‘Survivor: Filippines’ Premiere: A Story to Tell

A real man makes his own luck.

-Zane, Survivor: Philippines 

A few days ago, on the cusp of the premiere of Survivor: Filippines: The Rise of Skupin, we were asked if Survivor as a series (not the Survivor Seriesis still entertaining after twenty-four seasons. “How could it possibly be?” they wondered. But we told this person that the show, against all odds, manages to be fresh and new almost every season, that although the game uses essentially the same format that it started with back in Borneo, each season and its cast members offer something new and different, something that makes the show worth watching. Case and point, in the first episode of our new season, we are blessed with Zane, who once again proves that no matter how long this show goes the players will continue to be stupid. And that, my friend, is why, twelve years later, Survivor is still very much worth watching. 

But, in our normal fashion, before we get to end and Zane’s stupidity, let’s start at the start. And we start with Jeff Probst channelling Bruce Willis in Striking Distance and rolling up in a speedboat, looking as confident and determined as ever, putting to rest any worries that one might have had that he’d be preoccupied with this just premiered daytime talker (and, perhaps, in another post it would worth discussing just how much Probst has meant to Survivor, and how much it owes its success to the man in blue). And we get our first look at the new cast, which in addition to the returning players that we’ve already discussed – Mike “Two Scoops” Skupin, Jonathan Penner, and Russell Swan (who, apparently, came directly from a jazz performance) – includes former Facts of Life star Lisa Whelchel and former Major League Baseball MVP Jeff Kent.

[And here is where have to come clean. First of all, we were never really into Blair, always more of a Jo fan (and if you want to suggest that tough, no-nonsense biker chicks are our type, then go right ahead. We just like chicks who are more down to earth, you know?). Second, we despise Jeff Kent. We feel the way about him that Kramer and Newman feel about  Keith Hernandez (conversely, however, Keith Hernandez is our favorite all-time player, and we’re absolutely devastated about the impending shearing of his upper-lip, a NY icon up there with the Statue of Liberty and the Cup Noodles billboard in Times Square). And like Kramer and Newman, our feelings are directly related to being a diehard Mets fan. You see, in 1992 the Mets traded David Cone to the Toronto Blue Jays for a young Jeff Kent, a transaction that left us scarred to this day. In trading Cone, we relinquished one the game’s best young pitchers, a perennial force (and, unlike Mets phenom Doc Gooden, was not addicted to cocaine) who would later go on to not only pitch a perfect game – something that no Met had ever and has ever done– but do so for the hated crosstown Yankees. And not only did we give up a once, current and future star in Cone, but in Kent we gained a misanthrope who performed underwhelmingly on the field, and was an undisputed pain off of it. Making Jeff Kent’s history with the Mets even worse, after three full seasons with the unmitigated disaster that was the mid-90s New York Mets, he was traded for former All-Star second basemen Carlos Baerga, who was perhaps even more of a disappointment in the blue and orange. To add salt into the already gaping wounds, Kent next went to San Francisco where he blossomed hitting behind all-time roid-user homerun leader Barry Bonds and became the most prolific offensive second basemen in the history of baseball. To top it all off, whereas Keith Hernandez’s mustache is a local treasure, Kent’s mustache sucks, it’s standard corrupt cop, alcoholic step-dad facial hair that won no fans at Shea Stadium. So, yeah, in conclusion, we don’t like Jeff Kent.]

Probst: What’s your name? 

Jeff Kent: Former Major League MVP Jeff Ke…Jeff…Just Jeff. Just like you. We’re just a couple of Jeffs. Hey, they should call us the Jeffs! High five?

Minutes later, Kent wastes no time in doing nothing to change our opinion of him, twisting his knee while shuttling his tribe’s supplies to a raft, and spending the next ten minutes whining about his MCL.

