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Surviving Vanuatu, Episode 1: Caught Off-Balance?by David Bloomberg -- 09/17/2004
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It’s been a long summer of making do with Big Brother, but Survivor is finally back! And it’s an interesting day for the show to premiere. Why? Today is the second night of the holiday Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year. On this day, Jewish people are supposed to seek forgiveness for, among other things, promises they have broken throughout the year. So what better day to start an entire season of promise-breaking?!
This season, of course, there will be 18 players instead of the usual 16. If you’d like to know how some of the writers here on RealityNewsOnline think these folks will do, check out our RNO Roundtable article and Professor Sadow’s statistical predictions. But for now, let’s get on with the show!
We begin with host Jeff Probst on the rim of a nasty-looking volcano that he says spews ash and smoke with some regularity. The locals believe it is the final resting place for the spirits of the dead. And it is only one of nine active volcanoes in the South Pacific nation of Vanuatu. The place has a history of cannibalism and even today sorcery and black magic are a part of daily life. Hmmm, maybe one tribe can put a hex on another!
Enough of that, the 18 players are arriving by boat. Of course, only one of them will remain at the end. “Thirty-nine days, eighteen people, one Survivor!”
I like what they’ve done with the theme music – lots more drums. And the opening is interesting – they aren’t split up by tribe, just listed one by one in no apparent order. Wonder what that means, if anything.
The boat arrives and drops anchor a little ways off an island. Suddenly, a large group of natives yell out and start rowing canoes towards them, as contestants’ mouths drop open. Then, from one of the canoes Probst steps out and climbs onboard their boat.
He tells them that before the game can begin, they have to be granted access to the land by participating in a tribal ritual. He says at times they may find it beautiful, at times they may be repulsed, at times afraid. I don’t know about them, but I’m intrigued. He emphasizes that the chief will be leading the ritual, not himself, and that the ceremony is authentic and taken seriously by the natives.
The first player we hear from is Mia, who says she was really nervous going into it. I guess we can figure that she survives. Travis, wearing a bright orange Bob Barker t-shirt, tells us that he was not thrilled about going down the ladder into a canoe, because he only learned to swim six weeks prior! Guess he didn’t need swimming for his earlier professional wrestling career. Whoops! His canoe turns over! He grabs onto the rope ladder for dear life.
The canoes bring the contestants into a circle as other natives circle in their own canoes. They are then brought to land and a bunch of tribesman come running at them with spears raised. John P. wonders if they are supposed to defend themselves. Um. I’m thinking that would be a bad idea, John.
Rory tells us that everybody had spears jabbed at them – except him, the only black man. Then some of the natives start pulling the women out to one side, where they have to kneel on a mat. Meanwhile, the guys are closer to the center and have a place to sit.
One of the tribesmen uncovers a bowl of liquid. Lea thinks he is supposed to wash his hands in it, but no – he’s supposed to drink it! Rory says it looks like mud and when you drink it, your lips, tongue, and throat go numb. Doesn’t look like Travis’ are going numb – he’s too busy spitting it out and getting laughed at by village children.
Ami says the women were waiting for their turn, but it never happened. I’m thinking I wouldn’t be too upset about not having to drink that stuff, but they’re more upset at being ignored.
As night falls, they enter a new phase of the ceremony, and it must be interesting because Probst gets up to warn the players to keep in mind that what will happen next is a common part of their tribal tradition. They are carrying a pig out, tied on a stick. Hey, wait, it’s not dead yet. Well, okay, now it is – as it’s slaughtered right in front of them. Some of the women are bothered by it, but not Dolly, who is a sheep farmer.
The chief takes the pig’s blood and, following in the footsteps of Mike Skupin from Survivor 2, puts it on the faces of the men, which Travis says makes them Vanuatu warriors. Once again, the women are ignored.
Probst takes center stage to say the final part of the ceremony involves a spiritual stone that is supposed to ward off evil spirits. He notes that, as they’ve seen, men and women are treated very differently and the chief is inviting the men to have the stone. But they have to get it from the top of a pole greased with pig fat. If they fail, the women get it. At this point I’m wondering: Is this the first immunity challenge? Is the stone this season’s immunity idol? Or am I getting ahead of myself? I guess we’ll find out shortly.1 2 3 4 Next-->
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