The scene is Fiji, and the season puts contestants ages 18-31 against another group ages 33-52. In case anyone doesn’t grasp the concept of the season, much time at the beginning of the episode is spent discussing the differences between the generations.
It’s time for the tribes to grab supplies to take back to camp, and at various stations they are presented with a choice of which item to take: for example, they can grab some chickens or some fishing gear, but not both. In the chaos an envelope falls on the ground and Jessica (a district attorney from New York) of the Gen-X tribe grabs it.
Before Jeff Probst sends the tribes on their way, he warns the tribes that it is cyclone season in Fiji, so they would be well-served to hurry up and get their shelters built.
As the Millennials get started, we hear from Zeke, a financial analyst from Brooklyn. He says to the camera that he may be young, but he’s an 80-year-old man at heart and “I’m on a tribe with children.” No Survivor season premiere is complete without a young woman telling us that she can manipulate men, and this year that person is Figgy, a bartender from Nashville. She quickly allies with Jay, a “dudebro” type, and Taylor who was obviously cast as the designated hunk of the season. Seemingly also with them is Michelle, a pretty hippie type much in the mold of all-time Survivor great Parvati. Hannah, at first glance somewhat of a clone of last season’s Aubry, quickly sees she doesn’t fit in with “the beautiful faces of Kappa Kappa Survivor.”
As Gen-X gets organized, Ken, a model from Denver, tells the group he has lived in the jungles of Maui (huh?) for years and has a lot of survival skills. Soon thereafter Jessica slips away to open the envelope she picked up and finds it is a “Legacy Advantage” that can be used on Day 36 of the game. The note also says that if she has to leave the game she is to will the advantage to another player. Then we meet Rachel, a recruiting director from Los Angeles whose contribution is to make gratuitously obnoxious comments. Then there’s David, a TV writer also from Southern California. He tells us he likes Survivor for the gameplay and doesn’t like bugs or sleeping outside. Nothing unusual there, but we see him recoiling and plugging his ears just because someone near him is chopping bamboo. That is unusual! He volunteers to help red-haired trial lawyer Chris and Boston cop Bret build a shelter, but no sooner does he spot Ken and Paul (a greybeard who is the oldest player) walk around carrying something than he immediately says they obviously have an idol and need to be confronted. Chris and Bret point out that those two would hardly be openly carrying an idol around if they had one. To which hyper David says “I don’t mean to be, like, the paranoid guy.” Too late for that. By the way, he later sums up all of his fears as “I was born afraid of dying.”
We cut back to the Millennials to see their shelter, and it’s pathetic and nowhere close to done. But they’ve had enough labor for now and decide to have a beach party even though the sky is full of very dark clouds! Much too late, they try and do more before bedtime but don’t get far. “Dude, this is gonna be so bad,” one of them says.
In the morning, both tribes get a tarpaulin in tree mail which is said to be on loan. We find out Gen-X had a very rough night too even though they had a better shelter. The tarps worry the players more than anything, since they have seen prior seasons with really bad weather and nobody getting a tarp for free. That must mean this night is going to be historically rough. Soon after, the Millennials actually get a visit from Probst, who says the weather report says the storm will turn into a full-blown cyclone, and for the first time ever they will have to evacuate a tribe from their beach! He goes to give Gen-X the same message afterward, and by that time the wind is so strong everyone has to cover their faces as they get pelted by sand as they walk to the boat.
Some cameras remain at the camp to get footage to show us, and it is so bad even bats are taking cover (bats are shown at least four or five times in the course of the episode).
Probst said on camera everyone was being taken to “a safe place.” Where were they, the Hilton? We viewers are not told. The storm may have abated but David’s paranoia hasn’t, and he decides to start looking for a hidden immunity idol. It is quite obvious, and the rest of the tribe is quite annoyed since he does it while everyone else is trying to get the shelter rebuilt!
The Millennials have to regroup as well, and of all people, Zeke from Brooklyn leads them in building their shelter and also makes fire without a flint.
Time for the first challenge of the season. The twist is that two optional shortcuts are built in, the catch being that if you use a shortcut you get a larger puzzle to solve at the end, and the puzzle gets even larger if you use both shortcuts. The first part involves untying some clubs bearing the tribe colors from a net. Chris has the brilliant idea to let the others untie clubs while he just hinders two of the Millennials from untying clubs of their own, which he can do because two of them are very close together.
The Millennials may have taking shortcuts in life as their credo, but when it comes to the challenge they only use one of the two while Gen-X uses both. The tribes get to the final puzzle at roughly the same time. David and Rachel are the puzzle-solvers for Gen-X, and soon David tells his tribemates “if you guys see anything let me know.” Not what you want to hear from the guy who’s supposedly the puzzle ace. Two others substitute in but it’s too late.
So the Millennials take the first immunity challenge. Since the youngsters won’t be seen again this episode, I should cover the four I haven’t yet mentioned: Adam, a homeless shelter manager; Mari, a professional video gamer who is the oldest of her group at 31 and seems like quite a smart cookie; Will, just 18 and the first person ever to play Survivor while still in high school (and one of the more mature people on his tribe); and Michaela who is from Fort Worth and does vacation club sales.
Gen-X has to vote someone out, and most seem to agree fairly quickly that that person should be Rachel. It seems everyone knows about the plan except for Rachel, CeCe (an insurance adjuster from California), and Ken. Well, and David who thinks it is going to be him. Will he annoy everyone so much that they really do end up deciding to vote him out instead? By the way, Jessica has a fairly clever little strategy. After David swears on a stack of bibles that he doesn’t have an idol, Jessica says she was going to offer him a deal but it was contingent on him having an idol! (I could see that strategy actually flushing an idol out if the player were desperate enough).
The Gen-Xers I haven’t not mentioned are Lucy, a dietitian from California who I’m pretty sure does not speak one single time in the hour-long show, and Sunday, a female youth pastor from Minnesota who might not have spoken once either, but whose worried facial expression is shown many times in the course of the episode.
Most of the tribal council is about David, and the very first vote read is one for him, but the majority of the votes are for Rachel, with three going toward CeCe who was Rachel’s friend. Sunday got a vote from either Rachel or CeCe as well.
Early favorite: Based on one episode, I will go with Chris.