(Registered members may comment here)

Hello, Survivor fans! If you’re like me, you’ve been waiting anxiously for this new Survivor season. And by “like me” I mean “living in a toss-up state where it seems all you see are campaign ads.” I think the presidential election would be much better for everyone if McCain and Obama had to spend the fall in Gabon, or any other Survivor locale, and compete for votes through Survivor challenges. And Biden and Palin! I mean, she can gut a moose, she’d probably win the whole thing, she’d be snacking on wildebeest by week two or something.

Anyway, this is now Survivor’s 17th season, starring the African nation of Gabon. Gabon, according to Wikipedia, is a small and prosperous nation in west central Africa. The French ruled it for a while, but the people finally said “non” and elected their own peeps as leaders. There are nine provinces, five of which have the word “Ogooue” in their names. The climate is equatorial, with rainforests covering 85 percent of the land.

So there, don’t say reality tv can’t be educational!

Our Survivors have been dropped in Africa in their street clothes, and we see them walking across the savannah, guided by tribesmen. Some of them are in bow ties and dresses, and they do look like they were literally snatched off the street, because I don’t know why anyone by this point believes they’ll have a chance to put on more practical clothes before being dropped in their wild location. I don’t know what they do before being put out in the wild, but I would be wearing those zip-off pants/shorts things and several layers of other clothes from the second after I got off the plane.

At any rate, Jeff greets them, asking them to introduce themselves, so they all announce their names and what they do for a living. We’ll catch up on that in just a minute. Jeff says the tradition in Gabon is for the elders to be the leaders, so the two oldest Survivors are going to start out picking tribes.

That is Bob and Gillian, and here’s your team roster:

Gillian’s tribe, Fang, wearing red buffs:
Gillian: 61, she’s a retired nurse from California, although she was born and raised in South Africa, which explains the accent. She’s traveled through 46 countries and most states, can rappel, and applied for Survivor 15 times before being chosen. She got a tattoo on her 60th birthday. Sadly, as you will see, Gillian on paper and Gillian in person are … a bit different.
Crystal: 29, from North Carolina, she won a gold medal in the 2004 Olympics for a track relay. She also has no plans to tell the others she’s an Olympian. She’s also a teacher and high school track coach.
Susie: 47, a hairdresser from Iowa.
Matty: 29, a personal trainer in California. Matty inherited a trust fund at age 18 and has already frittered it all away.
Randy: 49, from Missouri, a wedding videographer. At first I thought his “old-coot” biography persona had to be a joke. But, uh, it’s not. He’s unmarried and plans to stay that way (I doubt the women are beating a path to his crotchety door anyway).
GC: 26, a maintenance man in Oregon. Homeless as a kid, he loves the outdoors.
Ken: 22, of California, he’s a professional gamer. Yes, that means he plays video games for a living. And he looks it. He tells us he’s “very shy.” The hell, you say! Who’s ever heard of a shy gamer? He did climb Mt. Fuji, though.
Dan: 32, a lawyer in Boston.
Michelle: 24, a “music producer” in California, although to the others she describes it as “helping producers,” which probably means she brings them coffee. She’s the last one picked, as if her tribe can magically tell what a whiny bitch she’s going to be before they really see proof. And proof is coming. Can you tell I’m not a fan of her? She runs triathalons and was married and divorced by the time she was 19.

Bob’s team, Kota, with yellow buffs:
Bob: 58, a physics teacher from Maine. He’s even wearing a bow tie. He’s also outdoorsy, despite his frail looks, and built a cabin in the woods once already, so that should come in handy.
Ace: 27, from Florida, he’s in “jewelry sales and photography,” according to the CBS website, although he’s labeled as a “fashion photographer” on screen. He’s the bald one. He claims a privileged and rich upbringing, which apparently trained him to sell cars and jewelry to other rich people, and his bio sounds cocky as hell. I’m ready to dislike him.
Sugar: 29, from Brooklyn, a pin-up model. Her real name is Jessica. She’s also a waitress, and I would like to be that cute.
Marcus: 28, a doctor in Georgia – in fact, Cosmo named him Georgia’s hottest bachelor in 2006. He went to Harvard. Ladies, you may swoon now.
Charlie: Speaking of swooning over Marcus. Charlie is 29, a lawyer in New York, but he comes off like a 19-year-old puppy. A cute puppy. In a suit. He is gushy. You’ll see.
Paloma: 24, a student in California. She’s the daughter of missionaries and once lived alone in Kenya, among natives and wild animals.
Corrine: 29, pharmaceutical sales (yawn) in California. She’s wearing a shorts suit, like a Victorian boy. Erg. However, she plans to be a bitch and hurt people’s feelings and make them cry. Well, that should make her popular.
Kelly: 22, retail sales, Illinois.
Jacquie: 25, medical sales, California.

