Thursday, September 15, 2011

Survivor: South Pacific - Episode 1 Review

Synopsis: We start the season with a helicopter flying in Ozzy and Coach to the South Pacific. Because the special treatment will endear them to the new players.

Coach says that unlike the last two times, he plans to control his sense of self righteousness and judgment. He follows by saying that he will still show you can win with honor and integrity. He is not off to a good start with the self righteousness thing.

Ozzy tells us how he has always been the physical one who is good at challenges, but never was good at strategy. He says he is older and more mature and can do it now. He also mentions how he came close A FEW TIMES, which implies three but he only played twice. Must be referring to the time he played the home game with his drinking buddies.

Both Coach and Ozzy have played the game twice before, but in very different styles. There is one thing they have in common however. Their lack of being able to play the social game is their downfall. Have they managed to improve upon that after two tries? We shall see.

Jeff says that these two lovable rascals will be playing the game with 16 new players. We then see the rest of the cast rowing on small boats to the island

They highlight John, who says he is the most savvy Survivor player ever. He brags that he has never missed an episode. He is like me, except I don’t brag about it. I hide my Survivor adoration in the deepest depths of my shame. 

He also says in Harvard Law he wrote a prize winning essay on Survivor. Seriously? Harvard must not be as difficult as everyone says. I never believed the hype.

Elyse says she does not have an outdoorsy background. But she is Native American so she is hoping her past ancestors will impart their wisdom on her. If she walks around with a feather on her forehead ala Phillip, I will call this the greatest season ever.

Rick owns a ranch in Utah. He says if you didn't train and learn some outdoor skills before you came, you might as well spit in the wind. Clearly he doesn’t have Indian ancestors to fall back on.

Stacey is a funeral director and mortician. She plans to use her mothering skills to be nosy as hell and keep her eyes and ears open.

Brandon is someone’s nephew. It is a shocking development because who would have thought he had an uncle? Surprised Survivor never hyped that or anything.

Jeff then gives us his usual spiel to end this introduction. “Blah blah blah, strangers, blah blah blah, battling the elements and each other, blah blah blah, one will remain, blah blah blah 18 people, 39 days, one survivor!” You know the spiel. And if not, welcome to your first season of Survivor. 

Que the opening credits. 

When we come back, the 16 new players exit the boat and meet Jeff. He tells them that they are divided into two tribes. the surprise twist keep on coming don't they? 

He then tells them the tribes are not yet complete. He calls for the helicopter and Ozzy and Coach step out to make their grand entrance.

The contestants meet them with mixed excitement. Not surprisingly, they are a lot more excited to see Ozzy than Coach. Can’t say I blame them. No disrespect meant to Coach, but one of them is a challenge machine and skilled at camp. The other one tells stories of being hunted by cannibals. You do the math.

Christine, a teacher from Merrick, N.Y. is asked what she thinks of Coach and Ozzy showing up. She politely says that it's nice, sounding less than enthused. Of course Jeff pushes, so she tells Jeff “They’re temporary players.” A pretty ballsy thing to say when you don’t know anyone yet. She will be fun, I can tell.

Jeff asks John his name and he says he would like to be called by his last name, Cochran. Yes, he is a law student named Johnny Cochran.

He asks to be called that because all the greats such as Mariono, Donaldson, and Penner were all referred to by their last name. I will admit, he gets superfan credit for mentioning Penner.

Jeff seems impressed that Cochran knew both Coach and Ozzy played two times before. If that is all it takes to impress Jeff, he is very easily impressed.

Jeff has the returning players each draw an egg filled with paint, one blue on red, signifying which tribe they will be on. Coach breaks his egg with his bare hand, while super athlete Ozzy has to smash it into his chest three times before it finally breaks. 

Ozzy’s egg is red, so he is with the Savaii tribe. Coach’s egg is blue, so he goes with the Upolu tribe.

Ozzy’s new tribemates are excited, Coach’s… not so much. Christine is shooting daggers at him, and in an interview Rick thinks Coach’s dragon slaying is ridiculous because he is in his 40’s. Not sure why his age makes it less ridiculous than if someone a different age said it. Maybe Rick believes dragon's became extinct 60 years ago. 

