Grab a Nametag And Tell Us A Little About Yourself - Ah, these early shows of the season are always a little tough to manage. We've been drilling the song "Crazy Train" into the audience's collective brainpans for weeks, but to tell the truth even a Crazy Train needs conductors, beverage service and someone to throw the switches at the right time. However, our job is to introduce a boxcar full of contestants before we can get on the right track, so sanity goes out the window like that tax cheat Wesley Snipes in the 1995 hit *cough* movie Money Train.
We start with the Fans cutting through the chop in a Caramoan catamaran inexplicably named "Vincent". As the Noobies turn a paler shade of green we dissolve to their boring backstories; Red Beard's scary looking, but he's sensitive and he's "gonna play the game." The ex-Marine has been on over 60 combat missions in Iraq and he's going to turn the other players into "lunch meat"... and so on.
Three things become clear in time; 1) my location scouts have managed to find yet another Filipino island armpit we haven't used before, 2) the catamaran is named "Vincent" after Vincent Van Gogh, who once cut off his own ear to avoid seasickness and 3) we still don't have the budget to provide Dramamine pills for anyone.
So the Fans are feeding the fish from the boat and the Favorites are doing the Technicolor Yawn from their helicopters. The only one who is managing his psychotropics and crank adequately is Jiffy Pop Probst, who has climbed to the top of the highest peak he can find and is waving wife Lisa Russell at the helicopters like he's King Kong in Khakis. Gotta love that crazy bastard. I finally get my camera in a position where the two Favorites helicopters come up behind Probst for the signature shot and we're off to the races.
Eventually the Fans fall out of their boat and line up on shore. Jiffy explains that this season is Fans vs. Favorites and they will be playing against some of their favorite Survivors from past seasons. Laura and Allie gasp as Probst introduces Cochran and Brenda. Julia and Hope get weak in the knees when they spot Malcolm. And Michael nearly swoons when he catches sight of Brandon. But as Probst points to the waving Erik, Andrea and Corrine, the Fans seem to draw a blank. "What season?" they mutter. Or "the name doesn't ring a bell." It's a satisfying payoff considering the rental costs for one boat and three expensive helicopters.
"Grab the Ass Ring" - Once the Gotcha and Banal Tribes are established, we waste little time and set up our first Challenge. Two contestants from each tribe stand in our ocean badminton/polo/soccer area and race to grab a life ring from one side and hang it on their tribe's post on the other side. The other tribe tries to stop you.... "any way they can." Oooh, conflict. Reward is a flint, twenty pounds of beans and a gift certificate at Beach, Banana Hammock and Beyond.
They strip down to their shorts or bathing suits, with the exception of Phillip who is contractually obligated to wear his pink Fruit of the Loom-ing Disasters. The first match-up finds Erik and Dawn up against Shamar and Julia. Erik lets Shamar come crashing in and executes a nice screen pass. But the ex-Marine executes an about-face in time to score one for the Fans. The second go 'round pits Hope and Eddie against Brandon and Andrea. It seems that Hope doesn't float and the Faves put one on the board.
The next match up finds Sherri and Michael facing off against Phillip and Brenda. This is punctuated by Shamar screaming "break her wrist!" which causes Jeff Probst to stop the action, stare at him in disbelief and grunt "Huh?" The ex-Marine hastily explained that he meant to say "Break her list... down into manageable objectives and then do your best to stop her forward progress" or perhaps "break her bliss so that her chakras are no longer in perfect alignment." He settled on "uhmm, like 'break her hold.'" Action resumed.
Phillip scores making it 2-1, Faves over Fans. The next set of contestants has the petite Laura smack-talking the even petite-er Cochran. Francesca's score makes it 3-1 for the Favoritas. The power couple of the afternoon turn out to be Malcolm and Reynold who go after each other like it's last call at The Boneyard Bar & Grill. Reynold pulls Malcolm's shorts to half moon, but he's distracted and Malcolm touches another pole to win it for the Favorites. In an effort to foster team unity, Phillip tells them to "bring it in guys", but they unify by ignoring him.
Fighting Over The Fire Is Not A Firefight - Over at the Gotcha camp they walk up their beach and Shamar asks, "Where's our theme music?". They respond with a pretty good rendition of the Survivor soundtrack, but it's going to be a long time before they sit onstage with an audience and a live band. As they discuss the Gotcha To-Do list, Shamar glares at them and shouts, "What's the most important thing?!"
Shamar decides to sit out this dance, but eventually his Marine-ism kicks in and he organizes a log rubbing party that results in a working fire. He confessionalizes that "It was like being in Iraq and knowing that you've got to get home." Las Vegas bookies are already taking even money that Shamar is going to ram a lot of Iraq and Marine similies into Survivor situations... like ramming a magazine into an AK-47 during a firefight.
Meanwhile, Phillip, Milk of Man-I'm-Nauseous proves that he's learned a lot from studying the Survivor game films. He's heard demanding a second scoop of rice "after everyone else has had some". He also contends that he's created what he calls "The BR (Boston Rob) Rules". (He's created these in much the same way that a parrot creates a sound immediately after hearing something else make the sound.)
The BR Rules: 1. Be in an Alliance. 2. Get in an Alliance within an Alliance. 3. Get rid of the Alliance before they get rid of you.
But Boston Rob would add rule number four; you can name a tribe after your wife's stuffed animals, but you shouldn't give people in your alliance cringe-inducing nicknames. I'm pretty sure The Dominatrix and The Intelligencia Attaché would agree with Boston Rob about the Stealthy Undercover Brother known simply as "The Specialist".
Gota Whole Lota Love - Reynold and Allie are collecting stones when Reynold proposes an alliance. He reveals to the camera that Allie may not be "the cutest girl", but she is cool and likeable. He also muses that "Survivor is a game of gut instinct. I think my gut feels good. I think hers does too." It's unclear whether Reynold is going to be feeling Allie's gut any time soon, but Eddie and Hope have declared themselves the best looking people here on Fantasy Island and their Body Heat sleeping arrangement is starting to attract attention.
Tower of Power IC - The Body Heat at Banal is Cochran, who's sunburned from head to toe. At the Immunity Challenge, Jiffy asks when Cochran got so sunburned. Cochran replies "Immediately". But it's the Gotcha tribe that's on fire as they manage to climb up the towers, throw down crates and toss the resulting sandbags into the carnival cups. Malcolm comes up a bit short for Banal and the veterans will go to their first Tribal Council.
Back at camp, the Favorites start to scramble, plot to split the vote and wonder if Phillip found some sort of HII. The leading contenders for eviction are Andrea and Francesca, who threatens to eat a rock and/or drown herself in the ocean if she is the first one voted out again.
It turns out that she has brunch plans and a long swim ahead of her. Francesca Hogi, the attorney from Brooklyn, NY is the first one voted out of Survivor: Caramoan.
Mark "Back in the saddle again" Burnett