Season 32 of Survivor is finally under way, and it’s off to a good start. The show has brought back a recently used twist with Brains vs. Beauty vs. Brawn, a division that produced a really fun season in Cagayan, so hopes are high that this group will create just as good a show as they did two years ago. I did like the premiere of this season, I think it was a very dramatic first couple of days for this bunch, and it’s really nice to see the change of pace after a season with all returning players to get a bunch of newbies struggling to adapt to the elements. Instead of all the crazy, frantic day 1 strategizing we saw on the premiere of Cambodia, we saw some real emotion, some honest missteps by a few players, and also one really disturbing medical situation that promises to be only the first of many rumored to happen this season. If there’s one thing I feel confident about saying looking forward to Survivor: Kaoh Rong it would be this; we the viewers should expect a very unpredictable game that’s not going to go according to any apparent narrative. There’s no Tony, there’s no Mike, and there’s no Jeremy this time, no one stands out as the obvious winner pick, and I do love that! Here are some of my thoughts after the premiere of Survivor: Kaoh Rong – Brains vs. Brawn vs. Beauty II:
- I think it was cool to see the slow, careful start to the game we got to watch in the first episode. Sure, some may think it lacked excitement, but I think the game progressed very true to form given the newness of the cast. The Brawn tribe was initially a very interesting group because of the kind of personalities they had. You had these big, tatted guys like Scot Pollard and Kyle Jason starting to control the game simply by stature, and then you had these tough women like Jennifer and Cydney who seemed to fit right in with them, both from a physical and mental perspective. Then there were two players who just seemed to be bad fits with the other four, Darnell and Alicia. With Darnell, it seemed like his aloofness and lack of game savvy was just something that would come with time, but Alecia was a real question mark. She did seem to fit the ‘Brawn’ definition, at least not to a tee, and her game ability was seriously in question. At no point in the entire episode did she seem intelligent or game-ready whatsoever. Her presence did create an interesting story to watch though, and so far she’s kind of become the player to root against in general, which you always need in any season. Then there was the Brain tribe, who had personalities galore but started out very cautiously. Debbie stood out as the oddball in this group, and I’ve heard her likened to Coach a lot online. I think that does a great disservice to the wonderful, game-savvy, icon that is Benjamin ‘Coach’ Wade, but still I do understand it. She has that thing where she always has to be right, and has to interject with her opinions a lot, which seems to irk the rest of her tribe. The young super-fans like Liz, Neal, and Peter were quick to make an old vs. young alliance, simply out of the obvious differences, meaning Joe, the 72 year old former FBI agent (just like Phillip, lol!) and Debbie would be on the outs. We didn’t really get to see any of this play out, but it will be something to watch going forward. Lastly, there was the beauty tribe, who seemed cohesive and gamey enough, even though a few of them got in holes early. Caleb had to deal with the fact that people recognized him as Beast Mode Cowboy from Big Brother, an infamy he hopes won’t haunt him in the game, and Tai dug himself a hole early by being caught looking for idols on his own. I like the Beauty tribe here solely because they’re a group of fascinating individual players. Nick is the arrogant alpha male who is going to get outsmarted and sent packing early in the jury phase, Michele is a strategist who can get deep simply by flying under the radar, Julie is the kind of player who will go to the end because she’s overlooked, but will do well because she can play the social game, Caleb is a guy who will either do well, or go down in flames, and who knows maybe he’ll do well and still go down in flames, Anna is a dark horse to win because she’s good at reading people in her real life, and Tai is just a fascinating human being to watch on the show. I don’t think this group has a chance at staying together if there’s any tribe swap, but I think they’re six of the most interesting players to watch on this cast. Overall, my first impressions of the cast were good. I think they will start out slow trying to get their foot in the game, but I expect an interesting game when all is said and done because there are so many unassuming players hidden in this cast who will strike and make big moves undetected. As a side-note, this is a season for the women, so pay extra close attention to them because I feel like we’re gonna get a female winner this season for sure.
