Rupert makes a controversial decision as Survivor: Blood vs. Water kicks off with more twists than a Chubby Checker song

By Dalton Ross
Updated February 27, 2015 at 11:06 PM EST
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Credit: Monty Brinton/CBS
S27 E1
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Previously on…Survivor. Some random little girl told Malcolm he was dreamy. Brenda showed off her baby bump. Boston Rob shamelessly promoted his book. Erik was not happy about not talking. And anyone who did not make it to either the jury or the stage looked like they were having about as much fun as Colton at an NAACP rally.

Oh, but that is soooooooo last season. It’s time for 20 new suckers…er, contestants to freeze, starve, and suffer for our enjoyment. And it’s time for them to suffer alongside their loved ones, because it’s time for Survivor: Blood vs. Water! And I have a special treat for you. Joining me on recap duties this week will be none other than self-proclaimed OG Gervase Peterson! Gervase and I hit it off when I followed him and his niece Marissa around on Day Zero, so he kindly agreed to join me here. Gervase will pop in with the occasional commentary as he sees fit. So anyway, let’s get started, everyone!

I’ve been calling this the most twist-heavy season in Survivor history, and it begins with one right off the bat: Day Zero. As Probst told me, Day Zero was an idea instituted by Mark Burnett because Probst wanted to vote people off their tribe at the very start and Burnett thought it was too mean so came up with the plan to at least allow them to spend a night together with a loved one — alone. Each of the pairs is dropped off…. Hold on a second. I think Gervase is falling behind. You okay, man? Yeah, so it looks like we just need to hang out here for a bit to let Gervase catch up…He’ll only be a minute. We can just talk amongst ourselves while we wait.…………. Soooooooo, Syria. Bummer, right? Totally.………Okay, here he comes. Let’s get back to it.

So as I was saying, each of the pairs has to rough it for an evening with no supplies. Producers basically condense all this footage into five minutes to open the show because nothing really exciting happens when you have two people who get along quite swimmingly sitting there doing nothing in the dark. Over all this footage, Probst gives us voice over narration about the contestants — contestants like Kat, about whom Probst says “Now with Big Brother winner and boyfriend Hayden, they hope to go all the way.” Ummm, Jeff, not to issue a spoiler alert or anything, but I’m pretty sure Kat and Hayden have already gone all the way, if you know what I’m talking about. And I think you know what I’m talking about. (Note: I am talking about sex. They’ve had sex. That’s the message I am trying to convey.)

After more quotes are dragged out of players about how much they want to beat their loved one, we are finally off to the real start of the game as the players all congregate around Jeff Probst and a spectacular sunset. It’s no accident that Rupert and Laura are the first to… Dammit. It looks like Gervase has fallen behind again. I’m sorry about this. He promised me he had trained this time and that his endurance would not be an issue. Let’s just let him catch his breath here. You good, Gerv? No, no, it’s cool. Take your time, man. We’ll wait.…… Let’s just chat for a bit to give my mind some time. Sooooooo, Sleepy Hollow. You watch? Weird, right? How does the guy see if he has no eyes? CRAZY!…… Hold on, I have an idea. Yo, Aras! Can you get back there and push Gervase? Thanks, bro. And sorry for calling you bro.

NEXT: Welcome to your new tribe. Now get lost!

Alright, that should help. So as I was saying, the couples all come out having spent the night together and — SURPRISE! — Probst tells them they’re going to be split up. But the excitement over this switcheroo is lost amidst another mind-blowing revelation — Jeff Probst has already designated upon which player he is going to bestow the special season-long honor of referring to them simply by their last name. Donaldson. Savage. Penner. Cochran* (gets an asterisk because John shamelessly asked him to do it). Who will join these prestigious ranks? It is none other than…Brad! Excuse me, I mean “Culpepper.”

Curious choice by Probst here seeing as how he has already had one Culpepper on this show before — Brad’s wife — and yet she was treated as a mere mortal and called “Monica” for the duration of her stay. And now, straight out of the gate, Brad gets the Culpepper treatment?!? If I were Monica, I would be PISSED! I’d be all “How come HE gets to be Culpepper?!? Granted, it’s his birth name and I just married into it, but I was here first dammit! What makes him so damn Culpepperish that he gets to go by Culpepper?” But forget about Monica for a second: How do you think this makes fellow newbies like Bankston feel? Or Baskauskas? Or Cody, for crissakes? Cody even sounds like a first name and Probst still won’t call him Cody! That’s just plain rude, if you ask me.