Jeff explains the redemption island twist. I don’t want to bore everyone, since most of you probably already know the deal. Especially since it won’t really come into effect until the third episode. So,m I will just explain it as we go along, when it becomes relevant.

It’s time for the first challenge, and Jeff informs everyone it will be a “Hero Challenge” and Ozzy will square off against Coach. 

The challenge will have each player climb a pole to retrieve a wooden turtle. They will then have to dig their way under a log that is on a beach. Once that is done they will try to complete a puzzle that is so simple even a monkey could do it. Seriously, pretty much the same puzzle was in the recent “Planet of the Apes” movie.

The winner of the challenge will receive a basket of Tarro (I don’t know if I spelt that right) which is a potato like food, as well as flint. Sophie nods as Jeff explains Tarro like she knows exactly what he is talking about. She is smart you see. Real smart, or so we keep being told.

The challenge starts and Ozzy has the lead through the physical part. To Coach’s credit, he manages to stay right behind him and keep the lead minimal.

Both Coach and Ozzy have trouble understanding the puzzle at first. But the other players soon realize they can chime in and help their guys out. 

Ozzy starts to get the lead with his puzzle while Coach continues to flounder. Either Coach wasn’t following directions as good as Ozzy, or Savaii gave better instructions. Probably a little bit of both. Regardless, Ozzy wins and Savii gets exotic potatoes and flint.

I think the producers suspected it might come down with the tribes helping the returning players and potentially build a bond. It probably worked better for Coach than Ozzy.

As the tribes walk off, no one stops to help Coach gather his stuff except for Edna, the Anesthesiologist from LA. Coach realizes this does not bode well for him and he is in real danger of being voted out.

When Savaii gets to their camp they start introducing themselves. Whitney tells them she is a songwriter from Nashville. She actually is a Country Singer of minor fame, but chooses not to tell them that. I guess it's good none of them were hard core country fans, as apparently nobody recognized her.

Semhar tells everyone she is a “spoken word artist”. Must be what the kids are calling poetry now. Mark asks her to give them a sample of their poetry and she does. I was not hugely impressed by it, but I am not a fan of poetry.

Ozzy however, seems smitten and thinks she would be good to showmance. He doesn't use those words, but that is what I took him to be thinking. I can’t fault his taste, she's a cutie.

Ozzy discourages the tribe from building a shelter, and says they should go swimming and relax instead. Don’t know if that is a strategy, or if he is just being flaky as usual.

John is reluctant to take off his clothes and go swimming because he is so skinny and pale. The other all encourage him and he eventually goes along and takes off his shirt to go swimming. I hope this is the kind of not stop suspense we can expect all season long.

At Upolu, Coach tries to do damage control. He apologizes for losing the challenge, but likes it was a team effort. He then reminding everyone he is not a strategic player so they shouldn't feel he is a threat. Not sure how much good it did, but it was a nice attempt and probably the best he could have done.

They decide to go around and tell each other their occupations. Rick tells everyone he is a rancer, but we already knew that. Albert talks for I think the only time all episode, telling everyone he is a baseball coach.


Sophie tells the tribe she graduated college 4 days ago, and was a Russian and Economics major. Coach attempts to win her over with some Russian of his own. For some reason they subtitle the Russian… in Russian. Gee, that’s helpful.

Sophie doesn’t seem impressed with his limited Russian, since he mostly just knows how to politely say “hello”. To his credit, he is probably the only other person who knows how to say anything in Russian. And if most people only learn a few words of another language they usually learn how cuss, because it’s fun. Not how to say anything politely.

Upolu recognizes that Coach is useful in building their camp, as he as done this twice before. They follow his lead in building their shelter and It seems to come along quickly. Everyone is laughing and having a good time, and if the editing is to be believed the shelter is built at a steady pace. 

Christine makes a transparent attempt to search for the immunity idol, which doesn't seem to make a good impression on the others. Coach tells us she is “Target #1”.