[And here’s what we don’t get about Major League baseball players (current and former): why are they, professional athletes in peak condition who have access to only the latest, most advanced and comprehensive strength and conditioning training, the ones who are always tearing their MCLs and ACLs and hamstrings and rotator cuffs. Certainly, baseball is unique in its constant starts and stops and quick lefts and rights, but we’ve been playing baseball/softball for over twenty years and never once have we witnessed any uncoordinated eight-year-old  or flabby, out-of-shape, chain-smoking forty-year-old get injured the way that professional ball players do on a regular basis (in fact, we ourselves had never been injured until last weekend when we suffered a dislocated finger. But even that was a freak injury that we played through. Because that’s what Dan Girardi would have done). So when we watch Jeff Kent complain about a gimpy knee, even though we did see him take a nasty tumble, we have no sympathy. We just scratch our heads and marvel once again at the fantastic ability of baseball players to be the only ones to experience these specific injuries and/or the their incredibly low tolerance for pain.]

Whereas Jeff Kent’s early strategy seems to be complaining about his knee, Russell is intent on flying under the radar and not immediately asserting himself as the Matisyahu Tribe leader, and he does this by telling everyone to take a knee and explaining how he’s not going to the leader, and then proceeds to give everyone instructions on how to do everything, even giving tire repair expert Zane lessons in tire repair. But he’s  not selfish, as he shows Malcolm how to, let’s say, “have fun” while on the island.

Over at Kabbalah camp, the players start to get to know each other.

Dana: Jeff, what part of Texas are you from?

Jeff: The San Francisco Giants…wait, no, Austin. Definitely Austin. And not because I played for the Texas Rangers. Because I didn’t. I played for the Blue Jays and the Mets and…wait. Nevermind that last part. Hey, who’s hungry? 

The new tribemates are also getting to know each other at Jean-Claude Van Damme camp, but Lisa Whelchel (whom we will refer to as Blair moving forward because of course we are) decides against skinny dipping (damn it! so close!) and also against divulging to the young bitches on her tribe – RC Cola and Abi-Maria – that she was once a on a pretty successful television show in the 80s, or, as Skupin seems to see her, a once and current international superstar, maybe only slightly less famous than Madonna, and even then that’s a big maybe. But that’s not how Blair perceives it. Besides, she lost all of her money in the Great 80s Crash, which is not something that happened (unless she’s referring to Coke, either New or powdered). Still, Skupin urges Blair, the Bruce Wayne of Survivor, to come clean and reveal her secret identity to young bitches on her tribe on the off-chance they’ll be in awe of the woman they think is maybe the lesbian mom from Family Ties (we can see it now: What’s Michael J. Fox? Did he like shake and stuff then? Do you like our hair?).

And since a lot of you come to this blog looking for boobs, here you go, Blair Boobs:

Back at Matisyahu, this season’s resident incomprehensible hick Zane (Tarzane?) takes center stage. Yes, with his red hair (color of the devil) and enough tattoos to make the cast of Top Chef blush, Zane seems like a rough neck redneck, a wild card with a dark side and a short temper. But Denise, as a trained sex therapist, is able to analyze Zane’s tattoos to discern that he’s a big softy with a story to tell. Whereas to us his story is that he murdered someone, possibly with tire repair equipment, Denise uses her powers of sex therapy to conclude otherwise, that he’s a good guy with a decent heart, just misunderstood, that’s all. And maybe she’s right, maybe he’s an honest, trustworthy, loyal guy after all. Convinced of this, Denise enters into an alliance with Zane. And then he immediately goes and makes an alliance with everyone else in the tribe. So much for the intuitive powers of sex therapy.

Denise, in your expert sex therapist analysis, what’s going on here:

Shimmy Shimmy Cocoa Puff? 