What Kind of Olympian Are You If You Can’t Run Up a Vertical Hill?

With the tribes chosen, Jeff says they’re going to have their first challenge. They must run to the top of a hill. There they’ll find an individual immunity idol for the first person there on each tribe. But they’ll also find an extra sack of food, and the first tribe to all get up the hill gets it. So they can choose between selfish individual immunity, and working for the good of the tribe.

GC and Marcus choose selfishness, and get up the hill first. The women, especially, struggle on the hill, with men having to push and pull Gillian and Crystal (whose athletic skill perhaps only applies to flat surfaces). Michelle is actually the second to reach the top for her tribe, which she thinks proves they were wrong to choose her last. She thinks they’re stupid.

Kota wins the extra food, and Jeff sends them all off to their own camps, with a warning that Fang could be in trouble, since the race wasn’t even close. That’s mostly thanks to Gillian and Crystal, and Matty tells us Gillian’s going to be a problem for the tribe.

Let Them Burn Poop

We see Kota finding its camp first – there are a couple of broken-down huts already there, by a lake. They’re glad to find some semblance of shelter, especially given the wildlife in the area. “The rest of the tribe could be sitting there, we could be eaten by a leopard and no one would know the difference,” someone says.

Old Bob climbs up on the shelter to fix the holes in the roof. Corinne says he’s like a Boy Scout. Someone has given Sugar a shirt, since she was in a leopard print dress and a cute bra.

Bob says he’s from Maine, and this camping stuff is common sense. He makes a bench. A whole bench. Just from sticks.

Fang arrives at its camp, where there are also some shelters. Gillian goes into cheerleader mode, saying they were awesome in the challenge, and making them chant some African word for fierce. Then she tells the others to get elephant dung, it burns well. She comes back with some big armful of elephant dung, telling them it’s very interesting and breaking it apart for them to look at. She even says there might be something edible in there. Ew. Her enthusiasm for the dung is off-putting to tribe members as well.

Randy says he’s already decided Gillian is annoying. “She’s so busy at trying to look busy and she’s not accomplishing crap,” he grumps. I’m not clear on what exactly Randy is accomplishing himself.

Ken shows Michelle some termites – she actually eats one. He says the gamer stereotype is that he’s an antisocial nerd in the basement all the time. Back home, he says, he’s very shy. He hasn’t kissed a girl since high school, 4 or 5 years ago. He seems to have a little crush on Michelle in her underwear. “I am single, she is single, you never know. A romance could start.” Yeah, right.

Charlie Wants To “Bond” With Marcus (*wink wink*)

At Kota, Ace says they should build the shelters first. There’s some debate about where to put latrines and how those will operate, and some people decide Ace is irritating.

Ace himself thinks he’s wonderful. “I’m the full package,” he says. “I’m not just a physical competitor, I’m a mental competitor.” He’s trying to give suggestions and have others do the work, hoping they’ll remember whose idea it was.

Meanwhile, Charlie and Marcus both are wary of Ace, and believe their best bet is to lay low while he runs the show. They think he’ll be so obnoxious he’ll dig his own grave. Charlie, especially, feels he and Marcus are just a great alliance. He says he has a bond with Marcus and his “deep, blue, beautiful eyes.”

Marcus can tell Charlie is attracted to him, and is appreciative of it and likes Charlie, but that’s “not really the way I roll,” he says. He’s straight. “We’re in Eden, but there’s no two Adams here.”

At Fang that night, an elephant wanders nearby. It’s a little frightening, they say. Randy, though, hits his head on a branch in the hut, and it’s bleeding all down his face. He asks nurse Gillian if she can help, but it’s pitch dark, so she’s useless. They call the medical people in, who stitch him up. He says leaving isn’t an option, he’s petrified the injury will take him out of the game.

It’s All Survivor’s Fault For Not Including Rest Breaks in Challenges

It’s now time for their next challenge. Jeff explains that members of each tribe will be tied together and must go through an obstacle course, then dig up puzzles pieces. First team to solve it wins. They’re pretty even through the obstacle course. But when it comes to digging up the puzzle pieces, Fang falls apart. Tired tribe members pretty much give up, sitting in the dirt while Kota finds its pieces and solves its puzzle by the time Fang finds all three bags. The most irritating part – Gillian’s constant and loud encouragement.

