Screen: CBS

Bro Down With Jeff Probst

What to watch and what to skip in the Survivor: Blood vs. Water season premiere.

First, let's get it out of the way that "Blood vs. Water" makes absolutely no sense within the context of this show. Unless you've got one tribe of family members going against one tribe of strangers, "Blood vs. Water" does not apply. I get that it's a fun saying, and I'm not going to take the matter up with the Supreme Pedantic Court or anything, but it needs to be said. ["Sustained." -- The Hon. Hateful Buntsy]

Meet The Survivors

Read a cast list and call it a day, honestly. You'll need the online time to look up who some of these "favorites" are. Laura from Survivor Samoa? She finished like tenth, right? I personally was a fan of Monica on Survivor One World, but I was the only one, and it was mostly due to unfulfilled potential. Interestingly, the most recognizable castaways are the ones who have been gone the longest: Gervase from the first season (here with his niece Marissa), Tina who won in Australia (with her daughter Kate), and…sigh. Rupert. Again. "Fourth time's a charm" can't possibly apply.

Also of note: Kat (from One World) brought along her "boyfriend" Hayden, who won Big Brother a couple summers ago. I use scare quotes because I think it's 5-to-1 they started dating just to get cast on this show.

If you can manage to stop the FF for one pair, check out the backstory on former winner Aras and his brother Vytas, who has an addiction/prison past and in general seems like a soft-spoken and interesting guy. The nice thing about this season's gimmick is that the loved ones basically forced the show to get out of its general mold of casting exclusively pretty young airheads and agitated middle-ageds.

Administrative Hoo-Ha and The First Vote(s)

After spending a night isolated with their loved ones, the Survivors are split into tribes: returning players on one side and their loved ones on the other. Which is the right way to split them. Allows the newbies to build some kind of identity on their own and alliances outside of their partners, before tribe swaps and merges smush them all back together again.

Probst then announces that each tribe will vote off one member, right now, before any strategy or discussions or anything. Which would normally be great, except for my nagging suspicion that people on All-Star seasons show up with pre-arranged alliances. So when the returnees vote out Candice and the newbies vote out Rupert's wife Laura, all it tells me is that those two don't keep up as well with the social ties among Survivor alums. Both women will be sent to Redemption Island, where they will participate in weekly three-person contests for the chance to, at some point, return to the game. In seasons past, this was a gimmick designed to keep Russell Hantz in the game as long as possible. This season, we'll call it The Colton Rule.

Yet another twist says that the loved one of the person voted into Redemption Island can take his/her loved one's place. Candice's husband, John, is like, "Uh, you're probably better off, honey" and opts to stick with his tribe and cry about his failings as a man later (and often), while Rupert hilariously is like, "ME. I WILL. ME. Uh, I mean…what? Do you think I should? What do you want?" It's always fun watching Rupert bluster his way into a decision that is in no way good for him. Tina, for one, is all, "Well, that's just great, we kind of needed him at camp." It is so nice to have Tina "All Strategy, All The Time" Wesson on my TV again.

So Laura ends up getting swapped over to the returnees' tribe, where she is instantly the weakest link, and Candice and Rupert head off to Redemption Island.

Camp Life

At Newbie Camp, Brad (Monica's husband and a former marginally successful NFL player) has to recover from intimating earlier that he would lie down for his wife in a competition. He compensates by aggressively courting an all-guy alliance (well, "four guys plus a gay guy," in his words, the ass). Interestingly, despite the fact that he's the runaway winner of the Jeff Probst's Island Boyfriend derby, Brad is getting the buffoon edit, at least early on. Including a particularly damning interview setup where he tries to demonstrate the power of a five-person alliance in a nine-person tribe using both hands, multiple fingers, and zero damn sense at all. Already, John, Caleb, and Vytas are speaking warily about their current alliance with Brad, though they're on board for now.

Over with the returnees, Rupert Laura (as opposed to Other Laura) is really standing out as ill-equipped to deal with the physicalities of roughing it. Clearly she's the top target the first time they have to vote anybody out. Beyond that, there's no real sense of who's aligned with whom (though, again: Tina, Colton, Kat, Monica, and Laura all voted Candice to Redemption Island, so that's worth considering).

Monica also makes a big show about asking Colton whether she can trust him again, after he stabbed her in the back on their previous season. Which, weirdly, was like the least offensive thing Colton did in his original run. But furthermore, the easiest solution to the Colton problem remains to JUST VOTE HIM OUT, and we'll see how that works out in the weeks ahead.

Exile Island

Candice hates Rupert for all the reasons you might expect, plus also he's decided that this time around, he won't do any work at camp in order to preserve himself for challenges.

Camp Life II: Electric Boo-Hoo-A-Loo

Ceira (Laura's daughter) talks to Brad and Vytas about how she got pregnant at 16 years old. Brad the ass manages to stick his foot in his mouth more than a couple times re: how awful that must have been for Ceira's parents. Vytas is pretty cool about it and takes the opportunity to open up about his own past.

Around the campfire with the returnees, the Colton Rehabilitation Project resumes, as he discusses how hard it was to grow up gay in the Deep South. Which: I'm absolutely sure it was, and the effect that such a situation might have on one's personality are not negligible. But these were the stories Colton told last time around, too. "I'm damaged" is one thing. "I'm damaged, I've recognized it, and I'm taking steps to correct the shitty things I do because of it" is another. Monica, for one, remains skeptical that real change has occurred in such a short window of time.

Immunity Challenge

Normally, I'd say skip it, but it's good to get an early sense of who's strong and who's weak. Such as: Gervase! The 13-year hiatus does not seem to have shored up the swimming and endurance issues that were already kind of a problem for him in his original season. He's a super-drag on his team as they swim out to a canoe. Colton and Kat end up screaming at each other re: paddling. But! When it comes to the puzzle-building equalizer, Tina and Laura (along with Monica) house their daughters Katie and Ceira (along with Caleb), and the veterans win. After which, Gervase engages in such an over-the-top display of hot-doggery that I almost respect it. He knows how much he sucked and he's end-zone dancing all the more because of it, and that is kind of great.

Scrumming For Votes

Gervase's poor sportsmanship does have its ill effects. As counterintuitive as it might seem, Gervase's actions blow back on his niece, Marissa, who becomes the target of alliance-leader Brad. The other option looks to be Katie, the member of Puzzle Team who's least ingratiated herself to the team (indeed, only Tyson's girlfriend Rachel made less of an impression in this episode). Vytas makes a point to maintain strong relationships with the women despite his participation in the boys' alliance, even going so far as to tell Marissa she's being considered for elimination.

Tribal Council

Not unless you're really into hearing Probst call Brad "Culpepper" (no kidding, six times). This is going to be a loooong season with that bromance as the centerpiece.

The Snuffening

Somehow, having an uncle who's obnoxious proved more damaging to Marissa than performing poorly in the challenge was for Katie; Marissa's voted out 8-1. The whole thing is symptomatic of a guys' alliance that views all the women on their tribe as equally useless. Prove 'em wrong, ladies. Prove 'em wrong.

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