If we’ve learned one thing over the last 15 years, it’s that “Survivor” isn’t going anywhere. Yes, it’s been 15 years since the very first season of the very best Reality TV competition show hit the tube, and yes, we referred to it as “the tube” back in the year 2000.
Tonight marks the beginning of Survivor’s 29 season, “Survivor: San Juan del Sur,” the show’s second-ever “Blood vs. Water” season. There is a 30th season guaranteed on the way, and as casting calls are still being held for Survivor well after Season’s 29 and 30 have been shot (this past Summer), all signs point to Survivor continuing on well past Season 30, which debuts in the Spring of next year. Jeff Probst has claimed that they will keep doing the show as long as there is fan interest, and I don’t envision the rabid Survivor fan base going anywhere either.
So Season 29 is upon us. Whether you are a long-time fan of the show (like myself, who has seen every episode since the Season 1 premiere, and who has covered Survivor professionally as a member of the press since Heroes vs. Villains, Season 20), or a brand new fan trying out Survivor for the first time, welcome to my column, Survivor Examiner!
Each week here is how it will work: Each Wednesday morning, I will post an episode preview article, getting you completely prepped and ready for the night’s episode. After the episode airs – usually by around midnight or so – I will post not only a full recap article, but an additional “analysis” article…so check out the recap to get the play-by-play of the episode, and check out the analysis article for more insight, discussion and opinion of what we just saw. And be sure to participate by leaving your comments and opinions as well!
As a press member (and a voting Executive Committee member for the Survivor Hall of Fame!), I then will post my exclusive one-on-one exit interviews with each voted off cast member every Thursday afternoon. This season, I will have 15 minutes with each castaway, and will sometimes ask audience member questions, so be sure to send your questions my way, and they just might get asked!
So it is: Preview article, full recap, analysis and then exit interview. Every single week. Got it? Good! The best way to make sure you don’t miss any of this coverage all season is to subscribe to this column (look for the big “subscribe” button on this page…I have faith in you that you can find it amongst all of the ads that I have no control over…)
Enough about me! You clicked on this page to find out about “Survivor: San Juan del Sur,” so let’s get you ready to rock and roll:
Here is what we know: This season will feature 18 players vying for the million dollar prize and title of Sole Survivor (it was supposed to be 20, but two players dropped out just before shooting began). All 18 players are new to Survivor, although there are a few recognizable faces in the crowd (more on that later). “Blood vs. Water” just means that there are nine pairs of loved ones competing, even though only one person can walk away as winner.
Unlike the previous “Blood vs. Water” season, there will be no Redemption Island. In it’s place will be a system that has actual loved ones facing off against each other…yep, that’s right, so two loved ones – say, wife vs. husband, or sister vs. sister – will compete with the loser being sent off to Exile Island, a game device that hasn’t been used since Season 18, where a person is, well, exiled to a remote island with little shelter, food or water, for a couple days. Exile Island has never really translated into entertaining TV, so the verdict is still out on if it will create any drama this season. Probst has announced that there will be hidden clues on Exile Island to hidden Immunity Idol(s), that are buried directly smack-dab in the middle of the camp sites, adding twist after twist to the complexity of the show. So basically, it sucks to have to go to Exile, but those that do have a chance to find a clue to a hidden Idol…but they then will have to be pretty sneaky to not alert others – or choose to share their clue? – since the Idols are buried at camp.
No Redemption Island means that Tribal Councils are once again final…when your torch is snuffed you will be out of the game. Surely there will be more twists to follow.
So who are these 18 contestants? Here is a quick run-down, based on their CBS pre-game interviews:
Missy and Baylor – (mother and daughter) – Hailing from Dallas, TX, Missy and her daughter Baylor are pretty confident they are going to make Survivor History. Missy runs a competitive cheerleading gym and doesn’t think she’d vote her daughter out of the game if given the chance. In contrast, in Baylor’s pre-game interview, Baylor described herself as super-competitive and even mentioned that she would easily vote her mom out of the game should it further her own game. At age 20, Baylor is the youngest player this season.
Josh and Reed – (boyfriends) – Both self-proclaimed “big Survivor fans,” they are singer/dancer/actors from New York who also describe themselves as “Christian, which is amazing.” Unlike Missy and Baylor, Josh and Reed pointed out a few fatal flaws in each other’s games: Josh (blond) says that Reed (brown) will have serious trouble dealing with the starvation side of the game, while Reed mentions that Josh has a horrible “poker face” and often wears his emotions for the world to see. Both are very social, personable, funny guys, and Probst seemed to think that they’d both do fairly well in the game for those reasons.