Jeff says so far, three days in, it’s two blowouts. He gives Kota the immunity and a flint for fire.

Back at Fang’s camp, Randy says someone needs to be the leader, although he’s not about to be it. GC thinks they need a game plan. Matty wants Michelle out, because she’s negative, she doesn’t want to be there, she’s miserable. This is all true; at some point she whined about being cold, and I’m betting she’s whined about everything else. Randy’s reluctant to commit to the vote, though.. If he believed she was getting all the votes, he’d be with them. He just prefers to boot Gillian. She’s 60. “Nothing against the 60 year old women out there, but don’t come to my camp.” Oh, it’s HIS camp now? He says she cheerleads and blows sunshine thinking people will like her, but she’s worthless. I guess that’s somehow worse than grumping and criticizing and also being worthless?

Michelle and Ken want to vote Gillian, because she’s old and slow. He tells Michelle, though, that she’s on the outs. She says that’ll will confirm her belief that the tribe is “The dumbest people on earth … they’re, like, retarded.” Yeah. Using the word “like” in such a fashion totally confirms my belief that Michelle is intellectually qualified to judge other people “dumb.” Not. Whiner.

”Dumb” Is a Matter of Perspective

At tribal council that night, Jeff asks Dan how they did. Dan says they did ok, better than expected. Jeff shakes his head and says that in addition to being a complete disaster, they’re in utter denial.

Jeff asks Michelle what happened. She said people were taking breaks, Ken and GC rested. GC says he was exhausted. Dan says you can’t go 100 percent all the time, and Michelle argues that yes you can, that’s what a race is. The others ask why Michelle didn’t jump in, then. She says it’s common sense, in a race, you don’t stop till you’re done or win.

Jeff says he asked a simple question and they started arguing. He asks Crystal who’s leading. She says no one. Gillian says there are plenty of leaders, but they think it’s a death knell to come out as the leader. Jeff presses them to step up. GC agrees it would be a good idea for someone to do it. The others say fine, he should do it. He’s not sure he has the courage to do it. Jeff presses a vote, though, and so they elect him leader.

Jeff asks about relationships. Michelle says she’s close with Ken, as they’re young and last picked. She thinks she proved herself in the first challenge, but there’s some dead weight in the tribe. Gillian admits she struggled in the first challenge. But she hopes they see there’s more to her.

Finally we’re at the vote. There’s one for Gillian, and the rest for whiny Michelle, who leaves without a glance back. Buh-bye!

Jeff says he hopes they’ve found the leadership to become a tribe. He also gives them flint for fire.

Not Quite Magic

Back at camp, they say tribal council was brutal. They make GC start the fire, as the leader. He feels good about they want him to be a leader, but thinks it puts a target on his back.

At Kota, Charlie is just drooling over Marcus. He’s sooo smart and handsome and great and handsome and nice and handsome. Charlie doesn’t see why all the girls aren’t pouncing on him, as that’s what Charlie wants to do.

The two of them go off in a boat, where Charlie gushes about how they’re so tight and he knows Marcus will back him up and he can’t imagine a stronger alliance. Marcus says that’s fine, but they need other people. He describes it like layers of an onion, with Charlie as the innermost layer. Marcus wants Jacquie to come in, and Charlie likes Corrine. They think they’re both smart girls. They want to talk to them more.

Back at Fang, they’re boiling water, and discuss looking for fruit. GC, being all leadery, sends Crystal and Susie for fruit, and someone else for something they could use as bowls and spoons. There’s some talk about a layer of grass on the wooden boards they sleep on.

Then there’s some debate about water, and how much to boil it for rice, and something about boiling it twice. It’s between GC and Randy, and I’m not clear on why Randy’s saying something about boiling water twice. Randy says GC is too young and doesn’t know squat. Randy says he’s doing “Operation Let Other People Crash and Burn.”

“My plan now is to sit on my ass, keep my mouth shut and watch us self-destruct,” he says. Wow, that’s tribey of him.

Over at Kota, Marcus and Corrine talk in the woods, and agree on an alliance. She wants a fifth looser person, though. She feels their four are trustworthy. They need a fifth, and she thinks Bob is benign. Corrine wants to bring him in but not give him too much information.

“It was like magic, it was like one brain working as one,” Charlie gushes.

At Fang that night, someone’s snoring. GC is awake, washing clothes in their shelter. It wakes other people up, and they start talking. Gillian finally tells them they have all day to talk, perhaps they could keep it down at night. GC says snoring woke him up. And he gets mad at Gillian for telling them not to talk. He announces he’s done with the leadership, he’s younger than everyone.

