‘Survivor: Redemption Island’ Recap: Best Opening Tribal Council Ever

Quick Note: Jeff Probst has promised us the most memorable opening Tribal Council ever. We shall see J-Pro…we shall see.

Alright…let’s dance.

We start off aboard a helicopter that’s being piloted by the Nicaraguan air force. The passengers? Oh, just three-time Emmy winner Jeff Probst and sixteen random Americans (who are mostly from California).

First up, we meet former Special Agent Phillip. He’s got a real Coach vibe to him.

Next up we meet Fabio-look-alike Matt. Apparently Matt is very spiritual and well spoken. OK, so he only looks like Fabio.

Finally, we’re introduced to Ralph. Ralph admits to being a dumbass and thinks it’s time a dumbass wins the game. Apparently nobody clued him in about “Survivor: Nicaragua.”

Wow, we’re three minutes into this and I’ve already made fun of Fabio twice. I don’t see what the big deal is…they recycle locations, I recycle jokes.

39 Days, 18 People, 1 “Survivor” Blog

Wait a minute…did Probsty say eighteen people? I only counted sixteen.

Let’s take a look at these new tribes, shall we?

The Ometepe Tribe (wearing orange)

Andrea – 21, Student
Ashley – 25, Nurse
Francesca – 36, Attorney
Grant – 29, Yoga Instructor
Kristina – 46, Law Student
Matt – 22, Pre-Med Student
Natalie – 19, Dancer
Phillip – 52, Technology Executive

The Zapatera Tribe (wearing purple)

David – 31, Defense Attorney
Julie – 50, Firefighter
Krista – 25, Pharmaceutical Rep
Mike – 31, Former Marine
Ralph – 45, Farmer
Sarita – 36, Visual Effects Producer
Stephanie – 26, Waitress
Steve – 51, Former NFL Player

Fun Fact: Steve was an NFL teammate of “Survivor: Guatemala” player Gary Hogeboom.

Before Jeff starts off the game, he informs the tribes that they’re going to wait for the arrival of two more players. A second helicopter lands and two behatted (not sure if that’s a word) gentlemen step out.

The first one, who is wearing a Boston Red Sox hat, is greeted by applause.

The second person, who is wearing a fedora, is greeted by looks of horror and disappointment.

J-Pro introduces the two new players. One is known as Boston Rob and the other is known as Russell. Probst goes on to explain that the two players offer a combined 156 days of experience in the game.

Francesca is concerned that Boston Rob and Russell are troublemakers and aren’t interesting in helping either tribe.

Nevertheless, the two players each reach into a bag to retrieve a buff. Boston Rob’s is orange, Russell’s is purple.

The Ometepe tribe bursts into cheers as they realize they’ve received a hard-working, challenge-winning machine and dodged an ill-tempered, camp-disrupting bullet.

Meanwhile, the Zapatera crew looks like it’s Christmas morning and all they’ve received are socks. Which is convenient, as that’ll give Russell something to burn.

Before Jeff sends the tribes on their way, he explains that for the first time in “Survivor” history, when someone is voted out, they will not go home. Instead, they will be sent to Redemption Island where they will live alone. When the next voted-out person is sent to Redemption Island, the two people will duel. The winner stays, the loser goes home for good. At some point in the game, the remaining player will be allowed to reenter the game and compete for the million dollar prize.

Jaws drop…

From there, the tribes are given maps and are sent on their way. As they’re leaving, Probst makes the point that they should make the most of Rob and Russell’s experience. I appreciate the restraint that must’ve gone into him not saying, “Please don’t vote them off.”

We meet up with Zapatera at their beach. Russell let’s us know that we’re going to see a new Russell. A Russell that’s a leader.

Sure enough, he gathers his tribemates together and tells them all that it’d be foolish for him to play the game the way he has in the past. They’d all see through him and send him home. So, they can expect a kindler, gentler Russell. Group hug.

Afterwards, Ralph takes off his shirt to get down to the business of “shack” buildin’. Apparently Ralph’s luxury item is a sweater made of human hair. Seriously, he makes George “The Animal” Steele look like Miss Elizabeth.

Mike then lets us know that the tribe will do well as long as they can stay away from immunity challenges.


Meanwhile over at Ometepe, Phillip is already rubbing some people the wrong way. Apparently he’s kind of a jerk for showing Andrea the proper way to chop a log. Some nerve on that guy. Her, thrust-the-blade-of-the-axe-directly-at-her-foot technique was fine.

Afterwards, Phillip tells everybody that he’s a former federal agent. Apparently this makes him incapable of lying. Not only that, but he’s an expert in being able to read if people are telling the truth or not.

This is just like the Psychic Survivor strategy I pitched to Probst in Nicaragua. You can’t vote me out cause I’ll know it!

Kristina gets the bright idea to start searching for hidden immunity idol clues. She smartly starts digging around the huge honking box of tools they were given. (Seriously, what’s with all the hardware? They should only get a machete and a Dixie cup.) Boston Rob picks up on what she was doing, and tries to help her out a little.

Hate on Rob all you want, but the guy gets this game.

