Survivor: Kaoh Rong
Episode 1 - I'm a Mental Giant
By Jim Van Nest
February 24, 2016

Guess what I did in the rice pot!

Hello, good people, and welcome to the 32nd season of the reality giant, Survivor. To round out their 16th year on television, Survivor has gone back to the well of Brains vs Beauty vs Brawn. It's no surprise they would return to this theme, as ratings and season quality for three-tribe seasons have been pretty high and the last BvBvB season was VERY well received by fans of the show, as evidenced by four players from that season winning the fan vote to go back and play in last season's Second Chance. I'm not so sure they'll be able to catch lightning in a bottle twice on a season like this, but I sure am excited to see if they can.

If you haven't already checked them out, please be sure to check out my three preview columns leading up to the season premiere. I break down all the players and attempt to make it three in a row in winner predictions. Something else for us all to keep an eye on is the conditions out there. This has been billed as the most brutal season of Survivor ever and there will be at least one med-evac... So, from the sounds of it, you shouldn’t get too attached to anyone this season as they could be gone at any time. One last thing before I start, I'm going to change things up a little bit for this season's recaps. Rather than being ridiculously detailed and long winded through the recap, I'm going to be shooting for a shorter read. One that still gets you what you need to know, but doesn't run on so long you have to break in the middle for the bathroom and snacks. After this first column, let me know what you think. And now, if I'm correct, Jeff Probst is dying to tell you about the 18 Americans who are about to embark on the adventure of a lifetime. Thirty-nine days, 18 people, one Survivor!

The show opens with a wide shot of a large boat filled with people. Looks like everyone is starting on the same boat and while they're not allowed to speak to each other, they are divided into their three tribes. After a quick Probst lesson on the weather of Kaoh Rong - it's hot, real hot, damn hot, like when you're walking on the sun, it's that hot - Jeff gives them two minutes to grab supplies and get off the boat. There are fruits, chickens, fish traps, tools, building materials, cooking materials everything you would need to live comfortably out there, but of course, there's not enough for everyone. So, what we get is a mad scramble of people grabbing everything they can.

The most exciting part of this is when a chicken goes overboard, Caleb jumps out and actually fetches it. Congrats, you just spent more energy catching that bird than you'll get from eating it. Anyway, it's pretty much an according-to-Hoyle marooning and once Jeff calls time, each raft heads out to its respective beach. Over the course of the opening, we met about half the cast. To sum it up, they all have what it takes to win and their life experiences up to this point have prepared them all for what's about to happen. Cue the opening credits!

Back from the credits, we begin the real show with the Brawn tribe. Scot Pollard makes for a striking image as he stands on the raft paddling it into the Brawn Beach. Once they get to shore, they start to get to know each other. Cydney is a body builder and everyone thinks that is awesome. Darnell is a postal worker, and Alecia leases condos and apartments. She tells us that she worries that she'll be underestimated and undervalued because of her size and her look - she's the little tiny blonde (for those that didn't read my previews - shame on you). Cydney likes the look of her tribe and Kyle lets us know that he is a badass, but doesn't need to go out of his way to let everyone know he's a badass. He also drops in a mention of his two daughters, the youngest having Autism.

They continue with jobs. Jenny tells them she does construction and Scot cops to being a retired NBA player. That holds everyone's interest for like five seconds and then talk turns to building a shelter. That's a nice little lesson for any other pro athlete or other celebrity, just cop to it. No one cares. Get over yourself. Anyway, Scot tells us that he loves his tribe. They might not be the smartest, but they're all strong and work hard.

Next we check in with the Brains. They are also having the getting to know you chat. Liz tells the group that she does government analysis. She tells us that the Brains tribe definitely suits her, as she feels that the brain is the most important thing in winning Survivor. Back to the group, Debbie (sans tiger bathing suit - what a bummer) addresses the elephant in the room. Peter looks like Barrack Obama. He hates that. But the rest of the tribe enjoys a laugh over it. With that out of the way, Debbie starts sharing her resume with everyone. Air force, electronics expert, fire starting expert, survival expert. Oh yeah, and when she's not out saving the world, she can definitely clue you in when Lobsterfest starts as she moonlights at Red Lobster. If nothing else, comparing herself to Coach is pretty dead on. The only thing missing are the pygmies. She decides she's going to share some of her fire making wisdom with ice cream entrepreneur Neal. She directs him on how to start a fire, but alas, no flames emerge. Neal tells us that it's a bit concerning when someone trumpets about their expertise in a certain area and then can't actually complete the task. He has definite concerns that his Brains tribe is going to suffer the same fate as the previous Brains tribe.

