I Vote You Out, and That’s It
Our long Survivor-less nightmare is over! That’s right, Survivor is back and Mary and Todd are back to re-cap it. So let’s find out who will outplay, outwit, and outlast all of the other castaways on tonight’s premiere of Survivor: Island of the Idols!
39 DAYS, 20 PEOPLE, 1 SURVIVOR!
Todd: We jump right into the episode! No marooning, and only a little bit of Jeff talking to the camera in a precarious position. (This time it’s him on the side of a helicopter, moving his hand up to make a 1 and then very quickly moving it back down.) The tribes, Lairo and Vokai, are thrown onto their beaches and the game is begun! What did you think of this stripped down beginning, Mary?
Mary: Personally, I really enjoyed the quickness of it. The thing about Survivor that interests me most is the relationships between the contestants, and the dynamics that form between people. The marooning, while interesting, always feels kind of fabricated, especially after the show has been on for so many years. Cutting straight to the good stuff--the alliance-making, the idol hunting, and the establishment of camp--is a bold and good move! I think it’s not something the producers intended to be a big deal, but it feels like a big deal to me--and the contestants were so confused. Do you think Jeff is trying to take a step back? He seemed on the show MUCH less than usual.
Todd: That is an interesting question, and one that I had not considered before. I said at one point while we were watching that it almost seems like Boston Rob and Sandra (oh yeah, BOSTON ROB AND FREAKIN’ SANDRA DIAZ-TWINE ARE ON THIS SEASON!) were co-hosting the episode with Jeff. They probably had an equal amount of screen time--if not more. That will be an interesting thing to watch out for as the season progresses. BUT I also want to talk about these contestants, because they were so great! A lot of them seem like “super fans” who are savvy and know what to expect from Survivor. What did you make of these castaways? Any early standouts? (Also, having the season be titled “Island of the Idols” without any explanation is a very good job of trolling by Jeff and the other producers. The castaways were so confused!)
Mary: Oh, for sure. They were SO freaked out and immediately speculated what it could mean. None of them were right, and I think, even after the first episode they aren’t sure what this season is about--which I like! I think keeping the air of mystery (like with Edge of Extinction) is a good thing.
As far as the contestants, I think a lot of them are definitely super fans, but some also seem to be “medium fans.” They don’t have an encyclopedic knowledge of how the game works and who’s played, but they know the big moments and are familiar with the lingo. Of course, they have to be knowledgeable about the show because the primary theme of the show is mentorship from Rob and Sandra. If the contestants had no clue who they were, the impact would be way different.
Stand outs for me...I do love Vince, although I think we haven’t seen much of him yet. They’re setting him up to be a presence on the show, I think. He has eyes on him, but he’s trying to make some moves, little as they are. I also found myself liking Elaine against all expectations. There is a weird energy with her; she seems very practical and handy, but she also seems terrified of leaving. When the group mentioned her name as a potential vote out, she scrambled until the end of tribal. It was wild.
Todd: I am going to second your liking of Elaine. She’s funny and personable, but she is also really good at reading people (unlike a certain poker player I could mention)--the moment when she talked with Ronnie and then immediately confessed that she knew he was lying was great and went a long way towards me being on her side. She was also able to dig herself out of the hole of being one of the first names on the chopping block while at the same time organizing an all-female alliance with the other women of Lairo while also bringing in Tom and Vince to form another alliance. She is very savvy, and I won’t be surprised if people are regretting their decision not to vote with Ronnie in a couple weeks.
I agree that Vince seems fun, and I surprised myself by liking Tom! Elizabeth had a lot of screentime since she went to the titular island, but other than having a competitive streak, she didn’t make much of an impression on me. Honestly, this season is starting off like the last season, and I hope that Vokai goes to tribal soon so we can get to know them better.
