Survivor history is made, but for one player, it is the worst kind of history

By Dalton Ross
Updated February 27, 2015 at 11:24 PM EST
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Image Credit: Monty Brinton/CBS

Survivor

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I am a fountain of embarrassment. One time in high school I drunkenly tried to impress a girl at a party by showing her my super-awesome-trampoline-flip. Instead I showed her my super-awesome-face-plant-into-painful-unpadded-coil-springs. (The fact that I thought jumping around on a trampoline in high school was cool is embarrassment enough.) Another time, while at a country music awards show, I asked some guy I did not know named Keith Urban if country music singers really drank as much as they sang about drinking, or if it was all just a lot of embellishment to make them seem more badass. Turns out Urban had just gotten out of rehab. Whoops! (In my defense, Kenny Chesney had forced me to consume moonshine mere moments earlier, so I wasn’t exactly in my right mind.) And then there was the time I got so sunburned on national television that I had to walk around with a purple shawl over my head. (No, hold on, that was Cochran. Sorry, I get my skinny dorks confused sometimes.)

The point is, I’ve had my fair share of humiliation. But I’m not sure anything I have done can match up to what transpired last night. You go on Survivor and get voted out first? That’s bad. You go on Survivor TWICE and get voted off first both times? Well, I honestly don’t think there is a word for that. Oh, wait, yes there is — FRANCESCA!

When it comes to Survivor sad sacks, a lot of people put Matt Elrod at the top of the list. Matt got blindsided by Boston Rob, worked his way back from Redemption Island…and then got immediately blindsided again. But don’t forget about Wanda and Jonathan from Palau. They never even made it onto a tribe, as neither was selected in an episode 1 schoolyard pick’em. (Some said that was unfair because they never got a chance to play. I say it was completely fair because you start playing the game the second you lay eyes on the other contestants. Plus, they had 24 hours on the beach to make buddies before the pick went down. So tough noogies for them.)

But what happened to Francesca is far, far worse. Because her reign of error extends over multiple seasons in multiple years. Her badness knows no boundaries! The oddest part about all of this is that I have always named Francesca as my favorite first boot ever. I love the gal! I consider her both smart and funny. I was ecstatic that they brought her back. It really was a no-lose proposition as far as I was concerned: Either she does much better and rescues her reputation, or she gets voted out first again, which would be hilarious. And I’m okay with calling out someone’s misery as hilarious for two reasons. 1). It was hilarious. And 2.) I know Francesca well enough to be confident that even she can’t help but find some humor in the situation. I mean, what else can you do in that situation except laugh? And maybe eat rocks. (Hey, she promised!)

I actually think from here on out they should bring Francesca back for every season, and have her voted out first every time. It would be like the Survivor version of “They killed Kenny!” Well, on the positive side, at least Phillip got her name right this time. And now she is part of Survivor history, even if it is for all of the wrong reasons. But while it may have been the end of Francesca (again), it is the start of another Survivor season premiere recap (again). So let’s get to how it all went down.

The show starts off with people we don’t know (Fans, they’re called) talking about how cool it is to get a chance to play, which is followed by the biggest Survivor blooper reel you have ever seen in your life. One by one, we are reminded of all the boneheaded blunders the returning players made their first time out — moves so shocking that we are once again treated to the shot of Eliza Orlins opening her mouth so wide you could fit all of Shamar through it. Seriously, that shot has been used so often throughout the years that at this point Eliza should be paid royalties on it.

NEXT: Malcolm performs a pants-off dance-off

But these Fans are going to be huge threat to the Favorites…if they can just get out of their boat without falling on their asses, that is. (Sorry, Michael, but you know the rule: You fall down, we laugh at you. Just ask Rafe.) After removing himself from a miraculous rocky peak that shockingly does not cause him to somehow plummet to his death, Probst welcomes the newbies and informs them, “This season you will be playing against some of your favorite Survivors from past seasons!” He neglects to add “And some dude you don’t know because his season just wrapped 17 days ago and has not aired yet, but just play along. Also, if you could play along like you remember Francesca, that would be cool too.”

