Survivor S26E01: "She Annoys Me Greatly"
Welcome to season 26 of Survivor!
Survivor: Fans vs. Favorites -- Caramoan premiered with a strong first episode, peaking at 9 million viewers in the US and 280,000 in Australia (note: it aired in Australia on Valentine's Day, which may have affected the number of people watching TV).
With the show being broadcast across the world just hours after its premiere in the US, and with the online Survivor After-Show being hosted by former winner Parvati Shallow (hopefully, CBS will grant global access to these episodes), we thought it was high time that TV.com recapped the show.
Amidst the breathtaking scenery of the Caramoan islands in the Philippines, showcased by some stunning cinematography by the Survivor camera crew, the opening episode began with a fun recap of all the ways that the returning players on the favorites tribe messed up in their first season: Malcolm literally dropped the ball; Corinne made enemies; Brenda played too hard; Cochran flipped on his tribe; Dawn was too loyal to flip with Cochran; Andrea was too flirtatious; Erik gave immunity to the girls; Brandon gave immunity to Albert; Phillip couldn't pronounce Francesca's name; Francesca went gunning after Phillip and got voted out first.
In an entrance showing overt favoritism (only befitting a season of this title), the fans tribe was boated in, followed above by two helicopters containing the "favorites". After being told by host Jeff Probst that they would be playing against a tribe of favorites, the fans reacted in turn with excitement (Cochran, Phillip, Andrea, Erik), confusion (Malcolm, Francesca, Dawn) and apprehension (Brenda, Corinne, Brandon).
(Sidebar: weirdest mix of contestants ever?)
The first reward challenge began immediately, and it was a physical one involving knee-deep water, bodily tackling and dragging people through the sand to reach a post. After losing the first match-up (Erik and Dawn couldn't take on former marine Shamar and race-car driver Julia), the favorites pulled ahead to win quite easily, at 4-1. With flint and 20 pounds of beans as their reward, the favorites smirked their way to camp.
Seasons with returning players are always amusing because they show just how poorly brand new Survivor recruits play the game. Where the favourites immediately began strategising and forming alliances, the fans spent the first day bickering about whether to build a shelter or a fire first.
Matt immediately began working hard on building a good shelter, but was verbally attacked by Shamar, who thought they should be using all of their energy to create a fire so that they wouldn't become dehydrated. Seriously, 26 seasons later and people still don't understand the importance of building a decent shelter ASAP? And perhaps more significantly, after all this time, players still go into the first day by aggravating everyone and causing conflict? That's a fast track to an early elimination.
To his credit, Shamar did actually end up getting his fire by rubbing two sticks together, which is quite a feat for someone who has never played Survivor before. Finally, a contestant who practiced survival skills before going out there! Or are these skills left over from his days as a marine?
Over at the favorites' camp, Francesca proclaimed in a confessional that she would "eat this rock" if she became the first voted out again. Knowing just how much the Survivor editors love foreshadowing, our immediate thought was: "famous last words?"
But we're getting ahead of ourselves.
In an effort to not be the first one gone again, Francesca began making alliances with just about everybody. Phillip, her former nemesis, maintained his dislike toward her, and formed an alliance with Andrea, Corinne, Cochran, Dawn and Malcolm. He ignored Brandon and Brenda, but did attempt to bully Erik into joining his alliance, who disliked being browbeaten, and instead chose to strategise with Brandon (who is surprisingly lucid this season).
Back at the fans camp, in a move lacking any imagination, the players began allying with the people they were paired with for the reward challenge. And in a move demonstrating a distinct lack of mathematics skills, Hope, Eddie, Reynold and Allie made a four-way alliance (in a tribe of 10...). Which they called "the cool group". To the exclusion of all others. Seeing this take place, Laura, Julia, Sherri and Michael decided to align, with Michael going off later to pull Matt into the fold. Shamar was still sulking on a log somewhere, we presume.
Capping it all off, in a move lacking total foresight, Allie and Reynold spend the first night making out in the shelter right next to everyone else. Aren't these people supposedly fans? Shouldn't they know that ever since way back in season 8, when power couple Rob and Amber hooked up during All-Stars and used their close connection to make it all the way to the final two (and are now married with three children), couples have immediately been targeted? To take a few recent examples, this is precisely why Matt Elrod was targeted by Boston Rob in Redemption Island after becoming a little too friendly with Andrea. And why Elyse Umemoto was targeted in South Pacific after sharing a hammock with Ozzy Lusth. And (one of the many reasons) why Angie Layton was taken out of Philippines, after snuggling too closely with Malcolm.