However, of what we saw of Vokai, both Janet and Kellee stood out to me. Janet had a great moment when she called her shot, re: making fire, and then followed through. She also was a beast in the immunity challenging, doing in one attempt what it took the Lairo men a couple attempts to do. Meanwhile, Kellee, an avowed germophobe and human woman, was creeped out by Dan’s over-aggressive touching, and after talking with other women on the Vokai tribe (including Janet!), she was able to have a conversation with Dan and they hashed out their issues. Still, Dan’s days seem numbered on the Vokai tribe, even if Jason also put a target on his back with too-early idol hunting.
Mary: Look, I just know how to pick the losers who go to tribal a lot. I also love Janet--you know I have a soft spot for the older women. I like that Janet seems very aware that she is a target simply because of her age and gender. You mentioned while we were watching that Survivor seems very self aware this season. Do you want to talk more about that?
Todd: Yeah! This is one of my favorite things in any pop culture property: the ability to comment on itself. Survivor has certainly had castaways who were able to do this before (see: Cochran), but this season the editors really seemed to let each person who has a meta-thought about Survivor get that thought into the final edit. Elaine comments on how Jeff always likes to change things up for the final 3, Chelsea of Lorai wants to know where their marooning is, and also Kellee and Dan’s conversation about Dan’s over-touching feels like it comes about 15 years too late for Survivor but was still appreciated.
Mary: I want to interject that I also think that the issue with Dan touching women a little too much (really, who touches a woman’s THIGH if he doesn’t know her well?!) was handled really well. As you know, but others might not, I refused to finish Survivor: All-Stars because of what happened between Richard Hatch and Sue. I don’t think the producers should allow anything even bordering on sexual assault to happen on the show, and yet many reality franchises (ahem, The Bachelor?) are okay with letting a lot of stuff happen on camera. But these are, at the end of the day, real people, and I think we as viewers should respect their comfort.
Todd: I totally agree, and I am glad that Survivor is finally addressing these kinds of issues. On top of that, it seems like the editors are letting these castaways really be themselves, and it led to an episode that kept me glued to the edge of my seat. There weren’t a million challenges and we actually got to spend time with the survivors as they began to build a camp, a thing that it seems like the show has been shying away from in recent seasons. There were even moments where the castaways were just allowed to have fun! Imagine that! But I think we should talk about the Island of the Idols itself. What did you think of this twist? And what about those statues?!?
Mary: Oh, it’s such a good twist, and the statues are SO BAD. I mean, they don’t even look like Rob and Sandra to me. That being said, it’s really fun! Sandra and Rob are excellent mentors; they think just enough of themselves to be sure that all the advice they’re giving is golden, and I’m curious to see if some of it...isn’t as helpful as they think. While I love both of them as players (especially Sandra, who we have a whole post about), I think the game has probably changed a lot since they played. I wonder if some of their advice is a little out of date.
Todd: That is a good point. Rob hasn’t played in 8 years, and Sandra’s last performance, in 2017, while good, was perhaps most memorable for being the first time she was voted out. Still, I think the idea is a good one, and I love that they are also serving as a kind of Waldorf and Statler for tribal council. Their back and forths with each other was hilarious, and I love that in this premiere Sandra got the titular episode quote! She’s not even playing in the game, but the Queen STILL stays Queen!
Mary: Even so, they gave Elizabeth some good advice when she went to the Island of the Idols. Rob taught her how to make a fire with flint, then Sandra coached her during a short practice period. Then, after a bit of work on her own, Elizabeth had the option to challenge Rob in a fire making competition. Here’s the thing: there was no way she was going to win. No way! Rob is great at making fires and has been on the island enough to have tons of practice (and, I suspect he and Sandra studied up on some practical skills like firemaking before they came on the show). Still, Elizabeth saw the value in competing; if she won she’d get immunity for the next two tribals. If she lost, she’d lose her vote for the week, but really, was that such a big loss?
