leave the trees in the ground for now, okay? Okay.
There seems to be an immediate divide between old and young on the brain tribe, which ironically seems like a completely idiotic move to me--both Debbie and Joe seem very tough and pose less of a threat come merge. Neal and Liz seem like a closely-bonded twosome right off the bat, orchestrating this potential four person alliance including Aubry and Peter. To me, Aubry and Peter should be the first two boots—Peter is deeply arrogant but will probably serve as a large threat down the line, while Aubry seems unstable. When she begins to overheat, Aubry has a bit of a mental breakdown as the anxiety of being in a foreign situation surrounded by new people catches up with her. She keeps saying “I just wish you could’ve met me at home,” but I think we’ve seen all that we need to see to know her deeply. She is completely out of her element and terrified to be seen as weak because she’s a lover of the game. I think she should be an early boot not because she’s weak but the opposite—I think once she’s gained her footing, she could become a huge strategic threat. She reminds me of the female equivalent of Stephen Fishbach, almost to a T. The good news about that is it’s likely she’ll be extremely loyal to her core alliance if left in the game long enough to form one. Debbie is given a shining moment when Aubry asks for help and Debbie serves as the perfect maternal figure. It’s really a beautiful moment of redemption for one of my initial winner picks, who makes the grand mistake of being the blabbermouth, confident older woman taking charge as they hit the beach. It’s really a shame; I had Debbie pegged as a huge potential winner, but it’s clear from this first episode that her social game (or lack thereof) is going to be a huge hindrance to a necessary part of the early game—forming a strong alliance. I think if given the chance, Joe will prove to be much stronger than his age and a huge asset to the camp, if the younger players can get past his age. Liz and Neal seem like the whole package; I’m not surprised they gravitated towards each other so quickly. They’re both clearly smart, but seem to have a strong social intuition. In a strategy relying strongly on wits, this is a crazy good combination. Peter is just a few steps up from Nick in my first impressions—he seems arrogant and I’m hoping to see him become an early boot; however, it seems unlikely given his physical strength.
I had very low expectations for Scot coming into the first episode. Ex-professional athletes never fare too well, and he struck me as the kind of person who would have a potentially arrogant personality. I wondered briefly if I’d misjudged him as he made a few well-placed self deprecating remarks during early moments on the beach, only to have my initial intuitions firmly validated when he and Jason reduced Alecia to simply “Blondie.” Speaking of Jason, he is my second initial winner pick. In his preseason video, I was struck by his gentle heart which hid behind his battered exterior. He compared himself to Russell Hantz and while I definitely saw that in his interviews this episode, I think a part of that lies in playing the part he thinks he’s supposed to play. I was already optimistic that he’ll be able to get deep into the game before the tribal council, but after seeing him think on his feet and chance his vote in tribal (and have the foresight to give his alliance a head’s up), only to realize after the tie that it wasn’t the right call in the moment and switch back tells me that he’s going to think on his feet in a way that Russell never could in his stubborn need to be in control at all times. Cydney seems to have ingratiated herself with the boys very well, but I forecast that as she gets hungrier, dehydrated, and exhausted, her temper will grow quite short and she’ll set her own trap, especially if they start winning challenges and she’s left on the beach with Alecia for too long. I had low expectations for Alecia and she lived up to them…but that’s about it. She got dealt a rough hand by getting stuck on the brawn tribe when she’s physically quite scrawny. When she felt she was at the bottom, she scrambled too hard and almost got herself voted out. If she can rein that back in and stop scheming, she might survive long enough for Sydney to implode and dig her own grave. I’m also deeply impressed by Jenn, who spent the first night unable to sleep because a BUG was BURROWING its way into her ear canal to the point that she BLED. That was disgusting and insane. I don’t know why medical wasn’t called, but the fact that she survived that while (mostly) keeping “level-headed” [again, sorry but these puns will just have to be here.] and then blasted her way through the challenge says to me that she is legit tough and nails. She was also completely silent in the edit for deciding who was voted out and kept quiet in tribal, which will serve her very well in a tribe which is clearly populated with lots of hot-heads and dominant personalities.
Top 5 Most Likely To Win It ALL.
- Anna - airtight women's alliance, smarts on a team of followers.
- Jason - strong persona ingratiates him with tribe, but can think on his feet.
- Jennifer - mental toughness, under the radar.
- Liz - wits and strategy, a careful observer.
- Neil - same reasons as Liz.
Top 5 Most Likely Future Boots