But wait, the twists have just begun! After giving them their tribe designations and buffs (the yellow Galang tribe for the returning players, and red Tadhana for the newbies), Probst instructs everyone to vote someone out of their tribe right here and right now. That’s right, even Culpepper has to vote! “It’s a little early to be voting someone out, I think,” says Hayden. Tough noogies, Hayden! You’re not out there to think! The newbies must reveal their votes first and the vote is unanimous for Rupert’s wife Laura, who is PISSED. You only saw a portion of it on the actual show, but being out there a few feet away from where it was all going down, I can tell you she had a lot more to say about the instant rejection.

Then it comes time for the returnees to vote. It is a split decision between Candice and the other Laura, with Aras becoming my instant hero by voting for Gervase and his Philadelphia Eagles shirt and explaining, “I’m a Washington Redskins fan.” I don’t necessarily think that is true, because if so, I’m sure Aras and I would have had numerous conversations about my beloved football team, but I do know this: That vote was camouflage. None of them will admit it, but my take from my pre-game interviews is that Aras, Gervase and Tina struck an alliance before they ever left the United States. Unfortunately, this is commonplace on seasons with returning players. RC — who was sent home from location with her dad just two days before filming began due to his medical condition — had pre-game alliances as well and even tweeted to me about it.

Pregame alliances were rampant before the Caramoan season as well, and always have been whenever there is a large group of returning players. (So much for the show’s original premise of complete strangers meeting each other and having to work things out on the fly.) In this case, Aras, Gervase and Tina all mentioned each other to me as people they wanted to play with, so Aras’ vote for Gervase — which was made knowing he was completely safe — served the dual purpose of Aras not angering anyone else (like Candice or Laura M.) while also keeping their alliance a secret. Smart.

NEXT: Why Candice was in trouble from the get-go

In the end, Candice is voted off the tribe, which no doubt had as much to due with the fact that she arrived just 24 hours before the game began as anything else. As previously mentioned, RC and her dad were pulled from the game due to his blood pressure (you can hear Probst talking all about it right here) so producers flew Candice and husband John out from Washington D.C. last minute. They weren’t even there when we began doing our pre-game interviews, arriving at the very end of the day. They means they were more of an unknown than anyone else, and in this game, an unknown is a danger. While the newbies probably didn’t want to sacrifice John’s strength, the returnees were more than happy to ship Candice off, having no clue where she stood in this game. There’s no doubt she came into this game at a severe disadvantage due to her late arrival.

Clearly on a mission to break the land speed record for most twists per second, Probst then throws out another doozy: Redemption Island is back! And then he throws out another: If either of the loved ones of the people just voted out want to change places with their spouse, they can. Rupert doesn’t even wait for Probst to finish so he can take his wife’s spot, but the host stops him: “Let me tell you the consequences.” Probst explains that if Rupert chooses to go to Redemption, then Laura will join the tribe of retuning players. No offense to Laura, but that is a CLEAR downgrade for Galang. “Oh, Rupert, don’t,” pleads Tina. Silly Tina, don’t worry about it, Rupert would never do something that stupid. After all, he then gets his entire tribe pissed at him, puts himself in a position to potentially be the first one out, and puts his wife on at tribe that will then most likely want to get rid of her at the first opportunity because she is an outsider. So then they’re both screwed. It just makes no sense. No way that he…. Oh, never mind. He just did it.

“I was really ticked when Rupert switched with Laura,” Tina tells us later. “Right off the bat he weakens our tribe.” You should be ticked, Tina. You know who else is ticked? Candice! Candice told me in our pre-game chat that she hates Rupert. And now — because her husband has a brain and won’t swap places because he doesn’t want to get his entire tribe pissed at him and then vote his wife out there as well — she is stuck with him at Redemption Island. I smell a sitcom: Beauty & The Boneham!

So off to the tribe beaches we finally go and…oh, well, will you look at that. My recap partner Gervase Peterson has finally caught up. If you want to call it that. Aras is actually carrying Gervase on his back to get him back up to speed, but whatever. Hey, Gervase!

“DON’T LET THAT FOOL YOU!”

Sorry? Don’t let what fool me, Gervase? The fact that you could not keep up with my recap? Which is kind of amazing considering how many tangents I go on that go absolutely nowhere. I mean, a semi-proficient doggie paddle would have been enough to keep pace with me.

“DON’T LET THAT FOOL YOU!”