Todd: This early in the game, it really wasn’t, even if her tribe was going to tribal. And what a tribal it was! It had everything: tears, heartfelt stories, less-heartfelt lists of every job you have ever had, and perhaps one of the most cathartic first boots in recent Survivor history. Ronnie wasn’t quite mean enough to be a full villain, but boy did it feel good when his name came up. Also, nicely, this breaks Survivor’s tradition of having an older woman or a person of color be the first person voted out of the game. How did you feel when Ronnie’s torch was snuffed, Mary? And what does this mean for Aaron, the only person on Lairo to vote with Ronnie?
Mary: Oh, it felt so good! Ronnie was clearly one of the more annoying folks in Lairo. He could have either gone early (as he did) or stayed around forever, and I’m glad the tribe went with option one. I think Aaron may have some hard weeks ahead. It’s usually a very bad thing to be on the wrong side of a vote, and I”m not sure Aaron is savvy enough to dig himself out of that disadvantaged position. I’m excited to find out, though!
Todd: Last but not least, Mary and I will pick our Favorites to go and our Favorites to win the whole thing. Mary, take us away!
Mary: My favorite to win this week is Elaine. I say this because Ronnie argued very hard that if she makes it to the end, she’ll win because of her story (from a rural town, has had a hard life, I guess?), and I agree. Elaine seems--as people have debated on past seasons--like she could really use the million dollars. She’s not rich, and I think she’d get a lot of votes on the end. Plus, her outdoorsy-ness could help her get far! Think of how long people who can catch fish have stuck around in previous seasons.
My favorite to go home next from my tribe is Aaron. I think he’s the obvious answer here, since he was on the wrong side of the vote and, frankly, looks like he could be related to Ronnie.
Todd: My tribe was a little more quiet this week, so these guesses are mostly coming from my gut. My favorite to win is...Molly, I guess? My heart wants to say Janet, who got the most screen time of anyone on the Vokai tribe, but Molly seems like she could be a more empathetic Victoria (of EoE fame). If she is able to build strong relationships with people while also manipulating everyone to her will, then she could definitely win.
We hinted at this above, and while the previews make it seem like Noura might ruffle a bunch of feathers next week, I still think Dan will be the first to get voted out of Vokai.
THE MERGE (stray thoughts from Mary and Todd)
Todd: I love that whoever goes to the Island of the Idols next is a random person from the Vokai tribe. It keeps one tribe from getting all of Rob and Sandra’s wisdom and prevents something like what happened when Sugar was constantly sent to Exile Island. Way to learn from your mistakes, producers!
Mary: I agree--that’s a good thing, for sure. It’ll keep things interesting. I wonder how long it’ll be until someone spills the beans about Rob and Sandra being there? Elizabeth kept the secret this week, but I doubt everyone is so tight lipped.
Todd: For the diehard Survivor-heads out there, Elizabeth’s description sure sounded a lot like the premise for Survivor: Ghost Island, a season whose gimmick has been derided almost constantly since it aired a year and a half ago. It’s not a bad lie, necessarily, but I suspect the super fans on her tribe will be especially skeptical of her story.
Mary: I’d also like to note that there were SO MANY PRACTICAL BATHING SUITS. I really appreciate a sturdy, athletic bathing suit. They’re going to be doing so many challenges and they’re going to lose so much weight that it just makes more sense to have something like Elaine’s camo sports bra or the swim shorts a lot of the women were wearing. Good on the producers for finally allowing the women to pick their own bathing suits (or picking more sensible options for them).
Also in the realm of swim suits, I’m glad Ronnie got voted off because I could not look at his tiny underwear (bathing suit?) any longer.
Todd: Ronnie’s ouster pretty much proves that poker players do not necessarily make good castaways. Ronnie didn’t last long enough to be as annoying as Jean-Robert but he did manage to beat Garrett (from Survivor Cagayan), in terms of being voted out even more quickly. Sometimes, you gotta know when to fold ‘em. And by fold ‘em, I mean not play Survivor because you will be bad at it but think you are outsmarting everyone else.
AND THAT’S ALL FROM…