Survivor season premiere recap: Twistapalooza

Rupert makes a controversial decision as Survivor: Blood vs. Water kicks off with more twists than a Chubby Checker song
Ep. 01 | Aired Sep 18, 2013

A WATERED DOWN RUPERT? The big fella made a big strategic blunder when he traded places with his wife at Redemption Island, possibly dooming them both.

Monty Brinton/CBS

Alright, that should help. So as I was saying, the couples all come out having spent the night together and — SURPRISE! — Probst tells them they’re going to be split up. But the excitement over this switcheroo is lost amidst another mind-blowing revelation — Jeff Probst has already designated upon which player he is going to bestow the special season-long honor of referring to them simply by their last name. Donaldson. Savage. Penner. Cochran* (gets an asterisk because John shamelessly asked him to do it). Who will join these prestigious ranks? It is none other than…Brad! Excuse me, I mean “Culpepper.”

Curious choice by Probst here seeing as how he has already had one Culpepper on this show before — Brad’s wife — and yet she was treated as a mere mortal and called “Monica” for the duration of her stay. And now, straight out of the gate, Brad gets the Culpepper treatment?!? If I were Monica, I would be PISSED! I’d be all “How come HE gets to be Culpepper?!? Granted, it’s his birth name and I just married into it, but I was here first dammit! What makes him so damn Culpepperish that he gets to go by Culpepper?” But forget about Monica for a second: How do you think this makes fellow newbies like Bankston feel? Or Baskauskas? Or Cody, for crissakes? Cody even sounds like a first name and Probst still won’t call him Cody! That’s just plain rude, if you ask me.

But wait, the twists have just begun! After giving them their tribe designations and buffs (the yellow Galang tribe for the returning players, and red Tadhana for the newbies), Probst instructs everyone to vote someone out of their tribe right here and right now. That’s right, even Culpepper has to vote! “It’s a little early to be voting someone out, I think,” says Hayden. Tough noogies, Hayden! You’re not out there to think! The newbies must reveal their votes first and the vote is unanimous for Rupert’s wife Laura, who is PISSED. You only saw a portion of it on the actual show, but being out there a few feet away from where it was all going down, I can tell you she had a lot more to say about the instant rejection.

Then it comes time for the returnees to vote. It is a split decision between Candice and the other Laura, with Aras becoming my instant hero by voting for Gervase and his Philadelphia Eagles shirt and explaining, “I’m a Washington Redskins fan.” I don’t necessarily think that is true, because if so, I’m sure Aras and I would have had numerous conversations about my beloved football team, but I do know this: That vote was camouflage. None of them will admit it, but my take from my pre-game interviews is that Aras, Gervase and Tina struck an alliance before they ever left the United States. Unfortunately, this is commonplace on seasons with returning players. RC — who was sent home from location with her dad just two days before filming began due to his medical condition — had pre-game alliances as well and even tweeted to me about it.

Pregame alliances were rampant before the Caramoan season as well, and always have been whenever there is a large group of returning players. (So much for the show's original premise of complete strangers meeting each other and having to work things out on the fly.) In this case,  Aras, Gervase and Tina all mentioned each other to me as people they wanted to play with, so Aras’ vote for Gervase — which was made knowing he was completely safe — served the dual purpose of Aras not angering anyone else (like Candice or Laura M.) while also keeping their alliance a secret. Smart.

NEXT: Why Candice was in trouble from the get-go

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