Survivor: Philippines Season Premiere: “Leadership kills, dude.”

19 Sep

Whenever a Survivor player is shown early in the season proclaiming to the camera that he/she is running the show, using terms like “puppet master,” “calling the shots,” “wrapped around my finger” or the like, the chances are pretty good that that person is doomed.

Zane, a tatted-up, folksy type, gave us two strategic masterstrokes (in his own mind) before being voted out at the end of this first show. He began by making alliances with all five other people in his six-person tribe. While he’s hardly the first to have tried this, it has actually been known to be effective at times. However nobody who previously tried it then proceeded to tell someone that he has alliances with every single other person, as Zane did to Russell and Malcolm. Oops.

After that tribe lost the immunity challenge and everyone was furious at Russell, Russell gave a speech that was making everyone even angrier at him and essentially making it a lock that Russell would be voted out… until Zane interrupted the fate-sealing to say that he, Zane, was dragging the tribe down with his complete lack of athletic ability and should be the slam-dunk choice to be voted out! (He secretly planned to later turn this into a blindside of Russell through sheer aw-shucks charm.) Now, there have been plenty of horrible ideas on this show, especially after 20 or 30 days in the jungle when paranoia sets in, but when it comes to Day Three ideas this was perhaps the worst ever. Literally, doing anything else in that moment, including saying nothing, would have kept him in the game another week. But thank God he had the idea, because I think Zane would have gotten very annoying if he’d stuck around and monopolized camera time for a few more shows.

Zane actually managed to steal the spotlight from the returnees and minor celebrities, of which this season has five:

#1: Lisa Whelchel, aka Blair on the Facts of Life. Boy oh boy. Circa 1980 there was surely no American boy who wasn’t a little bit in love with Blair, certainly not this writer and definitely not…

#2: Mike Skupin, who is so agog that he almost calls Lisa “Blair” the moment he lays eyes on her. Right now it seems that Mike has wisely decided to go with the flow of his tribe whatever that flow might be, but I see alliance potential here. He can’t get over Lisa’s being there, but can you blame him? She’s Blair from the Facts of Life! Gosh almighty she was cute.

#3: Jonathan Penner, whom I find myself surprisingly glad to see. He’s a likable character who is relishing every minute of being back. For that reason I will overlook the fact that he doesn’t fit the theme of “what might have been if only this fallen hero hadn’t been injured.” After all Jonathan did compete in another entire season, namely Cook Islands, prior to being injured on Fans vs. Favorites.

#4: The aforementioned “black Russell” who was on the same Samoa season as Russell Hantz. By the way, notice that all three returnees were last seen on good seasons? The Survivor producers are obviously hoping to recapture some magic, and frankly they need to as three of the last four seasons have been stinkers: particularly the low IQ group that was last season’s Survivor: One World. Russell begins this game proclaiming to his tribe that he’s not a leader and proclaiming to the camera that only fools are leaders. But this is akin to Robin Williams resolving not to be the class clown, it just doesn’t work and goes against his nature.

#5: Jeff Kent, an ex-baseball player I had never heard of, but shame on me because it turns out he was once MVP of the National League! Despite his generic looks and generic name, one of his tribemates recognizes him right off the bat, though she wisely keeps it to herself for now.

Early favorites:

– R.C., the Wall Street investment banker who on this show is saying she’s an executive assistant. She seems like she could be a Kim-like player who is so ultra-personable she can have multiple alliances and get away with it. She is certainly guaranteed camera time because she’s a) quotable and b) has humongous boobs that the cameramen cannot get enough of.

– Malcolm, the bartender who reveals he once spent a year in Micronesia (site not only of a Survivor season but a good Survivor season, I’m sure the producers liked that bite-size bit of karma).

No-chance list: I have to put Angie the former Miss Teen Utah on there. Very young players seldom win, and she just does not seem strategic enough, plus she’s on a tribe that’s already down a person.




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