Survivor: China - A Gaggle of First Impressions
CBS knows how to cast a television show.  Or, maybe we should give it up to Mark Burnett's production team.  Whoever is responsible, if last night's premiere is any indication, they put together a solid group of castaways for Survivor: China.  Typically, the first couple episodes are lacking in the character department because there's too many contestants to get to know in a mere 42 minutes.  You can't get a handle on the personalities.  Last night's Survivor: China premiere, on the other hand, provided a masterful introduction to some of our newest castaways, to the point where I'm confident in the accuracy of my first impressions.  We didn't spend ample time with all of the castaways, of course, but some of the bigger personalities showed their colors, and the only verdict a Survivor fan can offer is that the show's latest installment is poised for a great season.

The first cast-off, that ignominious distinction usually reserved for only the crustiest and most elderly member of the first losing tribe, was the crusty chicken farmer Steve 'Chicken' Morris, the oldest member of his tribe.  From the very beginning, the man showed contempt for the shelter-building ignorance of the younger tribe members, as if shelter building is an inherent human trait.  Has Chicken ever seen an episode of Survivor before?  He made the cardinal sin of not being a team player early, retreating into an annoying stubbornness and distancing himself from every other castaway.  Well played, Chicken.  I'm glad he's gone.

For the other Survivors, there's only one other person that I'm actively rooting against at this point, a couple I'm on the fence about, but for the most part it's an intriguing, redeemable group.   And, as I stated above, CBS did an excellent job introducing us to most everyone in a telling manner.  The only people who I've yet to form any sort of opinion on are Sherea Lloyd, Amanda Kimmel and Erik Huffman, who I look forward to slicing down with the battle axe of my opinions in the near future.  Just not today. 

First impressions

Aaron Reisberger: De facto leader of his tribe.  I love that it's gotten to the point where the castaways are legitimately frightened to be labeled as "the leader".  Aaron, with an urging from gay Mormon Todd, took the leader reigns early.  As far as young-ish Survivor leaders go, Aaron lacks the typical smugness, which is great.  He seems like a winner, but since this is Survivor it'll only be so long until the masses revolt.

Ashley Massaro: The WWE Diva and most famous name in the group is very cleavage-y.  The fact that she got sick early doesn't bother me.  What did bother me is her constant insertion of wrestling stories into conversation.  This could be a product of editing, however.  She's a competitor and scenes from next week show Ashley pile driving someone into the mud, which is never a bad thing.

Courtney Yates: The New York hipster bartender made it very clear that she is too cool for school.  Her disdain for the “rah-rah” sensibilities of her tribe mates is something I can identify with, as I've always been slightly irked by the cheesiness and glee in which castaways celebrate inane accomplishments at the start of the game.  Her talking heads are candid and entertaining, even if they portray her as a bit snotty.  She's cute, though, which helps. 

Dave Cruser: This guy may be the real deal, the type of leader who carries the torch from the beginning of the season to the end.  Unfortunately, leaders like Aaron and Dave will not, under any circumstances, be able to dominate challenges, as long as James and Frosti are in the mix.  This will be a problem if Dave advances deep in the game.  Dave has a chance to be my favorite ex-male model of all time.

Denise Martin: The lunch lady isn't going to make it very far.  Her physical prowess is non-existent and I don't see her doing well socially with all the young people.  But, let's talk about mullets.  We may need to make a space in the Mullet Hall of Fame for Denise's mane.  It is as glorious a mullet as you'll find in this world. 

Jaime Dugan: Cute, innocent college girl who everyone can't help but like.  I'm guaranteeing a top 6 finish for Jaime right now. 

James Clement: My favorite person on the show.  James, a super humanly strong grave digger, is straight out of a movie or a novel.  He is not a very social guy, but is self-aware of this and knows that it will have to change if he wants to do well.  He likes burying bodies because it allows him to be alone with his thoughts.  He's going to be a challenge monster as long as he's in the game.

Jean-Robert Bellande: The pro poker player is confident in his ability to read people, as exemplified by his slightly creepy examination of Todd.  I have a feeling Jean-Robert will overplay his hand, so to speak, piss everyone off and get booted relatively early. 

Leslie Nease: The Christian radio host angered me early because she couldn't stomach an entire Buddhist ceremony, which was an ugly show of ignorance and arrogance.  But, after that, Leslie looked like a reasonable, compassionate and likable.  The jury is still out.

Michael 'Frosti' Zernow: The 20-year-old parkour expert is going to be a fan favorite.  His incredible agility will make him a challenge force, perhaps on par with Ozzy Lusth.  He's also likable and intelligent.  He might be the early overall favorite. 

Peih-Gee Law: Oh, man.  Law was insufferably bossy in the latter stages of episode one.  She has to be America's least favorite castaway after one episode and I can't imagine her tribe retaining her services much longer.  I know I can't. 

-Oscar Dahl, BuddyTV Senior Writer
(Image Courtesy of CBS)