- The first challenge of the season was a reward/immunity challenge, with the winner taking home a nice survival-oriented fire-making kit. It was a classic first challenge with some water elements, some physical strength tests, and a puzzle to cap things off. During the proceedings, Darnell made a crucial mistake, losing the goggles for his tribe, meaning they would have to dive into the water and get the paddles they needed to row their boats ashore. Because of this, Brawn fell behind early and needed a quick turnaround to stay in it. However, thanks to their team’s physical strength, they were able to catch up when they had to get their boat shore. Once they caught up and had a chance to catch the beauty tribe for second place, it was then Alecia who performed lackluster on the puzzle, having to sub out with Scot. It was a narrow victory, but Beauty came out ahead of Brawn on the puzzle and Brawn tribe was set for tribal council. It was really all about the Brawn tribe at the challenge, the other tribes did their job, but the two contestants on the Brawn tribe who needed to prove something to the group didn’t. And that was gonna lead up to a very tough decision as to who would be voted out first on Kaoh Rong, a decision that would be as close as it could ever be!
- If this episode got off the rails at any point, you could make an argument that it was at the point where the brawn tribe was deliberating between who to vote out; Darnell or Alecia. Both really screwed their tribe at the challenge, and neither seemed like a great fit with the tribe going forward. Kyle (or should I call him Jason?) and Scot went back and forth a little, but mainly settled on Darnell being the one who had to go. It felt like a far too simple vote for Scot, who seemingly was basing his decision off of merit alone, and Jason went along with it, even though he had his apprehensions about moving forward with Alecia. Cydney clearly was willing to part with Alecia, who she felt was far less useful to the tribe than Darnell, and did make some attempts to get the vote turned on Alecia. It was such a strange first vote because either one of them could’ve been the target, but if you’re really in a situation like that, the odds are you get rid of the physically weaker player first. That’s not how it went down though, as after a really exciting tie vote (that probably was meant to flush an idol), Darnell was unanimously voted out on the re-vote. I was puzzled because I genuinely thought they’d be much better off without Alecia, but hey, they fooled me, and whenever that happens it makes for a much more interesting show. I don’t begrudge the tribe for voting out Darnell, he seemed like a fish out of water on Survivor, and someone like that isn’t the best kind of player to keep around. We’ll never really know what kind of a character we’re missing with Darnell being voted out first, but I’m pretty sure the season will go along just fine anyway.
Just like that, episode 1 of Kaoh Rong is a rap, and I’m not disappointed in the slightest. I think this is a good group of contestants playing the game to the best of their abilities, and the characters on this cast are compelling enough to carry this game, even with a bit of a tired twist being thrown in. If rumors are true, this season is going to get very real, very quick with lots of injuries and medical evacuations to com. That will keep the drama pretty high all season, and will keep the cast in a very tense state as the game goes on. Who knows, maybe all of that will enhance the game, even though it could end up being a real downer after a while. We’ll just have to wait and see what really is gonna go down this season, but one thing’s certain, I’m eagerly anticipating episode 2! Until then, I’ll finish up with some final thoughts:
- My player of the week honors are gonna go to Kyle Jason. He’s playing to win, and he seems to be in the right place with the right people. As long as he keeps his alliance of Scot and Jennifer intact, and as long as he doesn’t get too Russell Hantz like in the way he plays, he has all of the making of a power player. I hope he’s the instigator of this season, every good cast needs someone to mess with everyone, and he may be the guy to create some real problems. I’m much more excited about him after episode 1 than I was going into the episode; he’s got the game to watch…My favorite moment of the episode has to be when Debbie started listing off all of her occupations. She’s just such an oddball, it’s annoying sometimes, but other times it’s just freaking hilarious. And I loved that every time she came up on screen they would put up a different one of her occupations; freaking hilarious…Now the creepiest moment(s) of the episode have to be the saga of Jennifer and her ear bug. That was definitively one of the most horrifying moments in recent Survivor history, it was kind of like something you’d read in a horror novel. The way it was edited, and the way her interviews were put together made it such a profound, terrifying moment in the show, and it was really kind of a good way to introduce us all to what’s going to be a terrifying season in those respects. Jennifer handled that about as well as you could I think, and I have a lot of respect for her sticking with that situation for as long as she did…It’s probably about the point in time when I make a winner pick, huh? I have to, it wouldn’t feel right if I didn’t make a terribly off prediction about who’s going all the way this season, and the one I’m picking right now is Liz. She’s my favorite going into this season, and there are a lot of reasons why I think she’ll be victorious. Her background as a quantitative strategist seems to suggest that she can break down the odds and the scenarios of this game better than anyone, and add that to the fact that she seems calm, sociable, and under the radar, she has all the makings of a winner. My dark horse is Anna, who I think also has the brain and the social skills to work through the game, but for now I’m picking Liz as the winner of Kaoh Rong; I have a good feeling about this one!