Back at Savaii, Jim seems impressed with all the pretty young girls at his tribe. He then lies and tells everyone he is a science teacher. I swear, someday there will be a season where every player lies about themselves. He has chosen not to tell everyone he is an MBA, has won over 20 poker tournaments, and owns two medical marijuana dispensaries.

The implication is that he thinks it will make him a threat. But I think he was smart to not say all of that because no one would believe him. Apparently is's all true, but it sure would sound like a load of crap if you didn't know the guy. 

Semhar asks who all is married? Mark, a retired NYPD detective who’s last name is “Caruso” of all things, takes the opportunity to tell everyone he has a boyfriend and has been gay all of his life. He talks about being “Pappa Bear”.

Back at Upolu we learn about Brandon’s tattoo that says “loco”. He explains in an interview how he used to be crazy but has now found God and is ashamed of his bully past.

We then see a weird scene where Brandon talks about how he is not comfortable with Mikayla, a lingerie football player, because of the way she flaunts herself. He says as a good, married Christian, has to stay clear of her so as not to get into a situation that will get himself in trouble.

The thing is, all we see her doing is helping build the shelter while wearing a tank top and shorts. She is hardly flaunting herself or even looking like she is trying to be “sexy”. And so far she doesn’t seem to be trying to “temp” Brandon. We also saw him tell coach Mikayla was "Delilah" earlier, because she complimented his tattoo so clearly she wanted to seduce him to sin.

The whole thing was just weird. I tend to think even with Brandon’s comments, this was an editing slight of hand. Especially since Survivor has always tried to hit us over the head that Christian’s are over the top. What we saw just didn’t gel with what Brandon was apparently saying about Mikayla in the confessional. I assume it must be setting us up for something later.

We come back from whatever the hell that was to later that night. Sophie, Brandon, Coach, Rick and Albert are sitting and talking under the stars. Coach makes a very good point about how if the five of them were to take this opportunity to form a strong five person alliance, it could help them out tremendously. As a strong alliance like that can go very far even if they are down during the merge.

Coach also points out to the others that first day alliances are almost always the most strong. Everyone seems to agree and be on board. They actually have a good plan if they stick to it, because what Coach is saying is not wrong. Kudos to him for seemingly making such a strong strategic move so early on. Maybe he has learned a thing or two.

Personally, I hope this alliance sticks around and dominates. It would be the craziest group of misfits to form a power alliance in a long time. But I hope it doesn't carry Coach to the end, because I don't want this show to constantly become Veteran players beating new players every season.

Back at Savaii, the part of “Survivor who immediatley cracks under the living conditions" will be played by Dawn. She is not handling camp life well, and is already feeling old, scatterbrained, and an emotional wreck. Mark is concerned about this as he feels he and Dawn have to stick together, being the two oldest.

Ozzy gives her a pep talk that doesn’t look like it completely works. But Ozzy feels that if he can use this to gain her trust she might be a crucial ally. What he means is, “If I can take advantage of her weakness, I might be able to control her into doing my bidding.” Didn't know I spoke Ozzy did you? Coach and Sophie got nothing on me!

Several of their tribe mates seem to see this and be concerned. But honestly, the shots could have been taken from anything. So who knows if they really saw this exchange, or were simply edited to look like they did.

One thing I should warn everyone, I trust reality show editors about as much as I can throw them. Just thought this was a good time to mention that.

It is now day three, and Ozzy finally realizes that maybe they should get their shelter built. Gee Ozzy, you think? This is the wisdom two seasons of experience brings his tribe, "get the shelter done after three days." How could Savaii ever want to vote out someone with that kind of knowledge.

Back at Upolu, Brandon is catching fish to help build goodwill with his tribe. He is doing it with his shirt rolled over his head. He doesn't want anyone to see the two tattoos with his last name on them, else they will learn of his hidden shame.

He seems convinced if he can keep his shirt on, no one will find out about his uncle. I honestly don’t see how he can keep that up for 39 days. The fact he doesn’t have it off to fish already looks weird. Who swims under water with their shirt on? 

