Survivor: Island of the Idols – “You Shoulda Never Battled Me”

Threats are always the topic of discussion in this show, but did it really impact the very first episode of this season? Let’s dive into how the premiere of Survivor: Island of the Idols shaped up to be.

SPOILER ALERT! This recap and review will contain spoilers about the latest episode of Survivor: Island of the Idols.

EPISODE 1 RECAP

‘The Oath of the Idols’, shown to every visitor to the Island of the Idols, letting them know Sandra and Rob are not players this season.
IMAGE: ROBERT VOETS/CBS

With a fiery opening of Sandra Diaz-Twine and Rob Mariano staring down the barrel of the camera, the 39th season of Survivor has officially begun! Jeff Probst details how the two former winners, returning as mentors, will impact the season. They will live on the Island of the Idols, where they will teach various aspects of the game to anyone who visits, hoping to challenge them if they’re hungry enough for an advantage in the game

Ronnie and Dean saw a bamboo pole while Elaine and Tom work with the smaller pieces.
IMAGE: ROBERT VOETS/CBS

With no official welcome by the host, both tribes rock up to their camp left with their buffs and very little information to go off of. At the Lairo tribe, digital content creator Chelsea Walker comments on the odd start, not seen in any recent season of the show. What she does know, the season is called Survivor: Island of the Idols, and instantly is concerned that idol mania may arise bigger and better than it does on any regular season that has included idols within the last five years. Personal injury lawyer Karishma and admissions counselor Vince bond over competing on the show as the first Indian and Hmong people, respectively. Meanwhile, former National Hockey League player Tom and Olympic swimmer Elizabeth reveal to certain members of their tribe their former sporting background, despite Elizabeth claiming in her pre-season interviews she wouldn’t tell anyone (oopsie). Missy reveals to the viewers that she developed a debilitating brain tumor that has now given her a purpose to march through the game. She wants to be the “Sole Soul Survivor”!

Over on the Vokai tribe, everyone also questions where Jeff Probst is hiding and why they haven’t officially been welcomed to the game. Lauren, a nanny, comments on the season theme and whether idols are hidden at her camp or at another island altogether. Whereas law student Molly comments on the positive vibes currently flowing through the tribe, with everyone holding a strong work ethic to work well together. Janet, the oldest woman and chief lifeguard, worries she may be targeted for her age, as many former contestants have been. She aims to prove herself to her tribe, and successfully impresses everyone by making fire on Day 1, one of if not the most important element to surviving physically in Survivor.

Back at Lairo, work on the shelter is most paramount, but Tom, Vince and factory worker Elaine find some time together to lock in an early alliance after identifying a common bond between each other. This is noticed by the rest of the tribe, and gym owner Aaron and professional poker player Ronnie lead the charge for everyone else to potentially target them the first opportunity they might get to.

Molly, Tommy, Jack and Kellee weave palm fronds together at camp.
IMAGE: MICHELE CROWE/CBS

Over on Vokai, Jamal, another admissions counselor, comments on how cohesive the tribe is in working together to build the best shelter possible, working as one cognitive unit. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows, as Jason, another personal injury lawyer, hunts for a hidden immunity idol, taking into account the theme that has everyone guessing what the deal is with the potential game-changing advantage. Molly makes note of this to the rest of the tribe, and talent manager Dan names it as a cliche Survivor mistake. Dan finds a relation between his job and the game, saying he tries to make the best decisions for really passionate and aggressive people, and for him. He works hard to ensure Jason is the first vote if the tribe attends Tribal Council, hoping to keep the target off his back. The youngest tribe member, graduate student Jack explains how he believes his playful attitude will turn out to be his biggest asset. He wants everyone to build relationships with him, but in particular singles out the fourth grade teacher Tommy as his closest ally. Tommy says his job requires him to make everyone around him feel comfortable, and that it’s a shared goal with his tribe. He has one-on-one conversations with several tribe members, as well as revealing to Lauren he plans on proposing to his girlfriend soon. Jack, Tommy, Dan, Lauren, Molly and MBA student Kellee form a six-person alliance, to avoid any drama and take shots at Jason for rubbing people the wrong way.

This plan is opened up to Jamal, who says he’s grateful for the plan as it’s easy and something everyone can agree on. WAIT A MINUTE. NO. Noura, an entrepreneur, decides to tip Jason off about the uneasiness surrounding him by the rest of the tribe. Saying he reminded her of an ex-boyfriend who provides trustworthy qualities that she wants to work with. Is it smart? Um. Trying to protect ANYONE so early is super risky. But props to Noura for finding an instant ally, just do that with four more people and it’s a majority. Jason now expresses serious concern about going home first.

