‘Survivor: Nicaragua’ Episode 1 Recap: Gutter Catastrophe

An excerpt from “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure”
“Don’t you want to see the rest of the movie?”
Pee-Wee: “I don’t have to see it, Dottie. I lived it.”

I lived this first episode of “Survivor: Nicaragua.”  The good folks at CBS were nice enough to let me tag along for the first three days of filming, so I’m going to bring you all of the behind-the-scenes tidbits I can squeeze out of my brain. And sorry, Pee-Wee…I’m going to watch it too.

Alright, I’m excited. Let’s do this.

We start off with Mr. Probst giving us a look at the harsh Nicaraguan terrain. He explains that this is where ancient rainforests battle for survival against some of the world’s youngest volcanoes.

Oh, ancient vs. young…I see what he did there.

Two tribes are making their way through the jungle, but they don’t seem to be divided by age. However, all of the young people are wearing brightly colored clothes and all of the older folks seem to have a blue motif going. Coincidence?

We hear from young Judson first, he explains how real the wildlife is. It turns out there are no fences like at the zoo. Thanks, Jud. Oh, and congratulations on having such an astute observation be our first impression of you.

Then we meet some guy named Jimmy Johnson. Apparently he may have coached some football team that Eagles fans prefer not to talk about.

Oh, and Brenda lets us know that she’s single. I think her exact words were, “Single, single, single, single.”

And then from atop an impressive rock formation, Mr. Probst says something about…

39 Days, 20 People, 1 “Survivor” Blog

Note: He may have actually just said “One Survivor.” I wasn’t paying close attention.

The tribes meet up with Jeff on a lovely, sandy beach. We get a chance to meet the first of two Kellys, this one being Kelly Bruno. Her right leg was amputated when she was only six months old. She doesn’t intend to tell anyone about it right away because she doesn’t want anyone to make assumptions about her.

Behind-the-Scenes Tidbit: Several people could tell Kelly B. had a prosthetic leg before the game began.

Next up, Marty lets us know that he has no idea why Jimmy Johnson is in this game. To whip the old folks into shape, that’s why!

Medallion of Power Challenge: The Medallion of Power (or MoP) has been hidden in the jungle. The first person to find it gets to keep it for his or her tribe. Pretty straight-forward challenge if you ask me.

JPro doesn’t even give them his trademark, “Survivors, ready? Go!” he just tells them to get started whenever they feel like it. Maybe we’re getting a more laid-back Probst this season. Relaxed introduction aside, the players take off in a mad dash to try to find this mysterious artifact.

Behind-the-Scenes Tidbit: Dan is slow. As in sloooooow. As in, I’d assume that’s as fast as McDonald’s Grimace runs.

Finally, Brenda (I think she’s single) spots the MoP in a tree. She scales the tree and snags it for her tribe.

Behind-the-Scenes Tidbit: As they were walking back, Jimmy T. would not stop complaining about how the challenge involved no strategy and how the other tribe would be in trouble once the challenges involved strategy. I think Mr. T. is not long for this game.

Quick Aside: Am I crazy, or does Jimmy T. sound just like Uncle Leo from “Seinfeld”?

Marty is very pleased that Brenda (who he thinks is on his tribe) found the Medallion even though he doesn’t even know what it does. Probst lets him know that it would be good for him…if she were on his tribe.

Dun dun dun…

You got Probsted! Jeff lets them know that the players 40 and older will become the Espada tribe and the players 30 and under will become the La Flor tribe.

The players in their 30s have to go home.

OK, so here are our tribes as they currently stand. Finally…

La Flor Tribe aka The Young Tribe (wearing yellow)

  • Alina – 23, Art Student
  • Benry – 24, Club Promoter
  • Brenda – 27, Paddleboard Company Owner
  • Chase – 24, Race Car Jackman/Country Singer
  • Jud – 21, Student
  • Kelly B. – 26, Medical Student
  • Kelly S. – 20, Nursing Student
  • NaOnka – 27, P.E. Teacher
  • Sash – 30, Real Estate Broker
  • Shannon – 30, Pest Control Company Owner

Espada Tribe aka The Older Tribe (wearing blue)

  • Dan – 63, Real Estate Executive
  • Holly – 44, Swim Coach
  • Jane – 56, Dog Trainer
  • Jill – 43, E.R. Doctor
  • Jimmy J. – 67, Former NFL Coach
  • Jimmy T. – 48, Commercial Fisherman
  • Marty – 48, Technology Executive
  • Tyrone – 42, Fire Captain
  • Wendy – 48, Goat Rancher
  • Yve – 41, Homemaker

Chase is very disappointed that he won’t have Jimmy Johnson on his team. He thinks his tribe is missing out on a strong leader. Apparently he’s under the belief that being a leader is good in “Survivor.” Has he ever seen this show?

