Survivor season premiere recap: Cagayan' premiere recap: Brain Drain
“We’re not very smart for the Brains tribe.” — Kass
First off, that is an understatement of massive proportions and somewhat akin to saying “On second thought, the Medallion of Power may not have been the best idea after all.” But here is what is absolutely remarkable about that quote. It came before the Brains tribe showed that they could not figure out how to get a trunk through a barricade without all the puzzle pieces falling out — leading Probst to comment that “Whatever brains they had have clearly evaporated 72 hours into this game. It’s unbelievable how far behind they are!” It happened before Kass told J’Tia to her face on day three that she was voting her out, leading to the others organizing to oust David instead. It happened before Cliff and Woo almost sunk their boat (which I realize involves a completely different tribe, but at this point why not just pile on and blame the alleged brainiacs for everything). It happened before the Brains tribe got to the puzzle portion of their second immunity challenge with a lead roughly equivalent to the length of a compilation of everything ever narrated by Morgan Freeman and still somehow managed to completely blow it. A puzzle portion! For the Brains tribe! Think about that for a second.
It also happened before Garrett decided it would be a simply fantastic idea to once again tell J’Tia right to her face that she was being voted out and then forbidding any additional strategy talk. Oh, and it also happened before one of the tribe members went and poured out all off their rice into the fire. That’s right, THE BRAINS TRIBE GOT FREAKIN’ HANTZED! (Is that now a thing, pouring out your own rice? Is that Brandon’s lasting legacy on this show? That and staring creepily at Mikayla?) But wait, it also happened before Garrett gave what has to be considered one of the worst Tribal Council performances of all time. And it happened before the tribe decided to KEEP THE PERSON WHO DUMPED OUT ALL OF THEIR RICE!!! It also happened before Garrett decided to not even bring his hidden immunity to Tribal Council, leaving it back at camp as he was voted out of the game
So if the Brains tribe was not very smart according to Kass at that point in time for merely not being able to build a shelter, what are they now? I’m open to suggestions. Morons? Idiots? Nincompoops? Okay, that’s mean. Plus, there has been no indication that Spencer and Tasha are anything but smart. But as a tribe, these guys suck big time. I mean, even David royally blew it right out of the gate when he showed not a speck of concern over naming Garrett his tribe’s weakest player — in effect outing himself as a hardcore gamer and paving the road for his own exit. That is not how you play Survivor, people. And I guess that’s what this ultimately comes down to: Survivor smarts. And these knuckleheads seemingly have none of them.
But I celebrate these knuckleheads and congratulate them on their knucklehead ways, because they helped make for one of the most entertaining first nights of Survivor ever. Does that mean the season will follow suit? Who knows? After all, I thought the Redemption Island premiere was maybe the series’ best first outing ever, but the rest of the season didn’t follow suit. However, it’s hard not to get excited about a great start. And it’s hard not to get excited about the fact that this great start comes courtesy of a cast with all newbies, proving you don’t always need returning players to make compelling television. But can I make a compelling recap? Let’s find out and take this bad boy from the very top!
NEXT: It’s the return of Twistapalooza!
It’s a battle of the braggarts! The season begins with shots of the contestants converging on a field insterspliced with footage of the players telling us how awesome they are. Spencer boasts about how genius and diabolical he is, and uses his tying for first place in a big chess tournament as evidence. Kass tells us her track record as an attorney is undefeated. Morgan informs us that “from a guy, I usually get what I want,” while Jefra talks about getting second place at the Miss Kentucky pageant three years in a row…which actually sounds more sad than impressive. I mean, three years in a row? It’s like, take the hint, woman!
But wait, here are some more people that want to brag! “I’m super smart” says Tasha. “They don’t want to look at ugly girls all day,” explains Alexis as to why she won’t get voted off. “I will go down as one of the best players to play,” claims Spencer. Hold on, Spencer again?!? Get out of here, buddy. You already had your turn. Just for once I’d love for the show to can these Big Brother-type pre-game boasts and just have someone come out and be all like, “Yeah, I could do okay. Really depends mostly on luck. We’ll see.”
While all this is happening, Jeff Probst has somehow managed to get himself stuck up on a treacherous island mountain peak. No idea how he is planning to get down from there. Yet somehow — after delivering his famous “One Survivor!” line — he does and now he is on that field waiting for the contestants to show up. It’s the Survivor version of planes, trains, and automobiles as the players arrive by truck (the Brawn tribe), a boat (the Beauty tribe), and by helicopter (the Brains tribe, who win a point for coolest mode of transportation. It is the only point they will win all night.).
