Survivor season premiere recap: Fairplay is Turned About
In the season premiere, one of the show's great jerks suddenly becomes a sensitive dad-to-be and basically asks to go home; plus, four veterans form couples and then an alliance
Okay, we’ll get to the Fans, we’ll get to the Favorites, and we’ll get to the earliest quit in the history of Survivor. But first, a quick programming note. A lot of people have been writing in asking whether CBS would be bringing back the Survivor Live Internet interview show. The answer is no. It’s dead. Dead, I say! But for those of you looking for a little postmortem with the booted (or in this case, quitting) contestant, we’ve got the next best thing rocking at ew.com. Every Monday you can check out our new Survivor Talk video show. The brilliant Josh Wolk and considerably less brilliant yours truly will be hanging out with the castoff and asking him or her all about what happened on the island. You can check it out at ew.com/survivorvideo. While there, you can also view some on-location video blog entries from Palau, which include, among other things, Jeff Probst crooning a little Hall and Oates. What? Not enough, you say? Fine! Lindsay Soll will also be doing print interviews with the ousted contestants every week, so check back for those.
Okay, I think we’re all out of shameless plugs, so let’s get to the season premiere of Survivor: Micronesia — Fans vs. Favorites. While I obviously want to get into some of the stuff that happened on screen, since I was lucky enough to be there for the first three days of filming, I thought I’d also clue you in to some things that didn’t make the final cut.
Although maybe we should start with a person who shouldn’t have made the final cut of contestants: Jonny Fairplay. Talk about going in with bang and out with a whimper. Wow, was that a huge letdown. Half the buildup to this season — created by Fairplay himself — was the big battle between him and Probst, and that’s all he brought? Seriously, that’s it? Probst, who didn’t want Fairplay to come in the first place, had the last laugh after all. I honestly don’t get this move. I spoke with Fairplay two days before the game began, and he was hyped beyond belief. This was his chance to reclaim the spotlight, to prove he was, as he told us less than 30 seconds into tonight’s episode, ”the greatest player in the history of the game.” Instead he came off as all style, no substance.
But let’s back up to the very beginning of the episode. There’s Jeff Probst in a helicopter. He’s talking all about the big twist of pitting 10 superfans versus past favorites and…wait, what the hell is going on? He’s now climbed outside of the heli. And it’s still in the air! Don’t jump, Jeff! I’m sorry for making fun of some of your hats. I apologize for insinuating you may have gone too far in pushing Janu to quit. I regret that time I wrote a whole paragraph about your wearing sunglasses in the rain! But it’s not worth it, man! You fall to your death, and then what? We end up with Phil Keoghan and some native on a mat saying, ”Welcome to Micronesia.” Phil’s good at explaining what the heck a roadblock is, but c’mon….
Luckily for us, Jeff stayed put. And then the Fans were dropped on a beach and watched the Favorites be introduced one by one. And what did these morons do? They clapped! And not just clapped, but whooped, hollered, and screamed as well. I don’t get this. Hello, this is your competition! Did the New York Giants give the Patriots a standing ovation before kicking their collective ass in the Super Bowl? This was the same starstruck attitude the newbies displayed in Guatemala when Stephenie and Bobby Jon showed up.
There was one awkward moment that did not make it on screen however. I was at the marooning, and while it was hard to hear a lot of what was going on, what with all the cats and dogs falling from the sky, a curious exchange between Kathy and Ami took place. Evidently, Kathy almost made the final cut for Vanuatu. When Jeff asked her about that at the marooning, she made some comment — and I didn’t catch the exact wording — about being happy she wasn’t there because of something having to do with Ami being a lesbian. Again, I didn’t catch it entirely, but it was definitely a borderline-type comment, so I wasn’t surprised at all to see her back at the Fans’ beach later talking about not having any gay friends.