After buffs are passed out, Jeff gives Brenda the option of trading the mysterious (and stylish) MoP for flint and fishing gear. Whatever they decide to give up, Espada will get.

La Flor eventually decides on…a commercial break.

Fortunately for you, there are very few commercials in my recaps. La Flor chooses the fishing gear.

Shannon rationalizes this decision by saying the younger tribe should beat the older tribe in challenges no matter what.

We meet up with Espada back at their camp and Jimmy Johnson’s hair is already looking pretty sweet. Jimmy lets us know that he’s a little worried that there could be Eagles or Redskins fans on his tribe…or writing his recaps…

We’re then treated to the quickest alliance in “Survivor” history. Holly approaches Wendy, they share a mutual respect, and they become an alliance. This all happened within the span of about five seconds. Holly even punctuated it by saying, “I’m with you all the way!” It was so quick. Like a game of alliance tag.

Wendy lets us know that the first step in her strategy is to not be the first person voted out. Make fun of Wendy all you want, but that’s a good strategy.

She also says that her husband thinks she’ll be the first person voted out. There’s some moral support for ya.

Jane then proves her “Survivor” cred by starting a fire without flint. That almost never happens.  Go, Jane.

Meanwhile at Casa La Flor, Judson manages to step on something and puncture his foot within three minutes of arriving at camp. Then he stabs himself in the finger with a crab claw. If only there had been fences…

And maybe worse than the multiple bleeding wounds, Judson is dubbed “Fabio” by Shannon. Rough start for Fabio.

When Shannon is done handing out derogatory nicknames, he corners Chase and explains why they should start an Alpha Male Alliance. Shannon then wins some hearts by explaining why he doesn’t want a woman to win. Apparently he’s concerned there may be a woman President of the United States some day. Is he auditioning for “Heroes Vs. Villains 2”?

Behind-the-Scenes Tidbit: The biggest thorn tree in the world is about two feet away from the La Flor shelter. I’m worried someone’s going to stumble off to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night and get a thorn in the eye.

Kelly B. decides that she can’t hide her prosthetic leg much longer, so she calls a group meeting to show it to everyone. Shannon shows his sweet side yet again, saying they have to get rid of her because she’d get sympathy jokes from a jury.

That night at the Espada camp we’re treated to a long shot of an NFL legend puking. That, or Jimmy Johnson was doing his best Donovan McNabb impersonation.

The next morning we find Chase and Brenda flirting with each other. Chase doesn’t want to make promises to two separate alliances, but Brenda is way cuter than Shannon.

Me? I think Chase should align with Brenda. Why? Because if she stabs him in the back, it’ll be great fodder for a country song.

And I have to admit, I may have written Brenda off too quickly in my pre-game analysis. She seemed to have Chase eating out of the palm of her hand. “As deceptive as a Decepticon,” indeed.

Later, Alina and Kelly B. find the first hidden immunity idol clue. Apparently the clue is very difficult to decipher. Meanwhile, Russell Hantz smiles. Then he punches a kitten and kicks an orphan.

Alina is not pleased that she was with Kelly B. when she found the clue. She shares Shannon’s belief that taking Kelly B. to the final Tribal Council is a recipe for second place.

Meanwhile at Espada camp, Jimmy Johnson is giving a pre-challenge speech to rally the troops. For real.

I love “Survivor.”

Before we can start the immunity challenge, the youngins do a bizarre dance to announce their presence.

Yeah, I love “Survivor” a little less.

Immunity Challenge Time: Five players from each team are given rain gutters and are stationed on different levels of a multi-leveled structure. They’ll try to configure the gutters so that water can flow from the top of the structure into a stationary gutter below. The stationary gutter leads into a vat. A lone team member will stand on top of the structure and use a bucket to pour water down the gutters. Once enough water has traveled into the vat, it will trigger a mechanism that will release a set of jigsaw-style puzzle pieces. The last four members of the tribe will then try to put that puzzle together. The first tribe to complete their puzzle wins immunity.

Medallion of Power Advantage: If Espada elects to use the MoP, JPro will pour a bucket of water into their vat. The bucket will fill the vat a fifth of the way. If Espada uses the MoP, it will be available for La Flor to use at the next challenge.

