Thursday, September 16, 2010

Searching For Signal: #169 - “Survivor: Nicaragua” - Episode 1

We start off, of course, watching pretty location shots while Jeff Probst babbles about how everything is really remote and dangerous. (But not remote enough, apparently, that the producers can’t get a full-blown camera crew in there.) Jeff gives us some history of Nicaragua, details which are immediately forgotten because everybody is still getting settled in front of the TV and checking the beer supply. Some mess about active volcanoes, that’s all that really stuck.

Finally, we start getting glimpses of the 20 Survivors as they march along in a jungle. Some blonde guy starts talking (I guess we’re not supposed to know names yet, because they don’t flash his name on the screen.) “There’s monkeys hanging from everything!” Of course, I get a flashback to my last staff meeting at work.

Then Jimmy Johnson appears, and he instantly talks about winning Superbowls and how great he is, so I’m already not sure that we’re going to get along. This is followed by Jeff explaining that the Survivors think they’ve already been divided into teams, but they haven’t really. For now, they’re just marching along, and supposedly not talking. But they are talking in sidebars, with several people pointing out that they already hate other people just from looking at them. It’s nice to see people being so warm and accepting.

Oh, and we have the requisite skinny girl claiming that she’s going to flirt her way to the money. I instantly want her to go, and I don’t even know her name yet.

The opening credits finally roll, and now we have names for the people, but since we haven’t seen most of them, it’s pointless to do into any detail. Besides, half these people will be gone before we figure out who they are anyway.

Cut to a beach, where Jeff is bellowing “come on in, guys!”. Folks come traipsing in, and once again, some of the people are dressed completely inappropriately. Two of the girls think it’s just fine to be wearing cowboy boots. Uh huh. Try running your ass off down the sand in those. Two of the other girls are wearing what looks like a modified washcloth. I guarantee you they will be the first to complain about being cold when it rains. And there’s a guy with a tie. These people know there‘s not a mall around the corner, right?

In a sidebar, we meet Kelly B, who had one of her legs amputated at an early age. Wow. As long as she’s nice, I’m already rooting for her.

In another sidebar, a guy named Marty is already going off on Jimmy Johnson being out here. And really, why did the producers even let Jimmy on the show? People know him. And people are going to want him out. Oh wait, I keep forgetting that these shows are supposed to make money, not sense. My bad.

Jeff chats with the folks for a while, focusing on the “first appearances” thing. People respond with how they are already feeling each other out and learning to bond with their team. It’s pretty boring, so Jeff gets to the first challenge. He points at a nearby lagoon. Somewhere in there is the “medallion of power”, and if you find it, your whole tribe will benefit. “You can start now.”

The thundering herd races toward the water. Well, sort of. A few of them are strolling along like they’ve just had brunch and they’re a little gassy. We have shots of people running about all wild-eyed. Suddenly, the self-proclaimed slut (Brenda) spies something in a tree, and scampers up to retrieve it. Bingo. Jeff calls everybody back to the beach.

Jeff then breaks the news. New tribes. 40 and older over there, 30 and younger over here. Of course, the youngsters are high-fiving each other in delight, because they still belief that youth is everything. The oldsters sedately join each other, because they have to save their strength. Buffs are handed out.

Jeff then has a proposal for Brenda and her medallion. She can keep the medal and its mysterious, not-yet-named power. Or she can trade it for fire and fishing gear. Whatever she gives up goes to the other tribe. Quick shots of the youngsters biting their lips and trying to decide what to do.

Cut to commercials, so that we will be insane with anticipation by the time we get back. Or not.

The kids take the fishing gear. The medallion goes to the other tribe.

Cut to the Espada camp, where the older folks are getting to know one another. Jimmy has a side bar where he whines about not being in control like he normally is. (Poor thing. Must be rough, not being able to fire people.) But Jimmy decides that he’s going to play up his “superstar status”. Meanwhile, Holly, a swim coach, is already strategizing. She apparently gets in an alliance with the older cowgirl (Yve?) and also offers an alliance to Wendy, a goat rancher with a really weird accent.

We meet Jane, who tells us in a sidebar that she’s no prim housewife. From the look of her hair, she ain’t lyin. (On a heavier note, she just lost her husband last year.) Then she marches out on the beach and quickly starts a fire using a pair of glasses, so she immediately has a leg up on everybody. She then does a victory dance which is very startling in nature. Perhaps she should have refrained from that last bit.

Cut to the La Flor camp with the kiddies, where everyone is really loud and really tan. We meet Sash in a sidebar, where he’s psyched because “we know we’re going to dominate”. Then he talks about all the beautiful girls, so you know he’s really focused on what’s important. Next up in a sidebar is Jud, also happy about the youth of their tribe. “These are my people!” Really? Based on what, Jud? The fact that none of you can remember a President before George Shrub? You’re already missing a “D” in your name, what else is AWOL with you? Then he manages to stomp on something that cuts his foot, justifying my early judging of his book cover.

Shannon (a guy) in a sidebar, calling Jud a “dumb blond”. And he thinks one of the other guys is “retarded”. Nice. Then Shannon hooks up with one of the guys that they don’t identify. (I think it’s Chase.) They both feel they are the strongest and best players and need to stay tight. And they don’t want another girl to win. Shannon in a sidebar again: “We gotta control these girls. I mean, we already get owned in marriage.”

Shannon can go home at any time. Just sayin.

