Survivor: Island of the Idols

Episode 1 – Instant Reactions

Quick thoughts and feelings on tonight’s premiere…

Photo: CBS

Welcome to Instant Reactions, a new weekly feature where I’ll be giving my immediate thoughts on the latest episode. These are unedited, unfiltered feelings on the episode, mostly written during the commercial breaks.


Poker players, man, they’re just not cut out for Survivor. As our resident Stat man Rob Brodeur just said to me: “How is Jean-Robert still the best poker player to play Survivor?” 


I mean, it’s not as if Ronnie did anything particularly egregious here. He didn’t do a Garrett and ban everyone from game-talk. I think he just came on a little too strong and didn’t do a great job in hiding his true intentions. For a poker pro, his reads were off… and Elaine immediately sensed he was a “weasel” during their beach chat. 

It makes a nice change for the first boot, though, seeing as the other options were Elaine (the older woman) and Vince (the Asian dude), two archetypes that are common early vote off fodder in Survivor.  


Just like Keith’s swimming lesson last season, if you leave camp on your own (or in a small group) for any reason early on, you become an instant target. That’s what happened to Jason on the Vokai tribe, who was immediately accused of idol searching. Meanwhile, on Lairo, Elaine, Tom, and Vince (a trio I never knew I needed) became the scapegoats for daring to chop trees out of sight of the group.

Advice to anyone going on Survivor in the future—chain your ass to a tree in the middle of camp and don’t move for at least three days.

Thankfully, these early divisions didn’t stick… at least not on the Lairo tribe. I get it; nobody wants to be the first boot, so jumping on an opportunity is going to happen. But committing to an alliance that early over such a meaningless thing can only lead to disaster. You don’t know anybody yet. You could have just aligned yourself with the most annoying person on the island. So I’m glad Lairo seemed to actually gravitate more towards personalities when it came to the vote.


I know this isn’t an Edgic post, but I couldn’t help but notice the first seven confessionals went to women. And of those seven, the two that really stood out were Janet and Missy. Both of those ladies got to tell their story pretty much immediately. And Janet went all Liam Neeson showing off her special set of skills… she didn’t murder anyone–she just started fire (without flint!). She handled herself well in the Immunity Challenge too. I’m all for Janet becoming the challenge beast of the season.

We also heard from Karishma, Lauren, Molly, Kellee, and Chelsea in the first ten minutes or so. All of them gave kind of general “we’re excited to be here” and “what is this theme about?” confessionals.

This alone doesn’t mean a lot, but then later in the episode, Missy straight up talked about forming a womens’ alliance and expressed how she’s sick of women going home first. Does this mean women will dominate this season? It’s obviously way too early to tell, and recent season trends don’t point that way, but it would be fun to shake things up a bit this season. It should be noted that for the first time since Kaoh Rong, a woman wasn’t the first boot (thanks again Rob, sorry for stepping on your Stat toes… check back Saturday for Rob’s full Survivor Stats rundown for the premiere).

And tying into this women empowerment theme…


Eww. There’s getting to know your tribemates… and then there’s getting to KNOW your tribemates. An uncomfortable thing to watch… and I’m sure even more uncomfortable for the tribemates.

But I liked that the women voiced their concerns and that Kellee approached Dan about his touchy-feelyness. Hopefully, that sets some boundaries going forward. It’s a very timely topic right now, so Survivor addressing this can be a good thing.


And finally… what to make of the season’s theme?

Back when we first found out about this Rob & Sandra twist, I was one of the few that was okay with it. Yeah, Rob and Sandra are a little oversaturated at this point, but I still like them both as characters. Sandra is my all-time fave. So them coming back as mentors and bantering together on an island seemed like a potentially fun idea.

I’ve changed my mind a little since then. I think I found the twist more palatable earlier this year when it came off the back of the nauseating Edge of Extinction season. At that moment in time, any twist sounded better than time-waster island with the free pass to the finale.

But the closer we got the premiere, the less excited I became. A big part of that is because of how likable this cast seems. It’s a diverse, interesting bunch, and it made me feel kind of bad that they were going to be overshadowed by Rob and Sandra all season (not to mention by the upcoming all winners season).

