Survivor: Blood vs. Water - Episode 1
Blood is Thicker than Anything
By Ben Willoughby
September 19, 2013

Dud, dud, dud, dud, dud, dud, dud...

We open with 10 pairs of castaways being dropped off by jeep or boat in ten separate locations. Ten returning players, each dragging along someone important from their lives so they can extend their 15 minutes of fame for a few seconds longer. It doesn’t make for riveting footage, as Probst voice-overs that these poor chumps don’t know they will be competing against each other.

There’s Gervase from the first season and his niece Marissa, who was nine when Gervase first appeared on our screens. Gervase, “the O.G.” still thinks he can win; Marissa thinks that’s “cute”.

Probst claims that “Kat’s instability lost her the game,” when really it was more about her being a doofus. And she is playing with her boyfriend Hayden, who won Big Brother. Hayden claims that this makes him more prepared coming into the game than anyone who hasn’t already played Survivor. So 11th-most prepared. That’s great, Hayden. Kat seems annoyed that this Big Brother guy she invited is here and claims that “this is my game.”

Laura doesn’t say anything interesting. No wonder I didn’t remember her from Samoa. She’s bringing along her daughter Ciera, who for me, has a strong resemblance to Daisy from Downton Abbey.

Alleged “fan favorite” and probable member of House Hufflepuff Rupert has spent 100 days playing Survivor but has never made it to the end. “I am returning to Survivor for my fourth time,” he says grandiosely. “It’s always been... Rupert, Rupert, Rupert!” laments his wife Laura. Is she talking about Survivor or real life?

Colton made some “controversial statements” and was medevac’d out of his last season with a “mysterious ailment and few fans.” Is Probst saying that Colton did not really have appendicitis? Colton says he wants to show a different side of himself, but since he’s wearing a sweater tied around his neck over a pink polo, he’s not trying very hard. Colton is playing with his fiancé Caleb, who may “provide Colton with the maturity he needs.”

Candice and John, both doctors, talk about how they’ll be targeted and seen as a threat. Pity the beautiful, athletic doctors!

Monica has a “famous husband,” former NFL player Brad, but now she is reveling that here she is the “wily veteran” and she can tell her husband what to do. Brad says he is the “young rookie,” which doesn’t align with his personality.

Tina, winner of Survivor: Australia, describes her family as competitive. Her whole family? And she brought along the most competitive one – her daughter Katie, who would love to beat her mother at “her own game.”

Tyson, according to Probst’s voiceover, is “seeking redemption” from his last gameplay boner on Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains. He says that the loved ones won’t be prepared and he will be able to slit their throats. Then he demonstrates this by piggy-backing his girlfriend Rachel off the boat so her feet don’t get wet.

Aras, the “likeable winner of Survivor: Exile Island” is back with his brother Vytas, who has “a much darker past.” Vytas talks about how he was a heroin addict and spent a year in LA County jail. Aras talks about how abusive Vytas was towards him when they were younger, and that means Aras kept finding things to beat him at. He continues that his going on Survivor didn’t make Vytas envious, but winning it sure did.

The 10 pairs of castaways have notes waiting for them, which say they will be spending the night alone in their patch of jungle, just the two of them, without any supplies. We’re still waiting for riveting footage, because the new players all look to the returnees for instructions. “You’re the veteran,” says Marissa. “Thirteen years ago,” replies Gervase. That’s what I’ve been saying!

Probst continues his voice-over about how the game has started before Day One, and blathers on with his spiel about how the 20 castaways will build a new society. 39 days, 20 people, one Survivor. It’s on!

At dawn the next day, Probst is standing out on the beach, and the 20 castaways emerge from the jungle or from down the beach. It was obviously coordinated, but it still looks effective, each pair coming in from a different direction. Rupert’s Laura – and I’m only calling her that to distinguish her from the returning Laura (who I will call Laura?) – is even wearing one of Rupert’s patented tie-dyed shirts. Well of course it’s always going to be Rupert, Rupert, Rupert if you act like that.

Probst welcomes them to the 27th season of Survivor before immediately pointing out that Hayden was a Big Brother winner and we should all be awed by his presence. Way to support your own show.

Probst makes the big reveal that the loved ones will be playing against the returnees, and then asks if anyone is willing to admit they are looking forward to competing against their loved one. About half of them raise their hands – a review of the tape says Monica, Katie, Candace, John, Rupert’s Laura, Marissa, Kat, Aras and Vytas. “Sorry, mom,” whispers Katie to her mother Tina, who is also looking forward to it but was too smart to raise her hand. Round 1 to Tina.

