Survivor: Cook Islands

I Can Forgive Her, But I Don't Have To

By Jim Van Nest

September 15, 2006

Why are you smiling? You finished 20th out of 20!

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Hello, good people, and welcome to the 13th season of Survivor. My name is Jim and I'll be taking you through the waters of this season's show. David and Kim haven't gone away; they've just switched over to The Amazing Race. And while they loved doing the Survivor recap, they just couldn't keep up with both shows. And after much arm twisting, they talked me into coming out of retirement and taking over this season. So, let's get to it!

This time we're in the Cook Islands and as I'm sure you've all already heard...this time it's a "race war". That's right, the tribes are split up by race this season and I don't think I could possibly care any less. Talk about much ado about nothing. We have city councils trying to boycott and people who've never watched an episode of the show declaring that it's finally jumped the shark and will offend them no more. I have a message for all of them. I realize that for whatever reason, you hate Survivor. Perhaps it's because it spawned an insane reality craze. More likely, it's because you failed to get on the bandwagon with Season 1 and you still feel a little bitter about that. Whatever the reason, I'd suggest actually watching an episode of the show before you start mouthing off about how terrible this plan is and how degrading it is. Okay, I know I feel better now. And with that, let's get on with the show!

And we begin as Survivor began some 12 seasons ago - a random assortment of Americans have two minutes to grab everything they can and jump overboard. As they do this, Jeff lets us in on the tribal arrangements. It's hard to really see what's going on. What I saw was a chicken jump overboard and some dude that looks like Jin from Lost dive in after it. There's also some freaky looking chick with a huge tattoo and hair that would make Exile Island's fire dancer, Courtney, proud. Lost in all the craziness is how serious Jeff Probst remained while hardly being able to keep his balance. Twenty people, 39 days, one Survivor!

We come back from the credits to see all four tribes making there was to their own island. We hear first from Ozzy. He is part of the Latino tribe and a waiter. What? A waiter on Survivor? No way!! Anyway, he is a little concerned about the ethnic split, feeling like because they have the same background, they may clash on a lot of things. Sundra, part of the African-American tribe, doesn't care one bit, because she knows when it comes to surviving, race has little to do with it. Yul, my Jin look-alike, loves that there's a more diverse cast, but he's concerned about the show playing off of stereotypes. And last is Parvati, a model-boxer (um...ok), she's not sure if it's "kosher" to have division by race, but she thinks it's a cool experiment.

Before I go further, let's break down the tribe names and their members. The Aitukaki (Aitu) tribe is the Latino tribe and is made up of Billy, Ozzy, Christina, Cecelia and JP. The Pukapuka (Puka) tribe is made up of five Asians - Becky, Jenny, Brad, Yul and Cao Boi. The Manihiki (Hiki) tribe is made up of Sundra, Rebecca, Nate, Stephanie and Sekou and they will be our African-American tribe this season. And finally, the Caucasian tribe will be called Rarotonga (Raro) and will be made up of Parvati, Candice, Jonathan, Jessica and Adam. Keep this paragraph and remember where it is. I don't wanna buy into the whole race thing, so I'm gonna call tribes by name, not by race.

As we come to shore with the Aitu tribe, Billy (a heavy metal guitarist with a nice Brooklyn accent) tells us how he thinks his tribe will have an advantage because all his people have Caribbean backgrounds. He also talks about how his parents had paddled away from an island and now he's paddling toward one. Billy ineptly steps up to take control of the shelter and toilet plans while Ozzy shimmies up a palm tree in record time and starts raining down coconuts. They toast over coconuts and we're off to join the Puka tribe.

