The reward challenge at the beginning of the episode will be played by just two members of each tribe. Green understandably picks all-time great challenge competitor Ozzy, and also Troyzan. The blue tribe sends J.T. and Malcolm, and red goes with Tai and Brad. Blue finishes first, and red overtakes green for second thanks to an incredible display of throwing by Brad Culpepper who throws like he’s Daunte Culpepper!
Ozzy thinks losing was OK — with no food reward, his tribe needs his fishing skills. We see some incredible underwater shots of him fishing, and he soon brings back a huge ray for the tribe to eat.
On the blue tribe, Sandra tells us she’s running the show, blah blah blah, and J.T. suggests to Malcolm that they get rid of Sandra.
The challenge is the one we see some form of every season, with blindfolded players being led by a caller who tells them what to do. Before the start, Jeff Probst drops the bombshell that two tribes will be going to tribal council.
In the final phase following the blindfolded part, Jeff Varner’s blue team has a huge lead but he still has to navigate a ball through one of those very tricky mazes. Andrea from the green tribe is gaining on him. Jeff is inches away, but then the ball drops through a hole in the maze, and Andrea soon hits paydirt.
Afterwards Probst has yet another bombshell: the blue and red tribes will be going to Tribal Council together, with a joint vote to send home one person!
The blue team feels pretty good about this twist since they have six people and red only has five. But will J.T. vote with the other tribe? He says no. Sandra says they should target Sierra, the strongest woman. And J.T. and Malcolm think Brad will get the troops on the red team to target Sandra.
The red team has the same questions about Hali that blue has about J.T. It seems J.T. will be the deciding factor.
Tai goes looking for an idol and finds a clue, but unlike Troyzan who really had to sweat last episode, Tai simply needs to find a certain spot (that’s not all that close to camp) and dig there. Once he has the idol, he tells his tribemates (except for Hali) about it.
Time for Tribal Council. Hali is talking, and Sandra whispers to her group that it sounds like Hali wants Brad out. Both groups then do a lot of whispering amongst themselves, but both resolve to stick with their original plans. Sierra hears something that makes her fret that she’s the target.
J.T. asks Malcolm if he should talk to Brad. Then J.T. gets up and walks over to whisper in Brad’s ear! J.T. says “I love you brother, but they’re voting Sierra out.” Then Hali walks all the way over to Sandra and whispers,”You have to do Brad. It’s better for us, I promise.” Now J.T. and Brad are meeting a couple of steps back from the rest of the group. “You swear?” Brad asks? J.T. says yes. Then suddenly there are too many whispered conversations to keep track of, and Probst is loving every second of it.
Finally Probst, as always, says it’s time to vote, and he tells Hali she’s up. She replies, “I didn’t consent.” So there’s still more discussion as Probst wears a huge smile.
The votes are read and Probst says it’s time to play an idol. Tai does play his, on Sierra. Probst reads the votes, and the first six votes are all for Sierra. Then comes the next vote … Malcolm! And before you know it, Malcolm is out of the game!
As exciting as the tribal council was, this is a disastrous turn of events, as now the two most entertaining characters, Tony and Malcolm, are out of the game after just four votes. The producers must be aghast.
As the blue team walks out, Michaela whispers that J.T. must have set them up. And in Malcolm’s final confessional he tells us “J.T.’s not getting a Christmas card.” So it’s fair to assume everyone else on the blue tribe is mad at J.T. But I doubt the orange tribe loves the guy either. What the heck was he doing? I didn’t see the Tocantins season when J.T. played a “perfect game,” so all I can judge him on is the disastrous moves he made both in Heroes vs. Villains and in this season so far.
Time for my first rankings of the year, and they won’t include Malcolm who was my early favorite to win it all. Right now I don’t know that I can rule anyone out, except for J.T. (see above) and Tai. I think Tai is just too wishy-washy to win this season or any other. And while Brad and Sandra have been probably the most prominent characters so far, I am betting for now on some who are staying under the radar a bit more.
contenders: 1. Zeke, 2. Cirie, 3. Aubry, 4. Andrea, 5. Brad, 6. Ozzy, 7. Sierra, 8. Sandra
not sure: Hali, Sarah, Troyzan, Varner, Debbie, Michaela
no chance: Tai, J.T.
