“Put the mike down, bro.” Survivor: Ghost Island April 11, 2018 recap

11 Apr

This episode goes directly to the tribe merge, and directly from there to hyping the Domenick and Chris rivalry.

The players on the merged tribe have a set table waiting for them, and there’s a buff at each place setting. By chance, Chris sits down in front of the one that has a note hidden in it referring to a secret at tree mail. The secret is a clue to a hidden immunity idol, the catch being that the idol is at Ghost Island. A boat will arrive in the middle of the night to take him there, it’s his choice whether to take it and risk being caught.

Wendell decides to try and play peacemaker between Chris and Domenick and arranges a sit-down. Why don’t they just get out someone from the Orange tribe now and worry about the rivalry later? Chris refuses to commit to any such thing, and now even Wendell believes that Chris has to go.

Chris does slip away to Ghost Island without being spotted, and gets the idol: it’s J.T.’s idol from Survivor: Game Changers. Is it really “cursed” since J.T.. neglected to even bring it to a tribal council when he was in trouble? Alas, this idol can only be used by Chris at this next upcoming  Tribal Council. Ah, but he can play a game to extend its power by additional weeks. Each time he wins a 50/50 game it adds one week, but if he loses a game he has no vote at the next Tribal Council. Chris plays the game, winning the first round and losing the second. So his idol will work for the next two weeks, but he has no vote this week.

The immunity challenge is the one where you have to balance a little statue on a disc at the end of a pole. This seems to favor players with shorter arms, and indeed it comes down to Kellyn, Chelsea, and Libby. Kellyn wins.

Chris has an anti-Domenick plan to set in motion, so he boldly asks everyone but Wendell and Domenick to go to the well with him to discuss it! Wendell, alone with Domenick, reveals to his ally that he has an idol.

Domenick is sure of Wendell, Laurel, and Donathan’s votes, and figures he can pick up Jenna and Libby. But Donathan says those two are “trying to bluff you up.”

Also, we get a look at the four women of the Purple tribe: Chelsea, Angela, Desiree, and Kellyn. They are less interested in Domenick vs. Chris than in getting another remaining Orange tribe member out. Preferably Libby or Michael.

With so much uncertainty, how many idols are going to be played? I could see Chris, Domenick and Michael all playing one!

Interestingly, this tribal council, the seventh of the season, is the first one for Chris! He was only on the immunity-losing tribe once, and missed that tribal council because he was on Ghost Island.

Most of the council is about Domenick vs. Chris. It’s time to vote, and Chris can only go to the voting booth and hold up his “No Vote” parchment. Domenick speaks his “Chris” vote very loudly to the amusement of all. And Wendell briefly tells us why he’s voting Chris, then stays at the voting booth a moment to say how lousy Chris’ rapping is. “Put the mike down, bro,” he says.

Probst asks if anyone wants to play an idol. Domenick gets up fingering the fake idol he’s been wearing around his neck, but ultimately whips out the Legacy Advantage instead, which can only be played at he round of 13 (which is now) or the round of 6. Saving it does no good if you never make it to the round of 6, so it’s sound strategy to play it now.

The votes are read, and all but two are for … Chris, who becomes the first member of the jury. There were two Libby votes, by Desiree and Angela. Why in the world did Chris not play his idol, especially since it only has two weeks of power anyway?

At least Chris must have a Survivor record, namely the record for staying in the game the longest without ever casting one single vote.

There is a funny moment at the end. Chris thanks Jeff Probst but leaves before Jeff can say “It’s time for you to go.” Jeff rattles it off anyway as Chris walks off.

contenders: 1. Laurel, 2. Domenick, 3. Michael, 4. Wendell, 5.  Kellyn, 6. Libby, 7. Sebastian

no chance: Donathan, Jenna, Chelsea, Desiree, Angela

Jury and who I think they’ll vote for: Chris (Angela)

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Idoling up: Survivor: Ghost Island April 4, 2018 recap

5 Apr

Last episode nothing happened, and I bemoaned the lack of any idols or advantages to at least liven things up. Whereas this episode: …. Nothing happens, but at least some players arm themselves with idols to do battle later.

The first to find an idol is Michael, and this idol is nothing less than the famous stick from Survivor: Fans vs. Favorites that Ozzy had planted as a fake idol. Well, we learn that in the ensuing 10 years it has gained power and is now a real idol!

Next we see Kellyn at Ghost Island, her tribe having lost the reward challenge. She is offered the chance to play a game, though this one has a 2 in 3 chance to win rather than just 1 in 2.  She gives it a try and wins an advantage, namely the one Sarah snatched up oh so memorably in Survivor: Game Changers. While that was a vote stealer, now the power is that of an extra vote.