Again, I’m not really sure what you’re taking about here. Are you misquoting The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again?” Or perhaps the incredible old King Cobra malt liquor jingle “Don’t Let The Smooth Taste Fool Ya” (starring Fred “The Hammer” Williamson)? Not trying to be rude, but I’m not quite understanding in what capacity I was actually fooled.

“DON’T LET THAT FOOL YOU! DON’T LET THAT FOOL YOU!”

So, are you trying to imply that you were faking your lack of endurance as some sort of trick or ploy for no reason whatsoever? Because that seems to be what you’re implying.

“DON’T LET THAT FOOL YOU!”

Okay, we’re done here. Let’s move on, people.

We start out at the Galang beach, where instead of having Rupert around to go and catch fish, the returning players get to watch Laura not know how to cut open a coconut. “I so wish your husband was here right now, Laura,” says Aras in probably the most unintentionally mean thing he has ever said in his entire life. But Aras should be super-stoked that Tyson is around, because even though Tyson’s girlfriend has no idea what he is talking about, the man can make a fire — even without flint. To quote Darth Vader, the dark lord of the Sith: impressive, most impressive.

NEXT: Candice + Rupert = Awkward Living Situation

Over at Tadhana, Brad — excuse me, “Culpepper” — is still upset about the bonehead comment he made at the opening about not going all out against his wife’s tribe at a challenge, so he decides to make up for it by doing some homoerotic bathing in a local waterfall with John. He then decides to unleash his master plan for tribal domination — a sausage party alliance. “We’ve got five guys right now,” Culpepper tells John. “We got four guys and a gay guy.” (Is that somehow different from simply five guys? In Brad’s mind, does the gay guy only count as half a guy or something? Judging by a later explanation to the camera, math can be a little confusing at times in the Culpepper household. Sounds like it’s time to sue the NFL again!)

Next up, it’s time to play a game of Who Has a More Screwed Up Past?! Our first contestant is…Ciera Eastin! Turns out Ciera was impregnated in high school and became a teen mom. She then got pregnant again by a different dude and married the second baby daddy. Oooooooh, that’s gonna be tough to beat. Let’s now meet contestant number two…Vytas Baskauskas! Vytas was a full-on heroin junkie and got to the point where he “dropped out of college, was living on the street and robbing people every day to get my fix.” BUT WAIT! THERE’S MORE! He also spent a year in prison at the L.A. County jail. And now, let’s meet our third and final contestant…Brad “Culpepper” Culpepper! Brad…um, was an All-American college football player and…er, made tons of money playing in the NFL for nine seasons and…uh, married a hot babe and is pretty much set for life. WHO THE HELL LET BRAD CULPEPPER INTO THIS GAME?

While all the sob stories may be going on over at Tadhana, the actual sobbing is taking place at Galang thanks to Colton, who starts weeping for reasons that are a little unclear. I guess he misses his fiancé Caleb. That’s sweet. But he’s Colton, so everyone else just looks at him as if they are very confused.

Hey, I wonder what BFFs Candice and Rupert are up to over on Redemption Island. Let’s go take a look, shall we? Candice has found a fantastic way to get out her aggression, calling out the names of the people who voted her out while swinging a big machete into a coconut. I wonder if she feels any better about her main man Rupert. “Living with Rupert is extremely annoying to say the least.” I guess not! Candice complains that she does all the work while Rupert just sleeps and wades in the water (“It’s infuriating actually”), while Rupert says he has never won an individual immunity challenge because he always overworks himself. Sounds like a perfect marriage.

Speaking of challenges, let’s head to the season’s first immunity contest. But before that can begin, the newbies must lie and say they have fire. I love when people spew totally pointless lies on this show, like make up a fake profession when they don’t have to and claim to have things at camp they don’t have. What’s the advantage in lying here? Is that supposed to intimidate the returnees or something? Totally unnecessary.

NEXT: Gervase ≠ Aquaman

The challenge has six people from each team racing out in the water over a series of obstacles until they get to a boat. The teams then need to untie their boat and paddle it (and the puzzle pieces onboard) back to shore where the three remaining players will do a ship wheel puzzle. As I laid down pre-challenge predictions with members of the crew and other members of the press, we all unanimously had the newbies winning this one. Just too much strength, especially now that Galang’s strongest member — Rupert — had just removed himself from the tribe. And we were right…for the first half of it.

While the players had to go over a series of obstacles to get to their boat, Galang’s biggest obstacle was, in fact, Gervase. I asked Gervase before the game if he had worked on his swimming and he assured me he had. Liar. Just a few strokes out and the dude was spent. Aras — who is a tremendous athlete — had to stay back and help him. Gervase swims and climbs blocks the way I write recaps — which is to say, taking waaaaaaaaay too long. It hurt to watch. And, judging by his gigantic belly flop, it hurt to perform.