That’s “probably the best leadership call he’s made since he’s been leader,” Randy grouses.

I’ll Run You Over With My Ball

In advance of the next challenge, Fang paints their faces in charcoal. They arrive at the challenge to find two large balls. Jeff says both tribes will push the ball through a series of gates, retrieving two sets of three keys, and use those to open locks. First tribe to the finish wins immunity and reward, which is fishing gear.

Plus, they’ll choose one person from losing tribe to go to exile. Bad news is, when you’re away things happen. But on exile, you get a clue to a hidden immunity idol.

On Fang, someone tells Gillian to get out of the way so someone else can push. Kota’s ahead; they have to climb on the ball to get the keys. Going downhill, the Fang ball hits the Kota ball. By the second set of keys they’re even.

They’re also pretty even by the locks. Kota, though, is just a bit ahead and wins.

Jeff tells Fang they were right there, and it was much better than last challenge. They still lost, though. They send Dan to exile.

With No Toilet Paper, an Apple Might Not Be What the Doctor Ordered Anyway

Back at camp, Charlie says he’s so excited about the fishing gear. He thinks they’re getting stronger as a team. He’s having a blast, he says this is better than life at home.

They have good morale and clever guys, Jacquie says; Bob and Marcus know how to use the fishing gear. “I don’t envision us losing ever.” Obviously, then, look for them to lose next week.

Dan marches off to Exile. He thinks he’s an analytical thinker and he can crack this clue. A scroll tells him he can choose between the clue or comfort. Comfort appears to just be an apple in a gazebo, and so he chooses the clue. “We’re here for one reason, and that’s the million dollars,” he says.

He’s told to cross the lake and find a sandy crater, there’s an object hidden in its floor. He thinks it’s in the lake, though. He digs around in there for a while, even though we’ve just seen how obvious the sandy crater is if he just went far enough to find it. Now he hates Exile. He feels stupid that he can’t figure it out. He’s hungry and tired and eyeballing the comfort, and finally just curls up outside the locked gazebo.

In Which Randy Is Helpful In Spite of Himself

Back at camp, Fang thinks they did well, they were so close. Also, please make Randy put on pants.

Crystal goes to talk to Ken and asks how he feels. Ken says everyone tried today except Gillian. He blames her for their loss. Crystal agrees, and so does Matty.

Gillian, meanwhile, is working Susie, telling her they’ll vote off the old women and Susie will go after her. Gillian wants to work some surprise vote. Gillian says there are weak young people, namely Ken.

GC thinks they need food, and Randy offers up his eyeglasses, making a fishing hook out of a metal piece. GC gives up his shoestring. The women found six worms. So it’s a team effort, although I don’t know how Randy’s going to see from now on.

So GC and Ken go off to fish, and they actually catch something. Five little fish, to be exact. They wrap them in leaves and cook them, finally getting some protein, GC says. They’re rightly very proud of themselves.

Dan returns. But he tells them Exile was a horrible place, and says he can’t really talk about it but there’s a choice there and he made a bad one. He says they need to think about who to send when it’s their turn, because a strong player might find the idol. GC thinks he’s acting weird, and that he might have really found the idol.

Crystal, Ken and GC feel Dan and Gillian are on the block, because they all think he’s got the idol, because he’s acting weird. Randy says no, he thinks Dan is just tired. Crystal and Matty talk about whether it should be Dan or Gillian. They don’t trust Dan, because he’s a lawyer.

Old And Loud Loses

At Fang’s second tribal council, GC admits he quit as leader. Susie says Gillian voiced an opinion and GC felt attacked. Randy says they’ve got eight individuals, period. “I wouldn’t want to lead this bunch either.” Clearly, from his past comments about waiting for them all to fail.

Dan says it’s a lack of leadership, and understands no one wants to be voted off for being leader. GC says someone else should step up. Crystal says in day to day chores, they don’t really need a leader. But someone needs to get them together to win challenges. Gillian agrees.

GC tells about the fishing hook. Jeff looks impressed. Dan says Exile messes with your mind. Crystal admits of course they talked about it. She says she does think Dan has the idol. He dumps out his bag to prove he doesn’t have it. He says he doesn’t lie.

And in the vote, it’s clearly Gillian, although I think Ken gets one vote. So she’s out, and Randy smirks.

In her post-boot confessional, Gillian tells us she wishes she’d lasted longer, and perhaps she should have been more under the radar.

Next week:

Fang still has problems, with no leader, and there’s some sort of physical struggle in challenge.