Survivor Philippines Season Premiere Review: You Can't Control the Game If You're a Dumbass

We finally have a Survivor that isn't on Samoa.  On the other hand, Survivor has gone back to its recent (tired) gimmick of bringing back former players.  This time around it isn't about getting the most popular characters, but rather three players that left due to medical emergencies.  Though it is pretty clear that two of the three choices were largely made with the hope they do still have a following and their return will spike a rating.  Michael Skupin is probably one of the most well-known castaways ever, as the guy who fell in the fire in Survivor Outback.  He was also in one of the most viewed seasons ever, and I'm sure there is a hope his return will draw back the fans who stopped watching almost a decade ago.  Jonathan Penner is actually returning for the third time, and is well known for his blindsides, double crosses, and scheming.  I'm a big of his gameplay and happy to see him back, but it is a little misleading to call him a castaway getting a second chance.  The final returnee is Russell Swan who was evacuated for extreme dehydration, and Jeff Probst considers his moment of fainting as the scariest scene ever in Survivor history.  He doesn't have the star power of the other two, but he is a strong personality and extremely competitive, so he definitely can be entertaining.

Oh yeah, if you haven't see the episode yet, and don't want to be spoiled, you can turn back now.

I find it hard to get to know the entire cast at the start.  It was even harder this episode, because they have 3 tribes instead of two.  It looks like the plan is to keep it at three tribes until the merge.  The reason is to prevent an alliance being formed on the first day, and then sticking together all the way to end.  Three tribes make for a smaller alliance, and thus not one with as much power at the merge.  I admit one major alliance sticking to the end after wiping everyone out has made for some boring seasons, but not always, since I still stick to enjoying Boston Rob's victorious domination in Survivor Redemption Island.

I like the three tribes idea, but it did make it harder for me to get to know all the characters.  I find that I usually at least can remember everyone by the end of the first episode, even if they're just faces without a name or personality yet.  This time around, there are people that I don't even remember at all, and some even if you say their name, I'll just stare at you blankly.  I'm not sure if all those Diet Cokes have really hot wired my memory banks, or if this was an issue with how they edited the episode.  It seemed like a spotlight the returnees episode with the rest of the focus only being on the few players that either opposed them or aligned with them.  I guess the reasoning would be we have several more episodes to get to know the rest of the characters, and I at least did get to know a little about the castaway that eventually packed his bags.

It does seem like there are some strong personalities, and players that are willing to do what it takes to win.  I'm hoping for blindsides and some ruthless moves this season.  We've had enough seasons in a row where the main alliance sticks together and wipes out the opposition.  I want people to get shocked and some hearts to get broken.

Former Major Leaguer Jeff Kent looks like a guy who could be a player that wants to mix things up, and already made a few key moves to try to get Penner on the outs.  I'm hoping there is some tension and power playing between the two of them.  One of Kent's tribemates also already knows he is a former professional baseball player, and so, it will be interesting to see if that leads to anything or causes tension.  Speaking of stars, Blair from Facts of Life is in the game, and it seems like Skupin is starstruck by her.  He may also be the only person to realize that Lisa Whelchel, who played Blair, is a former child star, and also may be the only one on his tribe that is old enough to know she once was in a hit show.  She also seems to be out of the main alliance, so it will be interesting if Skupin tries to save her.

Then there are bunch of people who aren't former celebrities.  I like Malcolm, and he looks like a guy who is willing to blindside and scheme.  At some point, there might end up being a showdown between him and Russell as an attempt to run their tribe.  Angie Layton is also an interesting character, but I'm only really saying that because she is really cute.  There is a punker lady who looks like she might come out with the attitude and spunk, but I forgot her name and she didn't get much air time (so, she may not be someone worth paying attention to).  R.C, has a good chance to be an interesting player because she took the initiative to form an alliance pretty quickly, and seems to be able to sway people to her thinking.  Everyone else at this point is just pretty little bodies, until the show gives me a reason to pay attention to them more.

Well, except for Zane.  He wasn't pretty at all.  I was more than willing to care about him.  The guy had a strong chance of being the comic relief of the season.  But in order to be the "anything of the season" you need to make it past the first episode.  Which he didn't.