Of course, Ami and Kathy’s confrontation was nothing compared to what we saw between Fairplay and Yau-Man. As I mentioned in my EW story, the producers couldn’t have scripted it any better — the ultimate battle between good and evil. They both lunged for the immunity idol, and then Yau slammed Fairplay’s head into the side of a boat. Watching tonight, I thought I heard thunder outside my window at that very moment, but it was merely the simultaneous slapping of high fives all across the East Coast.
What we saw back at the camps was not surprising. The Fans had no idea what they were doing, while the Favorites were constructing a shelter, making fire without flint, and swimming around in ”pee water.” We also didn’t see any strategizing among the Fans, while the Favorites were aligning into groups of four. There was the lovebird foursome, with two couples, Parvati (who was identified as a ”charity organizer” — insert your own joke here) and James and Ozzy and Amanda, pooling their respective hotness, while on the other side you had Eliza, Ami, Penner, and Yau joining up. Cirie was seemingly too busy talking about being the girl on the couch to do much of anything.
Going into the challenge, it appeared that the high-spirited Faves were poised for a rout, but appearances can be deceiving. A few interesting things about this challenge. One, of course, was Eliza wiping out when her cart banged into a tree. I know it makes me a bad person to like to see people get obliterated in physical competitions, but I just don’t care. Plus, I wiped out at the very same tree when I did a run-through of the challenge the day before. In fact, the stupid cart almost ran me over! Two other things you did not see on screen. First off, there was a whole other section of the challenge that got edited out. Before the tribes had to bash their cart through the wall of sticks, there was a section of tree stumps that had to be moved out of the way. (In the run-through, they were tied together with ropes, but they got rid of the ropes for the actual one.) Another nice tidbit: Jeff Probst had to stop the challenge at one point when some of the Favorites attempted to start sabotaging the Fans’ cart. That’s a no-no, and they got a stern talking-to from the host-with-the-most and suffered a brief time penalty because of it.
NEXT: Dalton fearlessly predicts the winner(s)
The Faves lost and headed back to camp, and then Bizarro Fairplay reared his head. (I knew something was amiss when he stopped referring to himself in the third person.) It was almost as if a switch had been pulled. Cocky trash-talking Fairplay out, weepy mature Fairplay in. The question isn’t really whether he was being a crappy dad-to-be by leaving his pregnant fiancée behind to go play. The issue is figure out whether you want to be there or not before you actually go there! Don’t waste a space in the game — a space that could have gone to Shane Powers or Yul Kwon — just so you can ask to be voted out on day freakin’ 3. Fairplay promised fireworks and delivered a dud. He said he would humiliate his archnemesis Jeff Probst, but he quit before he even had the chance.
Perhaps most bizarrely of all, not one single member of his tribe would call him out for quitting. Was it a quit? Of course it was a quit! Here’s the thing to remember: Fairplay didn’t walk off that tribal-council set and go straight back home to his unborn baby. He went to the so-called Losers Lounge, where contestants go after being booted, and sat around there until about the merge, at which point he was sent on another trip somewhere else until the game was over. So quitting the game did not get him home one second faster. The message out of all this to CBS and the producers: You play with fire, sometimes you get burned.
Oh, seeing as I have a three-season winning streak of picking the winner from the very first episode, the pressure is really on for me to get Micronesia right. I’m going to cheat a little bit by following the theme of the program and picking both a Fan and a Fave. For the Faves, I’ll actually pick Cirie, only because I can see the other groups of four trying to pick each other off and her flying under the radar. For the Fans, I’ll go with Alexis. She strikes me as someone who will hug you with one arm and stab you in the back with the other. I’m not feeling nearly as good about these picks as I did about the last three, though. I’ll be very curious to see what Fairplay has to say for himself when he stops by Survivor Talk. Tune in to find out. And thanks, as always, for stopping by!
What do you think? Did Fairplay wimp out? Should Probst have left him hanging with the hug? And are you rooting for the Fans or the Faves? Plus, submit a question you’d like us to ask Fairplay on the show. We’ll pick one reader question every week, so let ‘er rip!