Survivor

Survivor: Worlds Apart – Season Premiere – Review: And So It Goes

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Recap and review of Survivor: Worlds Apart – Season Premiere – It’s Survivor Warfare:

With its 30th season, Survivor is delving right back into the social experiment gimmick pool with the White Collar vs. Blue Collar vs. No Collar twist. And yet, what should feel like a gimmick enhances what would otherwise have been a pretty dry premiere. Survivor: Worlds Apart debuted with a season premiere that suggests this could be a season for the ages.

Right off the bat, the game forces the tribes to choose a leader, who then chooses a lieutenant to join them. Those two players must then make a decision about the game when they get back to camp: they’re offered the choice of taking a huge bag of beans that will feed their entire tribe for days on end (Honest) or they can take a smaller bag of beans that will also include a clue to the hidden immunity idol (Deceive). Of course, the choice itself isn’t really what’s interesting about this twist, since Survivor has a habit of making sure the hidden immunity idol clue is active in the game as soon as possible. No, what’s great about this is how it exposes the play styles of certain players. Will and Jenn of the No Collar tribe (Nagarote) choose honesty without hesitation, with the premise that it’s still a team game at this point. In short, it’d make no sense for them to screw over their other tribemates this early. Meanwhile, Dan and Mike of the Blue Collar tribe (Escameca) immediately lean towards honesty, but neither seems entirely certain about the choice. Mike seems to waver back and forth, and Dan is so torn that I could only figure he was envisioning the many ways he might live to regret not taking the clue. However, they still go with honesty over deception. But back at camp, Dan makes the mistake of telling the tribe about the choice they were faced with, presumably as a way of building himself up for being an honest guy. Right away, Sierra doubts that he actually chose the Honesty option, since the bag of beans doesn’t look to be all that big. She assumes he has an idol, and so he might live to regret his choice after all, or at least the way in which he handled the aftermath.

Survivor Worlds Apart - Season Premiere - Recap and Review - It's Survivor Warfare

Credit: CBS

But Joaquin of the White Collar tribe (Masaya) instantly chooses Deceive, shocking tribemate So. Joaquin sees absolutely no reason to be honest in this game, since he isn’t exactly here to make friends. And while he’s not exactly wrong in his assessment that honest people don’t win this game, the dishonest power players tend to be far better liars than either he or So proved to be here. When they get back to camp, he and So come up with an utterly ludicrous lie about there having been three boxes, an Honesty box, a Deceit box, and a Neutral box. In trying to make themselves seem pragmatic, So says they chose the Neutral box, and immediately, Carolyn sees through the lie, which brings me to the other element to suggest this might be a great season: they’ve cast people who not only know this game, but who love this game. Never mind that Masaya tribemate Max actually taught a college level course on Survivor, or that Dan has been trying to get on this show since Season 1, we have people like Carolyn who know the mechanics of every iteration of the game. Thus, she knows that Survivor’s cruel choices are always either/or. There’s never a middle ground. So the notion of a Neutral box is utterly absurd to her. She instantly can tell they’re lying, and if they’re lying, that must mean they have a clue to the hidden immunity idol. And if they have a clue to the hidden immunity idol, then they’re inevitably going to try and look for it. So Carolyn keeps tabs on them and, sure enough, So obsessively looking in trees clues Carolyn in to the fact that the idol is hidden in a tree. From years of watching the show, she knows it’s likely to be in a distinct tree, and from there, it really doesn’t take very long for Carolyn to find the clue on her own. So the choice at the start of the episode ended up being crucial to how the rest of the episode played out. Because Joaquin and So chose Deceive, an option they didn’t have the deception skills to pull off, Carolyn ended up reading their actions and wound up finding the hidden immunity idol, which she never would have done had they just picked Honest instead (or if they’d simply been a little less obvious about their deception, although that seems unlikely for those two).

Survivor Worlds Apart cast

Credit: CBS

Ultimately, this dictates the way the rest of the episode goes: Masaya loses immunity, and Carolyn lands on the chopping block. Not because she failed in the challenge — no, that was all on Shirin, who did her best on the final puzzle, but ultimately cracked under pressure — but because So felt Carolyn was never going to put herself out there for the tribe. But Carolyn quickly turned the tables by revealing to Tyler that she’d found the hidden immunity idol. Tyler took this as a sign of trust from Carolyn, and roped Max into their alliance. Shirin, who simply didn’t want to go home, was more than happy to vote So. And So she went. This was a brilliantly edited episode, crafting a narrative that made for one of the more intriguing season premieres in some time. I’m particularly fascinated by how the tribal dynamics are playing out. In fact, let’s look at them a bit closer…