 

The purple tribe won the reward challenge and gets to eat some steaks, and Bradley is grumpy even for him. The rest of the tribe commiserates about how annoying Bradley has become.

 

On the green tribe, Wendell goes looking for an idol and does find a map which soon leads him to … Erik’s immunity necklace from Fans vs. Favorites, the one he so memorably and stupidly gave to Natalie (a moment that was replayed at the start of this season’s first episode). The onetime immunity necklace is now an idol.

 

(Just to recap, Domenick also has an idol as well as a legacy advantage.)

 

The immunity challenge is won by Green, with Orange finishing second. Orange is absolutely ecstatic about being in second place, since that means they won’t be going to Tribal Council.

Purple will be going, however, and Bradley is an obvious potential target since everyone is so annoyed by him. But Domenick wonders if it’s better for him to keep Bradley around, especially since we heard Domenick talk about what a threat Libby is last episode. Chelsea gives Libby her word that she is not going home, but then Chelsea and Domenick indicate they still haven’t made a decision.

Also, we have hardly heard anything from Libby this episode. Surely that means she won’t be the one voted out?

Turns out it does mean exactly that. Bradley is blindsided and sent home.

contenders: 1. Laurel, 2. Domenick, 3. Michael, 4. Wendell, 5. Chris, 6. Kellyn, 7. Libby, 8. Sebastian

no chance: Donathan, Jenna, Chelsea, Desiree, Angela

“The devil in an angel’s body” Survivor: Ghost Island March 28, 2018 recap

28 Mar

There are no post-tribal council scenes to start the show. The episode begins with the tribes meeting Jeff Probst on the beach, and a tribe swap to three tribes. We get an early quote from Desiree, who has rarely been heard from this season, so surely she must play some major role in the episode.

The new tribes are:

Orange: Desiree, Michael, Angela, James, Kellyn

Purple: Donathan, Bradley, Chelsea, Domenick, Libby

Green: Sebastian, Wendell, Jenna, Chris, Laurel

Coincidentally, each of these has three original purple tribe and two original orange tribe members. Jeff Probst asks some questions of the players and the obvious is belabored — this stuff would not have made the cut if this were a very eventful episode.

On the new Green tribe, we get to hear a lot of Chris bragging. We also get to see him reveal to Laurel that he is a model. She is quite amused that he thinks the revelation is a big deal, much like the reaction to Jeremiah’s similar revelation back in Survivor: Cagayan which I detailed here. Then Chris tells us he didn’t want to publicize that he’s a model because “for some crazy reason, people think models might be self-absorbed,” this after we have been shown multiple examples of Chris being just that.

On the Orange tribe, we hear about Angela’s frustration over people on her own tribe having voted for her a few episodes back.

On the Purple tribe, Domenick is just glad he’s not on the same tribe with Chris, for the first time this season. Also, he has decided Libby needs to be voted out: “Libby is the devil in an angel’s body, OK? Libby is out for blood.”

The immunity challenge is that every-season staple in which one caller has to direct his blindfolded teammates. But this one has some more interesting obstacles added, plus the callers even need to coach their still-blindfolded teammates through the puzzle at the end.

Initially the purple tribe is way behind because Chelsea and Donathan can’t manage to find the right bag of puzzle piecs. Now, I don’t know if I would trust Chelsea and Donathan to go to the corner store for a carton of milk, much less to win immunity for my tribe.

When we get to the puzzle portion, Orange has a big lead but caller Desiree can’t find the proper words to describe to her teammates what they need to do. Probst is quick to point out that Desiree couldn’t do the puzzle on Day 1 and yet she was chosen to lead the puzzle-solving on day 17.

In the end, Wendell for the green tribe is the best caller, and his tribe wins as he shouts “What’s up Probst!” Purple, led by Domenick, comes in second. That means Orange is going back to Tribal Council, and Michael reminds us that this will be his fifth this season out of six councils total.

We then go to a Chrysler commercial which shows some movie scenes from the past involving “futuristic” vehicles, are of which are much cooler than the Chrysler they’re trying to sell us.

At the camp, it becomes apparent that Angela is the swing vote, and the person voted out will be either Desiree (for her poor challenge performance) or James (because he is from the original orange tribe). We don’t hear why Michael is not a candidate.

Tribal council is so boring I won’t waste time on it. Every vote but one goes to James. I understand that the original purple tribe is sticking together but if so, why wouldn’t they take out the other tribe’s biggest threat in Michael?

Also, I just realized there was no Ghost Island trip in this episode, nor was it mentioned even once in a season entitled Survivor: Ghost Island!

