This is the 27th season of "Survivor." Let's repeat that: the 27th season. Crazy! Yet, the reality show is still every bit as compelling as it was when it debuted in 2000.
A lot of that credit goes to the different twists that the game introduces over time. This season, for the first time, returning players will play with (and against) their loved ones — wives, brothers, nieces, boyfriends, and children.
And judging by the premiere episode, the concept should make for a dramatic, fascinating season.
Love Is in the Air
The 10 returning players and their loved ones arrive, two by two, to different spots on the island. Each pair will spend the night together before starting the game. The next morning, they meet host Jeff Probst and find out that instead of playing together, they'll be playing against each other.
Oh, but Jeff has an even bigger twist: Each tribe will vote someone out right there, right then! Yikes.
The loved ones overwhelmingly pick on Laura, Rupert's wife, which he correctly interprets as "a smack against me."
Meanwhile, the returning players split between Candice ("Cook Islands" and "Heroes vs. Villains") and Laura M. ("Samoa"), with the former getting the most votes.
As the first two eliminated people stand by Jeff, he drops another big revelation: Redemption Island is in play this season. And Candice and Laura are going there — unless their loved ones want to take their places.
Rupert immediately steps forward, but Jeff warns him that if he does, Laura will take his spot on his tribe. Tina tries to convince Rupert not to do it, but the guy dotes on his wife. No way is he letting her go to Redemption Island.
As for Candice, she and her husband, John, decide that she should go up against Rupert, so he remains with his tribe.
She and Rupert head off to Redemption Island, and everyone else marches off to their camps.
Building Shelter (and Alliances)
Over at Galang's (the returning players) camp, everyone gets to work — they make fire right away and start on their shelter. Gervase is pleased with his tribe, but he wanted to play with Rupert and not Laura. So, at the first opportunity, she's probably going to go.
At Tadhana, the newbies are also working hard, but to less effect. They don't make fire immediately, and after a long night, are feeling the effects. But Brad (husband of Monica from "One World") is less concerned with their creature comforts and more with forming an alliance. Monica was a smart cookie on her season, and apparently she advised her hubby to start talking to people right away.
Brad scuttles around to align with the other four guys in the tribe. They seem amenable, though Caleb and Vytas are already wise to the fact that Brad just means to use them until he can re-team with Monica.
As Galang sits around their fire, Colton is actually trying to make friends. Last time around, on "One World," he made a lot of enemies with his snarky and rude comments. So, this time, he wants to form stronger connections, and opens up about his sexual orientation. As he starts to bawl, Monica and the other ladies comfort him.
"We haven't walked a mile in his shoes," Monica says. "If he's changed, wouldn't that be a beautiful story? But then again, it's Colton Cumbie."
Elsewhere, on Redemption Island, Candice is heads-down, trying to make a nice shelter for herself, while Rupert lounges in the water. That's kind of been his M.O. in recent seasons, which is intentional. "I kill myself out fishing, I kill myself out taking care of my tribe," he explains of why he's never won in his previous tries.
The immunity challenge is a typical obstacle course involving swimming, climbing, paddling a boat, and puzzle-making.
The newbies are better at working together, while the returning players start out sluggish. Gervase seems out of shape (he did play 13 years ago) and struggles through the course. Colton and Kat snipe at each other as they pathetically try to row the boat.
Tadhana gains a huge lead over Galang. Caleb, Sierra, and Katie try to assemble their puzzle, but on the other side, Tina, Monica, and Laura begin to catch up. As Jeff notes, "Two mothers are schooling their children right now." The returning players finish the puzzle first and win immunity and flint. Colton cries some more. So, guess he's the Dawn of this season.
The despondent newbies trudge back to camp, where the scrambling begins. The guys reaffirm their Bro-lliance. Weirdly, the men talk about voting out Marissa because of Uncle Gervase's gloating after the challenge (when he, of all people, had no business doing so). Katie's name also comes up, since she failed at the puzzle.
Sneaky Vytas decides to work some connections on the side, and starts whispering to the various ladies. He knows he has to stick with the guys, but one of the women might help him down the road.
Tadhana assembles in front of Jeff, who questions them about their experiences so far. The tribe admits they lied during the challenge about having fire, to avoid looking weak to Galang.
They all grouse about how their loved ones rubbed the win in their faces, with particular disgust for Gervase's behavior. It is an interesting dynamic — this is a competition after all, and yet, the veterans' celebrating was a bit much.
Katie acknowledges that the three puzzle-makers are probably in danger, and she wouldn't be surprised if she goes.
Everyone votes. Katie writes down Marissa's name, and Marissa returns the favor.
Jeff tallies the votes — first person voted out is Marissa. The sins of the uncle are visited upon the niece. Shame on Gervase.
Watch a clip of Marissa:
Check out Twitter reactions to the premiere, and the sound off in the comments below!
i cant believe they voted marissa out for something she didn't do!! so mad! i liked her! #survivor— Kt Louise (@ouleitak33) September 19, 2013
Well Brad is clearly dominating this tribe, I thought he was playing too hard too early but it clearly worked. Props to him. #SURVIVOR— Survivor & BB Fan (@SurvivorBBFan) September 19, 2013
Why are all the "men" crying on Survivor? Get a grip people- it's been like 12 hours in a game! #Survivor— Carlene Clark (@cclark251) September 19, 2013
"Survivor: Blood vs. Water" airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on CBS.