The Favorites come out one by one, led by Cochran in his go-to red sweater vest that has acquired magical properties that now transfer its colors directly from fabric to skin. “This is lunch meat right here,” says Shamar, who has probably gone without eating for a whopping 3 hours by this point. Luckily, none of the Favorites suggest to him that shelter is more important than fire or else things could have gotten really ugly.

But they’re not all gathered here for mere introductions and boasting. Probst is gonna put these cats through a challenge right here and right now. The contest is reminiscent of the time they had an opening reward challenge from Heroes vs. Villains. This time two members from each tribe will race out to get a ring. Both teams try to get it back to their pole while doing their best impersonations of various WWE stars. The winners receive flint and 20 pounds of beans, which sounds vaguely like the name of a hipster indie rock band.

After the teams split the first two rounds, things get a bit feisty. Phillip and Brenda take on Sherri and Michael, with the Specialist attacking Michael in his pink undies, dragging the Fan while yelling, “Come with me, boy!” And Michael does come with him. The Favorites go up 2-1. Then it’s time for Cochran and Francesca to go against Matt and Laura. In a masterstroke of equal parts strategy and condescension, the fellow Favorites yell at Cochran to “take the girl!” When I spoke with Arlene Cochran on last week’s first ever Survivor Momcast, she talked all about her fear of son John being embarrassed on national television. Hearing your tribemates not have enough faith in you to take on someone of your same gender would seem to fall under that category. But you know what? It works! Faves up 3-1.

The last round causes the simultaneous fainting of millions of girls (and plenty of boys too, no doubt) upon the following words from Probst: “Malcolm losing his shorts!” As if that wasn’t enough, then Erik — clearly making an early play for the Fan Favorite vote — screams at Malcolm to “Go naked!” Unfortunately, censors have their way and Malcolm’s nether regions are blurred out as he clinches the victory. (Sorry, ladies.) Now let’s go check out the tribe camps before Brandon starts beating his chest in celebration and tackling people. Whoops! Too late!

NEXT: We didn’t start the fire. Oh, wait, yes we did!

Over at the Fans beach — the tribe is technically called Gota, but we won’t even bother with that designation unless the tribes get shuffled — the group is attempting to set a Survivor land speed record for fastest feud as Shamar and Matt disagree over whether it’s important to spend energy on fire or shelter. It’s kind of like one of those old Miller Light ads from the 1970s. Less filling! Tastes great! Less filling! Tastes great! They’re both right!

Shamar definitely seems like he’s overreacting, and that perception of him does not improve when we later see him just chillin’ while the others work on making the fire he deemed so vital. “I’m gonna be the marine who came in at the end and just smashed ‘em,” he tells us. But then he does! He smashes ‘em! Shamar and Michael actually make fire without flint — something we did not witness much of at all in early seasons, but have seen more and more of lately. Pretty impressive.

Later, we finally get some strategy. Two guys I don’t know (Reynold and Eddie…I think?) start to talk alliance. Then one of them (Reynold…maybe?) approaches a blonde girl (I’m going to go with Allie on this one) to make a secret final two alliance. The Contestant Suspected of Being Named Reynold says she’s a perfect alliance-mate because “She’s not the cutest,” which, of course, is exactly what every woman wants to hear about herself. What a charmer!

Then the most annoying double date in Survivor history continues as we see The Contestant I Am Relatively Confident is Named Eddie hanging out with yet another blonde at night. I know this one’s name is Hope. I know this because Eddie addresses her as Hope. Then again, he just met her so maybe he can’t remember her name either. “Me and Hope are the two best looking people here,” he informs us. “And I’m not just saying that. That’s just the way it is.” Here’s also the way it is, Eddie: That is literally one of the most revolting comments I have ever heard in my life. Seriously, is there a less attractive quality that rampant narcissism?