This season has been a bit of a snooze so far, I think because so many of the characters are low-key, with the only interesting new discoveries (at least among the people who are still around) being Michael and Domenick. Also, I wondered in previous seasons if there were too many immunity idols in play, but frankly the last two episodes could have used an idol or two to liven things up. Sorry, but the “next time on Survivor” preview clips didn’t get me too excited for next week either.

contenders: 1. Laurel, 2. Domenick, 3. Michael, 4. Wendell, 5. Chris, 6. Libby 7. Bradley, 8. Sebastian, 9. Kellyn

no chance: Donathan, Jenna, Chelsea, Desiree, Angela

“It’s hard for me to switch off the defensive, bitchy look.” Survivor: Ghost Island March 21 2018 recap

22 Mar

This episode focused on letting us get to know some of the players a little better. That is my nice way of saying that not much happened.

Certainly nothing of interest happens before the reward challenge, the final phase of which entails throwing balls to hit a fairly small disc. For Purple, Chris is slinging the balls, and you would have thought John Elway was throwing based on their velocity. Thanks to Chris, Purple wins in a blowout, and Jeff Probst is in awe. It is revealed that Chris played college baseball and was in fact a pitcher.

Time to decide who goes to Ghost Island. It’s Stephanie who draws the white rock. However when she smashes the little urn at Ghost Island, she finds out that she doesn’t get to play a game. We hear a little bit more about her story: like Kellyn, Stephanie was unhappy and decided to make changes in her life including getting divorced. And Stephanie left the Mormon religion at that time as well.

On the other tribe, Chris sees that Donathan is upset and reaches out. They bond because Donathan is the caretaker of his grandmother while Chris, as we learned previously, has had to tend to his own sick mother for many years. In prior episodes Chris’s social game seemed to be sorely lacking, now we see that he might have it in him after all.

The immunity challenge is, I believe, a new one: a player from each tribe has to go out into the water and get on a boogie board attached to a rope, and his tribemates must furiously crank a wheel to reel him in. Boy, does riding that board look like fun! The next phase is a slide puzzle, which Purple completes faster to win the challenge. I believe this is their fourth win in a row, and I must say I’m glad because all of the likable characters (except Michael) are on the purple tribe.

Orange needs to figure out whom to vote out. Chelsea and Kellyn decide it should be Jenna, in one of the least dynamic conversations you’ll ever see.

Jenna is in fact worried about being voted out (it will surely be her, Michael, or Stephanie). And Jenna wonders if people don’t want to work with her because of her poker face: “It’s hard for me to switch off the defensive, bitchy expression.” Last week we were led to expect to see romance blossoming between her and Sebastian, but a couple of mildly flirtatious sentences are all we see.

Others propose that Michael or Stephanie should be voted out,  and we see another Chelsea/Kellyn conference which is just as lackluster as the first.

Michael campaigns on the basis of being able to help the tribe in challenges more than the women can. But in private, we see him in tears. I think every tough guy on the season has already cried at least once!

By the way, Desiree has been advocating voting out Stephanie because she seems so strategic, and Desiree also searches Stephanie’s bag. No fair!

Tribal council is so very boring this episode, so let’s go straight to the vote: every ballot but one is cast for …Stephanie! It’s a shame, as until now she was my pick to win the game. I think she could have been a contender, but the uneven tribe swap followed by some challenge losses ruined things for her.

contenders: 1. Laurel, 2. Domenick, 3. Michael, 4. Wendell, 5. Chris, 6. Libby 7. James , 8. Bradley

not sure: Desiree, Kellyn, Sebastian, Angela

no chance: Donathan, Jenna, Chelsea

 

“We made enemies with everybody.” Survivor: Ghost Island March 14, 2018 recap

14 Mar

Domenick and Wendell had a rough tribal council. Their ally Morgan is gone, Chris and Angela are not happy about the coup attempt against them, and everyone else is an ex-member of the orange tribe. But there is one bright spot: Domenick reveals to Wendell that he has a real idol.

And another morale boost comes when Domenick checks his bag to find the legacy advantage that Morgan willed to him. He can’t use it until the round of 13 which is four votes from now, but it’s something. Maybe he can “reverse the curse,” though given that the two players from this season who have touched the advantage so far are Jacob and Morgan, the curse is obviously still going strong as of now!

The reward challenge is a perennial winner: a team of two tries to transport an inner tube to their goal while the other team does its best to tackle them and wrest it away. Jeff Probst reveals that in addition to the food reward, the winning tribe gets to send one of their opposite numbers to Ghost Island, and unlike in prior episodes, the person will be back for tribal council.

One person on the Orange tribe has to sit out, and we hear Chelsea say “I’m sitting,” marking the first words she’s been heard to say this entire season!

