Three Cheers For The No, White, And Blue
Survivor's thirtieth season kicks off with three tribes divided by occupation. Also, one guy eats a scorpion.
Meet the New Cast, Same as the Old Cast
As three trucks full of soon-to-be castaways roll through the Nicaraguan jungle, Jeff Probst asserts that "after 29 seasons and 15 years, Survivor's once again breaking the mold." Season 30's 18 contestants have been divided into tribes by "occupation and approach to life."
The white-collar tribe rolls in, wearing yellow and getting jungle fluids on their businesswear. They're cutthroat and businessy and they draw comparisons between the cutthroat world of corporate America and Survivor. Retail buyer So proudly proclaims that she's made multiple people cry in her line of work.
The blue-collar tribe's in blue, naturally, and includes state trooper Kelly, barrel racer Sierra, and postal worker Dan. They are salt-of-the-earthy and they draw comparisons between getting their hands dirty and Survivor. Mike, an oil driller, has a sound bite about this that he's clearly been practicing for months.
Finally, in red, we have the "no-collar" tribe. They are free-spirited trailblazers who can't fit Survivor into your BOX, man. Here we meet Vince, who hangs his head over the truck railing with his tongue out like a dog as the wind artfully tousles his flowing, feather-studded locks. Vince gets the best introductory sound bite of all time: "As a coconut vendor, I seek truth."
"Which way of life will prove to be most valuable?" intones Jeff. You guys, these people are so different! This Survivor is so different! We've got a crazy guy with long hair, we've got a tough-talking lady cop, we've even got a wise-cracking Bostonian meathead named Rodney!
Jeff is waiting on the beach when the Survivors take their place on the official Survivor beach towels. He elaborates on the divided-by-professions gimmick: the White Collar tribe, says Jeff, likes "callin' the shots and bein' in charge. They MAKE the rules." Blue Collar folks "FOLLOW the rules," and over on No Collar, they're centered around passion and they live to "BREAK the rules."
Incidentally, just like every season, the tribes have been assigned locally-appropriate, tribe-ish kind of names, but I'm pretty sure right here is the last time we're ever going to hear those names. Jeff's already calling them Blue, White, and No pretty much exclusively.
Each team chooses a representative to make an important decision at camp (which I'm sure has absolutely nothing to do with hidden-immunity-idol clues). White Collar chooses besuited club rat Joaquin. Blue Collar unanimously picks Dan, an older, pudgy postal worker.
No Collar, flummoxed by decision-making, talks about sandwiches for awhile. Eventually they select Will (whose occupation is cited as "YouTube Sensation") because he promises to procure sandwiches from the ocean. I hope Will's inability to deliver on this promise is the reason he gets voted out.
Each new tribal representative may now select a co-representative. Joaquin (Team White) selects So, Dan (Team Blue) selects Mike, and Will (Team No) selects sailing instructor Jenn.
Scorpion: The Other Other OTHER White Meat
Over at Camp No Collar, Nina admits to her tribe that she is completely deaf and has cochlear implants, and the tribe assures her they love her anyway.
Someone on this tribe has seen the show before, so most are aware that the aforementioned Big Decision is going to involve a choice between food and hidden-immunity-idol clues. This year, the mystery crates are labeled "Honest" and "Deceive." "Honest" gets you a big bag of beans. "Deceive" gets you a small bag and the idol clue.
Both No Collar and Blue Collar choose the big beans, but before White Collar makes their choice, they have to go around the circle and talk about themselves, because that's how you do in corporate America, says corporate trainer Carolyn.
When So and Joaquin walk off to make the Big Decision, "Deceive" seems obvious to Joaquin. It takes convincing to get So on board, but she eventually caves and acknowledges that this means they're in an alliance now. On their way back to camp, So concocts a needlessly convoluted story about what they actually found at the choosing place. So says there were three boxes -- Honest, Deceive, and Neutral -- and they picked Neutral, she says, because the boxes warned of consequences.
That goes over about as well as you'd think. Carolyn sees through it in a hot second but says she doesn't begrudge them because she'd have done the same thing. "They're terrible liars," says Max (former college professor) to Shirin (dot-com exec). Max, Shirin, and Carolyn bond over their mutual distaste for So's transparent lie and resolve to work together.
On the Blue Collar tribe, Lindsay, a hairdresser with a face tattoo and two-tone hair, explains her tats to Boston Rod, who says he finds ink an easy icebreaker because they're basically self-expression, which is actually a very no-collar thing to say but nobody holds it against him. He tells her a story about finding his big sister's body, explaining that chicks dig wrenching anecdotes about discovering the corpses of family members, and he's hoping it will get the girls on his side in this game. Indeed, "we'll be your family," says Lindsay.
Mike finds a scorpion. He thinks maybe you can eat them. This, too, goes about as well as you'd think. "When you guys are starving at night and there's a scorpion in my belly, don't be mad," he says as he chokes it down. Immediately he horks it back up and curls up in the fetal position. "That's just weakness leaving the body!" he says through the pain.
On No Collar, they're worshipping a coconut and lamenting the lack of a drum circle. Vince says Jenn makes him feel emotionally secure. Because she too once had feathers in her hair, Jenn says she feels similarly connected to Vince, and when he offers her an alliance she goes along with it.
Jewelry designer Joe says Vince can do whatever he wants with the shelter and then immediately contradicts this by picking an argument and citing his own construction experience. Vince is alarmed by the lack of cooperation.