Ugh, these people. Anyway, it was immunity challenge time.
In another physical challenge, teams of two had to race up levels of a wooden structure and retrieve crates with sandbags, which the last pair then had to toss into a wall with six slots. Thanks to the intense speed of Erik and Brandon, the favorites had a lead by the time it got to the tossing stage, but Malcolm failed to get the bags into the holes quickly enough. Reynold, through some stroke of amazing luck, got a hole in one on almost all six bags, winning immunity for the fans.
We didn't know whether to be annoyed that there would be one less of the more interesting players, or glad that the remainder of the 90-minute premiere would focus solely on the favorites, without having to watch the new players clumsily attempt to strategise.
Back at camp, Francesca immediately began ordering her many alliances around on who to vote for. "We're voting for Phillip," she told them without preamble. And why would that be? Because she still disliked Phillip from her first season? Great strategy. It was actually surprising that they didn't go gunning for Malcolm, who failed to toss the bags properly in the challenge and cost them the win, or for people who they know will likely cause conflict around camp, like Brandon and Corinne, or for non-physical players who will potentially drag them down in future challenges, like Cochran and Dawn.
Anyway, Andrea saw this plan as folly, and chose to stick with her Phillip alliance of six. Phillip, who is taking what he learned from Boston Rob in RI and putting it to good use, has become the puppet master behind his alliance, pulling the strings, but not actively gunning for anyone in particular. He was happy when Andrea (who is actually friends with Francesca outside of the game) said that they should target Francesca for playing everyone, and hence being untrustworthy.
Meanwhile, Brandon noticed Andrea talking with Phillip and immediately assumed (correctly) that Andrea was turning on Francesca. He and Erik took their suspicions to Francesca, who then told her alliance that they would now be gunning for Andrea.
So, which way did the chips fall?
Well, there were so many swing votes that tribal council was a nail biter (seriously, Andrea was literally biting her nails). It was a given that Erik and Brandon would fall in line with Francesca, as Erik found her bullying to be a little less overt than Phillip's (and because Brandon will always vote against the pretty young girl). And Corinne was obviously fairly tight with Andrea already. But we heard basically nothing from Malcolm and Brenda this episode (good strategy by both to fly under the radar in the preliminary stages of the game), and the last we heard of Cochran and Dawn, they were still choosing between the two factions.
In the end, Francesca's clumsiness and inability to learn from her first time playing cost her the game. She was voted out 6-4, with only Brandon, Erik and Brenda on her side.
And that's why you don't get the first eliminated to play again.
We do feel sorry for Francesca going home first twice -- her tribe really should have given her a free pass at the first tribal council, just out of pity. But really, she's the one who didn't learn from her past mistakes. Once again, she played way too hard right off the bat, making alliances left, right and centre, and then ordering them all around on who to vote for and targeting Phillip for the sole reason that she disliked him from their first season together.
Well, guess what? Those who try to exert too much control over the game put a target on their own backs. Don't be surprised when someone (or six someones) shoot that target to further their own game.
So that's when the episode ended and the Twitter war began. We're using the term "war" loosely here, as there were no two sides -- just a few former Survivor players taking part in some pretty heavy online bullying, and fans tweeting at them several variations of the phrase "calm down".
Eliza Orlins of Vanuatu and the original Fans vs. Favorites is close friends with Francesca (they're travelling India and China together as we speak), and she began by calling Andrea a "snake", tweeting that "Karma is a b****", and then going on to ostracise Andrea from their "cheese and wine crew" (made up of former players who all live in New York City and get together to watch Survivor when it airs). We're certain that Andrea is just devastated that she wonn't get to hang out with them anymore. (Props to the bystander who asked whether this was the cheese and wine club or the Corleone family.)
And correct us if we're wrong, but didn't Francesca vote for Andrea? If Andrea had gone home, would Francesca have been kicked out of their little group? We think not. Nothing like a bit of hypocrisy!
And would you believe that Russell Hantz (Samoa, Heroes vs. Villains and Redemption Island), of all people, actually went as far as calling Andrea b****, c*** and w**** all in the one tweet? Simply because he is friends with Francesca, too?
What is wrong with these people?
It's a game.
Andrea, for her part, sweetly told "the haters" that they keep her young. And therein lies the difference between classy and crazy.
1. What did you think of the premiere?
2. Do you think they should have given Francesca a free pass the first week, or did she get what was coming to her?
3. What do you think of the new players?
4. Did the Twitter war leave a bad taste in your mouth?
5. On a scale of 1-10, how amusing was Cochran's sunburn?