The purple tribe wins the reward challenge fairly easily: Chris and Wendell use a give-and-go to get the first point, and a couple of the others are won thanks to Laurel who we see is very athletic.

With no group consensus among Purple as to who should go to Ghost Island (we might not see a consensus the rest of the season), there is a rock draw and Kellyn is the lucky one.

You might recall that the last two Ghost Island visitors, Donathan and Chris, did not get the chance to play a game to win an advantage. Kellyn does, but the stakes would be the same as the ones Jacob faced: if you win the game of chance you get an advantage, but if you lose, you don’t have a vote at the next tribal council. As discussed a couple of posts ago, Jacob wasn’t risking too much since the first couple of votes of the season are rarely close. But for Kellyn it’s a different story: her group has a 5-4 majority so losing one vote would be critical. She decides she can’t risk it.

On the purple tribe, Chris and Angela want to join the ex-orangers to take out Domenick or Wendell. However, Laurel and Donathan like Wendell, and come to the same conclusion others on this season have come to: they don’t want Chris calling the shots. By the way, Laurel tells us that she went to Yale and played Division I sports (a web search reveals she was a volleyball player). It’s not too surprising given her challenge performance.

Also, Domenick reveals to Laurel that he has an idol. “You did lie to us,” she says good-naturedly. And he has the perfect response: hey, “it’s an idol.” Any true gamer has to understand that.

It’s Day 12, and time for a challenge that ends with having to toss volleyballs up onto a sort of gutter (a final phase that was also used in Millennials vs. Gen X). Desiree announces she’s the one to sit out this challenge. Which reminds me: I’ve joked about Chelsea being invisible, but Desiree pretty much has been as well ever since she did the puzzle in the first 10 minutes of the first episode.

Orange has a huge lead, and all Sebastian and Brendan have to do is lay up their balls and it’s an easy win. But this is obviously harder than it looks. The purple tribe comes from way behind to catch up and win, with Chris and Wendell doing the shooting. When Probst declares the win, everyone piles on top of Chris like a national championship has just been won.

So the orange tribe needs to figure out whom to vote out. There’s a 5-4 majority of the old purple tribe, and Kellyn is very glad she didn’t risk losing her vote earlier.

We see Bradley leading the discussions. All we knew about him before was that he complains a lot, now we see that he’s also arrogant and could well be the season’s villain. We also actually hear multiple consecutive sentences from Chelsea, at the 40 minute mark of the fourth hour. And I’m starting to see why we never hear from Chelsea, Bradley, and Desiree: they’re a bit boring and a bit annoying!

Brendan and Michael at least have the idol that Michael found. And it’s lucky it was Michael, because he’s the only guy big enough to wear such a huge idol on his person unobtrusively! It’s in his back waistband under his sportcoat. They let Stephanie and Jenna know about the idol, and they resolve to put all four of their votes on Bradley.

We go to tribal council, and now everyone has been to one except Chris. Michael says someone has to be on the bottom of the 5-person alliance, and Sebastian and Chelsea are those two, with Bradley the ringleader according to Michael.

And then Michael smoothy delivers his prepared announcement. He shows James’ idol from Survivor: China and announces that since James was voted out with two idols, this one has the power to keep two people safe (apparently nobody questions that assertion). He also announces that his alliance’s four votes will all be on Bradley. Michael is amazingly eloquent. If he really is a real estate agent I’m sure he’s great at it.

It’s time to vote, and Stephanie writes Bradley’s name, whispering “I have never in my life heard a grown man who whines and complains as much as you.”

Michael whispers to Brendan that he’s getting the vibe that the vote is for Stephanie. When it’s time to play idols, Michael walks up to Probst and while reading everyone’s expressions, announces he’s playing his idol for himself and Brendan. We have seen these reads work before, most recently for Joe last season. But Michael doesn’t notice what we are shown: Bradley looking very worried at that announcement. That should have been a sign to stand pat with protecting one of the guys. But Michael says no, he’ll play it for Stephanie instead.

We see four votes for Bradley right off the bat, but alas all the rest are for Brendan.

Brendan’s parting words show us he’s a very good sport. I thought he might get further in the game but I didn’t think he’d win — the athletic-looking obvious leader types never seem to win anymore like they did in the early seasons.

