Survivor: Fiji - Premiere Episode Recap
Originally aired on Thursday, 02/08/2007

Episode Rating:  **** (4 stars out of 5)

Episode Overview: This season’s Survivors arrive to more resources but less direction than ever before.  The entire group must work together to build a camp that only half will have access to after they are split into the two tribes.

Episode Highlights:

  • The Survivors land and have to immediately get to work constructing an elaborate shelter. 
  • Although the Survivors are provided with materials and instructions, there is a noticeable silence from Jeff Probst and the producers for the first couple of days.
  • Eventually the big, happy group is split in two, and we have our first immunity challenge with the two normally formed teams.
  • The division between the Haves and the Have-nots begins tonight, with the losers losing access to the beautiful new camp they just worked to build.
  • One Survivor is sent to Exile Island, and another is the first to be sent home.


In the recent interview mentioned here on BuddyTV, Jeff Probst spoke frankly about the difficulty the producers of Survivor have in coming up with fresh ideas.  They are not alone, and this isn’t just a problem for reality shows.  Once any show has been long enough, inevitably the well is going to run pretty dry.  And so it’s time to either dig a new one or start selling dirt. 

Thus far, Survivor has seemed to continue to try to dig new ones rather that take the low road that some other reality shows do (Tyra Banks, yes, I am looking at you.  With disappointment.) of just relying more and more on casting the right loose cannons and hoping intra-cast drama will be enough.  (I realize that some might quibble with the concept that there is a “high road” at all in reality television for Survivor to take, but those people are most likely not reading this recap, so let’s continue.)

So what are the fresh ideas this season?  For one, we start off with less hand-holding.  The nineteen Survivors (one shy of even twenty due to a pre-show freakout by one contestant) row out to their new island to be greeted by…an island.  That’s it.  No Jeff Probst to lightly shame them into their best performance. 

The nineteen mill around and make introductions and so here, America, are your Survivors with the clues I was able to gather through the show.  As fellow Survivor fiend/BuddyTV writer Oscar Dahl pointed out in his Quick Thoughts, there is really little point in trying to get to know everybody at this stage as the field is too crowded.  But I will give it my best shot:

Alex Angarita – young hot guy, about whose hotness I feel conflicted as he is an attorney, and we’re all supposed to hate lawyers, right?

Kenward 'Boo' Bernis  - some dude.  His name is Boo.  Next.

Yau-Man Chan – Yau-Man is The Man.  He’s adorable and older but also seems tough and brainy.  He also grew up on Borneo, which is a similar environment to Fiji.  He hopes his usefulness with the landscape will offset the young bucks’ desire to get rid of the old first.

Earl Cole – seems like a solid, mellow guy so far.  Ad Exec.  Will also try to not hold his profession against him.

Jessica deBen – fashion stylist/cutie patootie.

Erica Durousseau – shrewdly, she starts trying to build alliances right away.  She also seems a little grumpy.

Cassandra Franklin – she’s 42, but looks to be in good shape.  However, she admits the farthest she’s been into nature was 20-40 feet off the road.  It used to be clear these city slickers would be first to go, but self-proclaimed “couch potato” Cirie Fields’ success in Survivor:Panama proved that is not always a given.

Liliana Gomez – who?

Dre Herd – He goes by the name “Dreamz” which makes me wonder for a moment if he got lost on the way to the “I Love New York” show.  But he is in the right place, and as he’d been homeless in the past, might have the mental toughness to go far.

Stacy Kimball – come again?

Sylvia Kwan – an older woman and we will get more details on her in a moment.

Mookie Lee – I only remember who he is because his name is Mookie.  Which is an AWESOME name.

Lisi Linares
– she has one of those hairdos that with no context, you can’t tell if she’s a New York City hipster or works at a Wal-mart in the middle of the country.  There is some cross-over with that aesthetic.  So she’s a bit of a mystery.

James Reid – okay, I’m a little in love with him.  He’s a possible loose cannon, has a thick Boston accent, and people call him “Rocky” because dang if he doesn’t look a lot like a young Sylvester Stallone.  “I guess James is too hard to remember,” he offers up dryly.  He also tells people if they use a big word around him, they will have to stop and define it for him.  LOVE IT.  NEVER VOTE HIM OFF.

Edgardo Rivera
– ANOTHER ad executive.  I’m not yet entertained by him, so next.

Anthony Robinson – he has the curious profession of “Expert Witness Locator.”  He also seems to be a pretty mellow dude.