As everyone goes to sleep, Reynold and Allie get hot and heavy in the shelter — definitely petting, and probably making out as well, although I can never tell what’s going on with those night vision cameras that make you feel like you’re on a midnight safari spying on animals in the wild — which I suppose is kind of what we are doing here anyway. Glad to see Reynold is not too put off by her being “not the cutest.” Of course, she can’t be the cutest because evidently Eddie and Hope are the cutest. Sorry, Allie.

The next day we are treated to shots of the flirty foursome hanging out in the water together. “This is like the cool kid lunch table back in high school,” Eddie enlightens us. “Everybody wants to sit at the cool kid lunch table, but you got to work your way in. But I don’t think anybody else is going to be at our table.” Wow, is it possible to make a worse first impression on viewers? Well, here’s the thing, Eddie. The cool kids are usually not the smart kids. And I look at your group and I see four people. That, my friend, makes you a minority in a tribe of 10. The Shirtless Knucklehead alliance of One World made the same mistake and got wiped out. Math! It’s math, people! Maybe cool kids don’t like math.

The women on the outside of this group clearly see what’s going on so make a plan to group together and get rid of them, but Michael wants to check with his BFF Matt and see which way they should go. I like this move: carefully consider all your options alongside a person you really trust. I’m very curious to watch these two and see where their loyalties eventually turn.

NEXT: Phillip sends his errand boy…named Phillip

Oh, Favorites, I didn’t forget about you. The Favorites tribe — or Bikal, if you want to get technical — is all strategy talk all the time. There are so many alliances formed featuring so many combinations of people that I can’t keep it all straight. We do get to see the first real interaction between Phillip and Francesca since their Redemption Island feud and it is as awkward and delicious as one would hope, with Francesca extending the lamest olive branch imaginable, and Phillip basically shoving it back in her face by saying pretty much nothing.

That does not mean Phillip has nothing to say. Phillip has plenty to say, because that’s one of his B.R. Rules: Keep talking even when nobody is listening. The B.R. Rules, it turns out, are a bunch of rules inspired by Boston Rob. Phillip only mentions the first three on air, but in an EW.com exclusive, I have obtained the full list of rules which I present now for your edification.

THE B.R. RULES

Rule #1: Get in an alliance.

Rule #2: Get in an alliance within an alliance.

Rule #3: Get rid of your alliance before it gets rid of you.

Rule #4: Marshmallows.

Rule #5: Promote own line of saggy pink undies for sale. Code Name: Sheppard’s Pie.

Rule #6: Find heaviest, nosiest blue shoes on planet Earth.

Rule #7: Keep talking even when nobody is listening

Rule #8: Make love to Boston Rob.

Rule #9: Take anti-dry mouth medicine.

Rule #10: Convince Probst to model/promote Sheppard’s Pie undies at next Tribal Council.

Rule #11 — Amendment: Change the name of The B.R. Rules to eliminate confusion with the tribe’s other B.R. Rules, which refer to the Bathroom Rules of performing as many “aqua dumps” as possible.

Phillip goes on his own alliance-making spree and — he being The Specialist — even comes up with fancy nicknames for everyone. Corinne becomes “The Dominatrix” (which feels a bit on the nose if you ask me) while Andrea is hereby dubbed “The Eliminator.” No word on if Cochran is allowed to have another nickname after Coach already dubbed him “Zeus” his last time out. How many nicknames can one man have? Phillip ends things with a bizarre conversation with Erik in which he threatens the former ice cream scooper to join him or get voted out, yet ends with the claim that, “By the way, I’m just a messenger. I was sent. I’m an errand boy.” Way to pull the wool over his eyes, Specialist! Erik does not react well to the threat: “He’s a combative idiot loser who makes everybody crazy.”

NEW ADDITION TO THE FORMERLY NAMED B.R. RULES

Rule #12 — Amendment: Immediately rescind Erik’s bestowed nickname of Sir Scoop-a-Lot.