Speaking of the all winners season, the fact that we’ll be seeing Rob and Sandra on Season 40 in a few months (potentially in every episode given that EOE is back) also takes away from their involvement in this season. It all just seemed so unnecessary… and most likely just a way to up Rob and Sandra’s fees for coming back next season.

How do I feel now? Honestly, I’m not quite sure. Hey, this is an instant reaction… my feelings aren’t clear yet. There were parts I enjoyed… mostly the fact that Rob & Sandra got to watch Tribal Council in a secret spy shack and make snide comments like Statler and Waldorf. Quote of the night… Rob: “Was it this hard for you?” Sandra: “F**k no.”


The actual Island of the Idols twist, though? It was a little time consuming. Elizabeth was a decent first choice to go there as she sold the excitement well. She has this wide-eyed stare that makes everything seem more shocking than it actually is. She was so overwhelmed that she even thought those statues were “cool.”

But watching Rob & Sandra teach someone how to make fire felt more like a YouTube tutorial series than an entertaining Survivor twist. Maybe it’s just because we’re burnt out (yeah that’s a fire pun) with the Final 4 fire-making twist that having to watch more fire-making in the premiere felt like a chore? Also, people really shouldn’t be coming on Survivor not having pracicted how to make fire. I kind of wish Janet would have gone to the IOI and absolutely smoked (yeah that’s another fire pun) Rob in the duel.

I don’t hate the twist right now. But I don’t love it either. It will really depend on how its utilized week to week. Also, did anyone else think Rob sounded overly scripted? It was like Probst had written his lines for him.


Hey, maybe don’t show a preview ad of the tribe entering Tribal Council before we’ve seen the Immunity Challenge?

Written by

Martin Holmes

Martin is a freelance writer from England. He’s represented by Berlin Associates for comedy writing and writes about TV and entertainment, currently for TV Insider and Vulture, previously Digital Spy, ET Canada, and Yahoo. A finalist for the Shortlist Sitcom Search in 2012 for “Siblings,” Martin received his BA in English with Creative Writing from The University of Hull. Martin is the owner and editor-in-chief of Insider Survivor.

5 responses to “Episode 1 – Instant Reactions”

  1. I loved this premiere! I thought the cast development was much better than the last few seasons. (Yay for a 90 minute premiere) The castaways seem like a very diverse group who could provide a lot of excellent content going forward. As for the Island of Idols I thought was great!! I had goosebumps just like Elizabeth. It didn’t feel like it took too long or took too much away from the development of the newbies, and the fact that Elizabeth lost her vote on a stupid move was great. It didn’t feel scripted to me at all. I felt that was the real Rob! He spoke just like he did on all his other seasons. I would have liked a bit more Sandra. Hopefully they’ll have her lead out more in future episodes. This premiere got me super excited for this season. (Which is what it’s supposed to do) We’ve been watching all the past winner seasons in prep for season 40 and this premiere was one of the best in a long time.

  2. I am an old school viewer so I prefer few gimmicks, no HII’s, and a brutal, life threatening first challenge.
    But I also realize younger viewers have demanded the gimmicks et cetera. That crap brought us 40 seasons and I am pleased.
    – I will gladly accept Rob and Sandra IF we get 90 minute episodes every week.
    -If the only source of Idols is from them… fine. I think in 200 days of playing, they had, what, 4 Idols?
    – Casting looks good. No complete morons on the beach this season!
    – The scramble editing was a clusterf***. Go back… the hockey player had sand on his back returning to camp, then got in the water, but one of the last scenes before TC, he’s got the same clothes and sand on his back. furthermore the sun angle in scenes gives away the timeline… editor’s mashed crap together haphazardly. (Or the sun was in serious retrograde!). Editors effed it up.
    – Vote reading was clever. “No Vote” was never revealed keeping IOTI secret a little longer.
    – Wish we knew or the edit would show who sleeps where.
    – As the stomach turns… Boston Rob and Kathy Verbeek O’Brien did the nasty in Marquesas. Rob and Amber in All Stars… Rob and Sandra hooking it up too?

    • It wasn’t Rob and Kathy VAVRICK O’Brien doing it early in Marquesas, it was Sarah “Cleopatra with the fake high-beam headlights” Jones.

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