Probst lets the players figure out whether they are Beauty, Brawn, or Brains, and that takes all of three seconds. But then: TWIST TIME! The host forces each tribe to pick a leader. Well, that seems a bit random, but okay. Ah-ha, but with great power comes great responsibility, and with great responsibility comes the opportunity to screw yourself over in a big way. That’s because the newly appointed tribe leaders now need to pick out the person they deem the least valuable in their group. Beauty leader LJ picks Boobs McGee (a.k.a. Morgan) because he trusts cute more than hot and Boobs McGee is hot. At least that’s his logic. Brawn leader Sarah picks Trish, I guess because she’s older and skinnier.
Then Brains leader David — who goes to great pains to make sure we all know he is not wearing a suit because the jacket and pants do not match — picks out Garrett with nary a pause nor a trace of emotion, explaining that he is “focusing on the last two-thirds of the game.” Dude, at least fake it like you have a heart. People don’t want to align with a robot (unless it is a breakdancing robot, because breakdancing robots are awesome). By announcing you are already focusing on the last two-thirds of the game, all you are doing is making people want to get rid of you before then — in the first third of the game. Ugh.
NEXT: Gimme shelter…no seriously, can someone please make us a shelter?
But Probst now says ANOTHER big decision needs to be made. The three “weak” contestants now get to travel in advance back to the camp where they will have to make a big choice right off the bat. I love this stuff. I always like it when the show forces players to make tough calls — calls that dramatically impact their standing in the game. How do they react? What is the fallout? Good stuff. In this case that big decision back at the camp is whether the three weak players should help themselves with a clue to the whereabouts of the hidden immunity idol, or help the tribe with an extra bag of rice.
Garrett immediately takes the clue and looks for the idol, which apparently is guarded by some sort of army of killer snakes because I swear every other shot is of something slithering over or under a rock. Luckily for Garrett he does not have an Indiana Jones fear of serpents and locates the idol by a waterfall. Trish hems and haws but then decides to go for the extra rice. As for Boobs McGee, she makes every producer’s fantasy come true by stripping down to her underwear to take to the water in search of her clue. She doesn’t find it, but does something smarter than anyone on the Brains tribe will do all night long by telling the others when they arrive that the big decision was whether to pick food, shelter, and fishing stuff over comfort. The other thing of note that happens here on the Beauty beach is that Boobs McGee and Alexis both make like my girl Sally Schumann and rock the knee socks look, and it is a look I very much support.
Speaking of Survivor: Panama callbacks, is anyone else getting a Courtney Marit vibe from dreadlock sporting Lindsey? For that matter, does anyone else even remember Courtney Marit? Anyhoo, the action on the Brawn tribe mostly consists of Sarah accusing Tony of being a cop and Tony denying it. There is nothing I love more than people lying about their profession for no reason whatsoever. Seriously, who cares if you are a cop? That could even help you here. You and Sarah could have an instant cop alliance. But noooooooo, instead Tony has to needlessly fib because he’s worried if people find out he is a police officer from New Jersey they will think he is too “strategical.” As someone who lives in New Jersey I can assure him that would not be the case.
The Brains tribe beach arrival footage basically consists of J’Tia bossing everyone around on how to make a shelter and said shelter eventually collapsing, which is the perfect metaphor for these entire two hours when it comes to the Brains tribe.
Speaking of collapsing under pressure, let’s head to the evening’s first immunity challenge, in which the teams need to move a cart through an obstacle course, retrieve keys, unlock chests, put chests on a cart, dissemble the cart, go through…you know what? There are way too many directions to this challenge. They basically just have to race around and then do a puzzle, okay? First two teams get immunity and help making fire. “Disaster for the Brains tribe!” yells out Probst after they fall way behind, and it pretty much only gets worse from there. Which leads to this proclamation from the host with the most: “One of the worst performances out of the gate in the history of Survivor.” Wow, that’s saying something because there have been some absolute doozies. Beauty wins, and on a puzzle, no less. Take that, stereotypes!
NEXT: And the first loser of the season is…
So now it’s time to find out who is on the outs on the Brains tribe. David and Kass decide to get rid of J’Tia. One problem: They then proceed to go and tell her! At least Kass does, saying “Honestly, I’m leaning towards you. Because you haven’t been pulling your weight around camp.” And honestly, that was just really, really stupid. Because now J’Tia tells Tasha and Tasha tells the hairless hunky dude. And really, that’s all it takes. A new plan is hatched to take out David instead.