Time for my first full ranking of the year.

contenders: 1. Stephanie, 2. Laurel, 3. Domenick, 4. Michael, 5. Wendell, 6. Chris, 7. Libby

not sure: Desiree, Kellyn, Jenna, Bradley, James, Sebastian, Angela, Chelsea

no chance: Donathan

“Don’t trust the cute blonde.” Survivor: Ghost Island March 7, 2018 recap

9 Mar

It’s Day 7, and Jeff Probst asks the two tribes if they have a good feeling about their respective groups. Of course, the only time he ever asks such a thing is when he’s about to announce a tribe swap, which he does now. The new lineups are as follows:

Purple still: Dominick, Chris, Angela, Wendell, Morgan

Purple, used to be orange: Donathan, Libby, Laurel, James

Orange still: Jenna, Stephanie, Brendan, Michael

Orange, used to be purple: Desiree, Sebastian, Kellyn, Bradley, and someone named Chelsea who I would swear was not there in the first episode.

Some of these players had no significant role last week, so we get to know them for the first time here (other than the aforementioned Chelsea who is as invisible for the rest of this episode as she was in the prior episode, assuming she was on that first show at all). Angela is a woman in her thirties (or forties?) who tells us she served two tours in the military. Kellyn was seen briefly in the prior episode but not in my recap — she told us that she didn’t like the way her life was going so she got divorced and went on Survivor, among other things.

Lastly, dark-haired Bradley has been on screen a few times but hasn’t shown us much to date. Now we do hear from him once he arrives at his new tribe’s beach, but the only thing he says is that their beach sucks, and he says it a couple of times.

Cut to Chris, who is worried. True, his old tribe is in the majority in his new group, but three of those people are Domenick, Wendell, and Morgan, none of whom he had a great connection with. Chris tells Angela that Domenick has an immunity idol and that they need to blindside him, though Angela bristles at being given orders. Then Chris goes on to tell James and Libby about the idol too!

On the orange tribe, Jenna, Stephanie, Brendan, and Michael are all panicking to varying degrees about being in the minority. They all go looking for an idol, and Michael finds one.

In keeping with the season’s theme, the idol Michael finds is one of James’ two idols that he had when it was voted out of Survivor: China. This might be the most distinctive idol in Survivor history, it’s the square logo that was on the arch leading into his tribe’s camp. We see a flashback to him popping it off, with glimpses of other memorable cast members from that great season: Todd, Courtney, Denise the (putative) lunch lady, and (sigh) Amanda. But let’s stay on topic here.

Back on the purple tribe, Morgan and Domenick are getting a bad vibe from Chris, but Morgan gets great vibes from her new tribemate Libby, and the girls bond over both being Catholic.

The challenge is fairly standard Survivor fare, ending with a puzzle which Bradley and Kellyn do much faster for the orange tribe than Wendell and Laurel do for purple. So purple is going to tribe council, and we see Stephanie looking super-relieved as she could well have been the one to go home.

We’re only at the 31-minute mark of the episode, so obviously much more is due to happen, right? First up is the Ghost Island selection by Orange. There will certainly be junctures in this game when people will vie to send an ally to Ghost Island to keep him safe and allow him to potentially gain an advantage, but at this juncture every person’s vote at Tribal Council is critical, so each group wants to have someone from the rival group be prevented from participating. By the way, Probst reveals new information he didn’t mention last week: the choice of whom to send to Ghost Island must be unanimous, or the person is determined by random rock draw. Orange is understandably not unanimous, so rocks are drawn and Chris is the one to go. We see a shot of Angela, as this is bad for her. But it should make for an interesting vote, since the numbers will be 4-4 going into that vote.

Chris smashes the appropriate urn at Ghost Island to find out he won’t have a chance to win an advantage. Soon he breaks down and cries on camera, and tells us he wants to win for his mother, who has had multiple sclerosis since before he was born.

At camp, Angela tells Wendell she just can’t vote for an original purple tribe member, and will go to a rock draw for a tie vote if need be. Wendell has no such reservations, and in fact he wants to vote out Angela.

Domenick isn’t done maneuvering. To recap: he has a real idol, he made a fake, he told Chris he didn‘t have an idol, then he told Chris he did have one but showed him the fake. Now, Domenick shows James, Libby, and Laurel the fake idol and tells them it’s fake, to show his sincerity. James has the same reaction Chris did last week: something’s fishy here. James, Libby, and Laurel are skeptical of Domenick, so they lean more toward siding with Chris and Angela. If Domenick is voting for Angela as he says, that means James, Libby, and Laurel can decide who goes home: either Domenick or his two allies Wendell and Morgan. Since Domenick maybe/probably has a real idol, it should be Wendell or Morgan, says James. But Laurel says they need Wendell (presumably for strength in challenges) and as noted earlier, Libby trusts Morgan. What to do?

By the way: James compares Domenick to Russell Hantz. Not that I find that comparison all that apt, but since it used to be that every season had someone be compared to Russell, it’s nice to see that mini-tradition revived.

