Two players leave the game while another leaves her mark in the most delightful way.
SURVIVOR: Island of the Idols

Oh, hey. Survivor is back. What's up, y'all? You thought maybe I had something better to do than cover a reality television show for a 42nd straight season? Had grander life aspirations than throwing out stupid opinions about half naked people in a contrived game for a prize that used to literally be a trunk of cash sitting there on a Tribal Council set? Was going to take a season off to actually pay a modicum of attention to my deeply neglected wife and children? THINK AGAIN!

Sometimes I feel like I am the only one that selected "Protect My Recap" from the prisoner's dilemma wheel and everyone else risked theirs, lost, and in the process, ended up winning at the same time. But yeah, here we go again. Happy to be here. Happy you joined in, whether you are a long-time faithful reader, a complete newbie, or a Survivor 42 cast member who can't focus on real life because you are too obsessed with reading and hearing every single word anyone says or writes about you… which is exactly how I would be, by the way. Anyway, all are welcome!

But speaking of Survivor 42 cast members, there is something that needs to be said. Get out of here, Rocksroy, with your cool name and impeccable work ethic! See you later, Jenny, with your impressive triangle puzzle skills! And take off, Omar, you animal rectum obsessed Canadian! And that goes for pretty much the entire rest of the cast as well. Why? Because this recap just became one big Maryanne Oketch stan account.

It's all about Maryanne from here on out. And I'll just be honest: If for some reason there is not enough Maryanne in future episodes or, Heaven forbid, these Godless bastards vote her out, then I'll just stop recapping entirely and start writing Maryanne fan fiction instead. (Week 4: Maryanne feels bad when the Vati tribe can't make fire so swims 5 miles to their island, helps make fire, performs a one-woman show titled "SmileTown," gives the entire tribe massages, and then decides to fly back to her beach because HOLY CRAP MARYANNE CAN FLY NOW!!!!)

Sometimes a player just immediately jumps off the screen. It happened with Rupert on Pearl Islands (newer viewers have no idea what a huge deal Rupert was when he first appeared). It happened with Cirie on Panama. It happened with Christian on David vs. Goliath. And it has happened with Maryanne. Sure, it starts with the smile — that goofy, infectious, beaming, 500 wattage smile.

But even more than the smile, it's the cry. When Jackson Fox informed the tribe he had to leave the game, Maryanne erupted into an absolute mess of tears and snot and wailing — repeating "I'm so sorry" over and over. This is someone that just moments prior she was battling for a million dollars, his early exit increasing her chances of winning the title of Sole Survivor and the cash that goes along with it. And yet her outright pain at hearing the news showed just how genuine and genuinely incredible the young woman is.

Jesus, just give her the money right now. Not only is Maryanne my winner pick for Survivor 42, she is now my winner pick for every single season of Survivor that follows, even after I am dead and gone. Give her $1 million twice a year until the end of time… or the end of Survivor, whichever comes first. Am I betting with my heart instead of my head on this one? YOU BETCHA! But what else am I gonna do, make freakin' Romeo my winner pick? (Actually, I probably should. I think Romeo has some serious game.)

But NO! No, Romeo! Just because I am a charter member of the Survivor Skinny Guy alliance does not mean you are my winner pick. Maryanne is my pick because how could she not be? I will wish it into existence even though the winner was already crowned, like, nine months ago. Because guess what, suckers? I have an hourglass and am now going to make history by changing history and crowning Maryanne as the Survivor 42 champion no matter what happened previously.

Okay, you get the point. I guess we should hit the other big non-Maryanne moments of the premiere just because why not? So let's get to it.

Maryanne Oketch on 'Survivor 42'
| Credit: Robert Voets/CBS

First Impressions

Congratulations are in order to Jonathan, who earned First Confessional honors for season 42 as he told us all about setting a world record in pull-ups, which I found to be mildly annoying considering I failed the Presidential Fitness test standards on an annual basis as a kid because I could not do a single pull-up. (Again, Survivor Skinny Guy alliance.)

We also got to hear from Lydia (who did her best Anakin Skywalker impersonation in telling us how much she hates sand), and Omar (who informed us he was coming in disguised as a pigeon but was actually a ferocious owl). Personally, I thought there was a moratorium on harmless-animal-but-actually-a-scary-animal analogies after Erika's lamb-or-lion talking point of season 41, but I guess we'll let it slide since this guy actually works with animals. But you are now officially on double secret probation, Omar!

After the tribe was informed that there was some mysterious invisible monster on the loose, they got to their first reward challenge, which also brought us the first twist of the season when Lindsay, Hai, and Drea went to retrieve their paddles and found a sign telling them the following:

"You must wait for all three players before you make your decision. Good news! This part of the challenge requires zero effort from you! So if you want, you can grab your paddles and race back to your tribe. Or… You can agree to secretly work together… and each earn an advantage in the process. You must each untie 20 knots to retrieve your advantage… To cover your lie, spread mud and fake blood over your body to prove how hard you worked to get your paddles. You're only moments into the game… and you already have your first big opportunity."

