Here is one of the wonderful things about a game like “Survivor“: You can spend months speculating and toiling away at what you think is going to happen, but you still have no idea what is going to happen when players actually get out there.
Take, for example, Vytas Baskauskas. This is a guy who we pegged to win the game before the season, thinking that he would use some of the skills that he took from “Blood vs. Water” and then learn from his mistakes. Come a good hour into this 90-minute premiere, he was finding ways to make new mistakes by throwing his yoga (and other parts of himself) right at some of the other players. He was way too aggressive, and really in a way that Shirin and Kelley felt uncomfortable with. We are students of the edit, and at this point, it felt apparent that Vytas’ Ta Keo tribe was going to lose and he was going to go.
Kelley was probably the big winner of the Ta Keo footage we saw, mostly in that she was the first person to find a hidden immunity idol clue. The surprise? The idol was hidden in the challenge itself! Therefore, she had a decision to make.
On the Bayon tribe, it felt clear to us entering the challenge that they may be in good shape. For one, they’ve got a couple of physical titans in Joe (who everyone is presently treating like a god in the game) and Jeremy. Also, the only person who was shown as even a possible target was Stephen, who was the recipient of the “fail” music when he was struggling to chop a tree. An alpha-male alliance was forming fronted by Joe, Savage, and Jeremy, mostly as a way to collectively protect each other. It was a smart move, and this tribe chemistry-wise seemed to have most of it together.
The first immunity challenge – Bayon did pull it out! It was Kelly Wiglesworth’s failure to retrieve the key that really did her in for the most part. However, what was just as interesting here was Kelley managing to find a way to snatch the idol! It was pretty remarkable how she was able to pull this off without anyone noticing. The challenge itself was fine, but mostly was just there for nostalgia purposes.
After the challenge, Jeff Probst let loose the other surprise of the season: Ta Keo was going straight to tribal council, where the first person would be voted out of the season.
The first tribal – Entering this stage of the game, it felt as though it was clear that the targets were either Vytas or Abi-Maria, who spend most of the first part of the episode on the edge over not being able to find her bracelet (which was in Peih-Gee’s bag). Our sense was still that Vytas one be the one going, just because we hadn’t really gotten the sense of a stable alliance among the “old school” players. Jeff Varner and Peih-Gee were in the position of swing vote.
As it turns out, Vytas is gone. the edit was clear, and yep, we should probably stop making predictions at this point. The past two seasons, our pick has gone out before the third episode both times. That ain’t good. Still, that’s part of the fun of the game. We’d rather be terribly wrong just because that shows the fluidity of this game. This was a great premiere, and while you could see the end coming, we’re still excited for everything that comes next. Grade: A-.
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