“Culpepper!” Probst reveals his man-crush before the first challenge, addressing Monica’s husband Brad. Going straight to a last name basis before Brad has even done anything is pretty weak, Probst. You could have made Brad beg for this pathetic honor, like Cochran did.

Probst asks Brad – I refuse to call him Culpepper – how it would feel competing against Monica. “If you want to get deep into my heart,” and then Brad gives some long, rambling answer that basically says if losing a challenge could give Monica some advantage, like a tarp, then he’d be thinking about losing the challenge. Marissa pipes up “You better not be on my team.”

But Brad is on Marissa’s team, as the players are divided into new players and returnees. Lots of money shots of the pairs saying goodbye to each other. Aras interviews that he’s very competitive with Vytas, and if he lost a challenge against him he would hear about it for the rest of his life. Rupert is relieved, because “I didn’t have to worry about writing my wife’s name down,” as though there was any risk that Rupert, official Survivor martyr, would do any such thing. “But then I also can’t protect her.”

The returning players will be known as the Galang tribe, and the newbies Tadhana. Then Probst does his next big reveal – each tribe will be voting someone out! He hands out parchment and pens to each tribe. “First impressions are going to speak very loudly,” says Hayden. Or third or fourth impressions, as the case may be.

The newbies vote first, and it’s about as unanimous as you can get – Rupert’s Laura is voted out immediately. Rupert interviews that seeing Laura be voted out “about killed me.” Why they would do that? It’s a smack against me, that is every one of those little scared newbies saying ‘we’ve got to stop Rupert,’” interviews Rupert. Yes, it has everything to do with Rupert and nothing to do with Rupert’s Laura being the only woman on her tribe aged over 40, who also doesn’t look like she’ll be much help in challenges.

Now it’s the returnees’ turn, and Candice votes for Laura? because she doesn’t know anything about her. Ha! Burn on Laura?. However, the shoe is quickly on the other foot, because Tina’s vote for Candice was due to the exact same reason. Double ha! Tina, who you know has watched every season of this show at least twice, can’t remember third-time player Candice. Third-degree burn on Candice. Then Rupert votes for Laura?. It appears that writing down his wife’s name wasn’t such a stretch after all.

It’s three for Laura? and three for Candice, but then Monica and Laura share their votes for Candice and Candice is voted off. Anyone who said anything said that they didn’t feel they knew Candice, but maybe one or two of them remembered that both times she played, she betrayed her alliance. Of course, at least one of those alliances was a bunch of jerks she was basically forced to put up with. It’s also worth remembering that Candice was a last-minute replacement, so probably was not in any pre-game alliance.

John interviews how every vote for Candice was like a kick to the head. Then Probst makes his third and final reveal – Redemption Island is in play this season. So Candice and Rupert’s Laura haven’t been voted out of the game, just out of their tribe. And not only that, but the other half of their pair can take her spot... Rupert is hitting his stride before Probst finished explaining that Rupert’s Laura would be sent to Galang where everyone would see her as an outsider and probably vote her out at the first opportunity. “I never anticipated this,” lies Probst.

Tina, who urged Rupert not to go, is annoyed because she was counting on Rupert to build a shelter and go fishing and instead he has made his tribe weaker. John has the same opportunity, and he and Candice take a moment to talk about it. After their discussion, he declines, saying that Candace will no doubt win the Redemption Island challenges. Then in interview he tears up as he recalls her walking off to Redemption Island. “It was like my heart being torn out of my chest!” Rupert gives the bombastic speech you expect by now. Poor men, having to be strong for their womenfolk!

After the break, we visit Galang where a group hug is in progress. Gervase talks about how he wants to get rid of Rupert’s Laura because he really wanted to play with Rupert. Rupert’s Laura, feeling like an outsider, goes to hack ineffectively at a coconut while everyone else watches. “I so wish your husband was here,” says Aras. “I know, I’m a little disappointing to you guys.”

“I’m stoked to have you,” is Aras’ unconvincing recovery. There’s a shelter-building and fire-starting montage.

Monica talks about how important it is to have fire and Tyson started one in 15 minutes and now they have boiled water and rice, they are comfortable. However, Colton does not look comfortable sawing a palm frond, especially as he’s using a method best described as “one slip of the saw and off come the genitals”. Monica says that Colton was seen as one of “the most vindictive, villainous, mean people to ever play the game”. She confronts him.