Survivor Worlds Apart premiere

Credit: CBS

On Escameca, furniture mover Rodney forms a bond with single mother Lindsey by telling her the story of his sister’s grim death. In explaining how he discovered his sister’s blood-stained body two years ago, Rodney essentially wins Lindsey’s sympathies. He seems strangely cavalier about all this, but explains that his strategy is to align with the women and take them to the merge, since he’s aces with the ladies. However, the same can’t be said for Dan. Despite intending to come across as a memorable, Rupert Boneham-esque player, he instead comes off as a belligerent, bossy curmudgeon. Of course, he could be a lovely man for all I know, but it’s hard to see through his anger at how the shelter was being belt, or the condescending manner in which he spoke to the women at camp. Already, people on the Blue Collar tribe are talking about voting him out, with his only ally being Mike, the lovable goof who drills oil, eats scorpions, and acts like a ray of sunshine. And then there’s the Nagarote tribe, which should be a hot mess, but is mostly drama free — save for one potentially pot-stirrer named Vince.

Survivor Worlds Apart - Recap and Review - Season Premiere - It's Survivor Warfare

Credit: CBS

A coconut vendor by trade, Vince wears feathers in his hair and preaches about spirituality and vibes and all that, which is all well and good, but he also adds that his biggest weakness is his almost obsessive attraction to women. This weakness manifests itself in his unhealthy fixation with Jenn, the sailing instructor with whom he aligns on the first day. He takes her aside and explains the good vibes he gets from her, establishing a connection. But he quickly blows this wide open when he gets jealous about what he perceives to be her flirting with fellow tribe member Joe. Jenn’s confessionals reveal that she thinks Joe is attractive and cool, but she has to lie to Vince when he asks her, point-blank, if she’s into Joe. It’s a scene that made me all sorts of uncomfortable, as he later says in his confessional that he felt Jenn was being “fake,” and all because she made eyes at some other guy? I could understand if he felt she violated the letter of their alliance, but this seems less fueled by anything in the game than it is by an inherent jealousy that Jenn likes another guy better. To her credit, Jenn does her best to minimize the damage by claiming that it isn’t a matter of liking one guy more than the other, but I think it’d do wonders for her game (and her sanity) if she distanced herself from Vince, since it’s dangerous to play this game with someone that erratic. The psycho edit was so prevalent with Vince that I found myself expecting him to be the first one voted out. But alas, Nagarote won immunity, so Vince lives to creep another day, while So finds her torch snuffed.

Survivor Worlds Apart It's Survivor Warfare

Credit: CBS

“It’s Survivor Warfare” is an outstanding season premiere for this show, illustrating that Survivor still has the capability of being fresh and interesting after 30 seasons. Hell, even the immunity challenge felt different this time around. Sure, it was the same obstacle course/puzzle combo, but at least the tribes were given a choice of three separate puzzles they could solve. And, much like the choice at the start of the episode, the puzzles each tribe chose said a lot about the dynamics of the tribes. Nagarote chose the more medium-difficulty visual puzzle, which Joe easily solved in short order after Jenn found it too difficult. Escameca also chose the visual puzzle, and Mike made short work of it, suggesting that both the No Collar and Blue Collar tribes have no problem seeing the bigger picture in their actions (at least, that’s the narrative Jeff Probst was trying to sell). But Masaya chose the fifty-piece puzzle — a puzzle that was supposed to be the easiest of the three, since its solution was supposed to be fairly obvious from the get-go (and it was. All they had to do was arrange a series of letter tiles to spell White Collar vs. Blue Collar vs. No Collar).

However, the edit built a narrative centered on the egotism of the White Collar tribe, from Max ripping on the No Collar tribe for taking so long to pick a leader, to So and Joaquin assuming their lousy lie would fly back at camp. And so there’s a certain hubris involved in assuming that simply because it was the easiest puzzle, that it would be easy one. Easiest doesn’t automatically mean easy, it just means it’s less difficult than the others, and this is something Masaya came to realize soon enough. And in much the same way Masaya lost immunity for their hubris, So found herself the first person voted out of Survivor: Worlds Apart, for assuming that she could dictate the direction of her tribe based on an argument that, really, wasn’t all that great. I’m convinced if she’d simply targeted Shirin, she’d have stuck around. But picking Carolyn out of personal vendetta really seemed to seal her fate. It’s easy to let Survivor turn personal, but a great player can separate her emotions from her decision-making. So might have had potential, but it’s potential that will never be realized now.

But what did you think of tonight’s premiere? Sound off in the comments! Until next week, thanks for reading!

Watch Survivor Now
Every Episode. Every Season. Every Survivor. Only CBS All Access. Special offer: FREE 2 Week trial w/code SURVIVORFAN4 (exp 2/26)!

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