The episode begins with an unusual kind of tribe swap, changing from two tribes to three! Among the new combinations, we see Tai reunited with his old Kaoh Rong tribemate Caleb. Tai says he is “still looking for that kiss.” Meanwhile, the third tribe, wearing green buffs, has to start a new camp and build a new shelter.
On the blue tribe, J.T. looks to be in trouble as the other five people are all from a different original tribe. He has an idea: he suggests that everyone go snorkeling, half a mile out at sea at that. Then when Malcolm breaks a spear, J.T. says he can swim back to get a pair of pliers. He does, and starts looking for the idol. The only problem is, he spends way too much time doing so, and the other players figure out that something’s up. By the way, J.T. is way more “country” than I remembered — to the point that he’s sometimes a bit hard to understand.
On the orange tribe, we get the revelation that Brad Culpepper, former NFL defensive lineman, loves … antiquing and decorating? I wasn’t expecting that. On the chopping block are Hali and Caleb. Tai wants Caleb to stick around but the others are wary of having the two of them plus Kaoh Rong castmate Debbie all together as a potential strong trio.
On the new green tribe, Troyzan is in much the same situation as J.T. as an obvious first boot. It’s him against the world, which is more or less the way it was on his prior season too! So Troy goes looking for a hidden immunity idol, and at least finds a clue. It says “it will require you to be daring,” and that’s because the idol can only be picked up during the next challenge! There’s a diagram of exactly where it will be.
Back at the blue tribe, J.T. says he could catch a goat, and he does, bare-handed. Malcolm grabs one too. But they realize it’s a mother and her kid, and debate whether they should kill them. Sandra is all for doing so, leading Malcolm to note “She was a villain [on Heroes vs. Villains] for a reason.” The group ultimately lets the goats go.
It’s time for the challenge. By the way, the team immunity idol is in the shape of an old diving helmet. Troyzan realizes he will have no chance to grab the hidden idol until the challenge is over, since his task is to untie knots at the same table where it’s hidden, during which time all eyes will be on him.
As with the only previous idol ever hidden at a challenge (and successfully grabbed by Kelley Wentworth in Survivor: Second Chance) it’s incredibly dramatic. Troyzan is understandably extremely anxious, as are we viewers along with him. The challenge comes down to the next step after the knot-untying part, and whichever team comes in third has to go to Tribal Council. Green narrowly avoids third place, and a “relieved” Troyzan pretends to collapse across the table. He feels around in the approximate spot but can’t get his hands on the idol! But then he drops to his knees “with exhaustion,” spots the idol and quickly stuffs it down his pants before standing up.
The orange team came in last, so will Hali or Caleb be voted out? Tai and Brad have a talk once Tai has covered himself with sand (I don’t recall anyone ever doing this on Survivor before). It’s unclear how the conversation turns out. By the way, the three Kaoh Rong alums aren’t the only former castmates on the tribe, but Sierra avows that she and Hali didn’t have any relationship on Worlds Apart, and everyone seems to accept that.
All in all this is a pretty boring episode, and it ends with Caleb being voted out. Like his prior season with the medical evacuation, this one ends on Day 9.
The location for this 34th season is once again Fiji, and we begin by seeing the cast on board ship, with glimpses of all-time greats like Tony (Cagayan), Sandra (Pearl Islands and Heroes vs. Villains), and Ozzy (three prior seasons). The “game changers” credentials of others are a bit more questionable, like Troyzan (Survivor: One World) and Brad Culpepper (the 15th-place finisher in Survivor: Blood vs. Water). Then there are a blonde and two brunettes who I’ve never seen before in my life. Check that: when the blonde’s caption appears, it’s Sierra from Survivor: Worlds Apart who I very vaguely remember as being a rodeo cowgirl … until I see that she actually finished 5th, and that was just four seasons ago! One of the brunettes is revealed to be Hali from Worlds Apart, who I do recall was on the “no collar” tribe. Having finished 11th, she was hardly a “game changer,” though you could perhaps argue that she was game-changingly good-looking. The other brunette is one Sarah Lacina, who it turns out finished 11th on Survivor: Cagayan. Even after looking that up, I still do not remember anything about her whatsoever.