Off to Tribal Council we go, and a pretty rad Tribal Council set it is: a super cool vertical level hut type of construction (sorry, I’m bad at describing things). But even cooler than that is watching Garrett jump when a spider climbs on his neck and seeing Jeff Probst get absolutely, positively DRENCHED. Now I know why Probst rocks that baseball hat so much because his matted down thunderstorm hair style is not too sweet. Oh, right, the vote out. Sorry, got a bit distracted there. It’s David. He’s done, a victim of his own emotionless start to the game in which he seemed to make very few personal connections. Being cunning doesn’t work if people don’t want to play with you. “Unbelievable,” murmurs the Miami Marlins president once he discovers he is the winner of this season’s Sonja Christopher Golden Ukulele Award, given to each installment’s first boot. (Francesca Hogi is the award’s only two-time winner. Or loser, as it were.)
So that’s gonna do it for tonight’s Survivor premiere but we have plenty of other goodies for you to…wait, what? We have a whole other episode to go? And it is going to involve a contestant discussing the ins and outs — well, mostly outs — of peeing and pooping? Hot damn, let’s go!!!
Episode 2 begins with Garrett still waxed within an inch of his life and lounging in a bed of flowers with his crotch practically hanging out. A very odd confessional setting if I do say so myself. But instead of gloating in the victory of ousting his tribal enemy, Garrett looks depressed. “This is not fun for me right now, I have to be honest” he says. “Manual labor isn’t fun. Starving isn’t fun. It’s not like it’s a cool adventure for me.” And with that 10,000 remote controls smash 10,000 television sets, tossed by fans who have applied over and over again to live out the ultimate adventure on their favorite TV show. Instead, we’re stuck with a bodybuilder who doesn’t even want to be there. Anyone else having Osten Taylor flashbacks right about now? Wow, Courtney Marit and Osten Taylor callbacks in the same recap? Digging deep!
At least Garrett gets up enough energy to do a stupid handshake with Kass and Spencer while forming a new alliance. There are some divisions forming over on the Brawn tribe as well. Former NBA All-Star Cliff Robinson has a fan in Woo, who confesses to having a few of Cliff’s trading cards. So how does Cliff repay him? By capsizing their outrigger. But it’s all in good fun. Not only does Woo — and I do confess to enjoying typing the word “Woo” over and over again; much better than typing Tarzan, Troyzan, Papa Smurf and some of the other ridiculous nicknames over the years — dig Uncle Cliffy, but Lindsay and Sarah do as well. That leaves Trish and Mr. I’m Not a Cop on the outs.
But Tony has a plan to learn all the tribe’s secrets, and it is a fantastically stupid plan. It seems he has constructed something called the “Spy Shack,” which as far as I can tell consists merely of sitting behind some leaves on the other side of the shelter and listening in on people’s conversations. But Tony doesn’t just want to listen in. Apparently he also wants to take over the pride. And then kill the lion of the pride. And then kill the cubs. WHAT?!? Who the hell came up with this plan, Uncle Scar? Are there hyenas involved? Is James Earl Jones going to start speaking from the clouds?
NEXT: Is there anything J’Tia is good at?
Whatever. If they win, it won’t matter. Which brings us to the next immunity challenge. Good news! We’re heading into the water. This one has the teams swim out to a bamboo cage, jump over and into the cage, open the gate door, bring four fish traps back to shore, and then one tribe member uses the pieces inside to solve a puzzle. Since Brawn and Beauty are one member up, they each need to sit someone out. It is right around this time where I clasp my hands in prayer and chant, “Please don’t sit the black person. Please don’t sit the black person.” Samoa’s Jaison notwithstanding, Survivor has a long, unproud tradition of casting African-Americans who do not fare well in the water. It’s an uncomfortable stereotype that I never enjoy seeing played out, so I’m looking forward to seeing it smashed here. And then what happens? Brawn sits Cliff and Beauty sits Brice. DOH!
