Survivor: Cagayan – Episode 1: “Hot Girl With A Grudge”

“Fire In The Form Of Flint” is the name of my country LP.

Oh, Survivor, I have missed you so. After watching this premiere, not only did I want to hug and kiss it, but I also wanted to pick it up and wave it in The Amazing Race‘s face and shout “THIS! THIS IS HOW YOU DO AN OPENING EPISODE!”

So let’s talk about Survivor: Cagayan. We’re in the Philippines yet again, so anyone who watched Survivor: Philippines will not be hugely surprised to note that is raining all the motherloving time. The editors seemed particularly delighted by the pathetic fallacy they ended up with as relations between the tribe members at the first tribal council of the season plummeted downward just as the rain did likewise, and everyone sat there sopping wet and miserable as the water trickled down the backs of their necks and Probst kept shooting “seriously? With this?” looks into the camera. In fact, there were a few other similarities to the show’s first visit to the Philippines – for one, we’re starting with three tribes again instead of the usual two. They were notionally given the names of Luzon, Aparri and Solana, but even the on-screen captions referred to the three tribes as Brains, Brawn and Beauty respectively. (And I think we all know by now that I’m far too immature not to call the Beauty tribe the “Boobies” tribe.) The other thing it seems to share with Survivor: Philippines is one team imploding so spectacularly that the other two might as well kick back, crack open a coconut and wait for the merge, but we’ll get to that in a minute.

We began with a twist in which each tribe had to elect a leader from the people they’d only just met. Brains went with David because he had a blazer on, Brawn went with Sarah because she looked feisty or opinionated or whatever, and Beauty went with LJ because reasons. Jeff then informed the leaders that they had to pick someone to eject there and then: David went with Garrett because he considered him to be a real threat for the last two-thirds of the game (because playing a post-merge game pre-merge on this show always ends well), Sarah voted for Trish because she clearly sensed the stank, and LJ picked Morgan because she’s “hot” rather than “cute” and that makes her untrustworthy. Jeff then started crowing about how if this had been tribal council they’d be going home (er, not from one vote on a tribe of six they wouldn’t, Jeff) before announcing that they were still in the game and indeed still in their own tribes, but they’d be dropped off at their respective camps first and given a decision to make. That decision turned out to be between getting a hidden immunity idol clue for themselves, or an extra bag of rice for the tribe. Obvious narcissists Garrett and Morgan both went for the idol clue, while Trish was still smarting due to apparently being so thin that nobody could possibly like her, so she decided to be magnanimous and go for the extra bag of rice. Garrett managed to track down his idol before the rest of his tribe arrived, while Morgan wasn’t so lucky – the rest of the Boobies tribe arrived while she was still clambering around rocks and sticking her hand in any crevasse she could find (steady), but she sort of styled it out by claiming that the basic survival rations all the tribes were given were in fact things she had “picked” for her team. Whether anyone believed her was another matter, but LJ seemed suspicious that she might have an idol, or at least an idol clue.

Over on the Brawn tribe, Sarah (a cop) and Tony (a cop) proceeded to have an increasingly surreal conversation, as Sarah claimed she could spot another cop from 50 paces and that Tony was definitely a cop. Tony denied this and insisted he was a construction worker (presumably having rejected the alternate fake careers of cowboy, soldier and Native American chief). Sarah wasn’t buying it and wouldn’t let it go, and Tony refused to give in, so we were basically treated to several minutes of “you look like a cop! You’re a cop!” “I’m can’t be a cop, I’ve got a tattoo!” “Shut up, you’re a fucking cop!” “I’m not a cop! Not that there’s anything wrong with that, some of my best friends are cops!” It was very, very odd.

Finally, over on the “Brains” tribe, J’Tia wasted no time in telling everyone that she was a nuclear engineer (and she didn’t even pronounce it “nucular”, that’s how you know she’s on the smart team) and had a brilliant idea for how to build their shelter – the brilliant idea in question being “you guys do all the work while I stand here and order you around, and then when you try to sit on the shelter it’ll immediately collapse. Won’t that be fun?” It turned out not to be so much fun, and Kass (a lawyer AND a mom, so therefore incredibly self-righteous in every way you can think of) and David decided that they’d just let her keep taking this nice long length of rope and hang herself with it.