Karishma weaves palm fronds at the far left as Chelsea and Vince transport a large rock together during the shelter building portion of Day 1.
IMAGE: ROBERT VOETS/CBS

Back at Lairo, Elaine explains to us viewers that she uses humour to connect with people, hoping everyone laughs with her and not at her. And it’s working very, very well! Missy assesses the tribe, and finds that the girls are strong and determined, then forming an all-female alliance to avoid sending girls out first and keeping the common trait intact. She lets Elaine know she might be in trouble after being in the minority group with Tom and Vince. Elaine is now worried about her position in the tribe, it’s never wanted by anyone, especially when it’s the very first elimination on the line.

Ronnie, who is using his poker tips to gain a good read on everyone, notices that Elaine is an extremely likeable player that everyone is bonding with. He says, “that’s dangerous”. WHAT? It’s Day-bloody-2. You can’t be thinking about jury threats now! She hasn’t even played the game yet. It’s just a case of coming in too hard and too fast. You’ve got 17 Tribal Councils to get through Ronnie. Anyway, he wants to make Elaine feel safe and talks with her by the water hoping to make her comfortable. Elaine doesn’t trust him however, not vibing with what he’s selling, at all.

Lauren tosses some netting in the shallow water with Janet beside her, as Jamal, Noura and Jack talk in the background.
IMAGE: ROBERT VOETS/CBS

Revisiting Vokai, it’s a big no-no from Kellee who can’t stand Dan’s very touchy behaviour. She says she’s a germaphobe, and doesn’t like how close Dan is getting to her (massages, back rubs and resting his head on her legs, etc). It’s a little gross to me too. Like you’ve just started the game! No matter how you interact with people, you don’t wanna do anything to upset anyone’s personal space. I don’t know. As someone who appreciates affection, yet doesn’t invade someone’s space to give it, there’s just a line that needs to be drawn. Wait for physical permission, and then as you bond and grow your personal relationship, you’ll find the little things that you can share. But Dan, don’t do it Day 2. Anyway, Kellee let’s him know she’s being made uncomfortable as calmly and cool-headed as she can. Molly also notices the touchy behaviour, and Dan’s lack of understanding personal space. She doesn’t wanna ruffle feathers, and Janet tells the viewers anyway that she believes women should stand up when they’re uncomfortable. As Kellee has.

At the Immunity Challenge, everyone finally sees Jeff for the first time in the season, and he officially welcomes everyone to the game. An extensive physical test with a puzzle at the end is a classic challenge formula, especially early on. The first obstacle is up over and down a frame of netting, crawl-throughs, and slides. One representative must then throw a hook onto a lever, with the tribe then pulling the lever to unlock the next obstacle, a platform to run across. Janet, with one toss, gains an early lead for Vokai as tech salesman Dean struggles for Lairo, before turning over to Ronnie to initiate a comeback. The tribes must now scale up a very steep wall, grabbing onto ropes to hoist everyone up onto the platform above. Both tribes work effectively together to not waste any time, with Lairo gaining momentum and now a lead over Vokai. Eventually Vokai manages to catch up, and three people from each tribe work on the giant puzzle, a ‘village’ of six huts, made out of giant puzzle pieces. Vokai manages to complete the first hut, followed by Lairo who are still working to stay in it. Vokai extend their lead as they manage to complete their third, fourth, fifth and finally sixth hut to claim victory at the very first Immunity Challenge. Lairo will see someone become the first person voted out of the game, but not before Jeff reveals the big twist. Someone on the tribe will be the first to visit the Island of the Idols, with Elizabeth randomly selected to experience the twist. She will be back before Tribal, though will miss out on significant strategic talk at camp.

Vokai (left) and Lairo (right) compete in the first Immunity Challenge of the season.
IMAGE: MICHELE CROWE/CBS
Elizabeth and Rob compete to make fire and burn through a rope first as Sandra encourages Elizabeth.
IMAGE: CBS

At the Island of the Idols, Elizabeth is welcomed by Sandra and Rob who explain to her the oath they have taken, and how they can not compete to win the game and only act as mentors. After a quick chat about her position in the game, the very first piece of advice Rob and Sandra give Elizabeth is how to make a fire. Rob shows her how to do so, and very quickly gets a fire going, leaving Elizabeth in shock and awe. Elizabeth then gets a chance to practice her fire-making skills, with Sandra as a guide. After getting it down, Rob tempts Elizabeth to take him on a fire-making challenge, for a hidden immunity idol that’ll be good for the next two Tribal Councils. There’s a catch, if she loses, her vote will be taken away and she’ll be visiting her first Tribal Council without any power. Rob pushes her to take him on, saying she’s in a solid alliance and her vote may not even matter. Elizabeth hesitates, but the competitor inside decides to go for it and she is up for the challenge. Rob manages to gain a very quick lead over Elizabeth, and in no time manages to spark a flame and build the fire high enough to win the challenge. Elizabeth now loses her vote, and Rob tells her it’s the dumbest decision she could have made, and next time should trust her gut. HAHA. Hilarious.

