An untimely injury undoes not only one of the tribes, but the premiere episode itself

By Dalton Ross
February 28, 2015 at 12:04 AM EST
Image Credit: Monty Brinton/CBS
S24 E1
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A nightmare. In a sense, that’s what the producers of Survivor had on their hands last night with the premiere of One World — a total and complete nightmare scenario. And there was not a thing they could do about it.

Here it is, a brand new season, with the show back on firmer footing after the solid South Pacific installment. Not only that, but it is going up against a clearly weakened American Idol. This is the time for Survivor to shine! You want to come out of the gate super-strong and get people pumped for a season-long adventure. And then, due to one broken wrist, you end up with only half a challenge and a phony baloney Tribal Council in which no one gets sent home. I’ve been on location for a lot of openings and seen the disappointment on the crew’s faces when something goes wrong (the first challenge in Nicaragua — in which contestants outsmarted the producers and instead of zig-zagging their gutters combined them to make one large chute, making the challenge take about 11 seconds total — leaps to mind). I wasn’t on location this time, but I can only image how bummed Probst and Co. were. And, like I said, there was nothing they could do about it.

Sure, Probst gave the men the option to continue the challenge anyway, but no one in their right mind would have agreed to that (well, maybe Brandon Hantz, but that just further illustrates my point). And they tried to keep the mystery going at Tribal Council as to what was going on with Kourtney when it was painfully obvious that if she were coming back at all it would’ve been at the very beginning of Tribal. This is what happens when you drop a bunch of random people on an island and punish them physically, mentally, and emotionally. It can make for incredible drama. Or it can make for this. You roll the dice enough times, sometimes it’s gonna come up snake eyes. The price of doing business, ladies and gentlemen.

The good news, however, is that while Kourtney’s injury (and more on that a little later) may have torpedoed the Survivor: One World premiere, it’s just one episode. And that’s not to say there weren’t plenty of other shenanigans for us to go over. So what are we waiting for? (Tarzan’s shirt to run out of batteries? Is that what we’re waiting for? Because if it is, I think we’re going to be here a long time. That thing may even be solar-powered. Or mustache powered. I’m not really sure. Let’s just move on.)

The premiere begins with Jeff Probst chillin’ in a helicopter informing us that “I’m over a remote Polynesian island,” which he declines to name (Upolu) because it marks the fourth time in the past six seasons that the show has filmed there. The players get no such joy ride, however. They are stuck in the back of a pick-up truck like day laborers being hauled to a construction site, the poor bastards. When not looking miserable or like they would cut off their left arm for a freakin’ Dramamine, several of the cast — in a time-honored Survivor tradition — take time out to inform of us of how awesome they are. There’s Colton, and Alicia, and Jonas, and…Whoa! What is with that shirt? This dude Greg appears to have swallowed a tie dyed zebra and then barfed it all back up onto his clothes. It’s quite possibly the most amazing article of clothing I have ever seen in my entire life. To be honest, I’m not even sure you can call that “clothing.” It’s more like a Timothy Leary psychedelic nightmare or the entire color palate of the Wachowski siblings’ Speed Racer remake.

NEXT: The ultimate strip tease

Eventually Probst and the contestants make like the Wonder Twins and combine their awesome powers on the ground. He motions to the lady who has decided to wear a wool hat like a Williamsburg hipster in the Samoan summer and asks where she fits in with the other women. “Nowhere. At all,” answers Kourtney. Great. Tell everyone you are an outcast before you have even shared a single word with them. Brilliant strategy.

I’m going to skip right over Colton telling everyone how he is better looking than all the other men and get straight to Greg, who informs us that we should call him Tarzan. This is distressing news to the guy on his tribe who wants everyone to call him Troyzan. That right — Tarzan and Troyzan. Could the self-appointed Survivor nickname game get any more desperate? STOP THE MADNESS! And memo to the producers: If you’re going to cast a Tarzan and a Troyzan, at that point shouldn’t you at least go “all in” and get a Jane as well? (How had can it be to find a Jane when you’ve already located two people obsessed with Tarzan?) And why stop there? You may as well just tell one of the other dudes to call himself “Cheetah” to complete the whole Greystoke theme. Jonas, your name is now Cheetah. Roll with it.

Probst finally interrupts this madness to say the words we’ve all been waiting to hear: “I’m gonna give you 60 seconds to strip everything you can off…this truck.”  DOH! At least the camera operators do their best to make up for this tease by sticking their lenses halfway down Chelsea’s top for the remainder of the episode. While the other contestants scramble to obtain as many items as they can, Mike channels his inner Rupert and goes and begins stealing items from the women’s pile.