And so we came to the first reward/immunity challenge, which required the teams to climb up some stuff, get some keys, unlock the locks around some treasure chests, put them all on a cart, take the cart apart, put the bits through an obstacle course, put the cart back together again, and then solve a puzzle at the end. Brawn and Boobies were pretty much evenly matched, while Brains were a hopeless mess and rightly lost the challenge.

Back at camp, J’Tia asked Kass who she was voting for and Kass was like “you, duh”. Realising that David had taken against her as well, J’Tia thought the gig was up and got a little bit upset – at which point Tasha and Garrett appeared and agreed that David was kind of an ass and also a much bigger threat, so maybe they should just get rid of him instead. Garrett told the women that he could totally get Spencer to vote with them, only for Spencer (who I’d originally earmarked as a skilful dark horse, but who now looks like the sort who will have completely cracked up by about Day 12) to get skittish because he was worried David might play a hidden immunity idol, especially since he and Kass kept disappearing off on their own. Garrett snorted in a confessional that Spencer was being a total idiot for worrying about this, because obviously Garrett had the idol. Except Garrett hadn’t told Spencer that, and wasn’t planning to tell Spencer that, so it was actually not daft at all for Spencer to worry about that and indeed quite sensible.

At tribal council J’Tia attempted a mea culpa on the shelter front and admitted that it was a well-intentioned gesture that she kind of botched execution-wise, and then she continued to talkandtalkandtalkandtalk and got kind of defensive when David agreed with her that the shelter sucked. Although David probably didn’t endear himself to her much by saying that he thought her job was “nuclear bomb designer” either. But just as it looked like J’Tia might talk herself right off the island, David made another ill-advised reference to his endgame, which was enough to spook Spencer into believing that David really was the dangerous player that Garrett painted him as, and David was voted off 4-2, much to the obvious distress of Kass who realised she was on the outs already. (The irony here being that Garrett was totally a threat to David’s chances, just far more of an immediate one than he realised.)

Also I would just like to take a moment here to express my appreciation for the fact that Garrett, despite being on the Nerd Tribe, liked to remind us that he was also a total jock in high school by delivering all of his confessions reclining in his underwear and showing off his rockin’ bod like David Beckham in an H&M ad. You totally know that Garrett was convinced he was on the wrong time and was just waiting for the producers to realise their mistake and transfer him over to Boobies.

A new day dawned, and Garrett immediately started strategising with Spencer to get rid of Kass next, and then take out one of the other girls. That is until Kass came over, figuring her best chance was to split the guys against the girls and vice versa, and Garrett offered her a final three deal with them (LOLLERSKATES). Meanwhile over on the Boobies tribe, hunky dimwit Jeremiah flirted with Morgan, who admitted in a confessional that she only saw him as a friend but was totally up for stringing him along if it served her game. Meanwhile the tribe’s official GBF Brice offered to act as Jeremiah’s wingman, since he was the closest of anyone to Morgan so far, and the three of them formed a tentative alliance of “country folk” (plus Morgan, who’s from California) against Jefra, who they think is super-annoying. Meanwhile, Alexis continued to be a total non-entity, getting so little time that she made Brenda’s Survivor: Caramoan edit look like Phillip’s. Over on the Brawn tribe, former NBA All-Star Cliff Robinson aligned himself with Woo, and Sarah and Lindsey talked about how much they love Cliff. Then Trish had a total snit fit at Lindsey for not bringing in enough wood, a typically petty Survivor squabble that instantly became a classic when Lindsey and Trish did hilarious, cruel, uncannily accurate impressions of either for their audiences of Sarah and Tony respectively, and Lindsey instantly became my MVP by offhandedly referring to worryingly-thin Trish as “malnu-Trisha”.