As in several prior seasons, once Jeff Probst is done with his preamble he tells the players that they have a short time to grab as many supplies as they can off this ship and take them to shore. He also announces that tied up underneath the water a fair distance from the boat is a box of tools. Someone immediately says “Ozzy’s gotta go,” and the ace swimmer does immediately head towards the tools. The other tribe doesn’t even bother to send someone initially … who could ever out-swim Ozzy?
In all the chaos someone picks up some supplies without noticing that an envelope with “secret advantage” printed on it falls to the deck. The aforementioned Sierra sees it presently and tucks it into her shorts. At the end. Ozzy’s tribe has the chickens and the most supplies. in addition to the toolkit.
Yet it’s the other tribe, wearing orange buffs, that hits the beach first. We see Michaela from the prior Millennials vs. Gen-X season, who vows to keep her facial expressions under control (she did anything but when she played before). In no time, Tony playfully announces “I’m out, I’m looking for the idol,” and races off. He expects someone to chase after him, but when no one does he figures he might as well start looking, for real. I missed Tony — he is so entertaining and even his voice is hilarious.
On the blue tribe, Sierra opens her secret advantage to find it’s the Legacy Advantage that debuted last season. But there’s a twist: this one can only be used when there are 13 people left in the game or 6 people left in the game.
Ozzy surveys the other players and tells us the only one he’s scared of is Cirie (three prior seasons), since she had a hand in voting him out of Fans vs. Favorites. He says something to that effect to Tai (Kaoh Rong), but when he and Cirie talk, he tells her it’s water under the bridge and everything’s fine. By the way, interspersed with these conversations are shots of some shark fins all too close to shore! Soon, Tai tells Cirie she needs to work things out with Ozzy. Wait, did Ozzy just say something today about us not being OK?, Cirie asks Tai. An extremely long silence ensues, with Tai obviously trying to think of some kind of plausible lie, and failing miserably!
At the orange tribe, Tony goes to “get water” and ends up sprinting toward the well. The inventor of the “spy shack” has decided he is going to build a “spy bunker” near the well this time. Not that his plan makes much sense: it’s one thing to pile up enough branches to hide behind, and a much bigger job to basically dig a ditch, plus he’s doing it just a few feet from the well!
I haven’t yet mentioned Ciera (Blood vs. Water and Second Chance) who tells us she has played with three winners in Tyson, Aras, and Tina and learned something from all of them. In a group discussion she observes that Tony has befriended Caleb (the guy who was medically evacuated from Kaoh Rong) and proposes splitting the vote between two of them. Not a fan of this is our old friend Malcolm (Philippines and Fans vs. Favorites II) who definitely wants to keep these bigger threats around to distract from him, and similarly inclined is Aubry (Kaoh Rong). Malcolm bemoans that Ciera looks to be “the one that’s gonna push us out of Zen mode on this tribe.”
When everyone assembles for the first challenge, Probst announces a rules change: when there is a tie vote at tribal council there will not, as in prior seasons, be a re-vote in which only the two people who tied can be voted for and those two people do not participate. Instead, it is on to the next step (an open discussion in an effort to make the vote unanimous) and if that doesn’t work, it’s time for the drawing of rocks to send one person home. One ramification of this is immediately clear to Andrea (Redemption Island and Fans vs. Favorites II)— splitting the votes can now be a dangerous strategy. By the way, I loooove Andrea. But readers of this blog know that.
With 20 players in the game, there are some big personalities who have scarcely gotten any camera time, a case in point being Debbie (Kaoh Rong)!
