Survivor: Nicaragua Recap
Young At Heart
By Kim Hollis and David Mumpower
September 19, 2010

Trust is important. You know it.

Hello, Survivor fans, and welcome back to the 21st season of the show, which will take the contestants to Nicaragua. We’ve had quite a bit of discussion of our impressions of what could happen this season in our roundtable. You can find Part One here and Part Two here.

The new season begins with a bit of subterfuge on the part of the producers of the show. When the 20 contestants arrive, they are divided into two groups before they are told to hike to their destination. Naturally, everyone assumes they have been broken up into tribes, and people are rubbing each other the wrong way already. .As our hero, Jeff Probst, likes to point out, assumptions are a very, very bad idea in the game of Survivor.

In case you’re wondering, Super Bowl-winning football coach Jimmy Johnson is not the first person shown on camera, but he is featured within 60 seconds of the show’s start.

When they arrive, Probst quizzes the group on whether they’ve already made judgments about their fellow tribemates. Most of them quickly answer in the affirmative. Marty notes that he doesn’t want to be on a team with Jimmy Johnson and doesn’t know why the coach is even playing Survivor, while Kelly B. notes that she has a handicap. She was born with a birth defect, causing her leg to be amputated from the knee down at the age of six months. She’s hoping to keep that secret from the other Survivors as long as possible. Yve tells Probst that she’s figured out all kinds of things about the other people on the island just from the way they walk, which causes the host to smirk like crazy.

Our first surprise of the evening is that Survivor will be a lot less subtle about their meddling this year. The Medallion of Power is introduced, and its sole purpose seems to be to tip the scales whenever appropriate. The person who wears the Medallion can use it at a future point in the game to tip the balance for their Tribe.

Probst sends them out to search, and there’s an interesting dynamic as it’s simultaneously every person for themselves and also a team element at work. Members from the individual tribes move around together, but eventually, once the Medallion is sighted, Brenda (who had mentioned in a confessional that she is “Single, single, single”) quickly starts climbing a tree to get to it. Other people, even ones from her own team (theoretically, anyway) fight to beat her to it. In the end, though, Brenda’s athleticism and determination win out, and she grabs the prize first. Jimmy Johnson tells her, “I don’t know your name but you did a good job,” while Marty celebrates the fact that his team won…

...Only problem is, this presumption is incorrect. Probst gleefully points out that the people they’re standing with will not be the tribes for this season. Instead, everyone who is 40 and over will be on a team, and everyone who is 30 and under will be a tribe. This is the cause of much joy for all the young people, while the older folks are full of consternation. Jimmy Johnson even says he was counting on some young people to carry him along. Clearly, he wanted to use his celebrity to make some kids feel like #1 draft picks.

The older tribe is dubbed Espada, while the younger folks will be known as La Flor. Next up, Probst announced that it’s time to make a decision about the Medallion of Power, which is about as big as Brenda herself. Her tribe can either hold onto the medallion for later, when they might be able to use it for an advantage later in the game, or they can be given flint and fishing equipment to get them off to a great start.

Initially, La Flor seems to want to hold onto the medallion, and Jimmy Johnson points out that he hopes this is the case. He’d like for Espada to have fire, which is so important early on. In the end, a very pretty young man named Jud makes the argument that La Flor will really need the fishing equipment, and it seems to hold water with the rest of the group. They hand the medallion over to Tribe Retirement Home (we make fun, but we would be on this tribe if we were in the game).

Jimmy Johnson notes that he will need to win each of his tribemates over, and he’s absolutely right. Basically, the moment they arrive on the island, Holly runs up to Wendy and claims to be a great judge of character, offering an instant alliance. Wendy, a goat rancher (this is nothing so good as a sheep farmer) readily agrees. She’s thrilled someone likes her, because her brother has said she is naïve, and her husband thinks she will be the first person voted off because she talks too much. Because of these comments, Wendy’s strategy will be to not open herself up too much and to be fairly quiet. When Marty asks her about her life on the ranch, she gives a one-word answer and runs away. “Weird chick,” says Marty.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Jane announces that she is going to build fire. She comments that people might think she’s a hillbilly from the sticks, but she can do whatever she sets her mind out to do. She’s competing to pay off her farm, and is hoping the spirit of her recently deceased husband is watching over her. Well, he would be proud, because she steps up, borrows someone’s glasses, and gets a fire going with no trouble at all. Her fellow Espada tribemates celebrate, and Jane shows that she’s of great value to her team almost instantly.

