Survivor: Redemption Island

You're Looking at the New Leader of Your Tribe

By Jim Van Nest, Survivor Analyst

February 17, 2011

No one was *actually* eliminated yet, so...

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The strategic possibilities here are crazy. Do you dare vote Boston Rob out, knowing full well that he can dominate anyone that comes to RI with him, thus earning a place back in the game? How does this change the strategy of a tribe who has to go to Tribal to vote someone out? Do you vote a strong member out so that they can beat the other person waiting for them at RI? I haven't completely turned the corner on players getting voted out and being allowed back in the game, but if I'm ever going to change my mind on it, producers have come up with a way that intrigues me and at least has my mind open to the twist.

So, here we are, back in Nicaragua for 39 days, 16 new players, two returning Survivors, one epic twist and one unretired Survivor Analyst.

Can I just say that I love these huge sweeping openings? The show begins with Jeff and the players in an army helicopter flying over several Nicaraguan islands. We meet Philip, a software CEO and former Federal Agent. Matt looks like Fabio but acts like Jesus, while Ralph is a self-described redneck. And within five seconds, I like Ralph when he starts with this quote. "We ain't never had a dumbass to win the game, have we? Maybe it's my turn." As Jeff gives us the opening, the chopper banks and the music begins.

As the players disembark, we meet Francesca who is in awe of being in the game and Matt, an Iraq war veteran who feels his skills will suit this game well. After a quick welcome, Jeff breaks the news that two more players are joining them and another chopper comes in for a landing. First out is Boston Rob and the players go nuts. Next up is Russell and the reaction is "oh no." The only person not worried about Russell is a cute young girl named Stephanie. She's in game mode already. "I'm gonna stare down Russell." And then she does. And why not? Each season Russell picks a cute young girl to align with. Why not her?


We take a few seconds for Jeff to massage Rob and Russell's egos. Francesca notices that they're sizing up the other Survivors like prey. To decide where they play, they draw for buffs. Rob ends up with the orange buff of the Ometepe tribe and they are THRILLED to have him. Russell joins the purple Zaptera, who are not quite as thrilled, except for Stephanie. After some introductory hugs, Jeff drops the final bomb. "When you are voted out at Tribal Council, you will Not. Go. Home." I've already covered Redemption Island, but Jeff goes through the full explanation for everyone. Russell, not surprisingly, is not worried about Redemption Island. And with that, each tribe is given a map and sent on their way.

We come back from break as Zaptera arrives at camp. Right off the bat, Russell calls them all together for a little talk. He tells them all that no matter how it looks on TV, this is the toughest thing they'll ever do. He tells them that he's not there to sabotage anything and that he's there to win. In the first what the heck moment of the game, apparently each tribe has been given a tool box full to the brim with nails, hammers and everything needed to build a shelter. I guess with the rain that's expected, it's a good idea to give them some help with their shelter. Farmer Ralph is knowledgeable about construction and takes the lead as everyone pitches in to build a nice looking shelter.

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