Survivor Season One: Quest for Food

By David Mumpower

July 14, 2005

15 seconds after this, everyone ditched their clothing and got naughty.

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Previously on Survivor, there was a fantastic premiere episode where 16 total strangers were stranded on an island, attempted to master fire, made functional shelter and learned to co-exist in relative harmony. There was also a second episode where an old man went nuts and people ate bugs. Let's hope the rest of the show is more like the first one.

The start of tonight's episode focuses on the tribal flag for Tagi. The words circling Survivor in the logo say outwit, outplay and outlast. I presume these are rejected band names for OutKast. Hey ya. The members of the tribe are struggling on day seven. Their first week on the island is coming to a close, and their hunger pangs are growing worse by the minute. Sean, Stacey, Wigglesworth and White Trash Sue grab the raft and head out to sea, hoping to land the catch o' the day. As Sean tells the camera, there might be a lot of fish in the sea, but not at Palua Tiga. I am not buying it, though. I suspect that there is a Long John Silver's just up the river which keeps beating them to the punch each day on the fishing.

Episode three begins to mirror episode two in a couple of ways. Stacey reiterates that "Rudy needs to get out of here, because he's hurting morale. He criticizes everything." In case the hypocrisy of that slipped by you, Stacey is again criticizing Rudy for being so critical. This time, though, she is not alone. Kelley and Sue state similar concerns about the gruff military man, leading to concerns that Rudy is the new B.B.

"He's wasting his time by doing nothing." � Sue

This statement strikes me as circuitous and yet I cannot deny the intrinsic logic of it.

River Guide Wigglesworth expresses disappointment that Rudy's Navy Seal training has not proven valuable to the group. She had expected him to provide food, shelter, and maybe even a well-trained monkey butler or two. Instead, he has offered resistance to many of her attempts to better the group's living conditions and he has eaten a disproportionate amount of the camp's food. She is half-tempted to say something to him, but we understand her reticence. It's always tragic when someone is killed in their sleep.

Truck driving woman Sue offers an unexpected revelation at this point. After spending the first few minutes of the show hanging out with Stacey, Sue states to the camera that she cannot wait to eliminate the attorney. Say what you will about Wisconsin's not-so-finest, she has the right idea about how Survivor should work. Her utmost concern is getting rid of the useless players, and she does not shrink from that responsibility. In fact, she tells Stacey that since the lawyer is weak, she's as good as gone. The younger woman bristles at this, stating that she no longer trusts Sue any further than she could throw her, "which, according to the group, would be not far". The shrill tone in her voice suggests that being dismissed as physically lacking is eating Stacey up inside. It's readily apparent that this is not a woman who likes to lose at anything.

At Pagong, sunny Colleen says that "the oomph is a little gone from our group". I don't know how honestly the show's producers represented the island experience, but the contestants seem universally surprised by the lack of sustenance. So, how does a Survivor overcome hunger pangs? MUD BATH! Gretchen, Greg and Colleen discover a bubbling brook of goop while out searching for tapioca. Bored and lacking any better way to spend the day, they dive right into the muck. A treatment like this at a spa in Palm Springs would cost a pretty penny, but out in the middle of nowhere, nature is free. After a few minutes of frolicking, the trio walks away caked in green glop. It's a fun little sight gag and one of the nicest spontaneous moments thus far.

The nice thing about a roll in the mud is that everyone wants to play. When the rest of Pagong sees the muddy waters experience on Colleen, they ask to join in. The trio leads the other five members back to the mud bath and pretty soon we have a small version of Woodstock. Sensing that we are about 15 seconds away from an orgy, the camera crew cuts away from the dirty behavior and over to the much more reverent Tagi group. I mean that literally because Dirk is trying to have group participation in a Bible study class. His euphoria over his faith is pissing off Sue, making me wonder exactly what behavior does not annoy this woman. Is it okay to pet puppy dogs? How about hugging your children? Is that acceptable behavior? While Colleen and Greg are successfully forming a love connection, Sue and B.B. just missed creating the perfect hate connection. Those two's anger could have blocked out the sun.

Speaking of romance, Dirk might be a man of God, but he is not a monk. Stacey points out to the camera (bitterly, I might add) that he is developing a crush on Wigglesworth. The river guide is not having it, though. She has a serious boyfriend back home, and she also states emphatically that she did not come on Survivor seeking romance. Also, she embarrasses the boy quite a bit. "I think he's really sexually frustrated." Right on cue, another clever bit of editing has Dirk saying that he's gone 23 years without sex. This point amazes the other members of camp, but is no surprise to anyone who has watched a season or two of The Real World. It's textbook reality television programming to put the religious, close-minded virgin with the gay person who dislikes organized religion. Sure enough, the camera captures Dirk talking about how much he has a problem with Rich talking about sex. If these two make a deep run into the tournament, a cataclysmic conflict is inevitable.

That Probst guy walks along the beach while recounting the details of an upcoming challenge. He assures the camera that people who fail to demonstrate teamwork are doomed to fail in this assignment. I appreciate that this is a new format and the kinks are still being worked out, but his presence is oftentimes jarring in its suddenness. In addition, it's odd to see him walking in such a pristine setting in between segments involving two different teams starving to death. He feels like he's from a different show.

Rich is running! And boy, it is not attractive. Look at that blubber fly! It's like watching a Chinese whaling expedition. Team Tagi discusses their tree mail, a note from the show's producers which describes an upcoming challenge. Tagi settles on the idea that there will be some sort of diving competition. We cut over to the Pagong tribe and a glum-looking Gervase makes a confession. "Everybody knew coming in water wasn't my thing. Swimming wasn't my thing, and my team knew it from the beginning. So when we get into any kind of swimming competition...if it's actual swimming, we're going to be struggling. You know, they have to compensate for me but you know, that's what a team does." I cannot tell you how stunned I am by this revelation. Gervase is one of the most physically fit looking people I have ever seen. How can he not be able to do a breast stroke?

