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Nicaragua. 20 new contestants. Old coots versus youngsters. And a goofy new twist, the Medallion of Power! That’s right, it’s the start of the 21st season of Survivor. We’ve got an NFL coach, a dog trainer, a goat farmer, and a pack of guys who apparently like to waltz around in their boxer-briefs, showing off their doodads and keeping the editing guys busy. Nothing like starting a season out with plenty of fuzzy crotch blobs, so let's get this thing going!
As the new Survivors take in their surroundings, Jud lets us know that he’s going to be comedy gold this season (please let him stick around a while!) as he marvels at the fact that “there are no fences like at the zoo” to keep the wild critters hemmed in. Soon after, the hapless Jud not only jabs his foot with a hellacious splinter, but gets nailed by a pissed off crab after he picks it up for a peek. Jud is quickly dubbed “the dumb blonde” by Shannon, a guy I quickly put on my do-not-like list. Seems Shannon is afraid of the girls: “It’s important we don’t let these girls take over. I mean, we already get owned in marriage. Pretty soon we’ll have a woman President.”
Meh. Give me goofy Jud over Shannon’s douchebaggery any day.
Anyway: the contestants are randomly divided into two tribes and are shown wandering about, sizing each other up. Until Jeff drops the Medallion bomb - it’s not an individual award, it’s for the good of the tribe. That’s all he tells them, then he sends them off to a nearby lagoon to look for it. They look in the water, in the bushes, but Brenda spies the mystery Medallion first, hanging up in a tree. On the same tribe, Marty is all smiles. Until Jeff drops bomb number two: this isn’t how they’ll really be divided. People over 40, this way. People 30 and under, that a way. Pretending to be miffed, Jimmy Johnson hollers “But I’m young at heart!”
No matter. Team Geritol shall be known as Espada and will have blue buffs. Team Young’un will be called La Flor and wear yellow. Marty isn’t pleased, as he’s not feeling the love for Jimmy J., who has many of the young men awestruck. I’m ambivalent, since Jimmy J. has coached both my most favorite team and the team I’ve always hated. But I don’t know what Marty’s deal is.
The Medallion o’ Power is now held by La Flor, and Jeff gives them a chance to trade its unknown power for a stash of fishing gear and some flint. After some discussion, they trade it in, and the MoP now goes to Espada even though they did nothing to earn it and have no idea what it does.
Hey, I don’t make the rules.
Tribes go back to their respective camps and begin the process of getting to know each other. Odd, spastic acting Holly wastes no time in hopping all over goat framer Wendy, telling her how much she trusts her and pledging her total allegiance. Wendy is mildly flabbergasted. Dog trainer Jane earns many cool points by taking someone’s glasses and starting a fire in no time flat, earning the admiration of her tribemates. And viewers.
Over at La Flor, Jud is now known as Fabio, and he takes the ribbing good-naturedly. Kelly B., who has been trying to conceal her prosthetic leg for fear of being seen as weak, decides to just come out and tell everyone after she senses people staring. They all take it just fine, thinking she’s a rock star for being so tough. Jud pipes up and asks how she makes it move. Heh.
Night falls, and Jimmy J. isn’t having such a great time. He spends a good bit of time that night retching by the shelter as the others give him the side eye. Jimmy admits to watching every minute of Survivor but never thought it would be so miserably hard, and thinks he’s ill because he overexerted himself that day. Hmm...he did apply to be on the show twice before, but failed the physical both times.
Later, Alina and Kelly B. randomly come across the clue to the hidden immunity idol. Alas, they can’t figure it out and decide to stash it in a tree for later use. Alina isn’t happy to be forced into this sort of “partnership” with Kelly B., because Alina wants her gone, afraid of the sympathy votes that Kelly might garner at the end due to being an amputee. If only they knew how very athletic she is, they might give her a chance to kick some ass in challenges. The Underwear Alliance between Shannon and Chase has formed, but Chase is crushing on Brenda and tells her all about it. She files this information away for later use.
All done with the vomiting, Jimmy J gathers his tribemates up for an inspirational huddle before the first immunity challenge. He announces that he’s there only for the adventure (and the bug bites). There’s no way a jury would award him the million, he tells them, but he sure can help someone else win it. Interesting move. Marty and fisherman Jimmy T. are still distrustful of the coach and don’t buy his story. Or, they’re jealous of the attention, I don’t know. Alpha males and all that.
Challenge time! And it’s a fairly lame one. Teams are to build a series of gutters by holding up lengths of bamboo, then someone at the top of the ramp pours nasty colored water down the gutters into a huge bucket. When the bucket’s full, a bag of puzzle pieces drop that must be assembled. I’ve read that the challenge designers meant for the gutters to be held in a zig zag fashion, but the tribes found it quicker and easier to hold them in a straight line, making the whole thing way easier than intended. Whoops. Back to the drawing board for that one...
Having the mysterious MoP in their clutches, Espada is given the chance to use it to their advantage: they’ll get a head start of one bucketful of water. After conferring, they decide to hold on to it. Jimmy J thinks they can win this one on their own, and they want to make a statement. You can see where this one’s going, can’t you? La Flor, for their part, come into the challenge in style with a song and dance routine that was both silly as hell and twenty kinds of awesome. If they come up with a new routine every week, I’ll love them forever. Except for Shannon and Chase, who were too cool to participate. Party poopers.
So, La Flor wins the challenge. Easily. They had a slight lead in the gutter part, but really nailed it with the puzzle. So much for that statement that Espada hoped to make: "We suck!" is hardly what they were going for. Sidenote: the new immunity idol rules! A dejected Espada trudges back to camp, and the plotting begins. Jimmy T. really has it out for Jimmy J. now, demanding to be heard and wanting him gone. He wants to be the only Jimmy! Holly asks “Coach” (oh, how I never wanted to use that nickname again) which two he thinks are the weakest: he admits that he’s one, and Wendy is the other. Holly is all flustered now, having a great big three day secret alliance with Wendy that she doesn’t want to break. Half of the tribe tries to have an open discussion about who they want gone, but they basically stand around staring at each other. Nobody has the guts to verbalize what they’re thinking. It was quite funny, watching all the blustering bigmouths go mute when it was time to stand up and speak.
Tribal council, and “Survivor MacGuyver” Jane gets props for starting a fire so soon. She tells Jeff she practiced making fire like he said, and he’s incredulous that anybody actually listened to him. Jimmy T and Marty have another turn at dissing Jimmy J’s story that he could never win, and then it’s Wendy’s turn to dig herself a big old hole. Just as Jeff is about to get them started with the voting, she bemoans the fact that nobody on the tribe wants to get to know her and she hasn’t bonded with anyone, then proceeds to list all the reasons why she’s so keepable, and having blister-less feet is one of those reasons. A total WTF moment, for sure.
Yeah, if they didn’t have their minds made up before Tribal, Wendy’s long-winded, weak plea to save herself did it for them. She’s voted out (unanimously, I believe - the only other vote I saw was for Eve). And then! Probably my favorite part of the night - Wendy takes her walk of shame through a makeshift cemetery, complete with tombstones and creepy lighting. Love it.
So, out goes the quirky goat farmer that we barely got to know. What did you think, FORTers - a good premiere? Did you miss seeing the building of the shelters? And more importantly, what did you think of La Flor’s dance routine?
Next week: more arguing, whining, and someone’s shoes get filled with sand and tossed into the water. Why, I don’t know. Also, Jeff is amazed by someone’s question at Tribal. BritLit will be snarking on all the fun next week - see you then!