It only took about five seconds for me to recognize one of the people that will grate on my last nerve this season. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Cao Boi. We are introduced to him as he's making jokes about the little Asians weighing so much. He tells us he's not an immigrant, that he came to America as a refugee during the Vietnam war. He seems to think his tribe will play under the radar because people always underestimate Asians. Um, yeah. Whatever, dude. We learn that everyone on the tribe has a different Asian background, thus making them all almost islands unto themselves. Back to Cao Boi, though, because he won't let you focus on anyone else...he goes on to tell us that he's not very accepted in the Asian community because of his long hair and he doesn't fall into all the Asian stereotypes. Says he belongs in a hippy community. Me? I say he belongs in Loser's Lounge. The sooner the better.

As we join Hiki reaching their island, we see a tribe that seems to have more unity than any of the other tribes. We also see a tribe that seems to feel more pressure to prove the stereotypes wrong. And after guys like Osten, Sean and Gervase...Survivor hasn't really helped them do their part to get away from the stereotypes. Rebecca makes the comment that there's added pressure on them to show that black people CAN swim and CAN paddle a boat. I have to wonder if this added pressure will be something that carries this team, or something that tears it apart. Sekou gets off the board and starts taking charge. Like Billy on the Aitu tribe, Sekou really doesn't have a clue as to what he's doing either. But he doesn't let that stop him. And no matter how much of a cluster it is, that won't stop him from feeling like things are great. Nate is worried that the tribal split may be a negative for his tribe as "black people don't like to be told what to do." For what it's worth, Nate seems to have a great attitude and I could see him going a long way.

We join the Raro tribe paddling to shore. For some reason, Jessica (the Courtney wannabe) is floating behind the raft instead of paddling. Jonathan doesn't think the racial split will do much to change the game. The bottom line is that to win this game, you have to slit the throat of the guy sitting next to you, regardless of his race. Parvati then fills us in on all the stuff they grabbed before getting off the boat. Two machetes. Two Hawaiian slings and two chickens. The protection of the chickens is very important to everyone. With no pen or cage or anything, they decide that keeping them under a big crate will have to suffice. We also learn that Jonathan grabbed an extra chicken from the Puka tribe by accident. But I'm sure that won't come back to haunt him. As we're meeting Jessica (Flika Flame for all you No-Cal roller derby fans), we see her bend over to lift up the crate and, like a flash, the chickens get out of Dodge. Needless to say she's freaking out and the rest of the tribe is quite pissed, especially Jonathan. "I can forgive her, but I don't have to because she screwed up my chickens."

We join the Hiki tribe as Sundra and Rebecca find the fresh water bucket. And by fresh, I mean full to the brim with parasites. What we see here is that Rebecca and Sundra have paired off. Nate and Sekou have also paired off. This, of course, leaves Stephanie on the outside looking in. But, unlike so many players in the past, she actually sees it and is making sure to keep an eye on it. And now we come to the "let's watch a bunch of city slickers try to make a fire by rubbing two sticks together" part of the show. Sekou announces that he's going to make fire and he won't give up. Five minutes later, he's taking a break. From the sounds of the ladies, he spends more time breaking than working. And here we get several shots of him laying on the raft and doing nothing.

At Raro, we learn that the nights are very cold. We also learn that Candice would love to snuggle up to Adam to keep warm. And whaddaya know? Adam digs him some Candice. Amazing what happens when you stock up one tribe with the beautiful people. Parvati, in what seems like a comment of jealousy lets us all know that some romance might be in the air at Raro.

Over at Puka it seems that Brad has come down with a monster headache. And here comes Cao Boi to the rescue. He stops short of clapping his hands together and rubbing them to create heat, but he does perform a Miyagi-esque rubjob on Brad's head. He claims Brad has "the wind" and he needs to see how bad. Well after a few minutes of cranial manipulation, Brad is left with a funky red mark between his eyes. Amazingly enough, though, the headache is gone. While the rest of the tribe has some fun with the red dot, Brad is just happy to have his headache gone. Yul has started to realize that amidst the crazy hair and beard and obnoxiousness, there are some useful nuggets of information in there.