The ring entrances of the two tribes (Let's get ready to ruuuuuuuumble!) reveals a lot about the internal dynamics of each. The members of Tagi stroll in formlessly. None of them walks closely together (although Dirk is lurking behind Wigglesworth). This is a group of individuals rather than a tribe. Conversely, the Pagong kids conga their way down the beach. They laugh and play as if they are on a cruise ship rather than engaged in a survival competition. The members of Pagong are acting as if this is a vacation. The members of Tagi do not necessarily seem any more focused, but there is more of an air of maturity in their group. That or a lack of levity, I can't decide which. There is no disputing the fact that if I were participating in this show, I want to be on Pagong, though. They are unquestionably getting the most out of their island experience...especially now that B.B. isn't around to suck the life out of the festivities. The effect is one of a rowdy party while the parents are away for the weekend. It's Island Risky Business.

The competition is a group swimming challenge of sorts. The contestants must all swim out to an inner tube. Once all of them have completed the first leg, they must submerge and attempt to recover a chest buried underwater. The way to accomplish this task is to drag the chest ashore, an arduous process. The swimming leg is largely a draw despite Gervase's earlier concerns. Tagi is slightly ahead and first to dive as Richard and Rudy retrieve their chest. They fail to move the heavy item much, though. On the other side, Colleen and Greg prove to be a strong combination, making significant progress in pushing their chest along the ocean floor. Greg in particular seems at home underwater, staying down much longer than any of the other competitors. However, Tagi does a better job of forming shifts with their package. There is no one key moment when they pull away, but their teamwork does prove as important as Probst had predicted. After Greg tires, the other members of Pagong fail to pick up the slack. Meanwhile, everyone on Tagi lends a hand. The end result winds up being a blowout despite the fact that it was tied over halfway through the competition.

The chest Tagi has won opens to reveal diving equipment to help Tagi in their swimming expeditions. There is a mask, snorkel and diving spear. Richard Hatch can barely contain his excitement. As he swims the corals in search of fish, Sean and Dirk use the raft and the super-pole in a second attempt to secure food. While the two men fail, Rich captures a ray. This causes Sean to get a bit insecure about his status within the tribe, and that situation is magnified as Rich returns with another ray. They're eating real food tonight! Rich has gone from next on the chopping block to being one of the more popular members of the least through dinner.

Posted without comment: "Big gay man with a spear coming right out." � Sean

At Pagong, news of Tagi's fishing success has reached the group. Needless to say, it lowers morale significantly since that could have been their meal. Since they have little hope in the short term of catching any fish of their own, they turn back to the idea of eating rats. This segment is every bit as disgusting as you might imagine. Rats are captured, decapitated and roasted over an open fire. In case you're wondering, rat tastes like chicken but then again, what doesn't? If you go to KFC, you're not going to catch any plague, either. Ramona seems as reticent to eat rat as I would be though in the end her growling stomach overcomes her sensibility. And in the most shocking development since Mikey developed a taste for Life Cereal, she starts chowing down. She even accuses Joel of hogging the rat. Three episodes in, Survivor has already sunk to the depths of television history. They have tricked six people into not just eating rat but fighting over it.

"It's on until the break of dawn like hot-buttered popcorn." � Gervase's Rat-eating Celebration jingle

I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

There is a second challenge today, this one for immunity. The loser will be forced to vote off a member at Tribal Council later that night. The only instruction given is that each tribe must build a "sturdy, dependable stretcher" in order to carry one of their own for a long distance. When Probst shows up, he explains that this is a role playing game. Each tribe has picked a member, and that person has been placed elsewhere in the jungle. It's a plane crash simulation. The tribes must attempt to discover the location of their fallen comrade and retrieve them from the depths of the jungle in order to secure them first aid. This is definitely well thought out and unique. Colleen is the Pagong member left hanging from a tree while Wigglesworth is chosen for Tagi. Both groups quickly determine the location of their teammate, although Pagong has a slight lead. The younger team better navigates the difficulties of jungle travel. There isn't much more to it than that, and Pagong secures immunity for the night.

The Tagi tribe faces an interesting night at Tribal Council. This is a set of seven individuals rather than a group. Their interactive dynamic is largely unknown for the most part. Stacey seems unpopular, Rudy's age is a concern, and Richard is, well, Richard. Rudy succinctly states that it's him or Stacey that night and he's going to vote for her because he doesn't like her. Say what you will about Rudy, he doesn't beat around the bush.

One of the most fascinating aspects of this game's design is that any small slip could permanently cost a person their standing in the contest. Richard appeared to be in a world of hurt after the first episode yet because he brought home some fish this week, he appears safe. Sue is a vile human being, but she isn't even being discussed as a potential target as of yet. Stacey is a bright woman with the benefits of age on her side but because she is physically weak, she is perceived as being a weak link. Rudy is off-putting and brazen, and has offered disappointing results thus far. A week from now, my perception of all these players could be completely different but as of this moment, I think that Rudy deserves to be voted off. The tribe disagrees with me, though.

As the torrential rain pours down on the group, Stacey is eliminated by a vote of five to two...and she is bitter about it. "You switched your vote." The situation might escalate as she clearly wants to rant but the thick drops of precipitation prevent that. Probst is blunt with her that she needs to leave in order for him to get back to the hotel and sit by the fire. The weakest players continue to be eliminated. So far, the show is holding perfectly to expectation.



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