Of course, they took the advantage. And we'll get to the contents of said advantage in a bit, but can we pause to go back and focus on this line from the instructions for a second: "To cover your lie, spread mud and fake blood over your body to prove how hard you worked to get your paddles." I'm sorry, but in what world is smearing blood all over your body a good way to cover your lie? Hai put so much blood on his body it was as if he had walked out of a damn Evil Dead movie. Seriously, it looked like he had slaughtered a young family behind that bend in the bench and then eaten their bloody remains en route back. So let me ask a question: What happens when Hai then gets in the water, washes off the blood, and everyone realizes he does not have a single scratch on him? How does that work out???

I have to assume the Survivor producers know all of this, and if they indeed did, then the inclusion of "blood" (or whatever it actually was) is one of the most genius wrinkles in the show's long, proud history. I mean, there was plenty of mud and sand. THERE WAS ABSOLUTELY NO REASON TO APPLY THE BLOOD! And yet they did. I cannot express how inexplicably happy this entire development made me. It was like Christmas, New Year's Eve, and Maryanne's birthday all rolled into one.

Anyway, the blue tribe won. Who are they again? Ikea? Ika? Waka Waka? Something like that. But a special shout out to Daniel Strunk for face-planting on the sand without being touched. The dude toughed it out big time after dislocating his shoulder and continuing on in the challenge (ever try to paddle with a dislocated shoulder)? Daniel called out Stephenie LaGrossa when it went down, and I actually happened to be just a few feet away from Steph when that gnarly injury took place in Heroes vs. Villains. (I captured the entire thing on video, which you can watch below.)

The interesting thing is not only did thy show the crew (camera operators, boom mics, and all) again like they did in season 41, but they actually showed Daniel's mic pack strapped around his midsection. which is something you very rarely catch a glimpse of on Survivor. Reality gets real, people!

The Evil Amulet

We got into the twist and the challenge, but what about the mystery advantage itself? Once back on their beaches, Hai, Drea, and Lindsay read their notes that explained they had each received an Advantage Amulet that could only be played with the others as long as the other amulet holders were still in the game.

So if Hai, Drea, and Lindsay all ended up on the same tribe after a swap or merge and they all played their amulets, that would give the collective group one extra vote (as opposed to an extra vote for each of them). If there were only two of them left because one had been voted out, then it would give the duo one steal-a-vote. And if only one person was left, the remaining amulet would turn into a full immunity idol.

Let me say this as plainly and clearly as I can: I love this twist. It's so smart and so diabolical and gets me excited every time I think about how genius it is. First, you bond these three players together with a secret and an advantage. They've all gone back and (presumably) lied to their tribes about what happened when they went to go retrieve the paddles. The only way they can get caught in a lie is if one of the other three folks spills the beans. So they are each depending on each other to keep quiet about what transpired. Yet now you have incentivized each of them to turn on each other and try to get the other two out of the game.

So what happens if and when the trio all ends up on the same beach? And imagine the paranoia as they each wonder if the other two are targeting them to get a more powerful amulet — which further incentivizes them to strike first rather than get struck. Like I said, I love this twist. So many layers and so many different ways players could react to it. Brilliant.

Jackson Fox on 'Survivor 42'
| Credit: Robert Voets/CBS

An Early Exit

I was rooting for Jackson Fox going into the season. True, mostly because the name Jackson Fox is completely badass and makes him sound like some sort of international man of mystery, but still…. And when Jackson then told the story about how he was the first person to apply to play Survivor as both a woman and a man, well, that was pretty cool. And when he talked about how his sick mother helped bring him closer to his estranged father, well that was pretty cool, too. Certainly an interesting journey to the island.

But his journey on the island would be cut short. The details on this are murky, but Jeff Probst visited the Taku tribe beach and took Jackson aside, noting that the day before filming began that Jackson had disclosed new medical information. So, what I am guessing is that this subject came up in the final individual conversations producers always have with contestants a day or two before the game begins. How or why it came up here remains unclear, but while Probst was being intentionally unspecific, Jackson came right out and said he had started taking lithium to help him sleep while taking care of his ailing mother and did not tell production "because I was trying to just quit it completely because I didn't need it anymore."

I don't know Jackson in the least, but I do know from scanning his social media channels and seeing the way he documented his transition that he seems to be a pretty open book. His statement to Probst that "I'm not ashamed to say I need help with certain things and that's life" was pretty refreshing, and his comment that even though he got pulled from the game on day three that "It was the best 48 hours I've had, ever," also underscores an approach of trying to take the best out of a miserable situation.

I don't know how producers approached the situation. This is not me reporting, but rather guessing. It seems they got the info about Jackson, and knowing his body could suffer from the extreme conditions out there in his state, decided to monitor him closely at the start of the game. We did hear a comment that Jackson had been dizzy for 10 hours, and that was probably enough for production (and medical) to pull him from the game for his own protection. Which was certainly the right call. A tough break, but there are bigger battles out there to fight. Here's hoping Jackson continues to find happiness, fulfillment, and good health off the island.