Hold on a second. Have you noticed that something has been seriously off with this episode of Survivor? It’s not just me, right? Something just feels missing. Oh, I know what it is! A John Cochran confessional! We’re about 45 minutes into the premiere and the man who loves nothing more than to boast about his record-setting confessional count in Survivor: South Pacific has not spoken a single word directly to camera! I can just picture the law student sitting at home pacing in front of the television and yelling at Arlene: “Mom, my confessional count for the season is shot to hell! I knew I shouldn’t have played on a season with Phillip Sheppard! This is a travesty!” Alas, we finally do hear from Cochran in perhaps the most Cochran-like confessional of all time as the man Probst dubbed “Survivor nerd” complains of a massive sunburn. On his feet, arms, head, everywhere. “I feel like crying, kinda,” he tells us, but doesn’t because he wants to seem tough. At least as tough as a guy who was not allowed to guard another guy in a reward challenge can be.

NEXT: Birds of a feather flock together — especially when that feather is giving up immunity

Finally we are off to the Immunity Challenge, which involves both teams racing in pairs up a four story tower to toss crates of sand bags over the side. Then, the last remaining pair on each team collects the sand bags and has to throw six bags into six spots. I’m generally a fan of any challenge that goes vertical, like that crazy vertical maze they did in Vanuatu, which, coincidentally enough, Scout is finally finishing up right now as we speak. This one is not as epic as that, but still cool in that people go up and things get smashed. In the end, Reynold uses his sand bag throwing prowess to come from behind and turn a 3-0 deficit to Malcolm into a 6-3 win for the Fans.

When the Faves return to the beach, oddly there is no talk whatsoever of ousting the one guy most responsible for their loss — Malcolm. Predictably, Francesca targets Phillip and Phillip targets Francesca. Well, target is underselling it a bit. He also threatens to burn down her village, and kill off her aunts, uncles, and children so none of her kind will ever exist again. Sounds a bit extreme, but okay.

The interesting person at play here is Andrea, whom both Phillip and Francesca consider to be in their corner. Turns out Fran is the one who is mistaken as The Eliminator goes and squeals to The Specialist about the plan to get rid of him. Everything goes haywire. How haywire? So haywire that the two people who gave up their immunities — Erik and Brandon — now appear to be in an alliance together! I asked Erik about this delicious possibility before the game began and now it seems like it actually has come true. Amazing! Misery loves company, I guess. To their credit, they sniff out that Andrea is playing both sides, so attempt to convince Francesca to change her vote to Andrea. And while listening to two guys who gave away their immunity necklaces might not be the soundest strategic advice in most circumstances, she does so here. But do they even have the votes to pull it off?

At Tribal Council, we learn they do not as Francesca is let go by a vote of 6-4 (Brenda was the fourth vote for Andrea). We also learn that Phillip is now able to say Francesca’s name correctly (I don’t buy his line about purposefully mispronouncing it last time) and that Malcolm’s sense of humor is still intact as he touches Cochran’s shoulder to mimic Boston Rob tipping off his tribemates whom to vote off. (Is that one of the B.R. Rules?)

All in all, a very satisfying start to another season. It’s nice to see Andrea playing the game hard, but is she playing it too hard, too early? Playing both sides can definitely get you in trouble. And which way will Michael and Matt go? Their votes could determine the balance of power on the Fans side. Also, this just in: Phillip Sheppard has never been voted off of an episode of Survivor. Chew on that for a while.

And while you’re chewing, also make sure to take a taste of this week’s Q&A with Jeff Probst, where he provides behind the scenes info and analysis. Good stuff, as always. (You’ll also want to listen in on our Probstcast, where the host discusses his critics, who’s responsible for spoilers, the possibility of an all-winners season, and more). You can also enjoy an exclusive deleted scene in the video player below. And for more Survivor news and views, follow me on Twitter @DaltonRoss. Now, it’s your turn. What did you think of the Survivor: Caramoan premiere? Hit the message boards to let us know, 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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