And finally, it's time to check in on the Beauty tribe. The Beauty tribe is hard at work gathering supplies for their shelter. Nick is just thrilled at all the beauty that surrounds them, while Tai wonders what everyone else is probably wondering - what is he doing on the Beauty tribe? After a bit, the tribe kind of splits up with the guys working on building the shelter while the girls work on palm frond weaving. Michele is quick to start the talk of the girls bonding over their weaving work. She also suggests that there is too much ego amongst the guys for them to probably want to work together. The other girls agree and, for the moment anyway, we have the start of an all-girls alliance. WOO HOO!!!! Those always work out. Anyway, we join the guys as they start building and there's a real weird back and forth with Tai and Caleb. Tai tells Caleb to cut out a groove on a tree, then worries that Caleb is going to kill the tree. He's a gardener, you see, so he loves the trees. We get a great confessional from Tai about being from Vietnam. He talks about what it took to leave Nam and arrive in America and how that trip instilled in him a love of adventure. Survivor is the great adventure and he's so excited to be there. Honestly, I don't know how anyone could not love this guy right now.

We come back from break and join brawn doing what brawn does. Working hard, grunting and lifting heavy things. Well, everyone but Alecia aka Blondie. She does not fit in at all. Kyle and Scot are ready to make her the first boot of their tribe. Cydney and Darnell also don't like things are not looking good for the smallest member of the brawn tribe.

It’s time to check in with the Beauties and oh, no. The chickens have flown the coop. After finally chasing down two of them, Tai comes up with an idea to tie them together so they can walk around, but not be able to get away super easily. The girls are loving some Tai and want to pull him in as their fourth. But, they also love some Caleb and want to work with him as well. And just like that, Caleb helps the Beauty tribe get fire. Um, wow! Raise your hand if you saw that coming!

Let's see how the brains are faring. We meet 71-year-old Joe and get more from Debbie. This time, she's refusing to use the saw to cut bamboo and would rather chop it with an axe. What a waste of time. Liz and Neal are pretty well done listening to Debbie tell them how to do everything and they've decided that the older folks in the tribe have to go. So Debbie and Joe could be in trouble. They speak with Peter and Aubry and it's agreed. Joe and Debbie are first to go.

Back over at Beauty, we have one of the dumbest opening day moves ever. Tai has decided to look for the idol around Tree Mail. The problem is that he has no discretion at all and everyone knows what he's doing. To make it worse, when confronted, he freely admits he's looking for an idol and even tells them to head back to camp as he wants to look for a couple more minutes. Well, that's a different "strategy.” This segment is interrupted by some commercials but when we get back, all of the Beauties (save Tai) are agreeing that being awesome isn't the reason to keep someone blatantly looking for an idol and have made Tai enemy #1 on this tribe.

Day Two dawns on Brains and Aubry isn't doing well. It's wicked hot and humid and she's started to get dehydrated. Aside from that, I'm pretty sure she had an anxiety attack to go along with it. She actually asks her tribe mates to get her fruit and water and take care of her. Say what? Honestly, she doesn't even look actually sick. This is all in her head and I think she knows it. I know everyone else knows it. Neal is worried that this could be a repeat of BvBvB last time where the Brains tribe was just completely inept and got destroyed in the challenges.

As night two descends on the Brawn tribe, what can only be described as the single most disturbing thing I've even seen on Survivor occurs. Apparently Jenny has had a bug crawl into her ear. She talks of horrible pain, ear bleeding and being able to hear its feet as it burrows deeper into her ear hole. Thankfully, this scene is stopped by a commercial break. But when we come back from break, it's the morning of day three and the bug is apparently still in there. Seems to me she should dunk her head in the ocean until the thing is flushed out. Or, I don't medical. We get a few more minutes of her writing in pain. We get to hear the rest of the tribe being worried that she could get pulled before today's challenge. She finally lays down and out crawls this creepy little half inch long worm and you can see he's all full of blood. After being grossed out and looking at it for a while, Scot finally grabs the little sucker, squishes him and Jenny declares herself pissed off and ready to go win this challenge!