Sophie says she is suspicious of him. He is always covering his back, so either he's hiding a tattoo or has wings. OK, she didn't say that last part. But apparently she suspects he is hiding something.

It’s time for the immunity challenge!

The Survivors will run through a zig zagging maze of ropes which they will have to crawl under, then through a web of coconuts that doesn’t look like it would be hard to  navigate through at all. They will then work together to pull each other over a 10 foot wall. 

Once they are all over the wall, one of them will dig for a machete buried under sand. With the machete they will cut a series of ropes, that will open a bag of coconuts. Three players will then throw the coconuts into a basket until it is heavy enough to lift a pile of coconuts tied to it on the other side. Once they do it will raise their tribes flag.

The winning tribe will get a clue to a location of a the hidden immunity idol. The losing tribe will go to tribal council and vote someone out. Upolu will also get flint if they win, since they didn’t win it in the first challenge.

Jeff gives them a minute to strategies. Upolu seems to be gelling well in working out a strategy. On Savaii, Semhar, Ozzy and Keith are shown stepping up and volunteering to shoot for baskets. Semhar seems confident she can do it.

Both tribes get through the maze and the coconut web pretty quickly. Upolu gets to the wall first and starts to get a lead. They make me laugh when Rick pulls up Edna and almost tossed her over to the other side with one hand.

Upolu gets over the wall. While on Savaii's side Cochran struggles  to get over the wall and slows them down quite a bit. When they finally all get over the wall, Ozzy makes up some time with the digging. Both teams finally make it to the coconut basket neck and neck.

Brandon, Albert and Mikayla shoot for Upolu. Semhar tires out quickly on Savaii and starts missing the basket by a mile and whining about how she has nothing left. Ozzy asks Jeff if they can switch but he tells them no. Despite Semhar quickly becoming useless, the tribes stay neck and neck through the whole leg of the challenge.

Upolu eventually wins it, and Jeff makes a point afterwards to point out that Savaii was within one coconut themselves. Making it clear if Semhar hadn’t been so useless they most likely would have won.

Jeff tells Upolu that inside their camp is a clue to the hidden immunity idol. So first they have to find the clue, then use it to find the idol. What if they find the idol while they are looking for the clue?

And how is that a reward for the winners? For one thing he was standing close enough that I don’t see how Savaii didn’t already hear it. So now they both know. For the other, they are already going to be looking for the idol, so do they really need to be told there is a clue to look for. Even if they didn’t guess that, they would just find it while looking for the idol. At least in theory.

Jeff asks Semhar how she feels. She says she feels sort of bad for losing. Jim makes a face that Jeff calls him on, so he says he feels worse than “sort of bad.”

Back at camp, Upolu celebrates their awesomeness before they all scatter and begin looking for the immunity idol. Stacy mentions how she could very well have passed right by it and not known. Sure enough, we see her stick her hand inside of a hollow of a tree and the clue is right there. But she misses it and moves on while the camera man taunts her with a close up of the clue after she leaves.

At Savaii, Semhar decides that immediatley after being pegged with losing the challenge is the best time to call out Rick and make a scene. She must have figured that her target was not already big enough.

Dawn is worried she might be a targeted for eviction because of her breaking down early on. However, she has hope that Semhar will be a bigger target, after losing the challenge for them.

Ozzy is in the water with Whitney, Rick and Elyse talking about who to evict. Ozzy thinks that Shemar stepping up was noble and they should not target her just because she messed up on one challenge. I wonder if she would be so heroic to lose it for them, if she didn't do such a good job filling out a bikini?

Ozzy then tries to put the target on Cochran, mentioning how he is a weak link. Not that Ozzy doesn't have a point, but Cochran sure isn’t less of a physical liability than Semhar. If Ozzy wanted to deflect the attention from Semhar, maybe he shouldn't play the “physically weak” card.

Rick is not buying anything that Ozzy is selling. He also wisely suspect if Ozzy is so against the group mentality of voting out Semhar, than he is up to something.