He seemed to be the dumb man's Russell Hantz.  He made individual alliances with every female on his tribe.  He made it look like he was willing to be with them to the end.  Then he went to the guys, and admitted he had already made alliances with everyone else in the tribe, but really wanted to be with them.  Uh, why would you reveal you're a liar right off the bat?  The best part is Zane seemed to believe he was controlling his tribe.  Because apparently controlling meant you reveal your game plan right away, and make yourself seem as untrustworthy as possible.

Then he topped that strategy by adopting an even worse one after losing immunity.  He told his tribe to vote him off, because it was his fault they lost.  He needed to be dragged near the end of his part of the challenge, and he admitted he may not be physically able to be an asset in other challenges.  The great part of his strategy (in his mind) is that he didn't really want to go home.  He felt doing this was going to give him sympathy and push the target to Russell Swan.  Russell was probably at risk of going home for being so bossy, and Zane actually ended up getting some heat off Russell.  I'm not really sure how asking to go home is a great strategy for staying.  The rest of the tribe seems to agree with me, since they sent him packing.

It sucks, because I liked Zane.  I was sure we would get several more weeks of entertainment out of him.  The guy tried to hard too control the game, and he did it in the most ass hatted way possible.  I don't think anyone could have formed a better exit strategy without having a meltdown during tribal council.

Who are my favourites to win this thing?

If Kent actually tries to oust Penner and it becomes a battle of wits, then I see the baseball star striking out.  Penner is a master Survivor player, and I'd be shocked if he doesn't stick around until at least the merge.  If it becomes one must go home type of thing, then I'll predict Penner as the man still standing.  At this point, I consider him a strong favourite just because of his past reputation.

Skupin is attached to what might be a strong alliance, and the group that ends up dominating the game.  They really are the only true alliance at this point.  Skupin seems to be a likable guy, and so I can see him doing well if he can go deep.

But he also doesn't seem like a master strategist, but just a guy happy to follow the main crowd.  R.C. is controlling the alliance and seems to be calling the shots.  As long as she doesn't stand out too much, and keeps focused on what is going around, then I can see her being a heavy favourite too.  Her big problem will either getting over confident, or making it clear she is calling the shots, which then could lead to a blindside.  If she has the strong people skills that I suspect, then she'll know how people feel about her and will know when to go to the background.  She may even make it look like Skupin is making the moves.  If she can make it to the end, and show how she formed the dominant alliance, then a jury that isn't too bitter will hand her the crown.

I like Malcolm, and he seems to have a good head for the game.  He seems to be willing to trick people or form strategy.  If his tribe can avoid losing again, then he can remain strong too.  He also seems to be a smooth guy, and may be able to win over members from another tribe if he has to.  But I also thought Mike from last season was going to make big moves and he was a flop.  I'll have to wait on Malcolm to see if he reaches the potential I think he has.

I don't think Russell will survive.  He already has a bad reputation with his tribe.  He could be the next out if they lose.  They also know he is searching for the idol.  I'd like for him to go far, but I see Malcolm making a move to send him out of the game.  Then again, they need strong players to win challenges, and Russell is still one of the most athletic on his tribe.  I get a sense he is the returnee that is the biggest longshot.

Angie is an outside favourite for me too.  I can see her attaching herself to Malcolm, and letting him do all the dirty work.  But then he takes her to the finals, and the jury chooses her because she seems innocent.  The nice girl who followed the less likable guy has won before, but they'd also been slaughtered in the finals for being deemed as being a follower.  She also seems to have a personality and be intelligent, which means she could have a great speech if she can make it that far.

If I have to choose one person to win?

Penner.  But I'll likely change my mind as the season continues, and get to know more of the players.  I'll definitely change my mind if he is voted off next episode.

A decent start to this season, and it looks like it could be a fun one.

While I am talking TV, I want to mention that Go On is getting better with every episode.  It went from "I'll stick with it because I like Matthew Perry" to "I actually think this show is pretty funny and well written."  The last episode about the group feeling neglected by Ryan (Perry), but still coming to him during his time of need had a great mix of sweet, quirky, and funny.  I also loved Ryan's best friend's hideous attempts at being comforting and consoling, and I'm not really sure how getting drunk at an abandoned building was going to be a proper form of therapy and sharing.  Everyone plays their characters really well, and it is sort of like a less over the top Community.  It has all the odd and unique characters, but not the far fetch plots.  I love Community, but it is very niche.  I hope this format will allow Go On to have an audience above cult following and have a long shelf life.  I'm really getting into this series, and glad I gave it more chances after a fairly weak premiere.