Let’s be honest, nothing too exciting happened this episode. And there was definitely nothing exciting at Tribal Council. Except perhaps the vote result itself. It seems to be clear that Angela is on her way out, and gets 3 of the first 4 votes, but then we hear four votes for Morgan and Morgan is out!

In retrospect it makes sense, but the move was not telegraphed by featuring Morgan heavily in the episode.

Now, the camera lingers on Libby like she’s Benedict Arnold and Judas rolled into one, but really it makes more sense that she stuck with James and Laurel for now. Morgan is a good sport, but she does say “Don’t trust the cute blonde” on the way out.

The Morgan votes were: James, Laurel, Libby, and Donathan, whom both I and the show had completely forgotten about.

The Angela votes were Wendell, Domenick, and Morgan, and the Libby vote was by Angela.

The players are done, but there’s one thing left for us viewers: to see who Morgan is going to will her Legacy Advantage to. It’s Domenick, who Morgan says was always honest with her. Domenick can’t use it until the round of 13 and there are 17 players left right now, so we’ll see if he lasts long enough to make it an issue.

 

 

“It’s a fugazi.” Survivor: Ghost Island February 28, 2018 Season Premiere Recap

3 Mar

We begin with flashbacks to mistakes from prior seasons. Erik giving up his immunity to Natalie in Survivor: Fans vs. Favorites. From Millennials vs. Gen X, Jay playing an idol not knowing it was a fake made by David. James being voted out despite having two idols  in Survivor: China. From Survivor: Game Changers, Sierra telling Sarah about her legacy advantage.

The location of this new season is Fiji (again), and the season is Survivor: Ghost Island. But wait, there’s one more flashback: to Eliza telling Jason that his idol is “a (bleeping) stick” and therefore fake, also from the aforementioned Fans vs. Favorites.

As for the current players, this time we don’t hear any pregame bragging while the camera shows them riding in a truck or boat in silence. Instead, there are no such close-ups and nobody is heard from until their feet hit the beach, everyone already wearing tribe colors. Probst wastes no time asking them to pick captains for their first challenge. The orange tribe picks Brendan, a lean and muscular PE teacher who surely must be ex-military. The purple tribe picks tall, blonde Chris, who we later find out is a male model.

Probst tells them that both tribes will get much less rice to start out than was the case in any previous season. The winners get a shelter building kit, the losers don’t, nor do the losers get fishing gear. However there’s a twist: if one captain thinks his tribe will not win, he can forfeit in the middle of the challenge and keep the fishing gear, but he can only do so before the sand in an hourglass runs out.

The captains choose one teammate each for the physical portion and the puzzle. On the physical part, orange is represented by Michael, a beefy, bearded young guy sort of like the actor Chris Pratt. Purple is represented by the shorter, leaner Sebastian. Soon both are exhausted, especially Michael.

The puzzle pits Laurel, a young black woman who we later hear is a financial consultant, against Desiree, a somewhat older black woman with short blonde hair who tells us viewers that despite appearances, she’s actually not good at puzzles. There are some tense moments as the captains look back and forth to the two puzzles as the hourglass sand runs down. At the last second Chris forfeits, surprisingly. It didn’t look like Desiree was that far behind, or if she was the producers did a poor job of showing it.

Probst asks if anyone questions Chris’ decision and understandably, nobody wants to make waves just minutes into the game … except Domenick, a loudmouth type from somewhere in the Northeast.

The tribes go to their camps and the orange tribe has a meet-and-greet. Michael tells his tribemates that he’s 23 and a real estate agent in LA. Then he tells us viewers that he’s really 18. He doesn’t want to say his real age “because it just kills credibility right off the bat.”

There’s another fellow who earlier was heard speaking some language vaguely resembling English. Turns out his name is Donathan, he and his thick accent are from Eastern Kentucky, and he tells us he’s never had the chance to be around a diverse group of people before. Mind you, he’s gay, but he indicates that that’s a moot point since Eastern Kentucky has no other gay men. I wonder if he was cast as a designated “Lauren from Heroes/Healers/Hustlers type.”

On the purple tribe, Domenick is acting domineering and looking like a candidate to be the first voted out. And Chris and Sebastian bond immediately over their shared knowledge of the Florida Keys (odd, but whatever). They are both already talking about targeting Domenick.

Then we meet Jacob who looks like a nerdier version of a young Jerry Garcia. He puts his shoes down at the edge of the water and they’re immediately washed away into the ocean. He figures he and Donathan, as the least athletic guys, will be targeted right away. Jacob muses aloud to the others whether an idol might already be in the game. Then moments later (or at least it’s edited that way) he announces that he’s “going exploring” and heads off into the woods! And this despite supposedly being a student of the game who has watched every season! Somehow 35 seasons were not enough for him to pick up that you don’t draw attention to yourself early on if at all possible. Later, he’s alone at camp and decides to check the rice for a clue by pouring it into his dirty sock and back again. Yuck.