Amazingly, Galang somehow manages to catch up as the newbies cannot get their boat untied — until they decide to start paddling backwards. BACKWARDS! Yes, you actually have the entire tribe paddling with their backs to the beach at one point. You also have Kat and Colton yelling back and forth at each other, culminating with Colton’s evil stare down and threat: “Shut up and paddle! Before I hit you with this f—ing paddle!” (So much for the kinder, gentler Colton 2.0.)

But it ultimately all comes down to the puzzle, and Ciera and Katie (along with Caleb) are simply smoked by their moms Laura and Tina (along with Monica). This leads to much jubilation among the Galang tribe, including the oddest smack talk I’ve ever seen in my life. I have never seen one player perform so poorly and yet gloat so wildly than my main man Gervase did here, practically having to be restrained by his teammates while delivering his now infamous “DON’T LET THAT FOOL YOU!” over and over again. The members of Tadhana seem mildly annoyed by the display, but are probably more confused as to why Colton is crying…again. (Where’s a #SURVIVOR BREAKDOWN on-screen social media plug when you need one?)

Back at camp, Marissa tries to distance herself from her uncle’s display, but it’s too late. It’s already made her a target — specifically, Brad’s target. The only question going into Tribal Council is whether it will be her voted out, or will it be Katie, for not doing more during the puzzle portion of the challenge? Which way will the five-person strong Bromance alliance go?

At Tribal Council, Probst does his best to make John feel super guilty about not trading places with Candice (even though he totally did the right thing) while Brad and Vytas discuss Gervase adding insult to injury with his taunting. “Wow, that would be devastating to get voted out of this game for something you didn’t do, but that your uncle did,” Probst says to Marissa. Nice! Honestly, at this point I’m half surprised Probst does not walk right over, slice her hand open with a machete, and pour a big bag of salt directly into it.

NEXT: My pick to win it all. Probst predicts what happens next!

But often that’s all it takes in this game — anything to set you apart from the others. Anything to give them an excuse to vote somebody else out that is not them. And sure enough, when the votes come back, Marissa is kicked out with five, just one vote more than the four cast for drawn-in Frowny Faces. (Just once I’d like to see someone draw a smiley face next to someone’s name when they are voting them out instead of a frowny face. The frowny face has become an annoying Survivor cliché the same way contestants on American Idol all hold up the number of fingers on their hands to correspond to the number you are supposed to be dial to keep them safe. Drives me absolutely bonkers, and I don’t know why.)

So Marissa is off to Redemption Island to face Rupert and Candice in our first duel. (Another group duel, something I thought we were done with after the first Redemption Island season, but apparently not.) And we are off into another season of Survivor. And that means the time has come for me to make my episode 1 pick to win it all. This one will not surprise. I tweeted a while back how my pre-game interview with Aras and Vytas was one of the most impressive I have ever had. I loved their approach to the game, strategic outlook, and ability to adapt socially to whatever is thrown their way. Since returning players naturally have the edge and Aras has proven he knows what it takes to win, I’ll go with him as my episode 1 pick to win it all. And it’s not just because he said he was a Redskins fan! Seriously! I swear!

Now is the part of the recap where I get to tell you about all the goodies we’ll have for you throughout the season, starting in the video player below, where you can see an exclusive deleted scene from last night’s episode as well as a special video of Jeff Probst taken just minutes after Tribal Council ended, where he breaks it all down for you while also predicting what will happen next. Speaking of Probst, we’ll be doing our weekly Q&As as well, so you can click over here for that. Once contestants start getting eliminated we’ll be talking to them on Entertainment Weekly Radio (Sirius XM 105) and will be getting the audio from those interviews up here on EW.com as well. And, of course, you can have all this nonsense sent right to your virtual doorstep by following me on Twitter @DaltonRoss.

But now it’s your turn. What did you think of the Survivor: Blood vs. Water premiere? Did Rupert blow it? And who are you loving and loathing so far? Hit the message boards to let us know. Speaking of which, PLEASE DO NOT POST SPOILERS IN THE MESSAGE BOARDS! It is super uncool. Please do not be super uncool. Okay, that’s it for now, but have at it, and I’ll be back next week with another scoop of the crispy!

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Survivor

Jeff Probst leads adventures in the ultimate (and original) reality series.

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