Kia ora everyone! I’m excited to be back to provide my critically acclaimed recaps for Season 2 of Survivor New Zealand. Last time you heard from me, I was busy complaining about the winner of the first season of this very show. Luckily, that is in the past, and we have a brand new set of contestants ready to bring the show to a whole new level.
In addition to the new cast of Kiwis, we have a new location in Thailand, new rules with no Redemption Island, the introduction of hidden immunity idols, more castaways in 18, and more money at stake, $250,000. The biggest of these changes being idols, obviously, is a much-needed alteration from the original, slow-paced season. All these seem to be good moves for the show, and I hope it provides heaps of entertainment.
Now onto the actual reason you visited this page… the premiere episode.
The episode begins with a little background about Thailand, and we learn that we actually know how to pronounce the name of this country, unlike Nicaragua. We then get the usual quotes. “I will do whatever it takes to win,” “I watched the show for 18 years,” all as expected, and we learn that Thailand is in fact, hot, breaking news. Finally, we get the picturesque view of Matt Chisholm in the middle of a lake on a grassy pontoon and the season is underway.
My first impression with this cast, as was noted by Renee on the show, everyone is so young. This is like a Millennials vs. Millennials season. We have only one person over the age of 40, in Tara at 44. I would think the younger players bring about more of the competitiveness and willingness to backstab than many of the older ones, with the exception of Barb last season, so this is another step in the right direction.
We also find out that Dave and Matt are good ol’ pals from back in the day. This is much more likely to happen in New Zealand as the population is not nearly as large as the US, but you have to remember, Ali and Patrick on Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers also knew each other as they were friends from university. It did not turn out well for either of them, so I’m curious to see how Dave and Matt are able to navigate this, as it could be a huge advantage or a disadvantage depending on how you play it.
Our first challenge of the season is underway quickly, as we get an individual reward challenge right out of the gates. A couple of things about this idea, you know it is going to lead to picking of the tribes, and I’m not sure we have seen a tribe draft since Gabon. And there is absolutely no way you want to win this challenge. You just can’t do it. Throw it immediately. There is no upside to winning, sure you get to pick your tribe, but that is a lot of pressure from the start, and you put yourself in the leader role.
In this case, Jose not only had to pick her tribe, but she also had to pick the other captain. Way too many decisions to make this early in the game and it is just not a situation you want to put yourself in. I do, however, agree with her choice of Matt. You can never go wrong picking the person who came in second, as the reasoning is straightforward and won’t upset anyone. (Sidenote: Matt looks exactly like Henry from Australian Survivor – if he can perform like Henry did, we will be in for a fun season).
Anyway, the challenge occurs in stages, with nine people advancing through the first round after untying a knot, and three moving on after swimming and finding a bag of puzzle pieces in a box. The final three then need to remember how to count from 1-100 and prove this fact to everyone by doing so.
After Jose displays her math skills, she and Matt split the tribes up in the following way:
Chani (blue): Jose, Arun, Dave, Eve, Franky, JT, Karla, Liam, Renee
Khangkhaw (yellow): Adam, Brad, Dylan, Josh, Kaysha, Lisa, Matt, Tara, Tess
My initial reaction from the split of the tribes is that Khangkhaw is way stronger. There is just no fighting that. Chani is going to get beat bad in the early stages of the game. Also, Matt not picking Dave and hoping to meet up with him at the merge is a gamble, but one that could pay off. JT had a confessional about him liking where he was picked, as the second to last guy, because he won’t be seen as a threat, but also isn’t completely on the bottom. I agree with his logic here, but I think maybe third or fourth last would be a safer position as you having breathing room before you are the weakest remaining of your gender.
Once we break out into the tribes at camp, I notice another detail about the groups. Outside of Adam, Khangkhaw is a pretty boring bunch. I mean they have both a librarian and an accountant. Just talking about that puts me to sleep, and I am an accountant for a living too.
In both tribes, we get a person here or there looking for idols and scrambling to form alliances, unless of course, you ask Liam, in which case no one was doing this. The catalyst of this is JT for the Chani tribe. I got a real AK from Australian Survivor 2017 vibe from him as he was jumping around trying to swing deals with many people right away, it seemed like it may have worked, but time will tell. I really think he is the type of character that can make this season incredible, in the way AK did for Australian Survivor. He manages to pull together the Fab Five of JT, Dave, Eve, Franky, and Renee. I am going to call my shot, as one of these five will win the game, see below for more details.