Gary Stritesky
– bigger older guy.

Michelle Yi – she is verrrreeee cheerful.

After getting to know one another and clambering around the island, they finally get some information.  But is Jeff actually stopping by?  No, because he’s just that ice cold.  He flies overhead, drops them a package, and flies off. 

The Survivors row out to retrieve the package, and then the young bucks set about using brute force to try to break open the box on the beach.  Brute force doesn’t work.  Yau-Man picks up the box and with just the POWER OF HIS MIND figures out the weak spot in the construction, drops it on its corner and breaks it open to the admiration of the others.  Children of the USA, take note: learning science can, in fact, make you The Man. 

Inside the box are a set of instructions, a series of blueprints and a map of the island.  It informs them that they must locate a hidden cache of lumber and supplies, then follow the blueprints to build a shelter.  The plans include a toilet!  This evokes awe from the Survivors.  They all set about searching for and bringing back the materials.  Sylvia, it turns out, is an architect.  She takes charge of the project, which ruffles a few feathers, but wisely no one really tries to make a power play since she does have the expertise.

Yau-man also continues to make himself useful by showing the group how to filter out the grit from their water.  Earl calls him “The Professor.”

Although everyone is feeling positive, and the group is getting along well, there are a couple dark clouds on the horizon.  For one, this is Survivor.  Everyone knows that, as Alex puts it, “something very cruel is going to happen very soon.”  And, during the second night, we have our first conflict.  Dreamz seems to feel the need to keep talking while the others are trying to sleep.  At first the group tries to laugh it off, but it gets under Rocky’s skin.  He gets into a shouting match with Dreamz, then heads off to sleep alone on the boat.

The next day, Jeff finally saunters in.  He talks to the tribe about their first few days, and learns that Sylvia has taken a leadership role in the group.  After confirming with all the Survivors that they agree she’s been the leader, Jeff tells her she gets a special treat!  She gets to separate out the others into two tribes…and then, she gets to go to Exile Island!  With lots of snakes!  And when she comes back, she’ll be joining the losing tribe, who are doomed to leave the Camp Paradise for Camp Whole-Lotta-Nothing!  Lucky.  She will, of course, have immunity for this first tribal council, and on Exile Island, she will be able to pick up one clue about the hidden immunity idol.  See ya, Sylvia, would not want to be ya.

The teams she sets up are Ravu (Orange), consisting of Rocky, Yau-Man, Michelle, Erica, Rita, Jessica, Mookie, Earl and Anthony; and Moto (Green), consisting of everybody else. 

After Sylvia leaves, they head to their first challenge.  It is your typical complicated Survivor challenge, with a chariot race followed by a puzzle followed by a sort of combination puzzle thing.  Lots of ropes and little cloth bags, etc.  Moto takes an early lead in the chariot race, but then stumble on the way back, giving Ravu a good lead as they put together the puzzle.  Unfortunately, cutie patootie Jessica, who had the last puzzle to solve, can’t seem to figure it out, and Moto is able to overtake them for the win.

Ravu is seriously bummed, especially Erica.  She cannot seem to get over the fact that they just worked so hard to build a camp they don’t even get to live in.  As the team arrives at their new camp, where all they have is a pot and a machete, she is befuddled as to the lack of outrage the rest feels about their new surroundings.  She’s apparently never heard the serenity prayer.  But the other seem determined to make the best of it.

Of course, the other team has the best of it, returning to their camp to find a lovely couch, hammocks, and glassware.

Back with Ravu, they realize they have to figure out who they are voting off.  Erica, Jessica, Earl and Rocky agree early to vote off Rita.  Separately, the others approach Erica and Earl to say that they think that Jessica should go, since she did lose them the challenge.  Erica brings the news back to Rocky, who feels conflicted: he just gave his word to Jessica.

At tribal council, things go as expected: cutie patootie is gone as Jessica receives the most votes.  Oddly, there are three other people voted for: Mookie, Yau-Man and Rita.  Rita makes sense as she was the other person mentioned, but hard to figure out where the other votes came from. Possibly Rocky and Erica throwing their votes away on people they knew were safe?  Curiouser and curiouser.

Well, things appear to be off to a solid start.  We have our colorful characters, an interesting twist to the set-up, and impending class warfare.  One hopes they can maintain momentum for a great season.

- Leslie Seaton, BuddyTV Staff Columnist