Then Kelly B decides to reveal the situation with her leg, just so she‘s not hiding anything. Everyone seems to be supportive, but then we have Shannon in a sidebar again. He wants her to get booted out so she won’t get the sympathy vote in the end. This guy just shoots decency out his ass, right? Then Naonka, in her sidebar, says “I don’t want to talk bad about Kelly,” and then proceeds to do just that, wanting her to go home as well. What is wrong with these people?

Back to the Espada tribe, at night. We see Jimmy Johnson throwing up, and claiming that he overworked himself. (Isn’t it intriguing that the Survivor producers will blur out any hint of man bits jiggling in underwear, but if someone’s blowing chow, we get it in 3-D.) Next morning, he’s whining about “zero sleep” and how miserable he is. To everybody. This is not a good idea.

Back to La Flor. Brenda and Chase seem to be getting close, flirting a wee bit as they strategize. He admits to his alliance with Shannon. (Brenda in a sidebar: “He’s a really nice guy, but he’s clueless. Of course I’m going to use that information to get me to the end.” Then she runs off to straddle a fallen log seductively.)

Alina and Kelly B check treemail and find a clue to a Hidden Immunity Idol. It’s up to them whether they share the clue with the others or not. Of course they aren’t going to say a word, but they can’t seem to figure out the clue, pointing at some cryptic symbols and giggling because they’re on TV. (Alina complains in a sidebar that she wishes they hadn’t found it together, because now she’s in a pseudo alliance with Kelly B, and she really wants Kelly to go home because of the sympathy vote thing.)

Is there anybody on this tribe that has a shred of humanity? Should we take Kelly B out in the woods and just shoot her? God.

Espada tribe again, with treemail. It appears to be a clue about the first challenge. So of course Jimmy J decides to play coach and get people motivated. Then he surprises me by telling everyone that he knows he’s not going to win, no jury would give him a million dollars. But he’s here for the adventure, and he wants to help one of them win. Well, then. I might have to like Jimmy even though he’s already on my nerves. The rest of the tribe nods their heads and seems psyched. Except for Jimmy T, who seems to be having a conversation with someone that doesn’t exist.

Time for the Immunity Challenge.

The older team comes in and stately takes their place on the mat. The younger tribe comes in doing a stupid dance with a little flourish from the girls at the end. They are clearly not taking this seriously, convinced that they’ve already won, and Jeff is none too impressed. He tries to make fun of their dumb-ass antics, but the pre-schoolers don’t get it because Jeff is not an MTV video. Jeff sighs. Let’s get to it.

Basically, they have to fill troughs with water, so that it will flow into a tub thing and cause a bag of puzzle pieces to fall, then figure out the puzzle. Loser goes to Tribal. Oh, but wait. That Medallion of Power thing? It’s a huge advantage at challenges. If the older tribe chooses to use it, they get help with the challenge now, but then the Medallion will flip over to the other tribe for the next challenge.

The older tribe opts to keep the Medallion for now and not use it. Interesting.

And off we go. It’s actually a very tight race for a while, despite the fact that the person pouring the water for the older tribe seems confused about the laws of gravity. The younger tribe gets their puzzle pieces first, but only by a bit. Then it falls apart, with the older tribe lethargically diddling with the puzzle pieces while the younger tribe is bouncing and screaming and shoving pieces into place. Younger tribe wins.

Espada camp. Jimmy T in a sidebar: “This place has already knocked me down, and it’s only day three.” Then he marches over to a few of the other tribe members and tells them he’s voting for Jimmy J to go home. (“Stars blind people.”) But he’s really agitated about it, and comes off a tad unbalanced. Methinks he should have just kept his mouth shut.

Jimmy J and Holly go for a walk, strategizing. He says they should vote out the weakest player, which is either him or Wendy. Really? Just what the hell kind of game is Jimmy playing here? In a sidebar, Holly agrees with him, and is regretting her rushed alliance with Wendy.

Holly runs up to Jill, Yve, and Marty, and tells them what Jimmy said, that it should be him or Wendy, and now she doesn’t know what to think. (I’m thinking she needs to pull her bathing suit out of her crevices, because that really looks painful and I can’t concentrate on what she’s saying.) Jill suggests that the four of them do a round table and just say who they think should go. Yet they can’t do it. No one wants to make a decision, so they just stare at each other while crickets chirp.

Time for Tribal.

Jeff: “Let’s talk about first impressions.” And so they do. Jane calls herself a “southern hillbilly” but she actually comes across as kind of fun. Jimmy T lets it be known that he’s a little peeved that he’s not being perceived as a leader. Jimmy J does his “no jury’s gonna give me” thing again. Jimmy T begs to differ. Wendy proves that she might indeed by psychotic, upset that no one even asked her how old she was.

Jeff: Time to vote.

Wendy: Can I say something? And then the “might be crazy” changes to concrete fact. She babbles on forever about what she perceives as her strengths, and makes no sense. (“I have no calluses on my feet!” What the hell?) The rest of the tribe squirms in discomfort.

Jeff: Time to vote. (Is that okay, Wendy?)

The Results:

Wendy votes for Yve. Everybody else votes for Wendy.

And thus continues the Survivor tradition of the first person to leave getting sent home because nobody knows enough about anybody to really make it a fair vote. In the first few days, the mere fact that you are a goat rancher with no calluses is enough to get the boot. Wendy wanders away from Tribal, down a path that apparently leads through a graveyard. That’s nice. Nothing confirms defeat like a stroll through a field of dead people…

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