“We don’t need any drama, we don’t need anything to happen here, and you hurt be to death last time. A lot. And I hope we can bury that and not be a nuisance here and move on.” So much for Monica not needing any drama. “Can I trust you?” Monica asks, “or are you going to stab me in the back again?” “I think we need to talk more later, but yes,” Colton replies. Yes, he’ll stab her in the back? Monica seems appeased, but in interview she is worried that zebras don’t change their stripes and she may end up being “bamboozled” by Colton.

Over on Tadhana, we’re seeing specialization of labor in action as the men are making the shelter and the women are weaving palm fronds. Brad interviews that he has relived Monica’s experience on Survivor with her thousands of times (I’ll bet he has) but there’s nothing like the real thing.

Brad is still kicking himself for what an idiot he was when they were all on the beach, and decides to gather everyone around and “put something to rest,” even though no one has given any indication of thinking about Brad. He says in challenges he will be 100% Tadhana. Marissa thinks Brad “could be a loose cannon.” I’m liking Marissa more and more.

Brad also interviews about the advice he got from go-getter Monica about hitting the ground running and getting his alliances stitched up on Day One. Monica sounds a lot like her namesake from Friends. I wonder if there is a Culpepper equivalent of the Geller Cup.

Brad and John go to have a shower under a waterfall in their underwear, and the Survivor editors put in what I assume is Filipino bow-chick-a-wow-wow music as Brad lays out his plan, which begins: “we’ve got five guys right now. We’ve got four guys and a gay guy...” John mocks this a little. "Shocker, the guy who played NFL football wants to keep his locker room together,” but he does like that Brad is asserting himself, because it’s less focus on John the natural leader.

Brad approaches Hayden, then Caleb with the same plan. “I think it’s genius” says straight-faced Caleb, who then interviews about Brad’s bromance-heavy approach. Caleb and Brad do a “Southern shake” on it. Vytas is “down for whatever, man,” as Brad explains how Cochrans are the threat, the weaker men, the women.

Now it’s up to Brad to explain his plan to the camera. He uses his fingers. “Four (holding up four fingers) with nine (four fingers and a hand) equals out!” But then he forgets his line or how many fingers he is holding up and has to start again. Oh well, no one said defensive tackles had to be smart. “Four with nine equals out. Five with nine equals in.” If you can’t get that right, you may want to reconsider positioning yourself as the tribe mastermind.

Later that day with Tadhana, they have no fire and can’t boil water so Brad, Ciera and Vytas get to talking. Ciera talks about her husband and her two children, and when Vytas asks if her husband is the baby daddy of them both, she reveals her sordid 16-and-pregnant past and how she tried to hide it from Laura? and got found out and it made Laura? cry. “Good thing you didn’t get married,” says Vytas referring to the high school boyfriend. “Dude, tell me about it,” Ciera has a great “bullet dodged” face. All this reminds me of the one thing I know about Ciera’s mother Laura? – she’s a big Sarah Palin fan.

Vytas changes the subject “I was in jail with a guy who was one of the top 10 dead-beat dads in the country”. He talks about how he was a junkie as a teenager, in jail at 19, living on the street. This probably makes Ciera feel better about not being that big a teenage disappointment to her mother. Vytas talks about how Aras was the golden child in his family, while at Vytas’ lowest he had overdosed a couple of times before getting arrested while robbing an old lady at an ATM. Brad is amazingly accepting of this, saying “you were just a baby.”

Vytas interviews how he is confident that people won’t see him as “an ex-con” or “a dope fiend” and that showing his vulnerability will help him strengthen bonds and get further in the game.

Over at Galang, everyone is around the campfire and Colton is on a high. “This tribe is so fun,” he declares. “Everyone keeps my mind off the game.” He interviews about how he was rude to everyone last season because he was insecure. With his tribe he says, “where I am from, I live with nine million people in my state that have the same beliefs. What I don’t have is people willing to listen.”

Colton claims to have been the sweetest baby growing up, and explains that somewhere along the way he got tired of all the homophobic slurs, as you do. As he tells his story of how his family didn’t accept him, and how some still don’t realize that it’s okay to still love him. Then he starts crying with these weird yelping sobs. The women nearest him hug him, while Tyson has this great “what the hell?” expression. I don’t doubt any of this, but at the same time don’t complain about being bullied if you’re a bully.

