Now, before I begin, let me note that I watched this from about 3:30am to 4:10am in a hotel room in Antigonish on Friday Night, so perhaps my mind wasn’t as sharp as it could have been. Also, this will be replacing Thursday Night TV Club this week, purely based on my current schedule crunch. That being said, let’s get to it.
Pro: Contestant/Audience Confusion
Seasons of Survivor that start with watching 19 confused individuals try to figure out what the hell to do are often the best. The season started with all 19 on one island, building a shelter together and being forced to work together with no idea what was coming next. It reminded me somewhat of the Pearl Islands shopping excursion in that it was a neat shift of pace in the opening episode that kept me interested far more than last season’s racial divide.
Con: Mark Burnett is ripping himself off
The latest season of The Apprentice started in exactly the same way. Everyone works together to build a tent, two leaders are selected to head the teams, and then they schoolyard pick from those teams. If one of the contestants had not backed out of the game so soon before its opening, it would have turned out in exactly the same fashion. It just made Survivor seem somewhat repetitive, although it is the better reality show overall.
Pro: Rocky, Yau Man, Boo
Rocky is an entertaining guy from Boston whose real name is James but looks almost exactly like Sylvester Stallone if he was skinny. He brings a sense of character, fire, without being an idiot in every situation. He’s not playing a strong strategic game right now, but it wasn’t a bad start.
Yau Man is old, frail, and by golly could have very easily been the first to go if not for a decent challenge performance and an absolutely stunning job of being useful to his tribe. He used logic and intelligence to wow them all, and it was a great performance.
Boo didn’t do much this episode, but next episode he falls out of a hammock and I found it hysterical.
Dreamz’ name annoys me enough, but then he has to go and get into a petty argument and ended up being this season’s Cao Boi, spurring racial arguments for NO APPARENT REASON. However, he is the only one really annoying me at this point, which is a good sign.
Pro: A seemingly hard first challenge
People were actually dramatically struggling with the challenge, as they really slowed down at the end and it actually seemed very difficult to continue, I like the challenge because it creates a lot of scapegoats. The knot tiers, the puzzle doers, the weaker links in pulling the cart, they’re all able to held responsible. In the end, it was someone involved in both the knots and the puzzle that lost, which is pretty much exactly as it should be.
Con: The Challenge Shouldn’t Have Been That Hard
If there had not been an early dropout, there would have been an easier challenge. There would have been an extra person on each side, and I think that it would have resulted in a different challenge. Also, it was a bit too simple despite its apparent complexity. These opening challenges have always been a bit difficult, but I think that it perhaps could have been made more complex.
Pro: The Angling of the Vote
The vote within Ravu went really well. There were factions developing, logic taking hold, and the right person went home. I like that the voting bloc of Rocky/Erica, realizing that the writing was on the wall for Jessica, threw their votes elsewhere to avoid making it seem like an alliance existed. It was smart, complex, and diverse, and I like it.
Con: The Entire Living Arrangement Situation
The Apprentice is doing it in the heart of LA, and it is surely much more subtle and less annoying here, but it’s still something that is both already being done by Burtnett and something now quite engaging enough for me. I’m more interested in the hidden immunity idols, the people, the dynamics, as opposed to their living arrangements. I have to wonder how often we’ll see camp switches, though; if it isn’t every week, I actually kind of like the twist; make an occasional reward challenge be for the lease of the good island.
The End Verdict: I think that Fiji is shaping up to be a good season of Survivor. There are plenty of people that could prove interesting, some game elements that have been made more interesting, and perhaps most importantly snakes on Exile Island (Where’s Sam Jackson when you need him?).