Back on the purple tribe Domenick bonds with Wendell, a young black man who’s an Ivy league law student turned furniture designer. Sebastian tells Wendell that Domenick is who he’s targeting, and Wendell passes the news on to Domenick.

It’s immunity challenge time (this is the first half of a two-hour episode) and Probst announces that someone from the losing tribe has to go to … Ghost Island. The challenge involves each group joining together to tug wheelbarrows filled with blocks that look tremendously heavy, then arranging the blocks into a puzzle. The purple tribe wins.

Now we learn more about Ghost Island. Unlike the Exile Island of years past, whoever goes to Ghost Island stays past tribal council, and therefore cannot be voted out. The purple tribe chooses Jacob, who moments earlier was voicing some blustery bravado.

Ghost Island has an interesting feature: what amounts to a museum exhibit of all of Probst’s torch-snuffers from prior seasons. Jacob sees a row of small urns and a sign “smash the urn.” The note tells him he can choose to play a game of chance. If he wins, he gets an advantage in the game. If he loses, he doesn’t get a vote at the next tribal council.

To me, this is a clear-cut choice, at least in week one. If someone’s in danger of being voted out in the first couple of weeks, it’s very seldom by a one-vote margin, and the upside of an advantage could be tremendous.

Jacob does indeed decide to try the game and chooses correctly in the game to win … not just a legacy advantage, but the legacy advantage from Game Changers mentioned above, complete with Sierra’s and Sarah’s signatures on it! Hardcore fan Jacob knows all about that advantage, but an accompanying note tells the whole Sierra/Sarah story just in case, and we see a flashback. Has Survivor ever used flashbacks to prior seasons before? They’re par for the course in, say, Real Housewives, but not in this game.

The bad news is, to “restore the power” of the legacy advantage, Jacob must will it to someone on the other tribe. He picks Morgan, a chatty young woman who we’ve only seen glimpses of thus far.

Jacob being gone, the orange tribe has to pick someone to vote out. Donathan understandably wants to make someone else a target, so he campaigns against one Stephanie Gonzalez, a hard-charging type who announced earlier in the show that one could simply call her Gonzalez. Perhaps this was at the producers’ urging since there is another Stephanie on the season.

The second Stephanie is a brunette who looks like the actress Robin Tunney who was on The Mentalist and Prison Break. She gets together with a couple of other women to debate whether to vote for Donathan or Gonzalez. Donathan’s campaign centered on the accusation that Gonzalez didn’t let others speak while the team did the puzzle. I doubt that the ladies are using that as one of their main criteria — more likely they are considering voting Gonzalez out because she’s a threat to them.

I, the viewer, am already pretty sick of Gonzalez by this point. She boasts nonstop and trashes others. At tribal council when it’s time to vote, Gonzalez announces she needs another minute, stands up, and goes around whispering in people’s ears asking who they’re going to vote for! And it looks like she asks everyone but Donathan. Probst loves this move, which is incredibly aggressive for the very first tribal council.

When the votes are read, all the votes but one are for … Gonzalez! And if she has parting thoughts, the producers don’t share them with us, which is fine with me.

We cut to the other tribe. While everyone sleeps in the middle of the night, Domenick stands over them, Tony-like. He knows that Chris and Sebastian are gunning for him, so he goes to search for a hidden immunity idol. Despite it being pitch dark, he somehow finds one, though it’s so dark he can’t even read the note!

Like the advantage Jacob found earlier, this is a piece of Survivor memorabilia, namely the idol Andrea had in her pocket when she was voted out of Caramoan aka Fans vs. Favorites II. Flashbacks are shown. And by the way, though that was a gaffe, the scene begins with a much bigger gaffe, as it was Erik who found the idol yet inexplicably just handed it to Andrea! Poor Erik is looking stupid for the second time in just over an hour.

Shortly thereafter, Morgan looks in her bag and is surprised to find the advantage willed to her by Jacob. The same rule is attached that applied to Sierra: the advantage can only be used at the round of 13 or the round of 6.

Jacob has to head back to camp shortly, so he has to decide if he’s going to tell his teammates about the advantage. The answer is no. But he is going to tell them that … he has an idol! And to back this up, he’s going to make a fake one! This has got to be the first fake idol ever made on the first episode of a season.

When Jacob gets back to camp he tells his story, but Brendan immediately asks if there was a note with it. Jacob has an excuse for it being missing, and soon Brendan tells the others he thinks the idol’s fake.