If there was one question going into Survivor: Filippines: Rise of the Skupin, it was “Can Mike Skupin live up to his legend or should  he have stayed home and let the myth live on unabated?” If Skupin turns out to be inept or a weak or woefully overwhelmed and outplayed this could be a classic case of Be Careful What You Wish For. And Skupin suggests this pretty early in his second go-round, quickly developing a blister on his hand, which is literally the worst thing that could ever happen to your hand ever (well, except for maybe…). He also lacerates his forehead and impales the bottom of his foot, all in the attempt to provide for his tribe, but, somehow, RC Cola seems to have a problem with Skupes giving 110%. Well, RC, in this instance we’re reminded of another Two Scoops who gave more than 100%, and that guy is only the greatest American Gladiator contestant of all-time. So, yeah, come back to us when you’ve bested the likes of Nitro and Turbo. And gotten a bikini top that fits.

It’s Immunity Challenge time and Former Miss Delaware Katie (and that’s may be the saddest Survivor title yet.  Even sadder than “Tire Repair”) went a little heavy on the war paint.

Jeff breaks down the stakes: First Place wins Immunity and a home brewing kit, Second Place wins a 9/10 scale replica Immunity Idol, and Third Place is fired. Russell takes this opportunity to implement his strategy of not being tribe leader and promptly decides that the girls who confessed in no uncertain terms that they are not good at puzzles will be the ones doing the puzzle. As a totally equal member of the tribe and not at all the leader, Russell makes the executive decision and his word his final.

And, of course, his word leads to Matisayu coming in dead last by a sizable margin, both because those girls who said they can’t do puzzles cannot, in fact, do puzzles, and because Russell had to drag Zane through the challenge course as if Zane himself was a tire that needed repair. With that loss, Russell and Zane are clearly in danger, but Russell knows that in Survivor there’s always a second chance (except when you pass out and have to be airlifted off the island).

With Tribal Council hanging over his head, Zane begins to play his game of chess. Unfortunately, Zane’s apparent game of chess consists of moving all the pawns to the side and clearing a direct path to the Queen, as Zane admits that he downright sucked in the challenge and should be the one to go home. But wait! He was just tricking Matishayu, it’s all part of his grand plan to persuade the tribe to ask him to reconsider and vote out Russell instead, and then Tarzane will be the one pulling the strings. And since Angie hasn’t yet taken 11th Grade Psychology she totally buys it. And Malcolm’s in too, since he’s had it out for Russell since minute one. Looks like Zane’s going to stay! And then Zane executes his final masterstroke, revealing that he’s nearly positive Russell has the Idol so it would be probably a bad idea to write his name down.

Let’s recap that:

Zane: Hey, everyone that I have an alliance with,  I suck. Vote me out so I can get back to tire repair. Actually, don’t, vote Russell out. But don’t cause he has the Idol. Can I have a million dollars now?

In conclusion, Zane’s brilliant game of chess really consisting of violently knocking his own Queen off the board. Twice.

At Tribal Council Russell continues to demonstrate that he’s the Poet Laureate of Survivor, Angie compares the current situation to a track meet against North Central High the previous week, and Zane speaks gibberish about an onion, and even Tarzan is like “Dude, you make no sense.”

But despite everyone really wanting to eliminate Russell, Zane (genius) makes the very compelling case that he should be the one sent packing. And, with that, we have our first casualty of Survivor: Filippines. 


Which brings us to our first A-B-C of the season:

Always Be Chopping

This one’s for Skupin, because, for us, this season is still all about him. Skupes, don’t listen to RC Cola or anyone else on your tribe who may have a problem with you work ethic. They’re just jealous, man. Either get busy choppin’, or get busy dyin’. Since they’ve started the game with three tribes it’ll only be a few Tribal Councils before they mix up the teams, so all the early alliances will be scattered and quickly discarded. Therefore, while RC Cola is scrambling to make a new alliance, Skupin will be safe, respected for his leadership, valued for his chopping, appreciated for his bloodshed (both his own and from the animals he catches with his bare hands).

That’s it for episode one! If you’re ever a tire in a Danville, Virginia in need of repair, you know where not to go.

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Filed under Analysis, Be careful what you wish for, Century 21 Reality, Sha la la la, Tribal Council

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