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Survivor: Fiji Recap

Episode One - Something Cruel is About to Happen

By Jim Van Nest

February 10, 2007

The producers of Survivor were sad to learn that the hottest girl was voted off first.

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Hello, good people, and welcome to the 14th season of the reality mega-hit Survivor. First off, let me say that again, "14th season"! Who'd a thunk that this little 'experiment' would have lasted seven years and 14 seasons? I know I wouldn't have.

So, this time around, Jeff Probst and company have set up shop in exotic Fiji. Previews, interviews and web chats have promised more beautiful scenery, lots of deadly snakes, two hidden immunity idols, an odd number of players and a rags versus riches format that is sure to shake things up from the get-go. Since I'm not sure how much will get covered in the first episode, I'm going to throw out a few things I've picked up from Jeff's interviews recently and some articles I've read over the last couple weeks.

First off, there are 19 Survivors this time around. There were supposed to be 20, but one woman had a huge anxiety attack the night before the game began and bowed out. Thinking they had one of the more solid casts in years, producers did not have any alternates for this season (on an interesting note, Sundra from Cook Islands was actually an alternate.) So, with no alternates and only a few hours to adjust, the team had to make some changes to their planned 'two ten-person tribes' format. Next, they instituted what I'm going to call the Yul-Rule. Having just watched Yul Kwan masterfully ride the hidden immunity idol to victory, the powers that be realized that a new blueprint to win this game had been written. Rich Hatch wrote the original (get three or four people and form a real tight alliance and run the table with it) and they've been coming up with twists and turns all over the place to counteract that blueprint. Well, last season, Yul proved that he could use the hidden idol as a leverage tool to get people to do what you want them to do, while never actually playing the idol. Another downfall to that is that after a couple tries at this, Survivor has never gotten the bang they were hoping to get out of the idol. And that is the total blindside surprise of having someone play the idol unexpectedly, thus sending some poor unsuspecting schlub home early. In an effort to stop the expected group of Yul-wannabes, there will now be two hidden immunity idols and they will now be asked for after the tribe casts its votes, but prior to them being read. This leaves the element of surprise in there, but it does offer up the chance that someone may think they're in trouble, use the idol and after receiving no votes, find out they completely wasted their get out of jail free card.




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The most advertised change for this season, however, is the rags versus riches format. In reading Web chats with several people, including Jeff Probst, the Survivor brain trust came up with this idea at the same time as, but without the knowledge of the decision to handle Mark Burnett's other show, The Apprentice, the same way. Unfortunately for Survivor, The Apprentice premiered first and now it looks like Survivor is simply copying the format. Will this format work for Survivor? I certainly think so. Part of what made Cook Islands so special was having a tribe set up as clear underdogs and then watching them roll to victory. With one tribe getting the shaft right off the bat, we'll once again have a clear cut underdog scenario that I'm sure viewers will get behind right away.

A couple last comments before I begin. Apparently the two immunity idols will be hidden around each tribe's beach. This provides an interesting dilemma for folks. Can a person ever be totally alone to look for the idol? What will it do to their status in the tribe if they are constantly looking for it? And several other questions. Exile Island, which is usually my time to take a little cat-nap, figures to be at least a little more interesting as the ads keep saying it's infested with deadly snakes, so that should be fun. And finally, Jeff has made several references to one girl making a move "we haven't seen since the Africa" season. And supposedly it completely alters the game. I can't come up with anything from the Africa season that was any kind of special so I've given up trying to figure out what that means. And now, without any further ado, let's dig in to Episode 1 of Survivor: Fiji!

We begin with Jeff Probst giving us the background on Fiji set to some fantastic footage both underwater and above. As he's speaking, we're also shown a boat with all 19 Survivors on it, rowing toward shore. The whole entrance thing is odd since Jeff is usually on the boat with the cast as he does his opening. This time, he's flying overhead. Jeff tells us about the diverse cast, from a former homeless street performer to the Harvard Law graduate. And while I appreciate that they all come from different backgrounds, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the fact that up to 12 of the 19 people this season have California ties. With all due respect Jeff, that's really not all that diverse, nor is it much different than every other season. I could be wrong on this, but I truly believe that there are interesting people in the other 49 states as well. Anyway, Jeff tells us how the Survivors have been given no information and the fear of the unknown is sinking in. So much so that one contestant quit just moments before being set adrift.
He tells us about the sea snakes on Exile Island and the two Hidden Immunity Idols. 39 Days, 19 People, one Survivor.


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