Monica interviews about how she hasn’t walked a mile in Colton’s shoes, and his life hasn’t been easy and that if he has changed it’s a wonderful story. She then expresses her doubts with the phrase “But... then again, it’s Colton Cumbie.”

Over on Redemption Island, Candice is grinding her teeth while chopping at a coconut, calling out the names of the people who voted for her. "Kat. Monica. Laura. This one is for Colton... just like this.” “Never in a million years would I have guessed I’d be in this position on second day,” says Rupert who volunteered to be there.

Candice is already annoyed at Rupert, saying he’s spending all his time sleeping or lazing in the water, while she is doing all the work. But Rupert is being crafty, saying that he never won an individual immunity challenge because he always burned his energy providing for his tribe. Three seasons, a hundred days and no individual immunity wins? That’s pretty embarrassing. Candice can burn as much energy as she likes, as far as she is concerned.

There’s treemail, which announces a new challenge that involves swimming, paddling and a puzzle. Laura? tells us that she learned from her alleged Survivor experience that if you keep calm, anything can happen. Both tribes talk about who will be doing the puzzle and who on the other tribe will be doing the puzzle. Ciera and Katie realize that they will be competing against their mothers. Meanwhile, their mothers are cackling evilly.

At the immunity challenge, Rupert’s Laura wants her tribe colors so she can blend in more with Galang. Having a Tadhana buff all that time must have been awkward. There’s a bit of talk about how “Tyson” and “team effort” got Galang’s fire started within 15 minutes. Brad’s tongue gets ahead of his brain again as Probst gets him to say that he doesn’t believe Galang have fire. “Do you guys not have fire?” Tyson asks.

Brad lies that they do, and everyone else backs him up. Dummies. It’s the 27th season of Survivor, you’re playing with someone who has played before, why don’t you get them to teach you how to make fire? Did they think they could show up on the beach and their partner would be their dedicated fire-drudge?

Anyway, in the challenge, six members of each tribe will swim out over an obstacle course, untie a boat, paddle the boat back to shore and then use the puzzle pieces on the boat to form a ship’s wheel and use the wheel to raise a flag, winning immunity.

Ready? Go! Kat, Tyson, Colton, Rupert’s Laura, Gervase and Aras swim out for Galang, while Vytas, Marissa, Hayden, Brad, John and Rachel so the same for Tadhana. Probst calls out that the new players are getting an early lead because they are working together, while Gervase is slowing his team down because he’s already exhausted. And we see Gervase has real trouble clambering up some crates, and eventually Aras has to shove him off after and then swim him over to the boat. “Let’s go Aquaman!” urges Aras.

However, the other Galang members have nearly untied the boat by the time Gervase and Aras get there, so Tadhana’s lead is minimal. Until Galang get paddling. They’re really bad at paddling. Really, really bad. Kat urges Colton to paddle. Then Colton loses it at Kat. “Shut up and f*ing paddle!” he shrieks in her ear. Kat says something about wanting to hit him with the paddle. Tadhana get back to shore well ahead.

Katie, Ciera and Katie are working the puzzle for Tadhana and seem to be making progress, but then Tina, Monica and Laura? get started for Galang and don’t look back. They screw the spokes together, fit the spokes to the wheel hub, use the pieces in the second bag to make the wheel-ring, fit the pegs from the third bag, put their wheel up, spin it and raise the flag. Galang win immunity! “Absolute collapse at the puzzle stage for Tadhana,” Probst rubs it in that the daughters are being “schooled by their mothers.”

“Don’t let that fool you!” Gervase has obviously got his breath back because he shouts that excitedly and repeatedly. I think he’s over-compensating for his own sad effort. However, not everyone is happy on Galang. Colton is crying, and Laura? explains that it is a bittersweet victory because “we won, but we put our loved ones in jeopardy.” Tribal Council tonight for Tadhana, and John gets a shout-out from Probst with the suggestion that he will be picking someone to compete against Candice.

Sad Tadhana arrive back at camp. Brad, who based on camera time alone should be the obvious bootee, says that everyone gave 100% and no one should beat themselves up. John puts it down to their experience, while Katie is rueful that she was “creamed by my mother.” “Poor Gervase, he was dying” says Vytas, but Marissa immediately says “no poor Gervase. He was the loudest one!” Then for good measure, she points out that he was the weakest one on his tribe.

