September 19, 2012 06:49 PM by Ryan Haidet
On the heels of Survivor: One World — one of the worst season’s in the show’s history — Survivor: Philippines made its epic 90-minute debut tonight. The 15 new castaways rode through the choppy waters already separated into three tribes — Tandang, Kalabaw and Matsing. But what those newbies didn’t realize is that a different boat was coasting toward them with three former players, all of whom had been evacuated from the game, about to join them for a second chance at the $1 million prize. From that moment forward, the debut was absolutely worth every second.
Welcome To Survivor
Tattoo-covered Zane said that he was happy to have three different tribes — as long as they weren’t filled celebrities. Cut to Lisa Whelchel, a self-described superfan of the show, who just so happened to play Blair on the “Facts of Life.” After a few fast chats with the new contestants, host Jeff Probst revealed that Michael Skupin, Jonathan Penner and Russell Swan were all making their comeback. after they were all forced out of the game during a prior season. As they each climbed aboard the rocky boat, Probst offered up the story behind their medical evacuations, which I’m guessing wasn’t just to recap it for the audience, but to tell the newbies who don’t watch the show exactly who they are competing against. When Mike joined the Tandang tribe, he instantly recognized Lisa and nearly called her Blair. So much for keeping your past life a secret, Lisa.
Suddenly, Probst kicked the new castaways off the boat as they scrambled to grab as many supplies as they could before getting on small rafts and rowing to shore. When former baseball MVP Jeff Kent jumped off the ship, he cracked his knee hard on the raft. D’oh!
When Matsing arrived at camp, Russell spoke up first and told everybody there wasn’t going to be any leaders on their tribe because he felt like that was a big mistake he made the first time he played in Samoa. Then, as they started working around camp, Russell wouldn’t shut up. He kept on telling everybody else how things are supposed to be done. Oh, Russell. Some things never change. From not wanting to be the leader to making yourself the leader in a roundabout way.
I don’t think his personality is going to mesh well with his new tribemates and I have a feeling he’s going to be out of the game early. Malcolm, who said he lived in Micronesia before, coached Russell on how to make a fire using bamboo and dry grass. It was actually quite impressive because Zane said they sparked their blaze within the first 45 minutes.
It was a much different vibe when Kalabaw landed on shore. Jeff was struggling big time with his hurt knee, but he didn’t want anybody to notice because he feared they would want him out as a result. Meanwhile Jonathan was emotionally moved as he talked in confessional about being back in the game. “I’m looking forward to really kicking some ass with them,” Jonathan said. And although he was happy to be with new people, Jonathan suddenly found himself an early target. Jeff told the rest of the group that one of them should win since they’ve never had a shot at the $1 million prize before. Everybody else agreed.
Dana found herself excited to have Jeff on their team because he’s a southern guy and a hard worker. He played his former baseball career as a secret, but Dawson recognized him. She didn’t spill the beans right then, but also wasn’t against using his secret as leverage in the future.
Mike’s morale was sky-high when the Tandang tribe finally arrived at their new home. He was so happy to be with those people. It didn’t take long for friendships to form as RC and Abi-Maria quickly bonded. In confessional, RC revealed that she’s going to keep her true background a secret because she was worried people might view her negatively if they knew she was a banker. She and Abi chose to form an alliance with Pete, and when he agreed, they approached Mike next. Mike said it sounded like a good place to start and offered her a hug as he accepted the invitation. “The three younger people move fast,” Mike said in confessional. “I feel like I have to move fast with them or I’m in big trouble.”
Meanwhile, Lisa said that she doesn’t want anybody to know about her television past because the eventual jury would likely never vote to give her the grand prize. She then said in confessional that she doesn’t have any money left from her TV past because she invested it poorly. Instead of playing a cutthroat game, Lisa said she was hoping to play the game as a good, honest person. Despite her clear kind-hearted nature, RC was out for Lisa’s blood. She thought that Lisa’s constant distance from the rest of the tribe made her an easy first target. But Mike wasn’t so quick to accept voting Lisa out early. Not only was he starstruck to play the game with her, but he also felt really connected with her. He even suggested that she tell the youngsters about her star status because it might make them awestruck. She disagreed and chose to keep everything a secret.