The other group we see forming, this time at Khangkhaw, is between Dylan and Kaysha, who are looking to create a secret alliance with Adam, Lisa, and Tara. This group is the so-called outcasts, no relation to the Pearl Island Outcast tribe. I love this move by Dylan and Kaysha, they hit it off and decide they want to work together, but not be seen as working together. This way you can never be labeled as a power couple. A key part of Survivor is how you are perceived, and taking control of that as much as you can will help you be successful.
We get to meet Lisa, the aforementioned librarian, who is a superfan of the show. She is so much like the pre-merge Kristie Bennett, but I do not expect her to live up to the same hype. She misses an opportunity with Tess to bond by looking for the idol and instead scares the poor girl never to do so. This was an odd move on her part and she could have made a nice little alliance right there, and as a superfan you have to pick up on these types of chances.
At the reward challenge, we get the Heroes vs. Villians challenge where Sugar lost her top, but in mud, for the reward of flint, tarps, and nails. Making the first tribe challenge an all-out brawl is such a power move that I just need to respect it. These types of challenges are my favorite as there is both the strategy of who goes where and brute strength involved.
At the immunity challenge, we get our first glimpse of the Old Mate Idol, which is a beauty. The challenge consists of a maze, followed by a rope obstacle, and then a puzzle. This was actually a close challenge, but Matt was able to give Khangkhaw a slight lead, and that was all it took.
After the challenge, Jose took all the credit for leading her tribe through the maze, as they just “blindly” followed her lead. What are you even thinking when you say this. You have to know this is not a good thing to say. That is strike two for Jose.
There is little deliberation at camp, and it seems that Karla would be the easy vote. But we move onto Tribal, where we get our first look at a Survivor first – Tribal Council in a cave! I’m not going to lie; I jumped out of my seat when I saw this as I thought it to be such a unique idea and was excited to see the game can continue to astound me with the little things. I did notice two things about this cave though, there looked to be very nice wooden benches for the tribe to sit on, and the echo is very real. The echo adds a little flavor to the Tribal, and I can get behind that, but the wooden benches just do not fit the scene. I need caveman rocks for them to sit on. If you’re to go for it, you need to go all out.
Now that we’ve discussed the important topics with Tribal, we can move onto the actual conversations and voting. So in the first season, it seemed that we never really got anything of value from the discussions at Tribal, but immediately I notice Chisholm is trying different methods this year. He calls out the members of Chani for playing nice, which is unbelievable and unrealistic in this backstabbing game. He then provides some mocking gestures when Liam says he trusts 100% of the people here. This is great; I need more of this as the season goes on. Get the people fired up and more will come out.
The voting begins, and in a shift from the typical first boot of the oldest/weakest person, the Fab Five decide to oust their original leader from power in what has to be described as a blindside. Hopefully the first of many. I do have to say though, Jose would have been much better suited in the first season, where family and team values seemed to be much more of a focus, and something she too was harping on during the episode.
This vote showed a couple of things; first, the five who aligned together earlier in the episode held strong. Second, Liam has no idea what is going on around him, which could make him an easy sidekick for someone. Third, Arun maybe should not have distanced himself so much early on, as he was clearly left out of the vote as well. And lastly, that Matt Chisholm reads these recaps. Last year, I became so captivated with the hot dog style folding papers, and him pulling the votes out of the urn facing the contestants. He finally decided to listen to my pandering and has made both corrections. Good on you mate.
Overall, this was a decent first episode. I think we got to meet almost everyone at one point or another, which can be hard with 18 people. There are definitely some interesting characters as well, which is crucial for the show’s success. Now, I will make my winner pick…Renee. Although I will be pulling for JT and Franky as well.
In the preview for next week, it looks like we get some lovely beach weather to make the nights a breeze to sleep in. We may get a choice paradox, as JT is seen saying something about a clue in what looked like a decision setup. And the medical team will be making their money, as we see Franky passing out as well as I think Kaysha, and everyone throwing up their raw rice lunches. It should be epic.