Marissa interviews that she is worried that Gervase’s poor performance will blow back on her. I think she’s right, and not just because of his celebration after the challenge win. Gervase had a poor performance athletically, so Tadhana perceives him as one of the weaker Galang players, which means that at this early stage, sending his loved one home is a safer move than sending home the loved one of someone running things at Galang. Booting Marissa has revenge-free consequences.

Brad says that at challenges he wants his tribe to win with grace, and Marissa adds “the lion does not roar after it kills its prey.” Are we sure she’s Gervase’s niece and not, say, Coach’s? Brad doesn’t appreciate the interruption.

The men go and talk about being five-strong and Brad says that Gervase has spoiled him on Marissa, even though Marissa didn’t do anything. He wants to send Marissa home then say to Gervase “how do you like them apples?” I actually think Brad was spoiled on Marissa five minutes into the game, when he talked about how he would throw a challenge to give his wife a tarp and Marissa said “you better not be on my team.” But that would involve Brad admitting he was schooled in the game by a 19-year old girl. Much better to keep things about manly men and the unspoken code of honor between them.

Vytas talks about how whoever they send home, they will be stabbing someone on the other tribe in the heart. When asked, Caleb says that Ciera was helpful on the puzzle, but Katie not so much. He doesn’t want to see Katie go, but if the majority is in he is in.

Vytas says that the men haven’t been subtle about their alliance, and he decides to let the women know what “the guys have decided.” He tells Marissa that it’s Katie and Katie that it’s Marissa. We don’t see any scrambling by Katie or Marissa, or even a thought that the vote for Rupert’s Laura doesn’t look like such a smart move now.

Tribal Council this season has a ruined Chinese temple motif. Probst introduces everyone to the ritual of Tribal Council where fire represents life. Hayden reveals that his tribe doesn’t have fire and Probst confirms that they were lying. “Bluffing,” is how Hayden describes it, which, fair enough.

Ciera says that Laura? told her stories about her alleged time on Survivor, but the actual experience is much more intense. For instance, Ciera is hungry for real, instead of just hearing about it. And Brad is three days in and clearly struggling already, says Probst.

Probst asks Caleb how having loved ones on the other tribe changes the game. Caleb says that it complicates it, because Colton doesn’t know what’s going on over here and he doesn’t know what’s going on over there. He says he trusts that Colton will do the right thing, but at the same time “they gotta do their thing, we gotta do our thing”.

Probst asks John if he has any regrets about not manning up and leaving the woman who had played this game twice before on Redemption Island. John starts to cry because he has so much guilt as a husband and he feels that he let her down. These men are so melodramatic. What’s John going to be like if he and Candice have a baby? Dehydrated, is my bet. Anyway, his vote is based on keeping the tribe strong and voting for someone Candice can beat.

Probst asks Brad where he sees the blood versus water game going. Brad ignores the question completely and says that he doesn’t know why Galang were celebrating so much and calls out Gervase. Marissa says that she expected the veteran returnees would be more mature and wiser, and Vytas talks about how it might work against you if your loved one behaves badly.

Marissa is now very concerned that she is “guilty by association.” Probst twists the knife. “That would be devastating, to be voted out of this game for something you didn’t do, but your uncle did.” Understandably, Marissa would prefer to be judged by her performance, not Gervase’s.

Katie says that the first leg of the challenge went well, but the puzzle-makers stuffed it up. Probst asks if it is fair to vote anyone off for one bad performance, but Katie wouldn’t be surprised by this. Brad confirms that the vote is not being made solely on the puzzlemakers’ performance. Uncles are a factor too! Time to vote!

We see Katie vote for Marissa and Marissa vote for Katie, but when Probst “tallies” the votes it is Katie, Marissa, Marissa, Marissa, Marissa, Marissa, time to go. Marissa throws some shade at her tribe as her torch is snuffed. Everyone avoids eye contact. Probst tosses the remaining Tadhanas a flint as Rachel just looks happy to have escaped everyone’s notice.

Next time on Survivor, Colton’s reformed personality has lasted a whopping three days as he says “I am so sick of this, I can’t deal with three more days of kumbaya.” Poor Colton! Being on a tribe where everyone including you is accepted must be terrible! “Hopefully this camp will erupt into chaos.” If Colton gets this bad when he’s hungry, no wonder Caleb takes his self-described role as “provider” so seriously. And we have our first duel at Redemption Island, which we all hope does not involve reef-fishing. Welcome to Redemption Island, Marissa!