“You better watch your items,” Probst warns the women, who react by not watching their items. “The game has definitely already begun,” Probst warns them again as the women ignore him and Mike continues to steal with impunity. Controversial move by Mike here. On one hand, it shows the guy is clever and just won some points with his tribe for his ingenuity. On the other hand, you just potentially made enemies right off the bat. In a game based on likability, that could cost you (if they even realize that he was the one who did it).

Before the teams make their way to the camp, Probst informs them that there will be hidden immunity idols but no Redemption Island, sending up cheers from California to the New York Island, from the redwood forest to the gulf stream waters (this show was made for you and me). Now the tribes just need to find their way to their respective camps. Tarzan tells us that the hike is positively brutal and that the camp is “hundreds of miles away.” Considering that the entire island of Upolu (where this season was filmed) is all of 47 miles long, I find that math to be highly suspect. I also have a hard time taking Greg seriously when every time he talks it says “TARZAN Plastic Surgeon” on the screen. Is that just me?

The women’s trek is slightly more entertaining, and not just for “Chelsea boob cam.” Kourtney already senses that having a tribe of all women is going to be a problem: “I’m a girl. I know, I’m crazy. We’re all crazy!” Kourtney is right in worrying, as five of the ladies (Alicia, Kim, Chelsea, Sabrina, and Kat) set a land speed record for alliance-forming by teaming up before the group even reaches the beach. And when they do reach the beach (shout out to The Fixx, ya’ll!), they and the men discover the biggest twist of all — they’ll be living together, or at least a few feet from each other.

NEXT: Dudes without shirts; a woman without shame

Hmmm, what sort of drama might unfold from this unique arrangement? Let’s release a few chickens and find out! The two sides seem to strike a deal to work together and split whatever chickens they catch, but when country girl Chelsea snags two with her bare hands (perhaps the birds mere mesmerizing by her heaving bosoms), the women invoke the all powerful “finder keepers, losers weepers” amendment. But Matt is not weeping. Matt is pissed. He says they don’t need the women and he has his own power alliance with Jay, Mike, and Bill. “We’re the young fit guys,” he informs us, just in case we hadn’t noticed them strutting around showcasing their shirtless and heavily waxed torsos. This self-proclaimed hot dude alliance is just BEGGING to be hated by the underdog-loving viewing public, especially when Matt brags that, “I’m in the group and I’m happy and it’s the dominant alliance — clearly. So I’m sitting pretty as far as I’m concerned.” So, let’s see — in those past two sentences alone, Matt managed to use the words “young,” “fit,” “dominant,” and “pretty.” It seems the only one he forgot was “humble.” (Also, isn’t five the magic alliance number in a nine person tribe? Just sayin’.)

But Matt and the men have one thing the women do not — fire. The ladies immediately make their way over to try and sweet talk the males into sharing. Once Sabrina’s offer of a chicken-for-fire trade is rejected, the ever-classy Alicia attempts to simply steal the fire and then whore out one of her tribemates by saying Monica will drop her pants in exchange for it. In an attempt to seal the deal, Alicia then offers to go naked herself (not for nothing, but judging by some of her Twitter photos — including one of her with porn legend Ron Jeremy — I am guessing this would not have marked the first time that Alicia would have gotten naked in public…or on camera), but the men want no part of that. However, the women aren’t done. After a lengthy montage of night vision shots of babes in bras — interrupted only by Kat trying to figure out what the word “ambience” means — Monica and Christina go on a nighttime raid to steal an ember. They are successful, but can’t keep the fire lit and end up back at square one.

Then things get weird. Christina goes over and negotiates an agreement for the women to weave 20 branches for the men in exchange for fire. Pretty sweet deal, only this acquisition of one of the key components in the game has Alicia seeing red, and not just because she caught sight of Tarzan’s ugly-ass neon shirt. “I’m about to punch Christina in her face,” she tells us. Why? Because she got you fire? I’m just gonna call it out: Alicia scares the crap out of me. She’s crazy rude and flies off the handle for no reason. Even scarier? She’s a teacher! Where does Survivor manage to find these people that are instructing our children? First that shining beacon of gentility and compassion NaOnka (who decked a one legged woman), and now another educator who is threatening to hit another woman in the face and trying to trade sexual titillation for other goods and services. I’m sure the parents of her pupils were positively thrilled watching last night’s episode.

