The season starts with the 14 new contestants on the boat, and they don’t have to be Chrissy Hofbeck-level actuaries to notice the fuzzy math at play here. Clearly, there are some returning players about to enter the picture and enter they do in dramatic fashion.
Hey, let me ask you a question: Does anyone remember that show Average Joe? Average Joe was one of approximately 10 million Bachelor rip-off reality dating programs. These were the true glory days of reality television. Each of these rip-offs had a twist. For Joe Millionaire, it’s that the woman thought they were vying for the love of an insanely rich dude when it was actually some poor sap. For Mr. Personality — HOSTED BY MONICA LEWINSKY!!!! — one woman had to date a bunch of dudes wearing ridiculous looking masks. (Don’t believe me? See for yourself below.)
And then there was Average Joe, where a beauty queen had a dating pool of only dorks, losers, and lame-os. The hilarious twist in Average Joe, however, is that about halfway through the season, a sleek speed boat would roar into view carrying a bunch of shirtless super-studs waxed within an inch of their lives, and the woman would ultimately have to choose either a hottie or a nottie. (I’ll give you one guess as to which one both gorgeous women in the first two seasons picked. Hint: the word starts with the letter H.)
Anyway, images of speedboat Average Joe — and all the accompanying homoeroticism that goes along with it — started dancing in my head when the vessel carrying Kelley, Aubry, Joe, and David — roared into sight. And apparently, the contestants were just as excited upon seeing the fearsome foursome, showering them with applause because why wouldn’t you give a rapturous welcome to the four people that are trying to take a million dollars out of your pocket?
Then again, how could they not be star-struck? Especially sitting in the presence of some of the biggest Survivor greats ever, like the guy Jeff Probst describes as being “scared of pretty much everything on day 1.” And the gal that Probst notes “literally cried in the shelter the first time she played.” It doesn’t get any bigger than that, ladies and gentlemen!
Anyway, it turns into a good ol’ boat scramble as players have two minutes to grab food before jumping off. As we see, Matthew Perry… I mean, Ron Clark, finds the Secret Advantage clue, but as referenced above in my behind-the-scenes story, there was also a tribe reward clue on the boat saying to dive underneath a buoy to retrieve a crate of canned goods. You never saw this on the show, because like so many other things, it got cut for time. (Had the premiere been 90 minutes long it surely would have made it). Anyway, I’ll give you one guess as to who swam out and retrieved it? Yep, Joey Amazing. So if you see any canned goods lying around the Kama camp, now you know where they came from.
The other interesting thing of note that you saw a little bit of on the show was Keith almost drowning. This didn’t make the episode, but Jeff actually had to yell at the Manu tribe to swim back to Keith to help him. Keith is a sweet kid and I’m sure that was not the first impression he wanted to make on his tribe. That’s the bad news. The good is that he’s still, you know, alive. Speaking of Keith, let’s head to the Manu tribe beach to see what’s what.
Manu and Returning Players (get it?)
Our look at the Manu tribe beach begins with Rick Devens telling us he feels like the Kool-Aid man, even punctuating it with the trademark “OH YEEEEAAAH™!” Devens either really likes Kool-Aid or really wanted to get this analogy on the show because I saw him do the exact same thing when answering a Probst question before the immunity challenge. (See below.)
We check in quickly with returnees Kelly (who forms an alliance right off the bat with Lauren) and David (who tells us he is no longer rattled by the sound of chopping bamboo), but most of the early footage rests on Wendy… who told me before the game she would be going by “Big Wendy” this season, although apparently, that didn’t take with Probst or the other players. Why are “Devens” and “Wardog” acceptable as alternative naming options but Big Wendy is not? I have no clue.
I will confess that during my pre-game chat with Big Wendy (I’m sticking with it out of some sort of misplaced solidarity just so the nickname does not go completely unnoticed this season) that I wondered why she kept sneezing. She then explained to me — as she did to her tribemates — that it was not a sneeze but that she has Tourette’s mixed with a mild form of obsessive-compulsive disorder. I didn’t really see that impacting her game at all. What I worried more about was if Big Wendy would be just too… big. That’s because Wendy is a huge, fast-talking goofball. I say that with affection, but it’s not for everyone. Sure enough, Wendy seems on the outs here pretty early, and it’s something she says she is used to, telling viewers how she feels awkward and unable to vibe around people. In a social game like Survivor, that can be a killer.
Speaking of not fitting in, it seems certain members of the Manu tribe are having trouble finding their clothes. You know why? THEY GOT REEMED! Yes, it seems Reem has taken it upon herself to take clothes that were hang-drying and move them to the beach. Because why wouldn’t people want their damp clothes put right on the sand without their permission? Seems like a no brainer!
I knew Reem was going to have trouble during our pre-game conversation. We had a great time ourselves, chatting about the Washington Capitals, who were playing in game 1 of the Stanley Cup playoffs during our interview (I may have been getting — and giving — score updates from back in the States). But Reem kept talking about how much she hates people that are too sensitive. And this is something I’ve noticed about people who go on and on about how much they hate folks that are too sensitive. Those people tend to be pretty gosh darn sensitive themselves. Reem is brash and speaks her mind but — as we would see later at Tribal Council — is not so great when others speak their mind about her.
The first conversation we see between Reem and Keith is almost a clinic on how not to make an alliance. Keith tells Reem he sees her as a mother figure… and Reem immediately tells him she doesn’t want to be a mother figure. Keith then pushes yet again to form a bond, telling Reem he is a mama’s boy… and Reem proceeds to tell him not to be soft. This is just horrible social gameplay, no two ways about it. Instead of drawing Keith in, Reem just keeps pushing the teenager away, and this will come back to haunt her later.