[Warning: Spoilers ahead of you haven't seen Wednesday's episode.]
Let the games begin!
Ahh, the romance of a good shipwreck. Not much can top a season opening of Survivor.
As a former Survivor, people are constantly asking why would a person want to participate in the show. I reply, doesn’t everyone have dreams of being shipwrecked on a deserted island? Umm ... apparently not.
At the open, our daring new castaways drift about on the open sea in a ramshackle tugboat, trying hard to keep down their last meal. Thankfully, host Jeff Probst was close by filming his music video for his hit single “I’m on a boat!” and heard the kids were in need of a game starter. Cue the speedboat.
Probst excitedly explains the twist and another boat pulls up as he introduces the new players to the sausage fest of returnees Mike Skupin, Jonathan Penner and Russell Swan. (Note to you concerned fans: Do not ask Jeff where the returning women are unless you want an earful of chauvinistic, ignorant, man babble.) The castaways are then split into tribes of three and given a minute to pirate as much loot as possible before they’re tossed overboard.
Former MLB player Jeff Kent tweaks his knee, Carter rescues a chicken from a watery grave, Penner mouths off to Probst, and season 25 of Survivor is rolling!
For better or worse, bringing back a few dudes who were airlifted out of previous games makes for instant leaders of the three tribes. Although Russell talks a big game of not taking on the leadership role this time, he just can’t help himself. He jumps right in barking orders and snapping fingers. Although he’s already irritating the youngsters, starting a fire within the first few minutes of being stranded, may be Russell’s saving grace ... for now. The target on his back grew larger as he was spotted pocketing a clue to the hidden immunity idol. As always, idol-induced insanity will become a huge issue as the game plays on. I’m looking forward to it!
Zane, a likable Russell Hantz, is all tatted up and making alliances with every player on his tribe. Not the wisest strategy on Day 1, but I like his one-liners and hope he can make it work. Another one to watch would be the unlikely and slightly awkward alliance between hot bartender Malcolm and sex therapist Denise.
Is it just me, or does Mike Skupin make you nervous? He’s so excited for his second chance (and so starstruck by Facts of Life’s Lisa Whechel) that he’s slowly killing himself off, one injury at a time. I’m concerned he may end up chopping off an appendage before the show’s over. Here’s hoping Lisa, his schoolboy crush, can keep his hands off the rusty machete long enough to make it to the challenge.
Skupin’s got the right idea with his strategy of "going with the game." A lot of returning players *cough* Russell *cough* make the mistake of trying too hard to take charge and prove themselves that they end up sticking out as big targets.
The kids want Skupin around, which puts him in a comfortable spot. Investment banker RC is taking the early strategic lead, forming a giggly alliance with Brazilian temptress Abi-Maria, Dirty Pete and Skupin. Girlfriend’s got a big personality and huge boobs to match. I gotta give her props for playing hard right out of the gates and for attempting to rock an imitation of my Micronesia bikini. Get it girl!
You gotta love Penner. A man that has so much love in his heart for the game that he tears up when he talks about it is all good in my book. He’s fast out of the gates, searching for and finding the first clue to the hidden immunity idol. Penner will need to find that idol, as his tribe has bonded together and already begun to plot against him. Jeff Kent is emerging as an early workhouse and leader. Although he is keeping his former Major League success on the low, he’s already been sniffed out by "troubler" Dawson who is onto his secret. Let’s see how our sneaky girl plays this little gem.
At the challenge, we begin to get a feel for who the real competitors are after the first three days of rain and starvation. The Philippines sets the stage for a glorious first challenge: run, row, swim, puzzle. Coming from dead last, Jeff Kent proves his early injury to be a non-issue. His fast and furious paddle sesh allows Penner’s team to get a head start on the puzzle and ultimately pull out the win, leaving team Russell with the ominous task of attending the first tribal council.
Zane clearly has a lot more in common with his Danville, Va., hometown buddy Johnny Fairplay than he wants to admit. Gathering the troops after losing the first challenge, he admits he’s weakest link and essentially votes himself out. I’m literally screaming at the TV right now. “Get it together, Zane! You’re such a funny guy. I mean, come on, that weird Frankenstein reference about strangling young girls and giving them flowers? Please don’t do this to us!!”
But wait ... what’s this? I think it worked! Zane must have heard my desperate cries because now he is explaining this strategy move as a power play to see if he has ownership of his tribe. HUH? Now I’m confused. Three days of hunger and cigarette withdrawals have taken over Zane’s brain. Teammate Malcolm gives it to us straight, stating, “Our tribe can’t afford to lose muscle right now.” And Zane’s fate is sealed. A single solitary tear streams down my cheek as Zane’s torch is snuffed, and Russell, the bossy non-leader, lives to see another day.
If anything is certain now, it’s that this game is going to get messy. Alliances have been formed and immunity idols are in play. Dawson and Malcolm are strong so far and are my early favorites to shake things up in their respective camps. Now that our first episode is in the can, who are you liking the most? That's it for now. I’ll see you guys next week, same time, same place.
Parvati Shallow, three-time Survivor veteran, winner of Survivor: Micronesia and the official reigning Miss Survivor, will share her insight into Survivor: Philippines every week on THR.com. When she's not living on a deserted island, she can be found continent-hopping in search of the hottest spas and vacation destinations around the globe. She sometimes teaches yoga and meditation to an elite, in-the-know group of clients at ESP Wellness Center in Santa Monica. Follow her on Twitter at @parvatishallow. To catch her in Santa Monica, check out www.espwellnesscenter.com.