It’s 1:20AM. “Survivor:Thailand” will premiere in just seventeen hours and forty minutes. It’s time to gaze into my cracked crystal ball and predict the events that will unfold in the first episode. Let me warn that you I have no professional training as a soothsayer, nor do I have a mole inside the Survivor organization. In fact, if any one of my predictions should ever actually come to pass, the ensuing shock to my system will probably damage some critical area of my brain. So what I’m telling you is that you should not sprint to your bookie and hand him the deed to your house as soon as you’re done reading. If you’re OK with that, then read on for the predictions will now begin!
It’s the fifth season of Survivor, and the name of the game is “keep ‘em guessing”. Diabolical mastermind Mark Burnett knows that the new Survivors think they’ve seen it all, which means he’ll be doing everything in his power to ensure that they have not. For example, the show opens with eighteen Survivors racing to Ko Tarutao in two sleek Thai speedboats. Unbeknownst to almost everyone, two of the “Survivors” are actually Burnett’s summer interns who have volunteered to be maimed or even killed in the interest of keeping the Survivors off-balance. With any luck, the spectacular injury scenes might even merit an extra rating point or two. The first extra falls out of the boat while pretending to glide her hand through the water. “Keep going!” screams Burnett from his own vessel. “We do not have time to waste gathering our dead!”
On the island itself, the shaken Survivors are pleased to walk around and catch their breaths. But Burnett has another surprise for them. From the shelter of some nearby trees, he waits until the other volunteer wanders by, then flips a deadly snake on his back and pumps his fist in excitement when the snake takes a healthy chaw out of the intern’s neck. Jeff Probst swings in on a vine to inform everyone that the venom of certain snakes on the island can kill in thirty minutes. His eyes gleam like moonlight on a still lake as he shares this tidbit. The medics are quickly on the scene, but Jeff interrupts them. “Wait for it!” he demands, causing the arriving medical staff to quiver expectantly like bird dogs until they are given the signal to swoop in and recover the swollen and convulsing Survivor.
Now that everyone is good and freaked out, it’s time to assign teams. And here, Burnett has prepared another shocker. Jeff divides the sixteen Survivors into men and women. He then directs everyone to look under their stump to find their team buff. Of course, there are no team buffs under the stumps, just pop-up toy cobras whose surprise arrival nearly adds another Survivor to the casualty list. “We’ll choose teams later,” Jeff announces. “Now go build your camps and see what’s in your supply box.”
The excited Survivors think there might actually be food in their supply box, but are they in for a surprise! Once they finally pop the crates open, they discover that there are no real supplies: no food, no matches, nothing useful like that. The only thing in each tribe’s supply box is a hazy, xeroxed copy of Burnett’s middle finger.
“A clue!” exclaims chirpy, out-of-her-element Pigtails Jan over in Woman Camp. The others concur, and everyone agrees to keep an eye out for Old Man Withers, the same old coot who constantly plagued the Scooby-Doo gang by leaving obvious clues laying all over the place and wearing goofy monster costumes.
Back at Man Camp, a doorbell suddenly rings, and a buxom pizza delivery woman emerges from the jungle. Squinting at the label, the gorgeous lady says, “Pizza for a Brian ‘Magical Johnson’ Heidik?” Brian has just enough time to reply, “I didn’t order a pizza!” before the tree-mounted speakers high above the Survivors start cranking out an old familiar tune. Brian smiles, then nods in understanding as Pizza Woman slowly unbuttons her tight delivery uniform.
Meanwhile, over in Woman Camp, the ladies have finished arranging the necessary survival items and have turned their attentions to making the inhospitable jungle a more welcoming place in which to live. The resourceful women have constructed area rugs from palm leaves and throw pillows from exotic tropical bird plumage. They’re putting the finishing touches on a coconut gazing orb for the garden when they receive a tree mail warning that the Immunity Challenge is about to begin.
The two groups gather at Challenge Beach, everyone looking a little worn and tired except for Brian, who appears refreshed and chipper. Jeff explains the rules of the Immunity Challenge: “It’s a foot race. GO!” Penny the overachiever and Jan, who fears being the older person who gets booted first, take off running in random directions. Ted, ever the good engineer, requests a more clearly-defined set of requirements, so Jeff elaborates: “Run over there. GO!” A few more Survivors lope off in the direction indicated by Jeff’s index finger. Ted, though, needs more structure to the problem. “Why are we running?” he asks. Jeff’s face glows like a jack-o-lantern’s as he shares the final tidbit with the small circle of still-standing Survivors: “Last one to the Pit Stop...is eliminated!”
A Helen-shaped puff of smoke slowly dissipates in the tropical breeze, and a trail of fire recedes into the distance from where she was standing. By now, it’s a free-for-all, and a giant human ball of fifteen Survivors (everyone except Jan, who has unexpectedly encountered the disheveled Pizza Woman somewhere deep in the jungle) rolls across the finish line. Frustrated and confused, Jan finally locates the finish line some fifteen hours later. She’s famished and completely dehydrated and slips into a coma moments after Jeff gleefully douses her torch and reminds her that the tribe has spoken.
Jan will remain in a coma until a few days before the end of filming, which explains her rumored weight loss while still allowing her to be the first boot victim she appears to be.
And now my crystal ball has faded into a gloomy darkness. I can no longer receive visions of the future for the first episode. We must now sit back and observe the show ourselves (currently only sixteen hours and twenty-five minutes away). And when it’s over, let’s all reconvene here and read Fluff’s masterful recap. She’s much more likely to have her story straight than I do.