The orange team loses, and the consensus seems to be that everyone is voting for Ciera. But they tell Ciera the vote is for Michaela. Michaela is certainly fine with the Ciera choice, but when she finds out she herself is the cover story she quickly freaks out. Plenty of pouting and making faces ensues, in true Michaela fashion. “Wow, she’s scary, bro,” Tony says.
The Tribal Council set is a very cool-looking shipwreck scene including a lighthouse that’s the voting booth! I neglected to mention that there is also a rusted shipwreck just offshore from one of the gameplay sites. The vote is straightforward, with Ciera getting every vote but her own.
Before we continue to the second half of this double-elimination episode, I should note there are three other players I hadn’t yet mentioned: Zeke (Millennials vs. Gen-X), J. T. (Tocantins and Heroes vs. Villains), and Jeff Varner (The Australian Outback and Second Chance).
The next day, Tony says he wants to make some moves. He envisions an alliance of himself, Aubry, Malcolm, Caleb, and Sandra. He wants to keep big threats around to take attention off of himself, and Aubry says she feels the same (we already know Malcolm does). The following night there is a great shot of everyone sleeping … except Tony who is standing around nervously. He wants to finish his “spy bunker,” which is odd because everyone has noticed the dug-up earth. He tries to lie down in the small ditch and cover himself up, Rambo-style, but then when he hears Sandra and Troyzan coming, he crawls away. He catches some snatches of their conversation (which sounds quite harmless based on what we viewers are shown) but then he decides to burst in and ask them what they are talking about. Their answers make no sense, making Tony suspicious, and with that, the Tony/Sandra alliance is over before it started.
On the blue tribe, Cirie notices that Ozzy and J.T. have hit it off, which she thinks is bad for her.Where are her allies going to come from? She tries to bond with Sarah and also Zeke, who tells us his gut tells him it’s too early to align with someone that everyone is gunning for. Cirie chats up Debbie too, but Debbie tells us, “I assessed it, I don’t buy it.”
Back to the orange tribe. Sandra is now recruiting an anti-Tony alliance, and seemingly signing on are Varner, Hali, Troyzan, and Michaela. Tony observes this and tells Aubry that the two of them, Malcolm, and Caleb need to find one more person.
The challenge is to get a long, heavy fake snake out of a high cage that’s partially underwater. Probst says the snake weighs over 400 pounds. The orange tribe struggles more, and Probst mentions several times how little Varner is contributing. The blue tribe’s lead is huge, but somehow Malcolm solves a puzzle in no time and also puts on an incredible display of ring-tossing to almost tie it, but his tribe just barely falls short.
So Tony’s tribe is going to tribal council needing a fifth person to vote out Sandra. What about Michaela? She’s disgusted at her team’s challenge performances, so Caleb argues to her that they shouldn’t keep the unathletic Sandra.
To cut to the chase, Tony is voted out almost unanimously, though Sandra votes Aubry for reasons that are unclear. As he walks out Sandra can’t help talking trash to send him on his way.
Tony is arguably the most entertaining Survivor player ever, so it’s sad to see him go in the first episode. I don’t think he would have had a chance to win the game, though.
Early favorite: Malcolm.
This may have been billed as a battle between the generations, but the vast majority of the entertainment came from the Millennials. Even the ones who weren’t very good (like Hannah and Taylor) made for great TV.
Good things about this season:
- A deserving winner in Adam. While he wasn’t the best player, he surely played the hardest of anyone.
- The Adam/Jay rivalry was very entertaining, especially since they talked so openly about it with each other.
Bad things about this season:
- There was no one great player and no one great character. Though certainly enough good ones in both categories to keep things interesting.
- The idol plays were all pretty inept.
- The first couple of episodes were fairly uneventful.
Sorry, nobody cracked my best players of all time list, or my best alliances of all time list. On the positive side, even Taylor’s ham-handed game wasn’t enough for anyone in this season to make my list of the the worst of all time.
You can check out my full rankings of the seasons here.