“Blood vs. Water” just works. That was the initial take-away after watching Wednesday night’s 90-minute premiere episode of “Survivor: San Juan del Sur,” the kick-off episode in Survivor’s 29th season. If you missed it, you can catch the full recap here.
It’s hard to judge how an entire season will play out by just watching one episode – even an elongated episode – but the early buzz seems to be that this new cast is being well-received. There are a lot of positives to consider. First, there seems to be a major shortage of bozos, idiots, or players who just don’t belong in the game. Usually, we can instantly identify at least two or three players that we know will have no chance whatsoever of lasting in the game, or a player or two that seems to just be wanting to make a name for themselves on TV. Hunahpu Tribe’s Drew is probably the closest offering this episode gave us…like, seriously, nobody is going to recognize you from your modeling gigs, dude. But in fairness, we weren’t shown much of his gameplay or his interaction with the others on his tribe. So yes, it could be that we have a group of players who are all ready and poised to play Survivor the way it was meant to be played. There is also the bonus factor that the “Blood vs. Water” twist is surely going to result in several dramatic moments all season long…heck, the twist already gave us a bunch of nice moments, between Val and Jeremy, but others as well.
On the flip side, is it just me or does everyone seem way too nice so far? We don’t have any clear-cut Survivor villains just yet, and what’s this business about giving Val and Keith a fair shot once they got back to their tribes? Both are likable, but come on! This is Survivor! It seems very considerate that both players would be welcomed back with open arms after spending time on Exile. Hopefully this season isn’t one big group of friends, kindly inserting knives into each others backs all season, a la Big Brother 16. We want drama! We want conflict! I guess I will have to give it much more time, as knowing Survivor, the niceties will surely dissipate very, very quickly.
Jeremy seems to be an early, likable favorite. He got a good amount of air time (always a good sign), was shown winning a challenge, and was portrayed as the organizer of the year’s first alliance. Not bad in an episode’s time. We will need to see more of Hunahpu’s social dynamic to make and judgements, but it seems like a good start for him. Even better, of the five he pulled into his alliance, Kelley and Missy seem destined to be the ones that possible “fit in” and don’t draw too much attention to themselves, so if they were to stay in power, these two seem well-positioned.
Over at Coyopa, it seems like a huge mistake for John Rocker to come into the game hoping to lie to others. Those that do recognize him already see him as a controversial “ass” (Keith’s word, not mine), so why add to the mythos by lying right out of the gate? What he has going for him, is that there is nobody even close to him when it comes to physicality, so it would probably be a pretty stupid move to target him pre-merge. It’ll also be interesting to see how Josh and Baylor’s relationship pans out, as they seem to possibly be the true strategic powers on their tribe. And could Val’s all-girl alliance wish come true? It’s highly unlikely, considering that one of the girls (Baylor) has already confided in Josh…unless, that is, you consider Josh to be “one of the girls” as Nadiya did.
Speaking of Nadiya, her early exit makes Natalie a more interesting player. How will she respond to her sister being the first person voted out of the game? Remember that last season, it seemed to be an advantage to be a “solo” player in a game full of couples. Add that to the fact that she is in Jeremy’s initial alliance, and Natalie could go far. Then again, she might be seen as a threat as her sister was, for already having her chance to win a competitive reality game show.
By the episode’s end, I felt pretty happy with this new group. Several compelling stories still await being told and the loved ones twist is sure to create some interesting scenarios as we get deeper and deeper into the season. But what do you think? A good start to the season? Who seems poised for success? For failure? Be sure to share your comments below!