The second reward/immunity challenge was a swimming one, involving the entire tribe swimming out to a cage in the water, which they would then have to dive down in and untie the knots to open a gate, releasing lobster-trap type things with puzzle pieces in them, which they would then have to carry to the beach and use the pieces within to solve a puzzle. Boobies sat out Brice while Brawn sat out Cliff (feel free to speculate on the problems inherent with both tribes sitting out a black player for a swimming challenge), and Brains got off to another lousy start as J’Tia lagged behind in the water. However, upon arrival at the cage, Brains suddenly got it together, got all of their cages out first and thanks to some superhuman feats of strength from Garrett, got back to the beach first. Meanwhile, Brawn were putting in a solid performance (when Sarah and Tony weren’t accidentally mutilating themselves, because dear god the blood in the water) and Boobies were hopelessly behind. And then…suddenly it all went wrong for Brains. At one point J’Tia and Sarah, the designated solvers for their team, had one piece in place each, but then Sarah suddenly found a groove and motored several pieces ahead. The rest of J’Tia’s tribe advised her not to lose focus, but of course that’s exactly what she did – and once the Boobies tribe finally got their shit together and rejoined the competition, she choked completely. Thus Brawn had a clear win, with Boobies in second and Brains a distant third yet again. (Brawn’s reward also included the Idol clue that malnuTrisha didn’t take. Tony found both the clue and the idol, which sort of sucks because ugh, that guy. He also built a “spy shack” because: seriously, the worst. If he could just have one thought or emotion that he didn’t express directly down the camera, it’d be a start.)

Back at base, Garrett decided that the sensible thing to do would be to have an “open forum” in which everyone could tell J’Tia to her face that they were going to vote her out. This did not sit well with J’Tia (ba-duh) or Tasha, who finally exploded that she had FUCKING COME HERE TO PLAY SURVIVOR, SO SHE WANTED TO GO OFF IN LITTLE GROUPS AND STRATEGISE AND NOT SIT HERE HAVING BLOODY KUM-BA-YAH FORUMS ON THE BEACH. Garrett drawled in his fey little voice that he didn’t want to do that, he just wanted to have a nice open discussion, at which point Tasha fumed that if he felt that way then MAYBE HE SHOULD JUST FUCKING QUIT, THEN. The best parts of this were (a) Tasha not actually dropping any actual f-bombs, but having to work REALLY hard to stop herself on several occasions, and (b) the fact that Tasha was the one having the freakout, but was also the one who was right. It’s Survivor, dude. Outplay, outwit, outlast, not relax, repair and recuperate.

Fuming that Garrett was not the boss of her, or indeed of the Brains tribe, Tasha went off to the shore to “wash her feet” with Kass and tried to get her on side to vote out Garrett, pointing out that Garrett was kind of an a-hole and that this would be the only time that they were going to have the numbers to do it. Garrett, however, was freaking out that PEOPLE WERE DOING UNSUPERVISED TALKING so dragged Spencer with him down to the shorefront to stand next to Tasha and Kass while eating noisily. The inherent problem with this plan, as Kass noted pretty much instantly, was that they’d left J’Tia unsupervised after openly admitting that they were planning to vote her out. Sure enough, J’Tia chucked the tribe’s rice in the fire and gave a confessional about how you JUST DON’T LEAVE THE CRAZY PERSON UNSUPERVISED LIKE THAT, cackling wildly to herself all the while. J’Tia ♥.

So off they all went to tribal council yet again, and after a brief sensible discussion in which it was pointed out that J’Tia had let her team down in fairly unequivocal terms, Garrett proceeded to flame the fuck out by accidentally saying “alliance” when he met “tribe” and in doing so, revealing to the rest of the assembly that he considered Kass to be with him, and that Tasha was on the outs. Garrett flailed and flailed and tried to explain that that wasn’t what he meant at all, while Spencer facepalmed in the corner. (Note: Garrett is a professional poker player. Yeah. Think on that.) Then we went to a vote, and while Garrett and Spencer both voted for J’Tia (with Garrett pulling a hilariously wordless bug-eyed face as he held his parchment up, and Spencer equally hilariously saying that he found it genuinely frightening that J’Tia was a qualified nuclear engineer), Garrett’s little slip was enough to convince Kass to flip and Garrett was voted out with a margin of 3-2. The icing on the cake was that Garrett had been so secure in his game that he hadn’t even brought his hidden immunity idol to tribal council, let alone considered playing it. And there we were: two blindsides, no waiting.

And yet, I can’t help feeling that the real mess on the Brains tribe is just beginning. This lot are going to make Matsing look competent and functional at this rate. And I say bring it on.

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