NEXT: Up next, after the break… (Get it? Ugh. Sorry.)

And I’m thrilled to watch an immunity challenge. An entire immunity challenge. It’s been months since we saw a good ol’ Survivor competition play out. Can’t wait to see what happens here. Hope nothing goes wrong! How could it? The course seems so simple. All they have to do is jump from a 25-foot tower onto a net, across a balance beam, and then across a rope bridge to release their flag. Easy! But why does Probst keep telling them to keep their arms on their chest and land on their back? That becomes clear once the jumping begins. Sabrina lands awkwardly on her feet and poor Nina does a face plant which will later make her look like she just got beat up by Alicia (which, for all we know, she did). And while I think it is fabulous that barely a mention was made all episode about Leif’s height, I’d be lying if I pretended I didn’t have visions of Wee Man performing a Jackass stunt dancing in my head when the guy went flying through the air.

But the entire event comes crashing to a halt once Kourtney lands awkwardly on her hands. Clearly hurt from the fall, she wobbles over to the mat only to be told by the clearly annoyed Kat that, “It’s alright, It’s just bleeding.” It should be noted here that Kat is, in fact, a timeshare rep, and not a doctor, so that was a pretty bold on-the-spot diagnosis — especially for someone unfamiliar with the word ambience. Perhaps we should bring in someone who, you know, is a doctor. And that’s exactly what Probst does when he sees Kourtney slumped down and complaining of being dizzy. In comes Dr. Ramona who says that the wrist could be broken and they need to have her go take an X-ray. Now you might be thinking that allowing her to temporarily leave for an X-ray would mean she was officially out of the game, but apparently you would be wrong. Honestly, I’m a little fuzzy on the rules for what medical intervention constitutes removal from the game and what doesn’t, so look for clarification from Jeff Probst in this week’s Thursday Q&A.

Regardless, the challenge is over, unless Probst can somehow convince the men to do the dumbest thing in the history of Survivor and continue on under the threat of possibly losing their immunity, but seeing as how the tribe is not made up of Erik Reichenbach, James Clement, J.T. Thomas, Tyson Apostol, John Cochran, and Brandon Hantz, that’s not going to happen. “The only thing I’m reminding you guys of is that the single biggest mistake made in this game is doing decisions early on that nobody will forgive you for in the end,” says Probst, remarkably without laughing at his own words. This is about as far from an unforgivable offense as you can get in this game, although if you read my Q&A with Probst (plug #2!) you’ll see he has a much different take on it than I do.

NEXT: Hey, let’s all talk on top of each other!

It seems pretty clear at this point that Kourtney is a goner, so the only real drama back at camp is whether Sabrina will give the Manomo hidden immunity idol to Country Club Colton, which she does, to get rid of cocky Matt. “We’re gonna cut his throat faster than Taylor Swift will write a song about her next boyfriend,” says Colton in a line I have no doubt he practiced 137 times in front of the mirror before he left the States.

At Tribal Council, Probst begins by saying that he’ll give them a Kourtney update in a few minutes. (Translation: She’s out of the game.) Even though the safety of all the other women is now pretty much guaranteed, that doesn’t stop Alicia from picking a fight with Christina over the fact that she got the tribe fire. It’s quite possibly one of the stupidest arguments ever, with Alicia interrupting Christina, Christina yelling back at Alicia, and Kat for some reason talking over both of them and covering her face in her hands. It seems Kourtney was right — they all are crazy!

Probst finally has to break up the fun and inform everyone that — shocker! — Kourtney’s not coming back due to her wrist being broken, and as a result nobody is being voted out. Bummer. Clearly Survivor: One World is not off to the exhilarating start we had all hoped for. However, one episode does not a season make. And the One World twist has definite promise. Will Colton be able to take down the douchey dudes alliance? Will Alicia’s alliance abandon her once they realize she’s mildly frightening? And will the combined powers of Tarzan and Troyzan cause the entire island to explode? These are the questions that will help define the rest of the season.

Looking for clarification on why Kourtney was not immediately kicked out of the game? Then check out my weekly post-episode Q&A with Jeff Probst (plug #3!). Feel like watching an exclusive deleted scene from the episode that features someone peeing and all the women in their underwear? Simply click on the video player below. (Also don’t forget to check out the cast revealing their biggest secrets.) And for more Survivor news and views all season long, you can follow me on Twitter @DaltonRoss. Now, it’s your turn? Whom are you loving and loathing from the cast so far? The message boards are open for business. I’ll see you next week with another scoop of the crispy.

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