So I’m sure you’ve heard it a thousand times but this premiere was light fare at best. Diet Survivor. There have been seasons like MvGX that have had longer premieres that still felt empty, but I’m not sure if that’s to HHH’s credit or not. Should it get credit for showing as much of value in shorter time, or lampooned because it barely started the season?
This reminds me of a cut-off first half of a two-episode premiere- think Gabon, Cagayan, and Game Changers (though I can’t blame you for not wanting to think of Game Changers). This episode felt like setup for a second half that would continue the main story while worldbuilding the other two tribes. The lazy justification for the Katrina boot reminds me of the light setup for the Ciera boot last season, and in a perfect world the second half is an awesome Alan boot that cements him as a great character. The second episode could be awesome, but we shouldn’t have to wait a week to finish getting development.
I could tell you very little about Yawa and Soko that didn’t have to do with Ryan or Mike. The only tribe I have any thoughts on are Levu, and that’s just because they went to Tribal. The frustrating bit is that there are great characters I know are itching to hatch, but are still in their eggs. Roark, Simone, Desi, Lauren, Cole- all of them extremely undeveloped, which should not be the case in the premiere. On other tribes the remotely developed characters I could count on one hand. This means we got to spend half the episode with Ryan and Mike, and the other half with the damn Heroes tribe. Joy to the world.
Can’t Break What’s Already Healed
The healers tribe may be the least developed of them all. There were 34 total confessionals, because one hour premieres are not a great idea, and they got eight of them, only two more than Ryan got alone. The goings-on can be summarized by the fact that Roark contributed to them winning, Jessica thinks Cole is cute, and Joe and Mike clashed.
Roark should have been shown more. Not only because she reminds me of 75% of the mental health professionals I’ve ever met, but because she has a funny personality. When going for reward Jessica said that Roark was the lightest (and therefore was easy to put atop the human stand). Her response: “no way!” Speaking of Jessica, she notes that Cole is handsome and the Tarzan of the group. I hope she means Mark, not Greg, but it’s been called from the day the cast was released that they would be a showmance.
I legitimately cannot tell you a thing about Desi. Great premiere.
The real star of the tribe was Mike, which is funny because he got three confessionals. He referenced his family a bit to justify his game in confessional, which is actually sweeter than I imagined he would be, especially after he used them to crack a joke about Ethan’s attractiveness. His ten year old son suggested before he left that he idol hunt, so he is. While I think it’s funny that idol hunting is literally a childlike pursuit, it’s actually more endearing than I thought it would be.
Then he’s caught by Joe, who does that whole nice guy interrogation thing to bust Mike, which intimidated Mike and caused him to say he doesn’t trust Joe. This scene has been debated in hot and cold terms- is Mike a crybaby while Joe was playing the game, or was Mike right and Joe is a flat-out bully? My thoughts are in the middle. I don’t think Joe was a bully, but he was a dick, and I don’t think Mike was a wimp, and called that Joe was a problem.
Joe took his work with him and really tried to nail Mike for idol hunting in very abrasive, uncomfortable ways. He’s used to interrogating high-risk criminals, but Mike is just a guy. Even if you’re in the right, there’s a wrong way to be in the right. This set a very bad first impression with a tribesmate. Joe’s playing good-cop/bad-cop and it’s because as he says he thinks he’s smarter than everyone. He’s trying to manipulate his “victims” and they aren’t having it.
Going into the season I think we all saw Mike as a knockoff David, quite like Ryan was seen as a knockoff Cochran. However, though Mike is awkward and geeky, nebbish he is not. The guy has a strong family background and is preservationist, not afraid to knock those who are threats to his game. I’m interested to see him going forward, but I’m more interested in seeing… well, the tribe in general.
Ryan ft Others
The Ryan tribe- I mean the Hustlers tribe- at least had characterization. They started the game as massive goofs who couldn’t even paddle to shore, but despite my initial thoughts, they won immunity at the first challenge. There’s still time for them to be the failure tribe, so maybe they can pick it up!
First off, Simone has the dishonor of going the first episode INV1- we got nothing from her. That’s a shame because pre-season she delivered deluxe villainy and this isn’t a good sign for her edit. Funnily enough, despite having a wet blanket perception pre-game Lauren strikes me as a capable character. I think the Hustlers need a Lauren as they’re pretty trainwrecky at the moment, and Lauren has easily the best work ethic and dedication of them all.
Ali and Patrick seemed to link up immediately, and as discovered in pre-game and post-episode material, they went to the same university (Auburn) at the same time, and vaguely knew each other through sharing a friend circle. Some have called unfair that two on a tribe know each other, but from that position I doubt it makes a difference. Patrick and Ali know each other only vaguely- the goofy ginger and the cute perky one. Imagine they’ve been assigned to work together on a project. There’s a good chance one of them can think they have a shitty partner.
As for Devon, he played the part of Ryan’s partner in crime decently. Ryan said in condescending terms that Devon needed someone to strategize for him, which brought to mind flashbacks of Spencer confessing that jewelry designer yoga boy Joe Anglim needed strategy described to him in sports terms. Devon didn’t have a real chance to flex his strategic muscles, so we will see whether he’s J.T. or Adam Gentry- more accurately, Mike Bloom’s Adam Gentry the henchman voice.
As for Ryan… on one hand I would hope that without the stupid- er, super idol, he would get markedly reduced airtime. On the other hand I’m not delusional. Ryan himself is… bad. You know how I said Ryan would be either great or awful in my assessments? We’re on the road to the latter and I can’t see the brakes.