Back at Lairo, Elaine is banking on her relationships to keep her in the game. Her, Vince, Tom and Chelsea agree to target Ronnie, saying the other girls will join them and they have the numbers to set it in stone. Ronnie and Aaron approach Dean, Missy and Karishma in targeting Elaine, and also try to bring Vince in on the plan. Vince, of course, is completely against the idea and lets Tom and Elaine know her name’s circulating around camp. Tom tells Elaine not to worry, believing the boys don’t have the numbers to take her out.

Tom and Elaine sit in the shelter together at the Lairo camp.
IMAGE: MICHELE CROWE/CBS

Elaine comes up to Aaron and Ronnie in a conversation with Tom and Chelsea, and the two tell her the tribe’s concerned about her several bonds and to vote for Vince. It’s now the new plan in place, and Vince is now on the chopping block. As Elizabeth returns from the Island of the Idols, she insists on not telling anyone about Sandra and Rob and what transpired. Smart? Eh. It remains to be seen. Someone will figured out she lied sooner rather than later. But it’s not terrible for right now. She’s now the hot commodity, as everyone attempts to bring her over to their side to either vote Vince, Elaine or Ronnie, despite the fact she doesn’t even have a vote to cast. The sun sets and it’s time for Tribal Council, so which side will prevail?

The Lairo tribe catches a flame on their torch, the symbol of life in Survivor, as Jeff Probst oversees the iconic moment.
IMAGE: CBS

As Lairo is welcomed by Jeff to Tribal Council, Sandra and Rob sneak into a spy bunker to oversee the events that transpire and no doubt use them in their mentor role moving forward. It’s actually hilarious the side comments they make when things come up at Tribal. They’re television gold when they’re paired up together. Elaine talks about naturally getting along with everyone, and how it’s become a curse because her name’s on the chopping block because of it. She says she’d be devastated if she went home, and Jeff quizzes Ronnie on his reaction to it. He says it hits hard that it means a lot to Elaine, but acknowledges that everyone doesn’t wanna be the first to go home. Vince comments that everyone has a story about getting on the show and thereafter, saying that supporting one thing or another might make or break it.

It’s time to vote, and while Elizabeth doesn’t get a say, the rest of the tribe blindside Ronnie in a 7-2 vote, with Aaron being the only person to vote with him for Vince. Ronnie becomes the first person voted out of the season, and Lairo must prepare for the wrath that is Aaron.

Ronnie is the first person voted out of Survivor: Island of the Idols, as Jeff Probst snuffs out his torch.
IMAGE: ROBERT VOETS/CBS

REVIEW

This was a fantastic premiere of Survivor. Unlike what many fans originally thought, it wasn’t Rob and Sandra focused. We really explored the new contestants, with everyone receiving a confessional (except for Dean). Rob and Sandra only having one segment to really, I guess, control, it works well. They are great ‘mentors’ and I really like the attitude they have. Tempting Elizabeth with taking Rob on to make fire, and then basically telling her she was dumb to do it after she loses, brilliant. It was just hilarious and it’s the attitude Survivor needs if you’re gonna do a twist like this. I’m really excited for how this will change in the future, and what other skills Rob and Sandra can teach the new contestant. It’s a neat little twist. And I hope it doesn’t get screwed up.

There are some great personalities across the new group: Elaine was probably the stand out in hilarity, although personally I also really liked Janet, Karishma, Jason, Jack, Tommy, Jamal, Lauren, Chelsea, Kellee and Missy. And I know that’s a lot, but it’s a really likeable cast! Of course, there’s still room for everyone to grow and to really understand how everyone really integrates themselves within the game. But there’s a lot of equal representation, and no screen hogs, which is great!

Elaine getting targeted for being a Day 39 threat on Day 3, what the hell? I get that you wanna play Survivor but just reevaluate the entire situation first. I think Aaron and Ronnie screwed up for targeting somebody so likeable. The very thing they were trying to avoid. Jason looking for an idol, not cool dude. And you’re my pre-season winner pick so I need you to stick it out! I find it concerning for Noura to let Jason know too. Whether he reminds you of a trustworthy ex, I don’t care. Just don’t give HIM ammo to turn around and say, “well Noura let me know you’re after me”. The Jack/Tommy alliance is pretty cool, I like both of them and they’re probably in it for the long-haul if we’re being shown the early alliance.

