Survivor “Second Chance” Review (Season 31 Episode 1)

Survivor Worlds Apart Season 30 Finale 2015 30

We’re back, baby! Survivor has returned for their mind-boggling 31st season, as 20 returning castaways are getting a second chance at Sole Survivor glory. We opened with the busy but exciting installment “Second Chance”, as we have yet another hour-and-a-half premiere episode to introduce us to the players (again) and also introduce us to the breathtaking land of Cambodia.

As excited as I was to see these returning players seek redemption, the beautiful city of Angkor Wat really stole the show in the opening eight minutes of the episode. Usually a season of Survivor opens with the players simply driving a truck through the jungle, or maybe taking a boat or a helicopter if you’re lucky, but it’s usually just a straight shot to the beach where Jeff does his little speech. This was much different, as our players drive past a bunch of the locals and through a bustling city on their way to the boats. It was definitely a nice change of pace, and I hope it’s a harbinger of even more change to come. As much as I love this game, we’re 31 seasons in and these players have already played the game before, so I hope we get a couple more mix-ups to keep them on their toes. If this episode is any indication, we just might be getting the changes I’m looking for!

Another slight change to the formula came when they reached Jeff, and he delivered his traditional welcome speech to the players while they were still on their boats. It was a bit awkward with everybody sheepishly looking up at Jeff out of their dingy little canoes, though. I did find it interesting that Jeff was very clear to remind the players (and everyone at home) that America was responsible for voting them. He even said “We didn’t pick you, America did!” As if to say “If you guys watching at home get annoyed with the players that were picked, it’s your fault!” Way to cast the blame, Jeff!

First episodes are always tough to review because there’s so many players and so many different things happening, and there’s all kinds of alliances being formed that probably won’t last until episode three. With that being said, I’ll try to hit on a few points that stuck out to me.

I was a little disappointed with Stephen Fishbach tonight. I was really impressed with his game in Tocantins, and I’ve always thought of him as probably one of the best players to ever play and not get a single jury vote. He just had the misfortune of going up against the dominant JT, but in any other season the nerdy guy getting to the end against a bunch of alpha males would have probably won. Since that season, Fishbach has been professionally writing about the show and talking about it on podcasts and TV shows and stuff, so you’d think he would have been a little more confident in his game tonight. Sure, you may not be physically strong, but you don’t have to be so socially awkward and leaving the group to conspicuously search for an idol! You know better than that, Stephen!

Speaking of bad social games, Abi-Maria’s whole bracelet saga was ridiculous. If Peih-Gee was going to steal something, would she really want your crappy leather bracelet with fake gold?

A big theme for the episode was “new school vs. old school”, which was mentioned by both Terry and Jeff. One thing that really struck me was something that Jeff said, which was that 14 years ago when he was in the Australia season, the show wasn’t even about strategizing. It’s hard to believe that when you see the show now, but it’s very much the case. If you go back and watch Borneo and Australian Outback on DVD, every episode is all about just watching everyone survive. You watch them make fire, get food, play challenges, and that’s about it.

I was just about to lose my dang mind when Kelly looked for an idol for about five minutes and then almost immediately found one in a tree. However, my anger was turned to delight when I realized it lead to a brand new twist in the game: The immunity idol is at a challenge! That’s awesome! What a great idea! Idols have definitely been cheapened a bit in recent years because they’ve just been so dang easy to find, with most people getting one without a clue. It’s like as soon as Russell Hantz started finding them by himself, everybody just said “Oh, I should just look in the nooks and crannies of trees.” It’s such a smart idea to add the extra layer of risk/reward of not wanting your team members to see you grab it.

After Ta Keo loses the first immunity challenge, yet another twist is thrown at us when the tribe is sent to tribal immediately. With no time to do the traditional pre-Tribal scramble, the creepy yoga dude Vytas was sent home first. Maybe stop trying to teach people “downward facing puppy” right in their face, Vytas.

What did you guys think of the premiere? Are you excited about the new idol rule? Sound off in the comments below!

Random Thoughts:

– Savage’s story about his daughters loving Joe was really funny, but then it got kinda creepy when he started gushing about Joe himself and how amazing it was that he made fire.

– I know I say this every year, but those Survivor cameramen really capture some amazing wild animal footage. If nothing else, the footage of this show could be preserved for science or Planet Earth documentaries or something.

– I’d like to see some kind of graph of how many players are from which season. It seems like there’s a bunch of players from the first few years of the show’s run, and then a bunch from the last few years, but it seems like there’s not many players from the middle. Maybe that’s how America voted, though. Recent players that they liked, and old school players that they remember liking in Survivor‘s heyday, but everybody in the middle fell by the wayside.