But you know what? DON’T LET THAT FOOL YOU! Because J’Tia is going to come out here and show everyone how it is done! She is going to be like Aquaman, only a female version of Aquaman that does not know how to build shelters or wear weird orange shirts. (Orrrrrrrrrrrrrr not.) J’Tia is the slowest swimmer by far, but that’s okay, she can show her worth during the puzzle portion. (Orrrrrrrrrrrrrr not.) But somehow, despite J’Tia’s lack of prowess in the water, the Brains tribe gets a huge lead going into the puzzle. The Brawn tribe is well behind and the Beauty tribe is not even in the picture. Seriously, I can’t even see them on my TV screen, that’s how out of it they are. But here’s the problem: J’Tia is on the puzzle.
Sprinkling some sort of magical witches potion (which contains the blood of two tribe members) the Brawn tribe makes a startling comeback, getting all eight pieces in before J’Tia can even get her second one in. “Are they still working on their puzzle?” marvels Sarah when she sees the Beauty tribe now beating the Brains as well. A contest that appeared to not even be close does not end close, but it is the Brains on the bottom, with J’Tia only getting two pieces in by the time Beauty comes in second place. It’s is impossible to overstate what an absolutely awful performance this is by J’Tia. And when it rains, it pours. This time, literally — as buckets of water fall from the sky. Too appropriate. Obviously we’ve seen plenty of big comebacks on this show before, but this result is truly shocking. The nuclear engineer in the “I Love Nerds” t-shirt just got absolutely smoked in a puzzle by a cop and a horse trainer. I actually think she’d still be there trying to solve that thing if Probst hadn’t whisked them away.
After a slight detour to the Brawn tribe to watch Tony coo and make weird orgasm noises while making out with his new hidden immunity idol, we head over to the Brains beach to watch the seemingly inevitable goodbye to J’Tia. As long as nobody does anything completely stupid like telling…wait, what is Garrett doing? NO! No, you don’t hold an open forum and tell someone she is the one going home and then attempt to forbid any and all strategic talk after that! Even Spencer is shocked by the stupidity, calling his alliance-mate “a first class grade A moron.”
NEXT: No scoops of the crispy for the Brains tribe
But the battle of the stupids is not truly joined until puzzle queen J’Tia — in Garrett’s preferred poker parlance — goes and decides to not only call, but raise Garrett by doing something to ensure that there is no way possible that anyone would even dare to reconsider keeping her on the tribe. She grabs the bag of rice and pours it out into the fire. That’s right: She decimates her tribe’s food supply. Gone! Done! Over! Exactly the type of thing you would expect someone with “brains” to do. By that logic, Brandon Hantz must be considered the smartest player to ever don a buff.
But here is the craziest thing of all: As bad at building shelters as she was, and as bad at swimming as she was, and as bad at puzzles as she was, and as bad at not going on a lunatic rampage and throwing out 98% of her tribe’s only guaranteed source of food as she was, J’Tia does not get voted off. BECAUSE THERE IS ACTUALLY SOMEBODY EVEN WORSE!!! Don’t believe me? Just check out Garrett’s next Tribal Council performance as he calls out having an alliance, but then backtracks on that, says J’Tia is gong home, but then says he did not say that, and basically makes no sense at all. And then they vote his ass out. Of course he could have used his hidden immunity idol…had he not left it back at the beach. No doubt about it, Garrett was terrible on many levels, but I really feel I simply cannot emphasize this one point enough: THEY KEPT THE CRAZY BROAD THAT JUST THREW OUT ALL THEIR FOOD! How nuts is that?!?
“Well, this is the oddest tribe I have ever seen,” says Probst, and I have to agree. Just truly bizarre, head-scratching stuff. And I love it. I guess I feel kinda sorry for Spencer and Tasha, who seem like normal enough people, but if their pain is viewers’ gain, that works for me. And hey, Denise and Malcolm were in just as lame a tribe in Survivor: Philippines and things turned out okay for them, so don’t rule these folks out just yet.
So, have I rambled enough for ya? (Hey, two episodes! What did you expect?) This has gone on for way too long so I will wait until next week to reveal my episode 1 pick to win it all. (Hopefully he/she is still around.) But the fun has just begun. You can read Jeff Probst’s take on all the insanity in our weekly Q&A. Also check out an exclusive deleted scene in the video player below of an encounter between Garrett and a topless J’Tia. Seriously. And for more Survivor scoop sent to you all season long, follow me on Twitter @DaltonRoss.
Now it is finally your turn. Did the Brains tribe send the right two people home? Could you keep someone that ruined all of your food? And who are you loving and loathing? Hit the message boards to let us know and I’ll be back next week with another scoop of the crispy!