Back at Zapatera, Russell and Stephanie are discussing strategy. Apparently Russell is accepting applications for the new co-star of his dumb ass girl alliance. Stephanie signs right up. For some reason, the sight of Russell walking around camp with a girl half his age is enough to freak out the rest of the Zapaterans.

The next morning at Ometepe, Kristina heads out on an immunity idol hunting expedition…and in true Hantzian style, manages to find one.

Color me impressed.

Immunity Challenge Time:
Each tribe will push four blocks on a track to form the base of a temple. The tribe will race up the blocks. Then they’ll chop a series of ropes to release more steps. They’ll climb those steps and be greeted by a block puzzle. The first tribe to complete their puzzle wins immunity and flint.

Medallion of Power Advantage:
Oh wait, there’s no Medallion of Power this season. Nevermind…

Zapatera gets off to a big lead, getting all four of their blocks into place first. New leader Russell is shouting encouragement as they go…which is unnerving.

Ralph chops through the ropes quickly and Zapatera advances to the block puzzle. Ometepe finally makes their way to the stage and Matt makes quick work of the ropes.

Probst reminds Ometepe that they have a great puzzle captain in Rob. How Probst refrained from giving Rob a hug I’ll never know.

David is leading the puzzle team for Zapatera, which is smart as David apparently has the highest IQ of any Survivor ever.

Yes, even higher than Shambo.

In the end, Ometepe’s amazing puzzle champion wasn’t enough to make up the difference as Zapatera claimed the first immunity win of the season.

Back at Ometepe, Ashley lets us know that it sucks that they lost and it sucks that they have to go to Tribal Council. You know what else sucks? Bad vocabularies.

We then meet up with Kristina who tells Francesca that she has an immunity idol. Kristina also lets Francesca know that she has no idea how to use it. She describes a plan where they get the others to vote for her while they vote for Rob. Then she’ll play the idol and send Rob home.

This plan is ridiculous. There is no reason to turn the game on its head in day three. There are like a dozen more Tribal Councils between now and a million dollars.  Chill out.

Francesca agrees with me, explaining that it’s a fun idea but that Rob is a strong competitor and it might be smart to keep him around. Francesca offers Natalie as the first boot instead.

Meanwhile, Rob tells us that he originally wanted Francesca to go home because of what she said at the beginning of the game about him being sneaky. Yeah, Rob. She knows you’re sneaky, she’s a genius. Or, she owns a TV.

However, now Rob wants Kristina to go home because he caught her trying to find the hidden immunity idol.

Rob gets his alliance together and tells them to split the vote between Francesca and Kristina in case they did find the idol. Rob makes extra sure to slap some Tyson insurance on this plan by telling everyone to stick with their votes.

Later, Phillip is apparently driving Kristina nuts with his strategy discussions. So, she shows him the immunity idol to get him to shut up. That’s enough to get him on board. He thinks he’ll be the new leader of Ometepe after they send Rob home.

That night at Tribal Council, Probst breaks out the classic “Fire means life” line. Although, it doesn’t sound quite right now that fire means you’re sent to the second bracket in the double-elimination tournament.

Matt tells Jeff that Phillip’s bossiness could rub some people the wrong way.

Francesca says their vote tonight should be to keep the tribe as strong as possible.

Kristina tells Jeff that she doesn’t feel safe at all.

Jeff then asks Francesca how Redemption Island will affect strategy. Francesca explains that if someone like Boston Rob were sent there, it’s likely he could come back into the game. She also makes the point that Rob won’t be going there tonight.

Phillip takes exception to that comment saying that Francesca and Kristina had told him to vote for Rob.


Phillip has a meltdown, saying he’s voting for Francesca and that Kristina has an immunity idol.

Best of all, Phillip keeps mispronouncing Francesca’s name and she keeps correcting him.

Rob asks Kristina to show him the immunity idol. She owns up to having it and shows it to him. Rob tells her that he’ll let her stay in the game if he can have it.


Yeah, best first Tribal Council ever.

Probst is giddy. So am I. This is awesome.

Kristina refuses to give over the idol. Rob says that’s fine, but someone is obviously lying. Rob says he’s going to do what he said he was going to do with the people he said he was going to do it with.

Voting Time: Rob votes for Francesca (saying how much fun it is to play with amateurs), Natalie votes for Kristina, Francesca votes for Phillip, and the rest are secret.

Jeffrey tallies and returns. He asks if anyone would like to play a hidden immunity idol…and Kristina doesn’t.

Two votes for Kristina, one vote for Francesca, one vote for Phillip, one vote for Francesca, one vote for Phillip, one vote for Kristina, one vote for Francesca and the first person to be banished to Redemption Island is…Francesca.

Verdict: Wow.

Probst was right. Not only was that the best opening Tribal Council ever, but it’s got to rank up there among the best of all time.

Usually bad gameplay makes for bad “Survivor,” but Kristina’s idol foolishness resulted in pure gold.

Who’s Going to Win? Oh jeez…not Phillip.

Exit Interview Note: Since nobody left the game, there will be no exit interview tomorrow. In fact, we won’t have an exit interview until after the third episode (where the first Redemption Island duel takes place).

Any questions? Any comments?
Drop me a line on Twitter at @gordonholmes.

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