He’s playing up his “gosh I’m so nerdy” tropes when he’s shown he’s more than that. His girlfriend quotes and getting into his pants joke both made me cringe. If Ryan wants to reduce himself to the lowest common denominator, he can, but it’s a shame to see him try and take the CBS bad sitcom role away from Mike.
He found the secret boat advantage of this season because of course there’s one. That advantage turned out to be a round one super idol that he could play if he went to TC, or, if he was safe, transfer to a losing tribe’s player. Of course, after seeing Chrissy vomit, he sent it to her. It’s exceedingly cut and dry on the surface, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t try and complicate things.
Production claimed in Josh Wigler’s First One Out podcast that Ryan and Devon gave it to Chrissy because they knew she was safe and wanted to align with her down the road. We’ll get into this later, but I don’t get the judgment call of presuming an older-looking woman who vomited after the challenge would survive the TC on her own. I mean, she did, but who would have called that looking in from the outside? Best case scenario, it’s a faulty judgment call that just so happened to work out right for the wrong reasons.
More than any of the other tribes, Yawa has potential to be great, ironically because it seems closest to teetering over the edge. This tribe has fun people on it (and breakout stars yet to prove me wrong) and so long as it’s not the Ryan show, I can’t wait to see it. It’s just sad to have two tribes where I have to say “I can’t wait to see them” after the premiere.
Making Asses Of Yourselves
The Levu tribe I called from the beginning as the boring tribe full of sanctimonious people. The interesting thing is, they still strike me as the most boring tribe of the three, yet due to the structure of the premiere, I enjoyed them the most. God, this premiere.
The vote was largely cut and dry. They were a tribe. Two older ladies existed. They voted one out for being an older lady. Christ, I am legit going to make a table on what percentages of 40+ women are voted out pre-swap, and what percentage loses the FTC. It was presumed at the start, and the woman they voted out was an Olympic athlete. Not only that, but someone who was still active in the Olympics after over a decade of chronic fatigue. I can’t even get coffee until I’m awake for thirty minutes and here she is.
I’m sorry, but all the convincing and apologism in the world will not convince me that she was a weak person.
However, of the two women, one was an Olympian athlete who got fifth in swimming, and one was an actuary who ended the immunity challenge by throwing up. And yet the latter survives over the former. What did Chrissy do right?
We didn’t see this because the premiere didn’t like explaining anything to us, but judging by the little gleams of info received, she and Ben had a friendship, where while he was insistent on getting an older woman out (can I just heave a long, annoyed sigh at this?) he was protective of her. That sort of social connection seems indicative of Chrissy, and Katrina’s one confessional (frustrated screams) was all about how she was reliant on the plans of others. Chrissy took agency, and stuck with keeping things calm while others did not.
Chrissy being given the super idol is a factor that could have made this TC interesting. People are split on what actually happened- nothing. She pocketed the super idol and made it null and void to just go along with booting Katrina. Was it a bad move or was it good? A lot of it depends on what happens next, and there’s a good chance she could just be next regardless.
However, had she played it, she would have forced her and Katrina into a pair when the only uniting force was everyone else thinking their age made them the same person. This means they lose Ashley, aka the only reason Alan is mad, and then next TC if they lose again she has only accomplished enough chaos to ensure she is next rather than Katrina. Let’s also remember she found it just before Tribal- giving her no time to plan anything to save Katrina.
Pocketing it and going with the group doesn’t necessarily boost her stock, but it doesn’t lower it. Neither Ben or Alan are leery of her. With Alan side-eyeing the power couple (that talked for two seconds beforehand) and their potential idol, Chrissy has room to hide. Better yet, the super idol is now a fake, and with Alan paranoid of idols all it takes is her planting it in the right bag to set him off. I can see the way out for her quite easily.
With all that talk about Alan being paranoid of idols, now we segue into easily the best part of the episode- Alan Ball. Alan I wrote off as a slightly more interesting Levu, which means that he might have bored me to sleep and not tears.
Nay, nay! As it turns out, Alan is a significantly taller and more buff Abi-Maria. Not even two seconds in and his paranoia is off about a potential power couple between J.P. and Ashley, to the point where he openly confronts them about having an idol and things like that and orders J.P. to strip down and reveal he doesn’t have one. Even then, he acts trippy over it to the point where he wants to weaponize the perception of being crazy. That, my friends, is dedication to your craft.
If any one person interests me enough to tune in next week besides masochism and desire to do my job, it’s Alan Ball. He’s the definition of “right idea shared in the wrong way”. I can see being concerned your allies have an idol (and production seems to have idols ready ten minutes in regardless) especially on a tribe of six where your only time to flip is next round. Instead, he blew the hell up, and I love it, especially around a bunch of boring people. Due to the fact that he is right to worry, I can see him actually getting his way, without truly having earned it. That’s delicious, and I want to see him last awhile.
If every tribe had an equal distribution of airtime I see Levu being easily the most boring of the three. However, since the premiere was so skeletal, the added focus on Alan Ball, Chrissy Hofbeck, and the Levu tribe actually made for interesting television. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I can’t wait to see how it goes.
The verdict of the premiere is that I can’t wait until next week to meet the contestants. While that’s a snarky description of the editors not doing shit to introduce us to them, it’s also genuine because this cast seems pretty interesting, and capable of making fun storylines happen.Sadly, that’s not what we got here. There have been some one-hour premieres where we got to know a good chunk of people well, so that alone isn’t the excuse. Hopefully this doesn’t foreshadow the level of character development of the future.
P.S. The Tribal Council set and music are amazing. No matter what, the art production team always kills it.