Ozzy tells Semhar that she is on the chopping block, but he wants Cochran gone. He wants that because she will be much more fun to seduce. Or something to that affect! He then suggest Semhar really start campaigning.

She stars scrambling to gather votes, and meanwhile Jim goes to Cochran and tells him and Mark that Ozzy is trying to target Cochran.

The Survivor nerd is heart broken that the great Ozzy thinks he is such a liability. He then starts freaking and mentions how it's insulting he is about to be kicked out of a tribe with “Pappa Bear and all these girls.” 

News flash genius, Pappa Bear is stronger than you. Not sure some of the girls aren’t either. 

He better be glad he is not on Upolu, I have little doubt either Sophie or Mikayla could easily kick his ass.

Cochran keeps freaking out and worrying he will be the first one voted out. And he knows better than anyone, that means you become forgotten quickly. No being mentioned in the same sentence as Penner then.

As they head off to Tribal Council, it's clear that either Cochran or Semhar is going home. In my first look at the cast, I picked Cochran as the first boot out of his tribe, Jeff picked Semhar. So either I am right of Jeff is. 

Unfortunately for me, Jeff has had a front row seat to every season. So he is probably more likely to know what he is talking about.

At Tribal Council, Jeff questions Dawn. She comes clean about her mini-breakdown. She then uses to opportunity to assure the tribe it’s all behind her now.

Jeff asks Elyse who else she thinks should be worried. She is upfront and says Semhar. Jim then calls out Semhar for stepping up when she couldn't deliver. He makes a comment that he hates losing and “(he) thinks the only people who make good losers, are people who are good at losing.” 

Unnecessary! I hope he blows a challenge himself after that comment. Seeing the arrogant taken down a peg is always fun to watch.

Jeff asks Whitney if any part of her was thinking “thank god it isn’t me.”?

Whitney then says, “Well I was thinking I could do it, but Semhar kept saying she could and none of us got a chance! Semhar, Semhar, it was all Semhar’s fault!”

Semhar takes a subtle shot at how it's big talk from people who didn't step up themselves. Ozzy says he feels it's huge advantage to be willing to step up and say, “I can do this!”. Especially when the girl who steps up has long legs, and a top showing off her... charms.

Ok, I know Ozzy’s logic is self served and that's fine. But I don’t see how someone stepping up and saying they can do something they can’t, and then keeping someone who could have won away, it is a huge advantage in this game. Being willing to put yourself out there is an admirable trait to have in the real world. But this is Survivor.

Jeff asks Dawn if she thinks anyone else should be worried? Dawn reluctantly says Cochran might be a target. 

Cochran steps in and tries to defend that despite his “nerdy” appearance, he stepped up and did well in the challenge, so they shouldn’t judge him by his cover.

Mark and Dawn are quick to point out, however, that he did have trouble going over the wall in the challenge and then panicked and froze up.

Semhar admits that she is relieved some people felt Cochran was a weaker link. Johnny boy doesn’t like that and gets defensive. The two go back and forth about who is the weaker link. At one point, Cochran gets so nervous and flustered, he even forgets Semhar’s name.

That would bother me right there if I was on his tribe. His getting nervous and flustered when things go bad is not a good thing. If they get to a challenge where he needs to step up and it doesn't go well right away, is he going to panic then? Not saying that he is a better choice than Semhar, but Ozzy may not be completely wrong about him potentially being a liability.

Cochran says if he isn’t voted out, he will change and will do whatever they want, and follow their direction to be more useful and learn. He then makes some comment to Ozzy that he will be his "genie in a bottle", but Ozzy won’t have to rub him. I am sure Ozzy is relieved about that. 

Cochran then says their perception of him should not be based on what has happened so far. Keith and Semhar point out that they have known him for three days, what else should they base it on? Keith points out they have to base their perception on the last three days, that is all they have known anyone  for. They have a limited time to get to know people before making these decisions. Cochran hangs his head at Kieth and his annoying ability to speak the truth.

By Cochran’s logic, they shouldn’t perceive Semhar as weak either. After all, she has only appeared weak since the game started. Why should they base it on that?