The Ika tribe on "Survivor 42'
| Credit: Robert Voets/CBS

Autocannibalistic Snake

Sure, we could talk about the immunity challenge, in which teams had to paddle to shore collecting big chests and then drag everything through a course before solving a dragon puzzle, but I would much rather talk about something else… that cool as $%&* immunity idol! What is that, a snake eating his own tail? Why would it do that? I have no idea, but it looks BADASS!

Seriously, that might be the coolest looking immunity idol we have had. Yes, the three shrunken heads of Survivor: Panama were pretty rad and the skull and circle of bones from Survivor: Fiji was certainly… disturbing. But this may be my favorite. I don't know what it means and what it is supposed to symbolize, but, then again, I walked around singing Sheena Easton's "Sugar Walls" for a good two years before I learned what that song was actually about and being none the wiser never ruined my enjoyment.

Anyway, the challenge itself was BRUTAL. Definitely not a prime competition for the Survivor Skinny Guy alliance. Hell, Zach couldn't even get it done on the puzzle. Ugh! Making us spindly dorks look bad! So Ika had a date with Probst at Tribal to vote somebody out of the game.

Zach on 'Survivor 42'
| Credit: Robert Voets/CBS

Generation Why?

Remember that big generational divide on Ika on day one, where the older people formed an alliance over all the hard work they were doing, and the younger people formed bonds over… well, whatever the hell the younger people were doing? Yeah, that was gone by day three. Dunzo. Over. Now, Drea was targeting Rocksroy, Zach was essentially telling Tori to her face that he was hoping she went instead of him, and Tori was mocking his alleged puzzle prowess. A total free-for-all.

By the time they got to Tribal Council, nobody looked happy. And boy was Tori coming on strong. Tori was actually one of my preseason favorites to win, judging by her videos and how she answered my questions here on I thought she had the strategic smarts and the social game to go really far. Now, I am not so sure about the latter. It's a good thing to show fight in wanting to stay, but you also have to project the air of someone the tribe will want to work with moving forward, and I'm not 100 percent sure Tori did that.

Look, she would not be the first player to stumble early socially and then recalibrate (Nick Wilson and David Wright are two good examples of this). But she needs to regroup and find a way to make the rest of the tribe trust her and like her, and she seems to have some work cut out for her in that department. I hope she succeeds though, because I think Tori could be a pretty dynamic player and a lot of fun to watch.

Of course, Tori stayed because Zach went. Two super-fans continuing the trend of super-fans struggling in the early stages of the game. I don't know what Zach specifically struggled with out there (besides the dragon puzzle, of course). He seemed to make a scrawny weakling connection with Romeo, but that was it. Even Swati wanted him gone.

Zach wisely used his Shot in the Dark, but his 1 in 6 shot of staying didn't come through, so he became the first truly unanimous vote out in Survivor history since he did not vote against anyone else. But as he said, better to show up, play, and get voted out first then never play at all. I mean… I personally would never play because I am not insane, but if you are a fan who really does want to play, then yes, by all means go and play and who gives a crap if you get voted out first. After all, so did Tina Wesson. And Natalie Anderson. (Sure, they also won a million dollars, but details, details…)

'Survivor 42' contestants
| Credit: Robert Voets/CBS

Clueless in Fiji

Sooooooo, what do we think so far? Cast seems decent. I could do without another season of making people hike all the way up a mountain just to hike back down for a Prisoner's Dilemma, but I loved the Evil Amulet twist, so all good there.

Speaking of the Prisoner's Dilemma and Shot in The Dark, this is a big change for Survivor. I mean, they are not changes at all; they were totally there last season. But the big change is the decision to not tell the new contestants about them. Probst made a big deal at the very top of the show about how, since season 42 was filmed before season 41 aired, that the new cast would not know about any of the twists that happened.

This deviates sharply from previous Survivor operating procedure, because in the past, when there was a big new twist in the first of back-to-back seasons (like, say, the fire-making at final 4 or the idol nullifier), they would make sure to tell the next season's players all about them before the game started so the contestants did not appear to be more clueless than the audience. Apparently when they dropped the 4, they also dropped that rule along with it. I don't really have a preference one way or the other. It's just interesting to note what is a very big change from how the show used to do business.

So, to recap. Maryanne is the best. Give her the million dollars. And may these Evil Amulets slowly turn their possessors into Fijian Gollums in their quest for reality TV glory. Solid start all around. And we're not even done! That's because we still need to talk to Zach and Jackson, so keep your eyes peeled for my exit interviews with each. And we have an exclusive deleted scene from the episode that you can watch at the very top of the recap, so make sure to check that out as well.

Of course, for season-long Survivor shenanigans you can follow me on Twitter @DaltonRoss and Instagram @thedaltonross (hopefully you didn't miss my preseason Instagram Live chats with the likes of Parvati, Ethan, Cirie, Yul, Courtney, Coach, Andrea, Wendell and many more). And if you missed any of the fun pre-game videos I did with the cast, click on the links below. Some really good stuff in there. Anyhoo, be excellent to each other and I'll be back next week with another scoop of the crispy!

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SURVIVOR: Island of the Idols

Strangers starve themselves on an island for our amusement in the hopes of winning $1 million, as host Jeff Probst implores them to "Dig deep!"

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