Zane Mixes Up With Everybody
At Matsing, Zane was working hard to form alliances with nearly every player on his tribe. First with Denise. Then with Roxy. Then with Angie. If that wasn’t enough, he then went and shook hands with Russell and Malcolm for a three-way alliance. But his “brilliant” strategy didn’t last long because Malcolm told Denise that Zane was zinging everybody. Malcolm shared up that information because he felt like she’s a smart woman who could be completely trustworthy.
You would think Mike would be a tad more cautious having been hurt and evacuated the first time around. Nope. He cut his finger, hurt the top of his head and sliced the bottom of his foot wide open. Everybody else noticed that he was an absolute klutz, Mike said he’s very aware of what he’s doing and all of his injuries were just minor issues. Oy! I want you to do well, Mike. Don’t screw this one up.
At Kalabaw, the five new contestants noticed that Jonathan was constantly searching for the hidden Immunity Idol — and he was. As his search went on, an idea sparked in his head that something might be inside their bag of rice. When he opened it up secretly, he found a clue to the hidden Idol inside. At Matsing, Russell stumbled upon the clue in his tribe’s bag of rice by mistake. Zane noticed Russell was acting strange and asked him if he was looking for the Idol. Russell denied it and said that looking for an Idol is something he’s not interested in doing at all. In fact, he claimed that he would target anybody who he caught searching for it. His lie was so bad that I don’t think a newborn would have bought it. Let’s face it. Russell is not a good player. He wasn’t a good player the first time around. In fact, he was super annoying. The only reason he’s back — and I mean the only reason — is because his medical evacuation was so dramatic and tied in with this season’s twist perfectly. That’s it. That’s all. Sorry, Russell fans. It’s true and you know it. The guy isn’t a gamer.
The first challenge of the season was for Reward and Immunity. The rain-filled battle was fun to watch — especially as the non-leading leader Russell stressed about his team being in last place. Hilariously, his team struggled because they were all assigned to their specific tasks in the challenge at his orders. In the end, Kalabaw came in first place and won Immunity and a fire-making kit. Tandang, the second-place team, also earned Immunity and flint. That left Matsing with last place and the first trip to Tribal Council.
Zane Asks To Be Voted Off
Once they returned back at camp, Russell offered his losing tribe a pep talk. As he was telling everybody they need to dig their deepest, Zane interrupted and basically told everybody that he did give it his all. Strangely, he then told everybody that he is the only person who deserves to be voted against. Russell was happy about Zane’s comments because he felt the decision was suddenly really easy. But Zane said it was all just a strategy to feel his tribe out. Uh, probably not the best strategy. Asking people to vote you out after pointing out your own personal weaknesses is never a smart way to get a feel for your tribe. Dumb move.
Angie found herself fired up and in a rage against Russell. She didn’t like his leadership that he claims to not own and was frustrated with the unfair way he assigned everybody during the challenge. Zane then turned the tides on Russell right before the vote. He planted a seed in their heads that Russell found an Idol.
The Tribe Has Spoken
At their first Tribal Council, Zane went on a rant about the value and threat involved with keeping somebody like Russell around. When the chat switched to Russell, he admitted his mistake by becoming a dictator during the first challenge. After saying how devastating it would be to get voted off first, the rest of the tribe talked about Russell’s attitude and unfair leadership skills. Zane said he never should have been the person assigned to the running portion of the challenge because he just quit smoking the day the show started.
It was looking like Russell was destined to be the first person voted off, but when all the ballots were tallied, Zane was ousted 5-1. As they left for camp, Probst tossed them flint so they could have fire of their own.
What did you think of tonight’s premiere? Are you surprised Matsing voted out Zane instead of Russell? What are your first impressions of the new castaways? Sound off and leave a comment below!
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Photo Credit: CBS