Probst sighting! Welcome to the first challenge of the new season. As the tribes convene for the first challenge, talk of the chickens comes up. Yul mentions that he saw someone run off with his chicken. And he points out Jonathan. The challenge continues the trend from last season. Challenges that are so frickin complex I don't even feel like trying to explain them. However, I will...because that's the kinda guy I am. The tribes will have to put a boat together, piece by piece. Then they'll have to secure it with planks going across. They'll row out to the fire pit and light a torch. When they get back, they have to take the planks with them over a couple sand piles. Then they have four puzzles to put together. Once those are together, they take the puzzles and the planks and use them to create a ladder. Once they assemble everything, they climb the ladder and light their flame. (See why I didn't want to get into it? They need to calm these challenges down; it's getting too hard for me.) Wanna know what they're playing for? First three tribes to finish win a flint and immunity. The first tribe to finish will also win a fire starting kit, complete with kerosene.

The challenge really breaks down to two competitions. The first is between Aitu and Puka for first place. The second is between Raro and Hiki for last. After a pretty close race, Puka pulls away and lights their flame first. Aitu is right behind. As Raro begins to climb their ladder, they realize that they haven't included the puzzle pieces. It doesn't matter, though, as their lead over Hiki is too much to overcome. And Hiki will be the first tribe to go to Tribal Council. But wait, there's another twist. The Hiki tribe gets to select one person from any of the other tribes to go to Exile Island. The person will spend two nights on Exile Island. There's one bag of water, a machete, a flint and a pot. But there's a hidden immunity idol on Exile Island, so there's your silver lining. For some reason, Sekou and Nate split off from the rest of the tribe to make the decision. Naturally, Jeff calls them on it and Sundra does a nice job of playing it off like it's no big deal. When asked who they're sending, the guys don't know his name, but like Nate says, "Karma's a bizzle." They send Jonathan the chicken stealer to Exile Island for his crime. Wow...and the conversation at the beginning of the challenge seemed so extraneous at the time.


We come back from break to join Jonathan on Exile Island. And wow, what a terrible place. There's not even a tree on this thing. There are some bushes. For Jonathan's sake, I sure hope it doesn't rain while he's there. But since it's not, he's searching for the Idol.

At the Hiki tribe, it's time to play "it's anyone but Sekou." Let's do the math. Three women, two men, one of whom has the amazing combination of bossiness and laziness. The women have targeted Sekou, saying that he takes away from the team. Nate and Sekou decide that Sundra is the one to go. And the only way for that to happen is to turn Stephanie. And what follows is one of the most ridiculous conversations in the history of Survivor. Sekou approaches Stephanie. He starts off well telling her that she's gonna have a hard time breaking up the Sundra/Rebecca pair. He starts telling her about how once he gets the fire going, if she gets rid of him, someone will have to keep the fire going. The hilarious part of this, for me, is the fact that this bozo can't work on the fire for five minutes without needing a Snickers bar. I don't think I've ever seen anyone that has done less on this show talk like they've done so much. Hell, even Gervase knew he was lazy. And poor Stephanie finds herself as a swing vote on day three. And things never work out well for the swing vote.

Tribal Council is pretty uneventful. They talk about the ethnic split, but only for about two seconds. Sundra lays out the obvious, that it's Sundra/Rebecca vs. Nate/Sekou with Stephanie in the middle. She handles it real well by saying that she may be the odd man out, but as a tribe they're still really together.

And as we would expect, the women stick together and Sekou is sent packing 3-2.

Before I sign off, I'd like to add some final thoughts from the first episode. With very little opinion coming into the show about any of the players, three people really stood out to me. Nate, Yul and Ozzy. Nate seems to have a great attitude toward everything, a good work ethic and he's genuinely likable. Yul seems incredibly smart and very astute. He's solid in the challenges and a hard worker. I'd say he'll prove himself to be indispensable and he's got the people knowledge to make the right alliance. Ozzy just seems like a kid that will do anything that needs to be done. And he'll do it well. He also seems to have the right attitude to go far in this game.

And with that, I'm outta here. Thanks for checking out the column and I hope I prove to be an acceptable replacement for David and Kim.



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