For the most part, this episode was blissfully devoid of excessive trollery. To which Russell Hantz no doubt replies: "Try harder, One World cast." To which we respond: "Thank you, CBS, for allowing a season of Survivor to be filmed in Samoa without anyone named Hantz making an appearance (at least in Episode 1)."
You could argue that Matt, or Alicia, or Colton were all playing up their various outsized personality traits a bit for more camera time, but that's largely an argument based on their extensive camera time. Instead, we'll toss a grudging trophy in the direction of "Tarzan." Or Greg Tarzan. Or TarZAN. Who--despite his comical facial hair situation--largely failed in his attempts at more screen time, but not for lack of trying.
There he was, taking away precious seconds in the fresh-off-the-truck opening segment (which could have been far better spent giving us a full intro/title sequence) as he insisted on being called Tarzan. And there he was on night one, doing a spot-on version of the Johnny Weissmuller "Tarzan" jungle yodel (to which we hope CBS/SEG secured the rights, lest MGM shut down future Survivor airings for SOPA violations) around Manono's all-important fire. And... that was pretty much it. What did we learn from all this screen time? That Greg likes Tarzan. Could we have guessed that from his chosen nickname, had there been a full opening title sequence instead? Yes.
Along with a refreshing relative lack of overacting, this episode was also remarkable in its reasonably even-handed presentation of the new cast, despite being a mere hour long (as opposed to South Pacific's 90-minute premiere). Of course, we didn't really learn all their names, thanks to the lack of a title sequence, beyond the bizarre, hideous, hamfisted attempt to insert castaway name chyrons at random points on the screen as people were talking. (Seriously, it looked like a third-grader had snuck into the post-production studio and gone nuts. We were surprised nobody was identified as "Poo" or "Fart.") There is a time and place for everything name-related, children, and that's the bottom of the screen, on first confessional. Also college.
Even though most of the castaways were at least shown talking on screen (apart from Bill, who apparently can't be shown because he's a comedian), there was a glaring dearth of screentime for one contestant, which stuck out like a sore wrist (sorry): Kourtney. Yes, she got to speak in the opening minutes about her perceived lack of fitting in with the women. But then she pretty much disappeared for the entire rest of the episode (save for a brief in-hike confessional about the women backstabbing each other), until it was time to break her wrist in the challenge. And even then, the episode soldiered on, chock-full of bickering, without her. Pretty shabby treatment for a "boot" episode, especially since she seemed like one of the more sane, down-to-earth members of the cast, based on her pre-game interviews. At least she got to come back for final words over the closing credits, which could easily have been replaced by a PSA from Jeff Probst about wrist safety.
Since there wasn't really a challenge to go on here, we'll have to present the Beasty award to the next logical person: Chelsea, for running and catching two beasts (well, chickens), all by herself. Take that, Brandon Hantz and Erik Cardona! Our pet theory is that the chickens were attracted to the camp by the lingering scent of Shambo's pee. Fun fact: this is also what's kept Survivor coming back to the same location now three times since Samoa.
But Chelsea wins not just for catching the chickens. As shown, there was a pre-agreed deal in which whoever caught the chickens would split them 50-50 with the other tribe. But two birds in hand are clearly worth more than the handshake previously agreed upon with said hands. So for both demonstrating impressive physical prowess AND creating an incentive to vote her out after doing so, Chelsea wins the first One World Beasty.
With nobody getting voted out, it's difficult to evaluate strategic play in this episode, especially this early. Some stood out for lack of anything resembling long-term strategy:
This, in fact, is the biggest problem with all three of these people (along with Jay, who also favored cold-shouldering the women): not only will some of these people have to vote for you as jurors, if by some miracle you reach the final three, but there's a good chance 50% of them will be your tribemates in mere one to three more tribal councils. So instead of seizing the opportunity created by the One World twist to forge cross-tribal alliances, the order of the day appears to be going out of one's way to create enemies. Well done, everyone.
The lone exception appears to be Sabrina, who used the (Manono's) "hidden" immunity idol to throw Colton a lifeline. (To be fair, she was forced to give it someone, but she did choose well.) This move was particularly good because Colton, due to his lack of social game (or more accurately, his antisocial game, or maybe semi-social, since he only bothered talking to the women), is likely to be targeted by the manly men, and can use the idol (once) to start taking them down. Furthermore, once the idol's gone, he'll still be unpopular, and then can be voted out by the angry remnants of that alliance. This is a problem if you, yourself, want to use an idol while in the minority alliance (as Francesca and Kristina learned in Redemption Island), but it's something of a bonus if you're trying to mess with someone else's tribe. Meddling, while leaving a minimal trace. And so for this (potential) move, Sabrina earns One World's inaugural Slitty trophy.
Recaps, episode reviews, commentary:
Exit interviews - Kourtney Moon