The first episode begins and cue dramatic helicopter shot. After the customary intro, the helicopter plunges to the beach with Jeff sitting on the back open hatch (is he even strapped in?). Hopefully this show of excitement is a precursor to an exciting new series!
Whilst in the air we meet a few of the characters of the season: Phillip (one minute in and we’re already aware he is a former special agent), the Fabio-like Matt and the redneck farmer Ralph, who reckons it time for a “dumb-ass” like him to win.
So the 16 contestants are all lined up on the beach ready to play (the two tribes are Ometepe and Zapatera) when Jeff tells them to wait up for two more players joining them. By the look of his face, Matt seems to be the only one with any inkling of what’s about to go down, as another helicopter emerges. With it brings two of the most formidable players in Survivor history, Boston Rob and “Evil” Russell. The reaction to Russell’s appearance is priceless: several castaways are heard muttering “Oh no!” However, Stephanie seems to be the only one that is genuinely excited that Russell is here, and decides to “stare him down” to let him know that she’s got “a little bit of evil inside of her”. She’s already planning on being the pretty girl he takes to the end, knowing that she will be out “no matter what” unless she is. Seems like a smart girl. Jeff explains that whilst they have 156 days of Survivor experience, neither has ever won. To the contestants, this is obviously where the ‘Redemption Island’ theme fits in (boy they’re in for a shock!). After a random pick of buffs, Boston Rob joins Ometepe (who erupt in excitement) leaving Zapatera looking less than overjoyed in landing Russell (except Stephanie, who’s wish has come true). It should be said that players on both teams were praying they would avoid Russell.
Time for one more twist: ‘Redemption Island’. When a contestant gets voted out at tribal council they will not leave the game. They will go to Redemption Island where they must live alone until someone else joins them. From there they will duel and the loser is sent home. The winner remains on Redemption Island until they are given the opportunity to re-enter the game. As Francesca (Ometepe) notes Rob and Russell being there suddenly got a whole lot more complicated. Russell, in his usual arrogant way, declares that ‘Redemption Island’ does not scare him “one bit”, and is prepared to “take some head off” if anyone dares send him there. That we can believe.
Back at camp, Russell attempts to become leader of his tribe, and assures them he is not there to sabotage anybody, but he is there to win. Why doesn’t anybody else believe him? Over at Ometepe, Boston Ron has got the tribe working “harmoniously” on a new shelter; so much that Matt declares the camp to be “Camp Harmony”. We also see a bit of Phillip’s bossy self, telling everyone how to hammer this and dig that. His tribe mates are already visibly annoyed – bad move Phillip. However, Phillip himself is oblivious to his annoying ways, and decided he trusts the girls in the tribe enough to tell them his bombshell secret – he is a former federal agent who specialised in detecting lies. OMG! Meanwhile, Kristina has been caught by Rob trying to look for a Hidden Immunity Idol clue amongst the supplies. She worries that Rob now sees her as a great strategic player, and she will now have a target on her back. According to Rob’s comments, she’s not far of the mark.
Over at Zapatera, Stephanie’s plans are being realised as Russell approaches her to “be his girl”. The alliance is formed, and nearly every other tribe member has only one goal: Get Russell out ASAP.
It’s a new day, and Kristina is desperately searching for the Hidden Immunity Idol (there has been no clue yet) – and yes, she finds it. It’s in the fairly obvious location of a pile of rocks. Russell’s ground-breaking success at finding idols without clues in Samoa has kind of ruined it a bit – now everyone is going to do it (imagine how bad it’s going to be over the next few seasons). I think the producers need to make it a bit harder to find the Idol again – make them dig for hours again! Kristina then plots to get rid of Boston Rob with Francesca and (probably regretfully) Philip, who then uses his “special agent training” to systematically process the plan (“It’s called corroboration”). What he really does is act like a complete douche by pestering Kristina and Francesca to tell him who the other votes are (Hello! It’s just you guys!) To his credit, neither he nor Francesca is aware of Kristina’s idol.
Immunity Challenge (won by Zapatera)
Tribes will need to push four blocks around a track to build the base of them temple where castaways will need to run up some stairs and chop a piece of rope. The rope will release more steps. At the top of the steps is a puzzle that the teams must solve. First team to complete the puzzle wins immunity (and fire).
So now that Ometepe has lost, it’s time for the good stuff. Kristina wastes no time in sharing her idol with Francesca. The plan is to vote Rob of immediately. However, Francesca has some second thoughts, and thinks it may be best to vote of the tribe’s weakest member, Natalie, as the rest of the tribe will be “pissed off” is Rob is sent home. Kristina is left to ponder.
However, Boston Rob is no rookie; he knows something may be up, and he is already wary of Kristina. He decides to split the votes between Kristina and Francesca, three votes each. Kristina then reluctantly reveals the Idol to Phillip after he finishes his analysis (he discovers they don’t have numbers – shock!). After this new revelation, however, Phillip seems to think it may be a good idea to rid of Rob after all.
This is absolute mayhem. First slip of the tongue goes to Francesca, who looks very suspicious when she hastily corrects a statement referring to the possibility of Boston rob going home (“…he’s not going to!”). Oops! But this is nothing compares to what happens next: crazy Phillip interrupts her to say that he has a problem with her statement because she asked him to vote out Boston Rob tonight, and then starts ranting about the plan and reveals to the tribe that Kristina has a Hidden Immunity Idol. This prompts Boston Rob to asks Krsitina if he could see the Idol, to which she obliges, but then declines when he offers a trade of the Idol for her safety in the game. As a result of Phillip’s angry debate with Francesca, he has now openly declared that he will be writing down “Fran-ches-qua” on his vote.
Time to vote – Kristina wisely chooses not to play her Idol.
Francesca – 4 votes
Kristina – 3 votes
Phillip – 2 votes
Francesca becomes the first person voted out for the season, and the first person in Survivor history to be sent to ‘Redemption Island’.