Survivor starts a new season by showcasing a new cast of interesting players.
by Jeremy Fogelman
The 43rd season of Survivor starts off with the episode “LIVIN” which is a reference to bro salesperson Cody’s butt tattoo -- honestly that’s a pretty funny choice. We get three tribes to start with as per usual, Vesi (red), Baka (yellow), and Coco (blue). At the end of things, poor Morriah gets voted out and we must quickly ask: Why?
The actual immunity challenge was fairly close when it came down to it, with it all about that last puzzle, so any pointing out little minor issues along the way isn’t really fair, but that first vote out, people are searching for anything to make someone else a target. Sami has made a bunch of showy moves, solving the brainteaser and making fire, but he’s also a physical competitor -- that’s more of a threat for the midgame.
Gabler throws himself on the mercy of his tribe because he’s so paranoid about being the oldest member on his tribe, but one of our primary narrators in this episode, Elie, tells us that he’s too useful around the camp. Elie makes an interesting play here, talking about her sad tragedy of her sister overdosing and getting hugs from Jeanine and Morriah -- and instantly connecting the three of them.
But Elie also does the classic early game Survivor consideration of strength trumping over other bonds, which puts poor Morriah in the crosshairs. We don’t get too much from Jeanine so far, other than she’s thinking later game issues about men vs women if they vote out Morriah, but she’s clearly a strategic thinker. We definitely hear from Owen about his own strategic perspective, and Sami notices it out loud to us -- could set up a conflict between the two later on.
In the end everyone votes for Morriah, but we don’t quite see how the alliances are connected just yet. I’m sure there will be people who comment on the optics of the first person voted out, but you can’t argue that Survivor is as diverse as it’s ever been. On Coco, for example, Geo and Karla vibe about not being gay and married, but Latinx as well, she from Mexico and he from Peru -- that’s quite an interesting matchup.
On Vesi, the big personality is bro salesperson Cody, who lies about his sales job so he can target fellow salesperson Justine -- the one who finally manages to make fire. She is allied so far with Noelle, and we see that former gang member and current PhD holder Jesse feels in the middle of potential alliances. There’s not much else from the rest of the tribe we get so far, other than Dwight is a younger superfan and loses his vote after the slightly modified Risk/No Risk challenge.
We get even less from Coco, with a bit of a focus on Ryan who learned to walk after having mild cerebral palsy as a child, and seemingly an alliance between the women and James, the former chess champion. On the other hand, they won the immunity challenge first so the winners often get shown less early on.
It was a pretty fun episode overall, with a visually interesting immunity challenge where the contestants get messy with mud, wood chips, and sand (and I think Jeanine might have hurt her jaw). Just like the last two seasons, we have a pretty fun cast of characters for our tribes, and a lot of potential intrigue and contrasting personalities. They’ve said that the annoying hourglass twist is not on this season, which is great -- but I’m looking forward to the potential twists and turns our contestants create along the way.
Next time on Survivor, things are shaking up further and Cody is a madman.