We shift over to La Flor, where we see a lot of confidence from the younger tribe, but they also have an interesting character on the team in Jud, who is quickly nicknamed “Fabio” for his looks. Within moments, he has gotten a large splinter in his foot and breaks a nail completely off his finger. Shannon says he’s never said this about a guy before, but Fabio is a dumb blond. He walks off with Chase, and they are both stripped down to their underwear, causing their junk to be blurred.

Shannon thinks that he and Chase will easily be the dominant performers in challenges, and because they are the alpha males, they will have targets on their backs. “I don’t know about you, but I don’t want a girl to win.” Welcome to the Survivor He-Man Woman Hater Club. And boy, does Shannon ever hate women. Other misogynists have asked us not to compare them to him.

“A guy needs to sack up and win this one,” Shannon says.

So, what have we learned from the wisdom of Shannon? 1) Women are the only dumb blondes, with one historically unprecedented exception. 2) Real men let their junk hang out of their boxers. 3) Chase’s body is almost as hot as Shannon’s (no homo). 4) This is what happens when you give a guy a girl’s name. Just ask that dude named Sue.

Now that we’ve gotten the Evil Loser Russell Tribute out of the way, Kelly B. is realizing that she will have to inform her teammates about her disability. We’re not sure how she thought she was going to hide it from them, really. There are swimming challenges, for God’s sakes. Everyone seems a little worried that if she makes the final, she’ll win the sympathy vote. Did we miss 18 episodes and make it to the final already? (If so, yay! Welcome to the final Survivor recap of the season. Now we can watch Modern Family and Cougar Town in peace.)

Her team reacts to the news with all the sensitivity and support you might hope for, which is to say, none. NiOnka, winner of the prestigious “Most Pretentious Name” for this season (sorry, Benry), seems to take this admission as a challenge to a footrace. Given that Kelly B. is the fastest amputee to ever finish the Iron Man championships, NiOnka might want to think twice about that one (and her hair, which is also unfortunate).

Kelly B. leaves her leg propped up against a log while she goes for a swim. The whole world simultaneously jokes that if Evil Loser Russell were there, that leg would either disappear or be in the fire. Dock yourself ten Kim & David points if you missed it.

As we return to Espada tribe, Jimmy Johnson starts thinking about all the championships Barry Switzer won with teams he built and starts heaving. Yes, Jimmy Johnson, we hate Jerry Jones, too. (Football jokes – get used to them, people. They’ll be here all season.) Usually early illness in the game is a bad omen, especially if you’re aligned with Tyson, but Jimmy Johnson seems to think that he just overdid it a bit.

When youngster Chase asks Brenda if she knows who Jimmy Johnson is, she says that she had been a Miami Dolphins, so of course she does. Brenda, who claims that she hopes to adopt the Parvati flirting strategy, purrs at Chase, “I like your spirit.” He stammers, “I like…you.” It’s like Catwoman with a puberty-infused Robin.

Sadly, in a confessional, Brenda totally admits to faking it with him. He has given her his heart, and she doesn’t even have a pen to give back to him (Say Anything jokes – get used to them, people).

Alina and Kelly B. make a water run and discover a clue for a hidden Immunity Idol. They’re very excited, but can’t figure out the map. Also, Alina would have been a lot happier to find it on her own. She doesn’t want to share with the girl with one leg! She wants to share with someone important, like Lady Gaga. “I hope she tweets back to me.”*

*Note: Not an actual quote.

After the Espada team finds the clue about the Immunity Challenge, Jimmy Johnson sits with them and tells them that the only reason he’s on Survivor is for the adventure of it. He realizes he can’t win the game, but he can certainly help one of his teammates get there.

