Over the coming months, Inside Survivor is undertaking its biggest list ranking yet, as we count down the 100 best episodes of Survivor ever. As always with these kinds of lists, it’s entirely subjective, and we’re sure many fans will have different opinions. This is simply Inside Survivor’s ranking. Join us each weekday for a new entry.
Season: David vs. Goliath
Episode: “Appearances Are Deceiving” (Episode 1)
Broadcast Date: September 26, 2018
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From the very start, there is something reinvigorating about David vs. Goliath. This 90-minute premiere sets the tone for the season with its colorful and captivating characters and personality-driven storytelling. It’s a million miles away from the dreary, grey palette of Ghost Island, which came earlier that same year. In what turns out to be a raw and unconventional episode, “Appearances Are Deceiving” instantly makes its mark and shows that Survivor‘s still got it.
The screentime here is far better balanced than in many of the 30s seasons, with all 20 castaways receiving at least one confessional. There is no time wasted on elaborate twists or complex game mechanics. Instead, the episode delves into the powerful personal stories of this new cast of characters while quickly establishing the dynamics of each tribe. On top of that, the editing adopts a newfound cheekiness, including the hilarious time-lapsed Christian Hubicki confessional and Dan Rengering’s out-of-sequence idol find.
From the outset, the David tribe has a feel-good collaborative spirit. There is a shared sense of being the underdog that brings the group together. Gabby Pascuzzi and Christian bond over their shared nerddom, cowgirl Elizabeth Olson and “punk rock lesbian” Lyrsa Torres form an unlikely alliance, Carl Boudreaux and Jessica Peet forge a father-daughter bond, and city-slicker Davie Rickenbacker impresses himself and the tribe when he catches an octopus. There are a couple of bumps on the log with Pat Cusack’s initial abrasiveness and Nick Wilson‘s lack of contribution to camp life, but these too are quickly patched over as the tribe as a whole opens up.
A tearful Jessica apologizes for not being strong and opens up about having to step up and support her mom after an abusive relationship. Bi Nguyen, too, shares a story of her own experience with domestic abuse, commending Jessica for looking after her mother. And even Nick, who spent the day coming up with multiple different alliance names, allows himself to be vulnerable when he tells the tribe of his mother’s drug addiction and overdose. While this might sound grim on paper, it’s incredible to learn so much insight into these people in the first episode, and it helps solidify the bonds on the David tribe as real.
By nature of the theme, the Goliaths are set up as the villains, and the contrast in this first episode between tribes is stark. The enigmatic Natalie Cole irritates some of her tribemates with her blunt advice and running commentary on the tribe’s shelter-building. Mike White gets himself into trouble with his blatant idol hunting, which leads to the entire tribe splitting off into various idol searching groups. This includes an interesting meta-conversation between Angelina Keeley and Alison Raybould about idol statistics and how too few women are able to find idols. And then there is “Superman” Dan, who finds the idol but quickly spills the beans to his kryptonite Kara Kay.
Immediately, we get a great sense of these tribes, and we feel for the Davids when they lose the first Immunity challenge. Pat beautifully articulates the sad reality of having to send someone home after three days of bonding. He talks of how the rain brought their hearts together as one heart, and although they now have to sever an artery at Tribal Council, the heart will go on. Then, in a cruel twist of fate, Pat suffers an unforeseen fall on the return to camp and has to be medically evacuated.
It’s one of the most unorthodox and frightening scenes in the show’s history as we return from commercial break with lightning strikes, crashing waves, a boat tossing in the water, and crew members running across the beach with a stretcher. It’s utterly disorientating because it’s so out of the norm. The stormy waters had caused Pat to lose balance and fall on the boat ride back to camp, leaving his back in severe pain. Despite his pleas to continue, the doctors have no choice but to remove him. It’s a gutwrenching moment for Pat and the David tribe, but in a way, it ties perfectly into their underdog story and sets David vs. Goliath off with a bang.
Check back tomorrow when we reveal which episode placed at number 76. You can check out the previous entries here.