Survivor San Juan Del Sur Recap
Episode 1, Part 1
By Kim Hollis and David Mumpower
September 24, 2014

Here are the people who will be ruining your Wednesday nights this year.

So it’s come to this. Survivor returns and the once and future recappers return as well. Jim Van Nest’s busy parenting schedule precludes his participation this season, so we return to the scene of the crime once more.

Let’s get some housekeeping out of the way before we begin. If you are new to BOP, hi! We first recapped the series in 2003, and we have handled over half the seasons overall. BOP has been recapping Survivor since season two, which makes us one of the oldest television recapping sites on the net. Alas, we have a reputation for being brutally honest with our feelings toward the show. To wit, we were so discouraged by a couple of previous seasons that we lost our enthusiasm for handling recaps.

Survivor has gone wrong in a key regard. Once they stumbled upon the inflammatory Russell Hantz, who we call Evil Loser Russell (ELR for short), they grew obsessed with the idea of casting trolls. It’s how we wound up with a racist, Colton, and a sociopath in desperate need of help in Brandon Hantz, Russell’s nephew. These are two people who need extended help via therapy who were cast simply to be controversial. Their presence ruined the show for us.

There was also the entirety of last season, which featured a dirty cop lying to everyone about everything. He was one of the worst winners in the history of the show, right at the bottom with Vecepia and Heidik. And the worst part was the inevitability of his victory. That guy whose name we don’t remember and we cannot be bothered to google was the living embodiment of the idea that it’s better to be lucky than good.

Dirty Cop (we always thought of him as Michael Chiklis from The Shield, only without the charisma) repeatedly did the wrong thing, yet he was consistently rewarded. It was an odd type of anti-karma that floated him to an undeserving victory. We were so disgusted by the entire affair that we never even watched the finale. In our defense, we were at Disney World at the time and we knew the result by the time we returned home the following week. We simply deleted the episode and gave no further thought to the season. It was that forgettable.

This leads us directly to our feeling regarding the season that begins tonight. We had not planned to watch it. This would have been the first time since the show’s inception that we willingly avoided Survivor yet there was no hesitation on our part once casting was announced. As those of you who read BOP’s recaps of The Amazing Race realize, we are not fans of Natalie and Nadiya Anderson, the twins who suck the air out of any room they enter. Their presence alone would have made us question the upside of watching this season.

The elephant in the living room is someone else, though. John Rocker is a big honkin’ doofus. Sports Night said it in 1999 and nothing has changed in the interim. Rocker was an elite closer for several seasons for the Atlanta Braves. He also became notorious for some ill-considered comments involving public transportation in New York City. There was… more to it. Suffice to say that if you are not a white southern male, Rocker said something that directly or indirectly insulted you.

What Rocker demonstrated with his words was that he was a coddled athlete whose entitlement was matched only by his ignorance of the world and his insecurity regarding his place in said world. In hindsight, Rocker was the first ambassador of the Tea Party, at least the ones who proudly display racist and homophobic behavior while ranting about America’s Kenyan president. Amusingly, Rocker has developed something of a second career by refusing to recant for any of his idiocy. In the immortal words of Joe Quimby, Rocker stands behind his ethnic slur.

John Rocker is a cast member of Survivor this season. Yes, you know that already, but let’s take a moment to consider just how fundamentally the casting department of the show has failed in order for that statement to become true. Rocker is neither the first elite player to participate on the show nor is he even the first Republican. Jeff Kent was a worthy Survivor contestant who hilariously vented about Obama taking a third of his potential winner’s check. John Rocker couldn’t do the math to figure out what one third of a million dollars is. If we are seeking a previous intellectual equivalent, he’s like Shambo without the military heroism.

The presence of John Rocker and the Anderson twins this season places us in the odd position of recapping a show whose ratings we hope plummet to cancellation levels. No, we do not want Survivor canceled, but the only way to take it off this path of celebrating vile human beings is through tangible lost viewers. We intended to exercise our opinion by not watching, but since we have to recap the season, we wanted to upfront and honest about how we feel, just as we always have in the past.

The good news is that the last time we were alarmed by casting, a tremendous season unfolded. Here’s hoping that the first three people voted out are the ones mentioned above, allowing us to enjoy what was once the best reality competition on television. And here’s fearing that John Rocker makes his way to the final vote the way that ELR was always strung along since everyone hated him.

Probst is in the helicopter. We are go. The first major announcement, if you missed it, is that this is another Blood vs. Water season. There are nine duos participating, which means that we don’t hate 15 players this season. Well, so far.

The show begins quickly with their All-American couple, Jaclyn & Jon. She is a former Miss Michigan, while he played football for Michigan State. We note on his cast bio that Jon’s claim to fame is “Winning a Big 10 championship at Michigan State University.” We are tempted to make a joke about the quality of education at MSU, but then we remember that Kim’s sister is a professor at said institution. We’ll just focus on the act that they are the Beautiful People prophesied by Marilyn Manson.

Next up is Rocker. We could listen to what he says, which is something about the media being out to get him, or we could mention some fun John Rocker facts. Did you know that Rocker was on the list of athletes who participated in a steroid ring? Of course you did, because the media is out to get him! For what it’s worth, since we’re in the media, it’s definitely going to be true this season.