Honestly, the guy is just rambling a bunch of nonsense to try and defend himself. And I don’t think he is changing anyone’s perception of him with it.

It is now time to vote!

We only see Cochran and Semhar’s votes, which of course were for each other. It seems clear from both of their reactions they knew Semhar was going. 

Semhar basically said she was really, really sorry but hopefully the vote would make Cochran step up more. Cochran said he was voting for her because she questioned his intelligence and his commitment to the game, the latter worse than insulting his mother I am sure. She did question his commitment to the game, saying he was too busy being in awe he was on Survivor with Ozzy, to truly be useful. But I don't remember her ever questioning his intelligence, unless he just thinks her disagreeing with him means she thinks he most not be smart. I hope not, or I will grow to dislike this guy quickly. 

The votes are read and sure enough everyone votes for Semhar to go. Jeff tells Semhar she will have a chance to get back into this game and sends her to redemption island. She leaves crying as Ozzy regrets not showing her how to make fire.

Jeff says that it seems that the tribe made the decision, to believe that a person could improve. Now get the hell out!

Ok, he actually said he hopes it applies to the whole tribe. But I would have died laughing had he said it like that.

Semhar arrives at Redemption and says she is hurt that her tribe mates lied to her, and she doesn’t understand how people could be so cold hearted. She then starts to cry again!

Semhar seems like a nice girl, I am sure in the real world I would like her. And I agree with Ozzy she is definitely nice to look at. But she clearly isn't made for Survivor. I don’t see her going much further on Redemption Island either. 

On the up side for Semhar, she will get at least three episodes out of it. In past seasons we would all quickly be saying "Semhar who?" 

We will still be saying it, but now we won’t start until two weeks later than usual.

The previews show us that next week, Cochran will try to counter the tribes perception by becoming a hard core worker bee. Also, Brandon will be tortured by his deep dark secret, and Coach will begin to realize something is up with him.  

Hopefully, Coach won’t decide he is hiding wings. I was joking with Sophie but who knows what conclusions Coach might come to.

Thoughts on the episode:  This was actually a really good season premiere. I liked that while Coach and Ozzy got plenty of screen time, this time it wasn't simply "The Coach And Ozzy Show".

A lot of people fell in love with Cochran before the show started. It is understandable for us internet Survivor fans, after all Cochran is "one of us."

But honestly, I found him annoying and he came off as being too overwhelmed with the fact he was on his favorite show sharing a tribe with Ozzy to focus on the game. His flustering when he found out he was a target and everyone didn't love him was also too much. 

It didn't seem to rub Ozzy and Keith the right way either. Which I totally understand, as him claiming they shouldn't base their opinions on him in the first three days, when three days in they had to vote someone else out. They are playing Survivor, not starting a society. 

Speaking of Ozzy, while the editing made it look like some were smitten I did notice he did not get what he wanted. Some people think that everyone is worshiping Ozzy, but I sensed it was more like him trying to win the favor of the other players. I think he is well aware that with Rob winning he could easily be an early target. 

I am sure a lot of people are criticizing Savaii for not voting out Ozzy, but I think they made the right choice. Don't get me wrong, the last thing they want is Ozzy going into the merge. But they are only one vote in, and already lost a challenge. Voting out their strongest player this early wold be a horrible idea. If they lose again maybe, but at this point they need and try to keep themselves strong enough to win challenges. 

Coach has so far controlled the crazy and been humble. His five person alliance has potential. But I do wonder, if they survive the first vote and seem to be in control will Coach go off the rails again? 

And finally Brandon made a mistake not telling them about his tattoos when he should have. I get his concern, but I don't see how he can keep his shirt on the whole time and not eventually get noticed. 

Had he been up front about his last name once his five person alliance was formed, and explained the reason was his concern for being judged too early, I think his confiding in them might have helped solidify his alliance. 

As it stands his waiting all this time not to tell will almost surely make it hard for people to trust him when and if they find out later. 

Well, that is it for this week. I will see you all back for my review of episode two. 

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