Off to sea once more. After spending last season somewhere in the Brazilian Highlands, we're back to the islands for the Sept. 17 premiere of "Survivor: Samoa," which promises to be the survivoriest season ever. What? Nobody's called it that? Let me be the first. Let the survivorosity begin. I can almost taste the survivorishness already.
Pre-Credits. We're deep in the heart of the South Pacific and waves are crashing around Jeff Probst. He knows no fear, for he is Jeff Probst, the most survivoresque man any of us know. But he may have competition from Shannon, with her flowing mullet and her healthy sense of self-confidence. People think she rocks, she tells us. Fearsome Russell H is already scaring the intriguingly hippy-hot Marisa. And Betsy, the hardened police officer with a thick New England accent, vows not to trust anyone.
[Full recap after the break...]
Oh Captain, My Captain. They pull their boats on shore, the 20 castaways do. They've already divided into the purple-wearing Galu and the yellow-clad Foa-Foa. Each tribe has to elect a leader from scratch. In Samoa, leaders are important, because they're voted out of the tribes first. Without knowing each other's names, they have to pick leaders. Doctor Mick[Dreamy] is happy to be a leader on his tribe. Shannon wants to be called "Shambo" and since she was a marine, that's fine by me. For Galu, Russell is crowned leader, perhaps because with his dreads and his suit, he's distinctive-looking. He also has great posture. Over at Foa-Foa, votes are going in all directions, with Jaison and MickDreamy tied up going into the final vote. The Foa-Foa leader is MickDreamy. Ben, who says he's shot and killed every animal in Missouri, calls the rest of his tribe "candyasses" for not recognizing his leadership qualities.
Leadership comes with risks. Not much time has past, but Russell and MickDreamy have to pick people to participate in the first challenge. It's guesswork, but who do they think will prove to be their tribe's best swimmer? MickDreamy goes with Jaison, which has to be the most wonderfully counter-intuitive choice any human has ever made, but it speaks well that MickDream is able to see past stereotypes. The joke is that Jaison is a water polo player. Nice guess, MickDreamy! Russell goes with John, a less amusing pick. Next choice? The strongest person. MickDreamy goes with pitbull Russell H, perhaps confusing strongest with "Most likely to bite your throat and not unclench his jaw." Not-Psycho-Russell goes with Erik. Agility? MickDreamy goes with Marisa. Not-Psycho-Russell takes Yasmin (his "African Queen with Braids"). Smartest? Hmmm... MickDreamy guesses Liz. Because she's Asian. Not-Psycho-Russell picks Shambo, who insists that she's "smart in the ways of life," but lacks book-smarts. Seriously. Never pick the Marine with the mullet for intellectual challenges.
The "Survivor" version of punt-pass-and-kick. The swimmer has to swim. The strong person has to carry heavy things. The agile person needs to walk across a balance beam. The smart person needs to do a puzzle. Want to know what they're playing for? Fire, duh. It's Week One on "Survivor." What else would they be playing for? Water polo star Jaison takes an early lead, confusing Mike's racial profiling. Jaison's early lead is prohibitive, passing off to Psycho Russell, who squanders much of the lead to Eric. Marisa and her pixelated cleavage maintains said lead for Foa Foa. It's down to Liz and Shambo. Will the puzzle require book smart or street smarts? Shambo nearly makes up the time, but Liz finishes. Marisa attributes the win to MickDreamy's savvy read on his team. Not-Psycho-Russell is proud of his team. Even John, who still hasn't recovered from his swim.
Introducing the Dumb-Ass Girl Alliance. First to their camp is the triumphant Foa Foa. Once they arrive, Hillbilly Ben grabs the leadership brass ring and starts pushing everybody around, controlling the building of structures and the placement of latrines. MickDreamy is perfectly happy to step aside. Psycho Russell tells us, without hesitation, that he didn't come here to work. Psycho Russell's plan? To have an alliance with each one of the "dumb girls." In one montage, he approaches all of them, "the dumb short-haired blonde" (Ashley), "the even dumber long-haired blonde" (Natalie) and "the dark-haired girl" (Marisa). He calls it his "Dumb-Ass Girl Alliance." Psycho Russell is a peach. He even covers his base with "the old lady" (Betsy), while acknowledging that she's smarter. Betsy, the police officer, doesn't trust Psycho Russell. New Hampshire, represent!