Kelley and Dale – (daughter and father) – At age 55, Dale is the oldest player this season competing alongside his 28-year-old daughter Kelley. Dale is a farmer and Kelley, well, a farmer’s daughter. Dale seems to be more of an outdoorsman, where Kelley believes herself to be the stronger social player. Time will tell if Dale’s “all business” personality is a good fit for Survivor, while Kelley struck me as someone who may have a tough time not rising to “leader” status on her tribe, which we all know is usually a mark of someone primed for a blindside.
Nadiya and Natalie – (sisters) – Nadiya and Natalie competed twice on The Amazing Race (a show that I never followed, sadly) and from what I hear, they were a “love ’em or hate ’em” duo. They are twin sisters, with the only discernible physical difference being a streak of amber in Natalie’s hair. They feel they may be instant targets, being the only twins in the game, and they may be right. Nadiya (no hair-streak) seems to be the more dominant, spit-fire of the two, and being that she has little tolerance for others that annoy her, she may find her time in Survivor to be quite shorter than her time spent on The Amazing Race.
Drew and Alec – (brothers) – Cool, laid-back surfer bros from Florida, Drew and his younger brother Alec, could at first pass as twins. But like many brothers, a few minutes spent with them and you will instantly be able to see the massive differences in their personalities. Drew had a college scholarship to play football, but quit to “party” and just have a “cool college experience.” For whatever reason, Alec’s interview painted him as less dominant, less threatening, than his older brother Drew, making Alec perhaps the more compelling Survivor player.
Jeremy and Val – (husband and wife) – On the verge of their 10th year of marriage when the show began, they are surprisingly the only married duo this season. Jeremy is a firefighter, meaning he will probably fall on the “hero” end of the spectrum, while Val is a police officer, a fact that she intends to remain hidden. As we saw with last season’s winner, Tony Vlachos, police on Survivor tend to have great instincts in reading people and Val seems to be perceptive in her own right. They both went through intense training to prepare for Survivor, so they seem well-prepared to compete at a high level.
Wes and Keith – (son and father) – You won’t be able to mistake that these two are related to each other, both with their distinct Southern drawls and similar features. They are both firefighters who seem perfect for television – they’re both personable, funny and instantly memorable – with dad Keith being surprisingly competitive (Keith seems like an instant ally for the very similar Dale, should they be placed on the same tribe).
Jon and Jaclyn (boyfriend and girlfriend…from Michigan!) – Jon is a former Michigan State football player, and Jaclyn was Miss Michigan 2013, so they’re pretty much the perfect couple, right? Add to this, that Jaclyn graduated from Central Michigan University (my alma mater) and these two might just be my instant favorites. Although they’ve already won my heart, my head tells me that pageant girls often have a lot of stigmas to overcome, and they’re relationship might be tested more than other couples, as they didn’t seem to have much of a plan coming into the game, as far as what they would do if faced with the need to vote each other out.
John and Julie (boyfriend and girlfriend) – John Rocker was a famous Major League Baseball pitcher…famous for mostly the wrong reasons when in a 1999 Sports Illustrated issue, he made some controversial and – what many would claim to be – racist comments about New York City and New Yorkers in general. He has also admitted to steroid use and even as recent as 2013, made controversial statements on the conservative website WorldNetDaily , stating that the Holocaust would have never happened had the “Jewish citizenry of Hitler’s Germany had the right to bear arms and defended themselves with those arms.” Needless to say, Rocker is one of the most controversial people ever to be cast on Survivor. Oh yeah, almost forgot, and then there is Julie! His girlfriend!
The 90-minute premiere of “Survivor: San Juan del Sur” airs at 8pm on CBS tonight! Be sure to check back tonight or subscribe to this column for my full recap and analysis tonight, followed by my exclusive exit interview with the first person voted out tomorrow. It’s time for Survivor!!!
Quick Note: The entirety of yeahstub.com will be off-line for scheduled maintenance for a 1 hour window tonight (of course…bad timing but out of my control) from 12 midnight EST until 1am EST.
Be sure to check out one of my favorite Survivor sites, SurvivorFever.net.
You can also find all of my Survivor coverage exclusively at Survivor Seasons.