John’s girlfriend takes this opportunity to distinguish herself. Some of the first words out of her mouth – “hair and boobs.” She reminds us of Parvati’s last name… Shallow. Then again, if she dumps Rocker at any point this season, we will immediately start a campaign to make her the $100,000 winner of fan favorite.

We are then introduced to Missy and Baylor, a mother and daughter who are apparently connected by the mother’s three divorces. We would like to think there is more to their relationship, but during their relationship it’s just that discussion and looking at treetop monkeys.

Next up are Alec and Drew. Although the casting department is probably hoping that they’re Aras and Vytas Part II, we see them as Fabio 2 and… Fabio 2. Dale and Kelley are introduced now. There’s no mention of how many times either one has been married, so we’ll take that as a good sign. Oh, wait. They didn’t talk for three years, and are hoping Survivor will bring them closer together. We’re sure that will work out well.

Also competing are Josh and Reed, who are not only Broadway performers, but also super fans of the show. We don’t know which is which yet, but one of them got the other one flint for Valentine’s Day. So that one is the cheap date of the two. The most instantly likable couple so far is the duo of Jeremy and Val. He’s a firefighter and she is a police officer. Since we’ve had recent unpleasant experiences on Survivor with a police officer, we’re choosing to like Jeremy the most. They’re everyday heroes wearing Boston Strong t-shirts, so we figure they’re the early leaders in the clubhouse for Fan Favorite. Then again, the competition is John Rocker and the Anderson twins.

Nadiya and Natalie are on, so we fast forward. We figure they say “twinnie” a lot so we’re not missing anything. If a horror film wanted to terrify us, they’d just use a soundtrack of their shrill voices.

Ooh, it’s firefighter season on Survivor! Keith and Wes are Louisiana firemen and also father and son. They are not off to a good start, as the show’s opening activity is to practice making fire by using flint. They lose their striker, which we suppose means they’re better at putting out fires than starting them.

We cut back to Probst and he is standing on the outside of the helicopter as it turns to shore. He is a glorious specimen of manhood.

The show attempts to build some suspense by showing the separation of tribes; however, the premise is that you compete against your loved one, so we know exactly how this is going to go. The two tribes are called Coyopa and Hunahpu, and we immediately throw our support toward Huahpu because they have only one Anderson twin and no John Rocker.

We have a new leader in the popularity contest. Poppa Keith, the firefighter from Louisana, states the following. “I watch all types of sports, and I’m pretty damn sure this is John Rocker, the relief pitcher for the Braves. And he was an ass when he played then, and he might be still an ass now.” We love you, Keith. We’re in love with you.

And we’re straight into a Reward Challenge. Of course, the tribe members of Huahpu have already won because they’re not John Rocker’s teammate. Now is a time for an early test regarding the understanding of Survivor. Boston Strong Jeremy immediately fails. He volunteers to compete for his tribe, which Probst politely describes as an opportunity to prove himself a hero to his new teammates. The flip side is that it’s also a chance to become a goat right off the bat. Also, he’s putting his neck on the line for no reason, when a smarter player would try to stay in the shadows.

Jeremy is instantly punished for his transgression when he is told that he’ll be competing against his wife for reward. Important rule: Remember the theme of the show. And the news gets worse when they two of them are told that the loser of their duel will go to Exile Island, meaning that one of the two of them will be miserable for the next couple of days (and also won’t have the opportunity to play a critical early social game). But hey, the winner gets flint and beans!

They’re competing in a bit of an obstacle course that requires them to climb and struggle to obtain some ropes with rings on the end. Then they have to hook their ring on a little cart and pull it to them. Jeremy gets off to a huge start, but has trouble with the ring toss, allowing Val to catch up. He gets back ahead, though, and is back in the obstacle course to get his second ring while she’s working on pulling her first cart toward her.

She is able to reel in her first cart, but hubby’s lead is too large. Val is going to Exile Island, and there are tears from both of them. Along with the promised flint and beans, Jeremy gets the shocking news that he gets to send one of his own tribe members to spend time on Exile with his wife. He chooses Poppa Keith, because Jeremy knows his fellow firefighter knows how to make fire and will help to keep her safe. It’s about the best choice he could have made given the circumstances. For his part, Keith is good with it and even a little emotional on behalf of the couple.

Jeremy immediately aligns with Natalie, who calls him her designated “twinnie.” It sends a chill down our spines. Basically, every woman on the tribe seems to want to work with him. He hyperbolically calls himself the prom king, but he doesn’t really have a bad read on the situation. Of course, this is how Brad Culpepper started, too.

Over at the Evil tribe, poor Dale is immediately off on his own because he’s so much older than the rest of his teammates. The good news for him is that he finds an emblem on the water basin, and he sets it aside in hopes that he might be able to convince people that it is an immunity idol. Then he tries to use his glasses to start fire, but has no luck until he snaps them in half to double the magnification. Things change for him at this point, and he’s included in the social activities of the tribe again.

Val and Keith are at Exile Island, and they’re each told to choose an urn when they arrive. Both urns hold a piece of paper. Val’s has a clue about an immunity idol, which is a huge boon for her given her disadvantage after being sent away from her tribe. Keith’s is blank, and he tries to ask her what is on hers, but she doesn’t really want to share. This is probably short sighted, since she should want to build alliances for the merge, but Keith isn’t really upset about it. He is excited to officially learn that tribe mate Jeremy is also a firefighter, though, and hopes to use that fact to build an alliance.

Be sure to come back for Part 2 of the recap of the season premiere of Survivor