I love how Janet set out to prove her worthiness and I really hope she can go pretty far. I want a Janet merge. But oh my god Dan with the touching! I’m mortified. I don’t wanna get too much into it but wow it’s just seriously making me feel uncomfortable. Please don’t let this be a continuous storyline unless it’s absolutely necessary. While I’m still personally not completely sold on Molly, she had an extremely good edit in an episode with pretty fair editing. If you asked me who I think my winner pick is based purely on the premiere edit, it’s gonna be Molly. She had her say in a few little things that didn’t entirely involve her.

I also enjoyed the opening where there was no marooning or Jeff present. It DOES keep everyone on their toes and shows that you can’t expect anything in Survivor. You can’t expect an official welcome from Jeff, or anything for that matter. That’s what American Survivor does so well!

In terms of Ronnie going home, I love a blindside! And it always sucks that someone comes all the out somewhere and then turns around and goes home. That sucks. But clearly Ronnie didn’t account for the numbers enough and when you add the girls with Vince and Tom, it was game over. It’s interesting that Dean flipped the script as well, although Aaron stayed out of the loop. I did like Ronnie, but I think for entertainment value, it’s a great choice to keep the current members together as they are.

MATTHEW’S TOP FIVE

This season, I will put together a personal top five based on the episode that aired each week. I aim to consider all factors, like physicality, strategy, social game, likeability, and visibility. They are not ranked in order, and encompass all information gathered, from pre-season press, to previous episodes and the most recent episode.

IMAGE: ROBERT VOETS/CBS

ELAINE STOTT, how could you not? This woman is just so lovely and precious like I can’t understand how anyone doesn’t like her just personally. But I also love that she’s doing it so well it kept her in the game! She’s completely protected by a female alliance and her alliance with Vince and Tom. Yes, she’ll be in trouble later because she’s a great person. But it might work for Elaine this season to not make any bold moves. People will add this fuel to the fire of getting her out. If she remains seen but not heard, she still might be able to smoke someone more threatening at a Final Tribal Council. It’s too early to really tell, but for now, Elaine’s everyone’s gem!

IMAGE: ROBERT VOETS/CBS

CHELSEA WALKER, yes, yes, yes, YES! Chelsea you’re doing so well! Not gonna lie, Chelsea gave me potential first boot vibes in her pre-season press. But thank god she wasn’t stupid to be such a big player so early. She just stayed with the numbers, had those meaningful conversations, and sat in a prime position. She never instigated anything, the female alliance, not her doing. But she was always present like when Ronnie was discussed as a vote, and when Vince’s name was brought up to Elaine. She’s always there and I’m loving her for it! She’s got great energy, a way with words, and a cute smile. Chelsea is fantastic!

IMAGE: ROBERT VOETS/CBS

TOMMY SHEEHAN, between Jack and Tommy, I got the impression Tommy’s gonna be the master of the two. Despite basically talking about the same thing (building multiple relationships), Jack made it sound like a task, whereas Tommy was trying to integrate it into his game. He knows that you can’t build superficial bonds, you have to be real with people to make any impact. He’s extremely smart for identifying this and I just really hope he’s an end-gamer. He’s just incredible. There’s a little more fuel from pre-season interviews that bumps him into the top five, but he’s really likeable and that’s why he’s finding a spot here after Week 1. Don’t screw it up Tommy!

IMAGE: ROBERT VOETS/CBS

KELLEE KIM, she was left in a tough situation. She was being made uncomfortable, and while normally you could just tell someone to rack off, in Survivor, you’ve got to approach things delicately. And she did. She sat down with Dan and just let him know she’s not about that life and wants to keep the closeness at a distance. A really far distance if you ask me. I love that she didn’t just let it go. She did something about it and she probably did it in the best way that didn’t piss Dan or anyone off. No drama, no problems. Previews show she’s off to the Island of the Idols next week, so I can’t wait to see how she deals with that and whether she’s bold enough to take on Rob or Sandra.

IMAGE: ROBERT VOETS/CBS

JANET CARBIN, I was really having a hard time picking between Janet and someone else. But Janet’s impressive ability to start a fire and show every single person that she’s not worthless cause she’s old, I really respect that! Not only this, but she was a beast in the Immunity Challenge and I think everyone’s gonna wanna keep her in the game because of her beneficial qualities to the tribe as a whole. I hope she makes merge, and then as long as she’s an integral person to the votes, Janet can really go a long way.

There’s so many people that I wish could have crept into the top five, like Karishma, Jack, Lauren, Jamal, Jason and Missy. Maybe on the next tier, Tom, Molly, Dean, Vince and Elizabeth. Noura and Aaron I think just made some questionable choices so early in the game, and then yeah, Dan’s at the bottom for me. Overall, a great cast with a great theme, I’m so excited for next week!


Survivor: Island of the Idols continues this week on Thursday at 7:30pm on 9Go!.


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