Back on the purple tribe, Domenick wants to get out of Chris’ crosshairs so he tries to bury the hatchet and suggests they form an alliance. Chris asks him if he has an idol, and Domenick scoffs at the idea. But soon thereafter Domenick wanders off to make … a fake idol! I kid you not. He then goes and gets Chris, to whom he just swore he had no idol, and shows it to him, along with the real note from his real idol. That part is genius, because Chris is so intent on reading the note he doesn’t inspect the “idol” very closely. Domenick tells us, “It’s a fugazi.”

Now, this is season 36, and I’m pretty sure it has not yet happened one single time that a Survivor has used a word I’d never heard before. But by golly it happened here: fugazi. I scurried to my unabridged Webster’s Third only to find no sign of this word, but online sources tell me a fugazi is a fake.

But we next see Chris using a different f-word, namely fishy. He doesn’t know quite what Domenick is pulling, but he knows he’s pulling something.

Back to Domenick’s maneuver: I think this might be the first time someone who has a real idol has ever then announced he or she has an idol and used a fake. After all, a fake has the same downside as a real idol, namely that people who think you have it will perceive you as a threat. Ben from last season may not have been an all-time great Survivor player, but the simple understanding that idols should be kept secret served him very, very well.

One of the phases of the immunity challenge involves two players swimming a few feet and diving to release some volleyballs from an underground cage. Handling this phase for orange are Donathan as well as James, a fit-looking Asian who we haven’t seen much of yet. They’re not exactly a dream team: Donathan flounders and swims to the opposite platform, while James tries a few times but can’t get close, whether from exhaustion or from lack of swimming ability. So he treads water helplessly. Their teammates can’t substitute, and they see that James isn’t going anywhere, so all they can do is beg Donathan, who barely tried it before, to at least give it a shot. He just says he can’t do it. They keep imploring him over and over and over, for what seems like a solid five minutes of the show. So finally he is shamed into giving it a try, and guess what, he accomplishes the task right away. However, while all that went on, Purple was building a big lead, and they win easily.

The purple team had discussed previously that the best Ghost Island strategy would seem to be sending the weakest performer possible from the other team. After all, that ensures that whoever is voted out will be someone other than the weakest, which is always good. They quickly choose Donathan and Jacob is crushed that it wasn’t him! However Jacob, not short on bluster, tells us that he will soon use his fake idol “to try to take control of the game.”

Donathan will have no such luck, at least for now. He smashes an urn on Ghost Island but the note says “Nope. Not today. No game for you.” (Don’t quit your day job to become a copywriter, Probst.) He burns the note. Donathan is mighty proud of his challenge performance. He’s a likable dude who must have had some traumatic event in his childhood, I’m guessing.

There is much strategizing back at camp, and by this point in the episode, nothing can be shown without also showing Stephanie’s reaction. We soon see her conferring with Brendan and Michael. Brendan wants to vote out Jacob, but still put some votes on James to allow for the possibility that Jacob’s idol is real. But their plan would of course have an even better chance if Jacob could be made comfortable and tricked into not playing an idol.

So Stephanie takes him on a walk, butters him up, and gives him attention. We superfans have to stick together, she says. So he immediately thinks he’s got an alliance, which I guess isn’t bad. But then we get to the part that is really bad: he tells her the idol isn’t real. And if that’s not enough, he tells her that Morgan now has a legacy advantage. Oh, Jacob. This is straight out of a high school movie in which the nerd lets the cheerleader copy his answers to the test. So painful to watch.

However, Stephanie has something new to think about now. Is someone who blindly trusts you someone you can afford to get rid of, or is it better to keep him around? She talks it through with Jenna, a tall blonde who says she and Stephanie hit it off from the start. Jacob had said he could get James and Laurel to vote with him, so do we have a coalition forming here?

The guess I wrote down before tribal council was: this is a fake-out (a fugazi?) and Jacob is going home.

At tribal council, the focus is squarely on Jacob. By the way, I have mentioned every member of the tribe up to now except for a pretty blonde named Libby, whose name I had to look up since it isn’t mentioned on the whole show, nor do I recall her saying one thing over the course of these two hours. And she keeps that streak intact at this tribal council.

As the first person gets up to vote, we see Brendan, whose intuition has been incredible so far, whisper to Michael, “I think we’re getting set up.”

When Probst asks if anyone wants to play an idol, Jacob sits tight, despite having mentioned to his tribemates that he was going to play it no matter what. The neurotic fellow is voted out, with some votes going to James as originally planned.

So we’ve seen the last of Jacob … unless we see him joining my ranking of the worst Survivor players of all time. But that call will be made after the season.

For now, tradition dictates that I need to name an early favorite. Based on sheer camera time, as well as more than a little skill shown, I’m going with Stephanie.