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Surviving Guatemala, Episode 1: Take a Hike!by David Bloomberg -- 09/16/2005
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After a Summer of Suffering, er, Secrets in Big Brother, it’s finally time for a new edition of Survivor to begin! The familiar face of Jeff Probst welcomes us to Northern Guatemala, where he is surrounded by ruins thousands of years old. Hidden deep in the jungle, they are a monument to a once powerful and sophisticated nation – the Maya.
Moving into a history lesson, Probst says they were best known for their celestial knowledge and uncanny ability to calculate time (and you thought Swiss watches were good), the Mayan culture thrived… and then mysteriously vanished. Today the jungles are home to dangerous wildlife – and that’s before the players even arrive! There are poisonous snakes and crocodiles in every body of water. It’s an unforgiving environment with extreme temperatures, high humidity, and torrential rainstorms. Sounds kinda like Central Illinois in the summer.
A group of contestants have already begun as we join them. They have been divided into two tribes and are hiking to an unknown destination. “It is the ultimate challenge,” Probst says, “18 strangers forced to work together.” Yes, he said “18,” not the 16 that are shown on the official website. “In the end, only one will remain to claim the million-dollar prize.”
“Thirty-nine days, 18 people, one Survivor!”
The intro echoes the “18 people,” but shows only 16. They’re going to try to keep us in the dark as long as possible – even though it was one of the worst-kept secrets in show-biz.
The contestants arrive at the Mayan ruins and line up in their two tribes, Yaxha (wearing blue) and Nakum (wearing yellow). Yaxha is made up of Rafe, Gary, Lydia, Morgan, Jamie, Brian, Brianna, and Amy. Nakum is made up of Margaret, Brandon, Blake, Danni, Jim, Judd, Cindy, and Brooke.
Probst welcomes them and tells them they will live amongst the ruins like the Maya did. Er, except they weren’t ruins then, of course. They will each live at separate camps – when they arrive, they will find a few items similar to what the Maya used. In addition to those things, each tribe will get one other tool to aid them.
And those tools are… the worst-kept secrets in show-biz: Bobby Jon and Stephenie from Survivor: Palau. They walk out atop a pyramid to the excitement of the new players below. Probst says they are two “proven” players. Uh, yeah, proven to lose. I mean, okay, they were the best of the losers, but still, their tribe was so bad it created a new term for losing, getting Ulonged, and was recognized as such in the Reality TV Hall of Shame. Stephenie is described as probably the strongest woman ever to play. OK, I’ll buy that. Bobby Jon is called arguably the hardest worker. I’ll buy that too.
Stephenie is on Yaxha, which Brian tells us he just loves! Brianna cries because “she is such an inspiration.” Jamie, on the other hand, wants to know how he’s going to win a million dollars with her there!
Bobby Jon, of course, is on Nakum. Danni brilliantly points out that a man is stronger than a woman, so it’s great that they have Bobby Jon. Cindy says Bobby Jon won’t quit for anything, so she’s happy as well. Brandon, who apparently doesn’t know anything about Survivor, says Bobby Jon is “supposedly” a hard worker, so he hears. But he seems a bit dumb. Yes, farmer boy Brandon, who seems to not even know who Bobby Jon is, is saying that about Bobby Jon. Yeesh.
Probst wants to make something clear: Bobby Jon and Stephenie are full-fledged players in the game. He even goes so far as to say the other players can use their experience to help them, or they can use them as an easy first target. I know what Jamie is thinking!
Immediately, it’s time for the first reward challenge: a grueling 11-mile race through the jungle. It will be long, hot, and filled with snakes and crocs. The race ends at the better campsite, which is also an actual Mayan ruin, and the winners get to call it home and get flint for fire. The losers get no flint and a worse camp.
Each tribe gets a map and compass, and can also take water, fruit, and bags of corn – it’s up to them to decide how much to take. Let me give them a hint here: Take all the water you can carry!
And they’re off! Nakum gets to the food and water in what Brooke describes as “mass chaos.” They start breaking open fruit to eat it on the spot. Ah yes, always a good idea – get the digestion going just before a long grueling hike. Dumb, dumb, dumb. Brandon says that being a farmer, the last time he hiked 11 miles was… never. He grabs fruit by the bundle and jogs after his already-departed team – and drops the fruit and slips right onto his ass. Bobby Jon, meanwhile, is happy to be back in the game and feels like a million bucks. But he knows they’ve got to make time because Stephenie is certainly running the Yaxha tribe.
Cut to Yaxha, where Stephenie is trying to get them moving. She tells us that coming into the game, she was afraid she’d be the outsider – but Yaxha welcomed her with open arms. Still, she’s a bit nervous that they might want to get rid of her. They start hiking as they debate how to pronounce their tribe name. I’m just happy I only have to spell it.
Nakum takes an early lead but they’re having trouble walking in a straight line through the jungle. Jim, who has done mountain climbing and was in the Marines, takes control by directing people where to go. Basically, they send the flag-holder ahead a short distance, make sure he’s straight, and then catch up. It’s accurate, but slow.
At Yaxha, quarterback Gary naturally assumes the leadership position, directing his receivers, er, tribemates on their route, er, path. Rafe tells us that the leaders always get voted out first on Survivor, and it was clear that Gary was the leader – he’s taller than everybody and has gray hair. Must be like a gorilla thing, where the silverbacks lead the clan.
Somebody asks Gary what he does, and he says he has a little landscaping business. Well, they didn’t ask him what he used to do. He tells us that he doesn’t plan to tell anybody that he was in the NFL or, indeed, even his real name. He’s going by “Gary Hawkins,” and if anybody recognizes him he’ll say they’re mistaken.1 2 3 Next-->
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