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Survivor: China
by Rhoda Charles

Episode 1 Recap
Thirty-nine days, 16 people, one Survivor. Such sweet words. Yes, folks, Survivor is back.

What is it about this granddaddy of reality shows that is so enjoyable? Great host? Check. Great casting (most of the time)? Check. Great location? Check. I don’t often say "Wow!" when I watch television but when the camera pulled back to reveal that enormous gold statue of Buddha, that’s exactly the word the popped out of my mouth. Yes, I could just be succumbing to all the hype surrounding Survivor: China’s location, but I have a feeling that this season is going to live up to it.

First off we have a very interesting cast of characters. From a man called Chicken to a guy named Frosti, unusual names have become a hallmark of Survivor, though they all seem to match their owners and their owners are giving us the goods already. So let’s get down to it:

Chicken: He gave us our first "diary room" interview of the season. God love that Virginia twang! It was enough to keep me from using a direct quote. Though he was this season’s early casualty, Chicken filled several roles that we’ve come to expect. He was the older, grizzled, down-to-earth, been-through-it-all, can-build-a-shelter-with-his-bare-hands, doesn’t-fit-in-with-the-young'uns guy who, surprisingly, recognized that his wisdom was not appreciated by his tribe and so kept his opinions to himself. That’s a rare thing indeed. Too bad it backfired. Psst: Unsolicited opinions are the kiss of death, but pony up when they’re requested.

Todd & John-Robert: The flight attendant and the poker player — it’s a sitcom in the making. These two somehow ended up off alone sizing each other up. Together they resembled a giant and a little person. I’m not sure if Todd’s the player he thinks he is but then again, is John-Robert?

Courtney: Does anyone see a little bit of Gwen Stefani in her? This girl is going to be a hoot to watch. I mean, she dissed a monk… in his own temple!

Leslie: The Christian-talk-show host wasn’t comfortable participating in the Buddhist welcome ceremony — all that bowing to graven idols put her off. Wonder what she’ll do come immunity-idol time. Either way, she’s finding her footing by making relationships with the strong silent....

James: Dude, this guy is one big muscle! There is no fat on him. None. I guess grave digging is tough work but I thought they used backhoes nowadays. Either way, to look at James, you’d think big, scary guy, but he’s this gentle, shy person worried about how to handle the social aspect of the game. I look forward to his journey.

Ashley: The professional wrestler has probably received the most preshow buzz, but she fell sick early on and almost got voted out, which from the previews would have been a shame. However, her illness provided great insight into…

Dave: The former model who so lovingly reassured Ashley that she shouldn’t worry that her illness was putting her at risk in the game and then immediately declared to the camera that she’s the first to go home if she doesn’t get better. Can’t. Trust. Him. But he’s likable as heck. As is…

Frosti: The Parkour athlete. If you’ve seen the opening scene in Casino Royale, then you’ll recognize this sport and if you paid close attention to the immunity challenge, then you would have seen Frosti, the youngest Survivor player ever, leap atop the wall as if that were humanly possible.

Peih-Gee: What to say? She’s got a lot going on. She’s crying. She's barking orders. She’s crying again. Peih-Gee is going to be fun to watch... if she lasts.

Sherea: High heels? Come on, have you never watched the show? Don’t show up to Survivor looking cute. You will regret it. She was already down to her bra by the first day, but at least she was wearing underwear. Let that be a lesson to…

Jaimie: The braless college student who was surprised by Jeff’s announcement that they would be leaving their worldly possessions, aka suitcases, behind according to Buddhist teachings.

Denise made her biggest impression so far with her hair, a lovely brunette mullett, and her trip-up in the challenge, but she and Aaron, Amanda and Erik didn’t get much airtime this week so I look forward to getting to know them better later on.

Those are the folks. As for the game itself, there’s no doubt the local culture will play a huge role as evidenced by the immunity challenge, which was very pretty to watch — dragons in an obstacle course. The tribe names mean Fighting Tiger (Zhan-Hu) and Flying Dragon (Fei-Long) and the immunity idol is a little Buddha. While the Art of War didn’t seem to have made an impression yet, Tribal Council was, as usual, a revelatory experience that the Zhan-Hu tribe experienced firsthand having lost the challenge. Dave and Peih-Gee volunteered to lead. Cocaptains? Not if the eye-rolling tribe have anything to do with it, which of course, means great viewing for us. And that’s why we love this show.

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Survivor: CHINA · Primetime Discussion