Espada decides to make a statement by holding onto the MoP.

Behind-the-Scenes Tidbit: Jeff Probst swung by before the challenge to see what we thought of Espada not using the MoP. I thought it was a smart move and that they should save it for a more physical challenge. JPro disagreed, thinking the older tribe should do anything they can to get an early numbers advantage.

The Jimmys, Dan, Tyrone, and Marty will hold the gutters for Espada, while Judson, Shannon, Sash, Benry, and Chase will hold the gutters for La Flor. Holly and NaOnka will man the buckets on top of the structure for their respective tribes. Yve, Wendy, Jillian, and Jane have puzzle duty for Espada, while the Kellys, Brenda, and Alina will go for La Flor.

The water La Flor is using is yellow, while Espada’s water is blue. It’s kinda fun, like they’re using Kool-Aid.

The challenge starts and both tribes employ a quickest-path-between-two-points-is-a-straight-line strategy. NaOnka and Holly are really going for it at the top of the structure. Both are hustling to deposit the water as quickly as possible.

Behind-the-Scenes Tidbit: The challenge crew was hoping the gutter portion would involve a lot more strategy. I think they had envisioned a jagged, pieced-together mess.  Surely Jimmy Johnson being splashed in the face with blue water would have made for amusing footage. However, the guys in La Flor outsmarted them. Before the challenge started they came up with the straight gutter strategy. Espada saw this and quickly copied them.

La Flor’s bin filled up first and their puzzle pieces dropped. Espada’s pieces dropped shortly afterward. However, the youngsters plowed through the puzzle to claim immunity. It wasn’t even close.

Behind-the-Scenes Tidbit: Jimmy T. tried to confuse the La Flor puzzle crew by shouting contradicting instructions to them. However, since nobody could possibly confuse Jimmy T.’s voice with a young person, all it did was confuse the Espada team. Jimmy J. was not pleased with this strategy.

Back at Espada camp, Jimmy T. tells the tribe that he’s gunning for Jimmy J. That sound you heard in the background is a CBS executive crying.

However, Jimmy J. thinks Wendy is the weakest link. Holly is not pleased to hear this seeing as she aligned with Holly after a grand total of five seconds.

Wendy knows she’s in trouble because she hasn’t made any strong bonds. Add that to the fact that Holly has stopped talking to her, and she’s right to be concerned.

So who’s going home? The Cowboy or the Cowgirl?

That night at tribal council, Jeff says something about fire representing life. Is that new?

Jane (Espada’s MacGyver) admits that something Jeff said in an article inspired her to learn how to make fire. Winning Emmys and changing lives, that guy.

Jimmy J. goes out of his way to make it known that he’s not the leader and nobody will give him the million dollars. Jimmy T. tells Jeff that he doesn’t buy that for a second.

Wendy thinks people don’t like her because nobody asked her her age. Now, I’m not old and wise enough to be a part of the Espada tribe, but even I know not to ask a woman her age. The rest of the tribe agrees with me.

Jeff lets everyone know it’s time to vote…and Wendy interrupts him! Who are you to question the almighty power of the torch snuffer?!

JPro graciously allows this interruption and Wendy takes the opportunity to give a few reasons why the tribe should keep her around. The best reason? Because she doesn’t have any blisters.

Behind-the-Scenes Tidbit: Jeff tried to start the voting about three times and Wendy kept interrupting him with new reasons to keep her around. Jeff later said that he doesn’t want anyone to ever leave Tribal Council feeling like they didn’t get to speak their mind.

Voting Time: Tyrone votes for Wendy Jo and the rest of the votes are secret.

Jeff tallies and returns; one vote for Wendy, one vote for Yve, four votes for Wendy, and the first person voted out of “Survivor: Nicaragua” is…Wendy.

Her husband was right!

Behind-the-Scenes Tidbit: Poor Wendy got so lost after being voted out of Tribal Council. She must’ve wandered around that graveyard for five minutes.

Verdict: The first episode of any non all-star season always has a little too much “getting to know you” for my taste. But I’m encouraged by how interesting I’m finding Shannon, Brenda, and Judson. Hopefully we’ll hear from Kelly S., Sash, Benry, Dan, and the other silent Survivors next week.

Who’s Going to Win? I don’t know why I always include this section, because I’m always wrong. But so far I’m sticking with my Marty and Kelly B. picks.

What Do You Think? Who is your early favorite? Would you have used the MoP? Should a millionaire be allowed to play “Survivor”?

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