“I just got a pep talk from Jimmy Johnson,” Tyrone says.

Team La Flor shows up with the challenge and all of the girls plus Fabio are doing a coordinated tribal dance as they arrive on the “stage”. We’re starting to agree with Shannon.

Our beloved Probst tells the older tribe that they have the option to use their Medallion of Power for an advantage in this immunity challenge, which has them pouring water down some gutters and into a bucket. Once the bucket is full, a bag of puzzles will drop (ho hum). If they opt to use the medallion, they will start the challenge with a one-bucket advantage.

Espada decides not to use the medallion, seemingly on the advice of Jimmy Johnson, and the race is on. Marty is immediately drenched after Holly fills her bucket to the brim and basically pours it on his head. The tribes are neck and neck after the first portion of the challenge, which is performed by all of the men plus one woman (Holly for Espada and NiOnka for La Flor).

When it comes to the puzzle, though, Espada gets hung up. The young women of La Flor simply whip them in putting the puzzle together, because even though they have a piece that is out of place toward the end, their competitors are nowhere near solving it. La Flor wins the first Immunity Challenge, and the elder tribe must send someone home.

Before Tribal Council, Jimmy T. angrily rants about Jimmy Johnson, and says that he plans to vote out the coach. Marty’s face reveals that this is a pretty crazy rant. Meanwhile, Jimmy Johnson takes swim coach Holly for a walk on the beach and tells her they should vote out the weakest person. They have only two choices – himself (Jimmy Johnson) and Wendy. What Jimmy Johnson means is that there is really only one choice tonight. Holly, who made the foolish instant alliance with Wendy, has stars in her eyes for the coach, and goes off to consult with her fellow teammates.

Wendy is worried about her chances at Tribal Council, because she has shut herself off from the tribe somewhat.

Finally, Marty comments that a lot of people are saying that Jimmy Johnson wouldn’t be able to win the million dollars in the final vote. The tech executive isn’t buying it, though. He believes if the coach is shrewd enough to make it that far, that people who are blinded by his star power would be perfectly willing to reward him the grand prize.

Tribal Council really brings the crazy. We’re not talking about a lot of people, either. If you’ve seen it, you know what we mean. Wendy, who said earlier she didn’t think she was nervous, melts down as she becomes more and more convinced she may be the person going home. She becomes extremely defensive and combative, and when Probst tells them to go vote, she asks if she can have the floor for a moment. (This moment will feel like it lasts a million years.)

“I would also like to tell the group I think there’s a lot that I can bring through my strength, my leadership, heh. I could be very friendly, very honest, very funny, fun to be with, strong-willed, strong physically. People like to be my friend. People like to be with me. They trust me all the time. Trust is important. And…I don’t have any blisters on my feet, so that’s an asset. That will help. Just a little I thing I’d point out. I think that’s about it.”

Ladies and gentlemen, this person’s vote cancels out yours.

Do we even have to tell you who is voted out here? She’s so crazy that the person who was bound and determined to vote for Jimmy Johnson flips. She receives every vote except her own.

“Initially, the decision was tough, but after hearing you speak tonight, with your excuses, it became easy. Wendy Jo, you gotta go.” --Tyrone

Appearances can be deceiving after one episode, but we think it’s going to take a lot of producer meddling to keep these two sides balanced. Jimmy Johnson is already looking tired and a bit sick. Dan (who we haven’t even mentioned yet) is limping. The women on the team seemed unable to even ponder a solution to the puzzle. On the other hand, from the previews, the La Flor tribe seems fairly volatile and likely to fight amongst themselves at camp.

Next week promises one of the weirdest things we’ve seen. Holly, the swim coach, is filling Dan’s shoes with sand and throwing them in the water to exact some sort of revenge. That will learn him. At La Flor, NiOnka and Fabio are getting into it. Which blowup will be the bigger deal? Tune in next week to find out. Or read or recap. Either one works. But you should really read our recap.