Probst sighting! Today's challenge is a tough one. Everyone will have to swim out to a boat and then dive down and untie four oars. Next, they’ll paddle the boat to shore where they'll convert it to a cart and push it up a long hill of beach. At the top, they'll get to choose between a puzzle and a dexterity/balance challenge. First one to complete the puzzle or the dexterity challenge wins immunity and a super duper fire kit. Second place wins immunity and flint.

As the teams strategize, Darnell volunteers to dive for Brawn and Aubry, sick Aubry, volunteers to dive for Brains. Everyone is neck and neck and then Darnell dives in the water and right off the bat loses their mask. Aubry, meanwhile, is absolutely killing it. Oh yeah, Beauty has all of their paddles and is heading back to the beach. Aubry has Brains right behind. Without a mask, Brawn is out of this challenge. Beauty is first to change their boat into a cart, with Brains right behind. Surprisingly, Brawn has caught up and is creating their cart also. Brains have taken the lead and choose to do the puzzle. Brawn has surpassed beauty and they also choose the puzzle. After getting all four paddles for her tribe, Aubry is now also working the puzzle and knocking it out.

Brains are way out in front. Alecia is just standing around watching Jenny do all the work. Scot tags in for Alecia, as she was completely useless. Meanwhile, Julia and Anna are rocking there puzzle for Beauty. And like that, Brains win immunity! Aubry was an absolute beast in this challenge! Brawn and Beauty are neck and neck in the puzzle. Both tribes down to the last piece and Beauty gets it placed first. Brawn, headed to Tribal Council tonight. As we head to break, Alecia tells us her only hope is to throw Darnell under the bus for losing the mask. I don't think that will work, but you play the only card you have, I guess.

And with that, it's time to play "It's Anyone But Alecia." As the tribe gets back to camp, Alecia apologizes for not being able to do the puzzle, but Darnell takes the blame for losing the mask. Kyle wants Blondie gone because there's only so much stupid you can take. Scot, however, can't see farther than the lost mask and wants Darnell to pay the ultimate price for his mistake. As they try to convince Alecia that she's good to stay, she tries to play coy about having an immunity idol. This is enough to change Scot's mind. He doesn't like all the scheming and wants her gone. Ultimately, they go back and forth several times about whether it's Alecia or Darnell.

They arrive at Tribal and dip their torches to get fire. Right off the bat, Probst starts with "Jason." Makes me wonder, is this the new man-crush that Probst calls by his last name? Or did he legitimately forget that his first name is Kyle and not Jason? Right off the bat, he calls out Alecia and Darnell as the weakest links in the tribe. Darnell owns his mistake right off the bat. He accepts the blame for the mask with no excuses. Alecia tries to defend herself by saying that she would never volunteer for something she wasn't good at.

Kyle doesn't really care for this line of thought. Darnell goes on to say that even though he lost the mask, he still paddled and he still pushed the boat, while Alecia did absolutely nothing, but stand around and look at the puzzle. And he's absolutely right. There's no way around it, Alecia is easily the weak link on the tribe and she didn't even really try to be anything but. As Darnell talks about how he hasn't had it easy in life, Kyle whispers that he's not sure they're voting the right one. Jenny whispers back that she doesn't want to vote Darnell. She admits to Jeff that his story really tugs at her. And with that, it's time to vote.

We see Alecia try to vote for Darnell by writing with the marker cap still on the marker. Cydney votes for Alecia, saying that she's starting to hurt her soul. Ouch. Other than that, we see no votes. Jeff heads over to tally. First vote: Alecia. Darnell. Alecia. Darnell. Alecia. Darnell. Oh no!! A tie on the very first vote. What??? So, Scot, Kyle, Cydney and Jenny will all vote again. This time we see no votes as they're cast. After tallying them up again, Jeff reads the votes and they're all for Darnell. And the first vote of Survivor: Kaoh Rong is Soh Wrong. That guy was gonna bust his ass for this tribe and they sent him home over the laziest person on this season. Bad move,'s not like they're the Brains tribe, is it? I'll go ahead and point out that it was Cydney and Kyle who voted for Alecia the first time around and changed the votes to Darnell on the second go around. It'll be interesting to see how they play that off, especially Kyle, who has an alliance with Scot and Jenny.

Next time on Survivor: Debbie is off the rails and not fitting in with her Brains tribe at all, meanwhile there's a Survivor bro-mance in the making on Beauty between Caleb and...Tai? That's right. Can't wait to see how THAT plays out.

Thanks so much for reading and for your patience as it took so long to get this recap finished. I hope to do much better in the coming weeks and get this out much sooner. ‘Til next time, kids, take care!