Tribe Palaii’s Ozzie, Papa Bear, Cochran and Jim
Survivor has returned, and I’m frustrated because – Boo! – the new cycle retains two terrible game
play tweaks introduced last season. The first is having two past players return to
anchor the tribes. Now I love me a good All-Star season, but having just two
returnees dropped in amongst newbies means they will either be an immediate
target for elimination – or worse – they will completely dominate the game and
make winning seem like a foregone conclusion, just as Boston Rob did last season. Great, totally dominating player –
This season’s returnees are Coach and Ozzie, and
it hardly seems like an evenly matched pair. Sure, Coach made for good TV in his
two past seasons, but his dragon-killing crazy talk and all of that “eye of the tiger”
bullsh*t made him more of a joke than a competitor.
Ozzie, on the other hand, totally physically dominated the
game. Not so much for brute strength, but for
his agility and insanely good hand eye coordination. I mean, the guy swings from trees like
a monkey! Ozzie is a likeable player for sure, but his social game was always his
weakness. Even so, he was far better at the social component than Coach
The second tweak to the show’s formal is “Redemption Island” which seems like a
distraction from where the real action is: back at the two tribe camps. Maybe I’m
old fashioned, but I think when a player gets voted off they should be voted off. With Redemption Island they’re
left to painfully linger on for a few episodes.
But even with the two annoying formula tweaks, I am excited
about a new season of Survivor! And judging by some of the personalities
we saw in the first episode, this could be a really good cycle. Here’s how I’d rate last night’s premiere…
Survivor casting adheres to a certain aesthetic formula, and normally there are four or five hot guys
for eye candy. But I think we was robbed this season! Judging by the first
episode at least, only 26-year old water treatment tech Keith Tollefson really catches your eye. He’s like the tattooed
love child of Josh Brolin and Michael Ontkean! Unfortunately, Keith
didn’t have much to say in the first episode. He just wanders around a lot in
the background in his underwear. Which is fine by me.
Judging from the CBS bio pics, there’s also baseball/dating
coach Albert, but we hardly saw him
at all in last night’s episode.
I used to think Ozzie was adorable, but I’m not digging the long locks and he seems to have
gotten stouter over the years. Also, last night for some reason I found his crooked nipples
distracting. And not in a good way. See evidence below.
Ozzie, then and now
Oh well, thank goodness for Survivor’s rice starvation diet. Crooked nipples or no, I’m
betting Ozzie will be a stunner again if he makes it to the end. (Which he very
The biggest emotional story in last night’s episode probably
belonged to Harvard law student John
Cochran (pictured right). Cochran is basically a young, protestant Woody Allen. He likes to make fun of how pale and out of shape he
is compared to everyone else, and a traumatic moment for him came when all his
teammates stripped down and got in the ocean for a bonding session. The way he hesitated taking off
his shirt and pants made it seem like he was hiding something truly awful underneath
there – but honestly, besides being paler than most people he looked fine with his shirt off.
Still, his intense insecurity was duly noted by his tribemates,
and that made him a target when his tribe, Savaii,
had to go to the first tribal council.
I really liked Cochran at first. He’s very funny and
obviously smart. But when he complained how unfair it was that he might be
first on the chopping block when his team also included “Papa Bear and a
bunch of women” – well he sorta lost me there.
The tribal council was intense. Everybody on the Savaii
tribe piled on to Cochran, and he was left groveling, promising that starting tomorrow he’d be
super helpful back at camp. “I’ll be your genie in a bottle. And you don’t
even have to rub me!”
It really seemed like whitey boy would be voted off, but
that was just a head fake. Instead, Palaii unanimously votes to send Semhar to Redemption Island. The
performance poet simply wasn’t contrite enough after she cost her team the win
in the elimination challenge, so you could call it poetic justice. She sure
seemed shocked about being voted off.
Me, I think they should have voted off crazy-eyed Dawn. She had that absurd meltdown on
her second day on the island and got all weepy about how she couldn’t hack it. Clearly the weakest link on the tribe, but her name didn’t even come up at tribal
After a few seasons with no gay representation, this cycle
features Mark, or “Papa Bear” as he likes to be
called. “Papa Bear” is a gay retired New York cop and he’s sort of a cross
between a teamster and Liza Minnelli. Says Papa Bear in his Bronx
accent, “There’s feathers flying around me!”
Mark seems to want to be a nurturing, parental figure for the
Savii Tribe. That’s probably a good strategy for him to take given the fact
that he’s the oldest player out there. It doesn’t seem like his being gay will
be much of an issue with his tribemates. He’s both likeable and acquitted
himself well enough in this week’s elimination challenge.
Now, if he doesn’t annoy his tribemates by continuing to demand they address him as “Papa Bear,” I think he’ll probably
be sticking around for awhile. But will he make it to the merge? I figure both
Cochran and Dawn are definitely in line ahead of him for elimination, so he at least has a
few week’s of safety.
This week’s challenges were a mixed bag. The first
competition was a head to head match-up between Coach and Ozzie (which Ozzie
won handily). It involved stacking a bunch of pyramid pieces in a specific
order. The objective and rules were confusing both for the Ozzie and Coach, and for viewers at home. The show often recycles interesting challenges from
previous seasons, but I doubt we’ll ever see this one again.
Coach blows his stack – his new teammates aren’t happy
The elimination challenge involved all the players and was
much more cinematic. Each team had to scale a twelve-foot high wall, wade
through an obstacle course, and then fill a giant free throw basket full of
coconuts. You really expected Ozzie’s mostly younger, mostly fitter tribe to
dominate, but it didn’t work out that way thanks to Semhar’s over-confidence in
her free-throwing skills. She clearly cost her team the win.
I was expecting Coach to be his usual loony self – but this
episode at least he kept it together. Dawn had her teary breakdown – and there
was this hilarious slapstick moment where she falls out of a tree and screams
out to no one in particular: “I’m okay, I’m okay!”
But the true crazypants this season? I think it’s going to be Brandon Hantz, the nineteen-year-old nephew of infamous Russell Hantz.
is determined not to let people know he’s related to the Russell –
that means he plans on hiding the giant “Hantz” tattoos he has on his
back and shoulders. Good luck with that!
calls himself a former bad boy who now is “right with God” and refers
to sexy tribemate Mikayla as a
“Delilah” that could lure
him into trouble. This is amusing because Mikayla is way out of Brandon’s league. There’s no conceivable way she’d want to lure him into anything.
In an interview voice-over he says her behavior is shameful
and she should cover herself – but then you see him staring at her cleavage
from behind a palm frond. Ick.
Cover your shame Mikayla, pervy Brandon’s on the prowl!
So, what did you guys think of last night’s Survivor premiere? Who do you think has a good shot at winning this season? Will Papa Bear make it to the merge? How long can Brandon hide his infamous surname? Thoughts in the comments, please.