Alright, with Aruba out (inexplicably), someone has to get this going. We already knew everyone coming in, and we got 2 hours with screen time for virtually everyone.
1. Da Rob - #1 on my preseason list and #1 by a mile here. Who else could it be? A couple Cherokees thought his making fire by rubbing two sticks together was off the hook. More than gaining fire, that single event solidified Rob as the leader of the tribe, and as we have seen over and over again, a tribe with a leader is a more successful tribe than one without. Puzzle performance might have been luck as much as anything else, but it only further solidified his place in the tribe.
2. Russell - Aided by the fact no one has seen his game before, Russell went into his game full speed ahead, once again targeting women to make F2 alliances with. Surprisingly, he seemed to have no more difficult time pulling veterans into his web as he did pulling in his Dumb Chicks alliance. I really can't blame the editing for showing so much of him again because his confessionals are just golden. Did he gather enough power to take on Rob? I don't think so, but I don't think he is foolish enough to try if it is even in doubt.
3. JT - Surprisingly, JT was kind of the Russell of his tribe, hustling to make multiple alliances with other strong players. Even though he is a winner and a strong player in every aspect, he was never even thought about as a possible first boot. His confessionals revealed the same ole JT, just a naturally charismatic and unassuming guy. Sweet with the chicken too.
4. Amanda - Loved seeing her again, looking better than ever. Loved listening to her again in confessionals. She played a prominent role in this first episode, and I hope that continues. Sugar targeting her meant nothing because no one else agreed. The puzzle debacle could have happened to anyone. She has won puzzle challenges before so I just think that was an aberration. Rare woman who is strong in challenges, strong in game play and extremely likable. Only weakness is other women's jealously, basically. As mentioned elsewhere, I'm not sure she can really trust Cirie, but for all of Cirie's talk about Amanda not being as strong as her strategically, Cirie deferred to Amanda when deciding on who to vote for.
5. Candice - Probably strongest all around performance by a woman this first episode was by Candice. She did well in both challenges, as expected, and appeared to position herself well by being seen discussing the vote with multiple factions. An alliance between her and Colby would be very interesting, and I could see her working with Amanda and Cirie as well. She might have come in as an outsider, but she did well to change that quickly.
6. Tom - Considering the target on him, it was an accomplishment that people were actually considering booting Stephanie instead of him. Once again, he made nothing but solid moves. His reasons for making an alliance with JT were very sensible, even if JT seemed somewhat insincere about the whole thing. And his idea to go after the normally UTR Cirie was brilliant. No consensus existed on the tribe yet to make that big of a move, however. We will see if he and Stephanie move fast enough to get a couple more players in their fold. If they do not, they will be targeted again.
7. Coach - Like it or not, it was a very strong episode for Coach. He used his newfound bulk to dominate Colby in the RC. He seemed to make some connections in the Villians tribe, including with Rob, and of course the out of no where connection with Jerri, which I found very entertaining. Entertaining confessionals as well, and the editing really played him up. That's a good sign at least in the short term.
8. Sandra - Everyone should know I consider her PI victory a pox upon the history of Survivor. However, she seems to relish the villian role, and I think this season could give her a chance to shine. An alliance with Rob would be VERY interesting. Also, of course tremendous performance in the IC.
9. Cirie - Surprising that her and Amanda could have such a poor puzzle performance, and Tom targeting her for the first vote shows that UTR may no longer be an option for her. Still, for Cirie fans, there was a lot in the editing to love. The season started with a confessional from her, and Tom's targeting of her might have had no purpose other than to compliment her game.
10. Stephanie - Tough chick. Separated shoulder? Ah, just snap it back into place and its all good. She even initially didn't want medical to look at it. She complained far less about her shoulder being separated than Rupert did about his pinky toe. I was wrong about her too. Its good to see her again.
11. James - Dude is huge. Good story about his grandma and the chicken.
12. Parvati - Surprised she had so little screen time. Basically got to gush over Russell, and that was it. Nice wrist lock used on Cirie. Dislocating Stephanie's shoulder seemed like an accident.
13. Tyson - Nearly invisible except for one great confessional comment about Colby, and one determined stare before the IC.
14. Colby - I can only drop him so far. It is still great to see him, and he got a lot of screen time. Embarrassing RC performance, and mysterious reaction to somewhat attractive woman wanting him to help her stay warm at night. There are worse problems to have, mon. Alliance with Candice would be very interesting.
15. Danielle - Looks good, and was strong in challenges, as you would expect. I would love to see her and Stephanie go toe-to-toe to see who is the strongest female competitor on the show. I think the fact that Russell targeted her first is uncomplimentary for her.
16. Courtney - She basically did what she was casted for- roll the eyes, snarky looks and bubbly confessionals. She looks cute, love the pigtails, though she is too damn thin to be sexy. I think she disappears if she steps behind a bamboo tree.
17. Jerri - Had little role the first episode other than as Coach's romantic interest, which is the last thing I would have thought possible (okay, not the last, but not near the first either).
18. Rupert - The drama king hasn't changed. About the only player whose confessionals I did not care for. Whine, whine, whine.
19. Randy- Was casted solely for his confessionals. He had one confessional, which was only used to make him look like an idiot. Props to him for still helping Rob make the fire, even after his comments, at least.
first is worst
Sugarless - I am always amazed when a player makes the infamous beginning of the game mistake of either being bossy or being annoying. For a 2nd time player to make one of those mistakes is just stupidity. Glad she was first to go though. Just like Colby said, without her the season misses......... yeah, not much.