Actually, it doesn't take a rocket scientist. Galu, seemingly upbeat despite their defeat, makes it to camp and Not-Psycho Russell (I hope we sent one Russell or the other home quickly) holds onto his leadership responsibility. Shambo is impressed that Russell isn't viewing his leadership as an honorary position. But there are other Alpha Males in Galu and they're butting heads over the tribal architecture. John may not be a swimmer, but he's a rocket scientist and he wants everybody to know he's smarter than they are. Shambo dubs him "all talk, no business." Shambo, in contrast, is "business in front, party in back." At Galu, they don't have shelter, but they're taking a swim. Shambo is disappointed by the lack of Marine discipline. Her faith in Not-Psycho Russell is already dwindling.
That Lie CBS Has Been Promoting For Weeks. It's the first night in Foa Foa and Psycho Russell tells his Hurricane Katrina story, an amazingly detailed tale involving a fire-axe and a German shepherd named Rocky. Well, Psycho Russell never lived in New Orleans, never had a German shepherd and never was a firefighter. As the son of German shepherd owners, I'm disgusted. Animal lover Ashley is particularly moved. Marisa believes the Katrina part of the story, but she's still suspecting Psycho Russell of sliminess. She doesn't know the half of it. While everybody sleeps, Psycho Russell empties the water from all of their canteens. If he also dips their hands in warm water, he'll truly be evil. He plans on weeding out the weak and making everybody miserable. He even burns a sock in the fire. "I think if I can control how they feel, I can control how they thing," Psycho Russell says, before confessing that he really is a multi-millionaire, adding, "I'm not here for the money. I'm only here to show people how easy it is to win this game." Hmmm... Is this season more amusing if Psycho Russell goes out first, or if he wins?
The morning after. They're still using night-vision when the Foa Foa tribe begins to wake up and they start to discover what occurred. The sock, incidentally, was Jaison, whose feet are starting to hurt. The bickering stats almost immediately. Marisa and Ben (I think?) are at each other's throats. Psycho Russell boasts that he's running the whole show.
Immunity time. Immunity is up for grabs next. Galu is all happy. Foa Foa mocks Not-Psycho Russell's optimism. The challenge isn't all that inspired. A-frames. Heavy boxes. Puzzles. Yawn. But the challenge gets more intriguing as exhaustion sets in. Galu has the lead going into the puzzle, but getting to the puzzle isn't the same as figuring out how to do the puzzle. Except that it is. Galu wins immunity. They have a whole victory dance and the chant, "Galu is in the house."
The Puppetmaster yanks some strings. Slightly Racist Mike attempts to reassure Foa Foa that "it's only like the first quarter in a seven-game series." Ashley isn't sure who to blame and she doesn't want to bring blame up. Mike, however, is happy to place blame. He thinks Ashley is the weakest, but the cameraman captures Ashley's clear attributes as she bends over in her bikini. Mike just doesn't want to be out first and he's scrambling, telling everyone who will listen that Ashley should go. Marisa is wary of Psycho Russell, because she's noticed that he's talking to everybody. Uh-oh. Don't tell Psycho Russell you don't trust him. He decides she needs to go and he takes his case to the rest of the tribe. "My tribe will believe anything I tell them at any point... Because they're just stupid," Psycho Russell cackles, dubbing himself The Puppetmaster. Claiming Women's Intuition, Betsy tries telling Natalie that Psycho Russell's a concern.
Tribal Council. In this game, fire represents something. But I can't remember what. What does fire represent, Jeff? Oh. Right. Life. Ashley kicks things off by saying it's "sad" that somebody needs to go home. She's either zen or wishy-washy or brain-dead. Mike tries claiming that Galu got lucky on the puzzle, but Jeff, showing his Emmy-winning form, is having none of it. He mocks Mike, getting Allegedly Smart Liz to join his cause. Betsy says Ashley's the weak link. Ashley disagrees, protesting that she works out tons at home. Certainly nothing we saw today indicated she's necessarily weak. Marisa won't say who the weakest is. Ben hates Marisa. Psycho Russell makes his case against Marisa, while Marisa bats her eyelashes and claims innocence. She has such pretty eyes. Are they really going to vote her out first?
The Vote. Betsy votes against Ashley. Psycho Russell votes against Marisa. We don't see who Marisa voted against. Did she at least have the sense to vote against Psycho Russell? The first two votes go against Marisa. The next two go against Ashley. Then it's tied at three apiece. Marisa begins whimpering as the last three votes go against her. She's the first castaway headed home this season. Boo.
So, is Psycho Russell good for the game or did you want him out first? Is there any chance that he's right and this is going to be easy for him?