Survivor is back for another season of Blood vs. Water, only this time with all new contestants. And I’m happy to be back for another season to recap. Can you believe that this is season 29 of Survivor?! Let’s hope it’s just as good (or maybe even better) than the last 28.

Welcome to San Juan del Sur

All of the couples get to spend one night on the island together. They’re provided with flint and are all still in high spirits. John Rocker is there, and he claims he’s not a bigot anymore. Okay, sure. I think we’ll be the judge of that.

Missy and Baylor are a mom and daughter. Missy has been married and divorced three times which has led Baylor to take on the more nurturing role in the relationship. Yet Missy insists on a keen ability to make decisions using her gut. Girl, your gut didn’t do you any favors telling you which men to marry.

Josh and Reed are a Survivor superfan couple who are also Broadway performers. They are experts at making fire with flint (Josh even got Reed flint for his birthday one year, aww) and they catch a crab right away. They’re probably going to be the most well fed of the group.

Twins Nadiya and Natale have already competed on The Amazing Race — twice, apparently — and with little luck. They already know Survivor is going to be the harder of the two, but they’re determined to play strong social games.

All the couples meet at Redemption Island. They have a laugh at Keith and Wes (a father and son duo) who couldn’t get a fire started because they lost their flint.

They split up into two tribes where they are opposite their loved ones; Hunahpu in blue and Coyopa in orange. Val, a police officer, is quite adamant that she doesn’t need any protection from her firefighter husband, Jeremy.

Which is perfect because she gets a chance to back up her smack talk right away. Jeff tells them that they’re going to compete in their first challenge, but only one person from each tribe will be competing. Jeremy volunteers for Hunahpu, which means he’ll be going against Val. Winner gets beans and flint for their tribe, loser has to go to Exile Island.

Val talks a big game, but Jeremy beats her in the one-on-one challenge. He gets emotional sending her to Exile Island. But Jeff tells him he can choose one other person from his tribe to go with her. He chooses Keith, because he’s old and wearing camouflage so he can take care of her. Never mind that he was one of the only teams that couldn’t start fire. Also, I don’t know if you know this about your wife, but she don’t need no man to take care of her. She’ll be fine on her own. 

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Everyone tells Jeremy that they understand his decision and they’re sure they’ll all be put in a similar position at some point in the game. Jeremy is still emotional about competing against his wife. But he doesn’t let it slow him down from making an alliance with the women in his tribe, Kelly, Natalie and Missy.

Drew, is a former model (he’s kind of a big deal in Europe) and I guess that gave him the expertise to build the shelter. Julie (John Rocker’s GF) thinks he’s an arrogant kid and it rubs her the wrong way.

Jon, a former Michigan State football player(here with Jaclyn, former Miss Michigan), seems like a goofball on the outside, but he’s dealing with some personal turmoil. Doctors discovered a tumor in his father’s brain and it’s terminal. His father was a big fan of the show, and he wouldn’t have come here without his blessing. He just hopes he gets to watch it with him.


Coyopa is definitely the younger of the two tribes. Dale sticks out as being the old man of the tribe. He is a self-employed farmer (who is here with his daughter, Kelly) and usually works in isolation. He’s not used to being in big groups of people. He finds an emblem on the well which may or may not be an idol. There’s no note with it, but it does look important so it’s probably good that he picked it up.

The tribe didn’t win flint in the challenge so they have to try and start a fire in another way. Dale tries to uses his glasses to magnify the sun, which rarely works. When he’s not successful, he decides to break his glasses in half to double the magnification. Hooray! Dale makes fire and feels a little more comfortable in the tribe of youngsters.

Wes is the only one in the tribe to recognize John Rocker. At first John lies about who he is, but when Wes inadvertently fed into John’s ego, he admitted that he was in fact “the man” back when the Atlanta Braves were good. Wes promises not to say anything, but John is worried that his knowledge of who he really is may make him a threat.

Poor Josh is having an allergic reaction to something on the island. His eyes are red and inflamed and tearing up. Nadiya thinks it’s the sap on the leaves in the shelter so they all replace them with safer leaves. I wonder if she actually knew about the indigenous plant life on this island, or if it was all B.S. I suspect the latter.

Exile Island

Val and Keith are hanging out together on our old friend, Exile Island. They each have to pick an urn on the beach, and inside the urn are two notes. Val gets a clue to where her idol is back at camp and Keith gets a blank paper. Then Val, being the little hard-ass we already know her to be, doesn’t show Keith the clue. She’s one tough one.

Immunity Challenge

For the first Immunity Challenge, the survivors have to crawl under a maze then work together to retrieve bags hanging from a tall post. Then they need to use the pieces in the bag to scale a wall where there is a puzzle at the top. First tribe to finish the puzzle wins immunity.

A few people stand out in this challenge. John Rocker is clearly still a beast of an athlete, bigot or not. Both Josh and Reed are extremely athletic, probably due to their dancing backgrounds. And Jon scrambled through the first part of the maze like a spider monkey on crack. He is FAST.

But the challenge is pretty even through all of the legs. It’s Hunahpu who finishes the puzzle first for the win. Everyone is excited until Jeff throws a wet blanket on them when he tells them one of their loved ones is going home. You can almost hear the wind go out of their sails. 

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Loser Camp

Just after learning all of her tribemates’ names, Val goes to the well to look for the idol. Girl is hustling already! She’s joined soon by the other ladies in her tribe, where she proposes that they “make some history” with an all female alliance. Annnnd that’s when she lost me. Alienating the men, especially such physically dominant ones, is a stupid move so early in the game. But hey, at least she’s playing I guess?

Meanwhile, Dale is talking to the men, riling them against Nadiya, who he says was known as a backstabber on The Amazing Race. It’s a solid strategy for him, since he knows his neck is probably on the line.

Nadiya fills Josh in on their all girl alliance plan, telling him that she’s already considering him a girl. Um, that’s incredibly rude. Just because he’s gay, doesn’t mean he wants you to emasculate him. Josh admits that it rubs him the wrong way. He doesn’t know if he’s going to vote with the men or women yet, but he knows he has to be careful being the swing vote.

Tribal Council

John says that there’s no obvious choice for who should go home first, and they didn’t expect to be here so soon.

Nadiya says that Survivor is so different from The Amazing Race because it not only took away her primal comforts, but her twin sister. Natalie is her only family in America, but now she has to make a new family with her tribe.

Val says Exile Island was stressful, but she had time to “explore” and “find things.” She is really trying to make people believe she has an idol.

Jaclyn points out that the men were all really fast to get along right away. Everyone agrees that Josh is probably the most well-liked person on the tribe. Nadiya continues to be offensive, saying that he’s one of the girls, and she’d never call a straight guy “girlfriend.” Oof is she ignorant.

Before the votes are read, Val acts like she’s going to play an idol, and then doesn’t. Probably because she doesn’t have one. Also she probably believes that her all-girls alliance is going to win her a million dollars.

The votes between Dale and Nadiya are pretty much split down gender lines. But Nadiya is the first person voted off. If her insensitive comments didn’t get her voted off outright, I’m sure they played a part. Josh didn’t vote for her, but he threw away his vote voting for Baylor.

So what do you think of the new cast? Who is your front runner? Let’s talk in the comments!

Catch an all new episode of Survivor: San Juan del Sur next Wednesday at 8pm on CBS.

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(Image courtesy of CBS)

Gina Pusateri

Contributing Writer, BuddyTV