Blue Collar builds a shelter. Lindsay makes a suggestion and Dan the postal worker dismisses it as stupid, mansplaining something about bamboo for entirely too long. After a time, Lindsay and Sierra can't keep a straight face any time he opens his mouth, leading Dan (whom Boston Rod has dubbed "a Harry Pottah grandfathah") to realize his social game's a little lacking. Mike assures Dan he has at least one friend.
On No Collar, Joe successfully starts a fire because he studied it on YouTube. Jenn confessionals that she thinks he's cute. Vince is immediately worried that Jenn wants to abandon the ironclad lifelong bond they just made 10 minutes ago and "ride the wave that Joe is making."
Jenn admits to Vince that she does not like Vince as more than a friend. She doesn't LIKE like Joe, she says, but she's allowed to like him as a person. If you watch closely, you can pinpoint the exact moment Vince's heart breaks. He petulantly demands a hug that goes on for about 10 minutes and confessionalizes that Jenn's betrayal obviously means they can never be allies.
Look, I'm just going to save everyone some time: if Vince gets a character moment, that segment is a hard watch, my friends. He's like if Coach Wade had a baby. And then that baby was raised by wolves.
Over on White Collar, "our shelter is very average," laments Tyler, whose white collar cred is that he was once an assistant at a talent agency.
"Nobody knows how to make a damn fire," says Joaquin. "And why would we?" (Because you're going on a show that's in its 30th season, and in every season, people have been called upon to make fire? Just a guess.) Normally, he says, he'd just hire a blue-collar person to do it.
Eventually Joaquin gets bored with fire-making and conspicuously wanders off to look for the hidden immunity idol, as does So, whom Carolyn follows. Carolyn knows what to look for based on seasons past -- just peek into the nearest funny-looking tree. Jackpot.
Immunity: Keyed Into The Right Options
The season's first immunity challenge is the typical run-through-obstacles-and-get-puzzle-pieces thing, but with added decision points. To retrieve the team ladder (because there's always a team ladder), teams can choose to untie knots or unlock locks. When they get to the puzzle, tribes can choose from three puzzles with varying numbers of pieces.
It turns out there are correct choices: one of the puzzles is the same 3-D tree puzzle they've been repainting and using every season for about five years, so that's clearly the best puzzle to pick. And knots are far faster than locks, which some teams realize sooner than others.
White Collar takes an early lead when So switches to knots at the right moment, but when Shirin struggles with the allegedly easiest-to-solve 50-piece puzzle, Blue and No, who both choose the tree puzzle, are able to pull far ahead.
As first No, then Blue, receive immunity, So is already proclaiming Shirin and Carolyn the weak links. At least I think that's what she's saying. She seems incapable of pronouncing the name "Shirin," calling her, at various points, "Shiree" and "Charlene."
White Collar Holds A Symposium To Strategize Redundancies
Vultures feed on a dead beast of some sort as White Collar heads back to camp.
Max white-collarly proposes setting an agenda to discuss who's going home, but without PowerPoint, he has a hard time getting everyone on the same page.
"It's going to be a girl tonight, because everyone's going to see the girls as weaker than the guys," says Carolyn in a way that suggests duh, boys rule and girls drool and EVERYONE knows that.
Max approaches So, who has decided that she's not going to vote for Charlize tonight because unlike Carolyn, at least Siri did something, and at least Shailene felt bad about it when she screwed up the challenge. Once everyone realizes she's talking about Shirin, they surmise that Carolyn's the preferable target.
Tyler tells Carolyn her name's come up, and she tells Tyler she has the idol. He assures her he can probably make sure she doesn't have to use it. Carolyn wants to go on the defensive and target So.
Tyler promises that whether it's So or Carolyn, "somebody is going to be shocked." I can tell you one thing: the shocked party is probably not going to be the viewers.
Say It Ain't So
Jeff Probst seems downright excited that the office dweebs have landed at Tribal Council.
The second time So and Joaquin tell their story about "Honest versus Deceive versus Neutral," it sounds even more ridiculous than it did the first time, and everyone calls bullshit.
Max, sounding like a TV dad, says he's not angry or disappointed, but he thinks they could have been better liars about it. He doesn't seem all that impressed when So immediately caves under pressure and admits to the lie.
So, feeling no longer weighed down by the Neutral Box story, feels free to tell it like it is, and other truths come tumbling out. She tells Carolyn she, Joaquin, Tyler, and Max are a tight four, and they are voting her out tonight because everyone knows Carolyn and Shirin are the weakest.
"When it comes to team challenges, I'm there for the team," says So.
"As opposed to me not being there?" says Carolyn, who doesn't feel she played a role, good or bad, in the challenge. That, says So, is the problem -- she didn't step up.
Max closes Tribal Council by thanking the Survivor gods for a wicked downpour and lots of drama.
Carolyn votes So. So votes Carolyn, proclaiming her "the lesser of two evils." Wouldn't you want to vote the MORE evil person out? I'm confused. But it doesn't matter.
Nobody plays an idol. Jeff reads the votes. Carolyn. So. Carolyn. So (much drama). So. So.
First person voted out of White Collar versus Blue Collar versus No Collar: So.
"You definitely made a mistake," she tells her tribe.
Next week: tears and nudity.
Ninety minutes actually goes by a lot faster than expected with this premiere. While there are still a few randos I couldn't name off the top of my head, and one can spot the first boot a long way off, we get plenty of time to get to know almost everyone -- and so far most of them don't suck. (And the ones who do suck...at least they suck in entertaining ways.)