That’s about the highest I can go for this premiere. It wasn’t stellar. It wasn’t terrible. It was good. And the more I think about it, the more I love it. By next week, it’ll be an 8, honestly.

The biggest problem for me was how lackluster it felt. I was left wondering why things happened the way they did and didn’t get a full explanation for some crucial strategic moments. I can try use my Survivor knowledge to figure it out (and use /r/survivor of course), but if a self-proclaimed “Survivor nerd” has to search for context, then where does that leave the brand new fans? Or the fans that haven’t watch since Sandra’s last season seven years ago? I’m hoping for the best.

Let’s get started.

malcolm andrea marooning
I hope Malcolm and Andrea eventually play on the same tribe

We begin with a marooning and get clips of all our favorites. Malcolm mentions that he’s giddy to make flashy moves. Cirie giggles about coming back to win. Sandra talks about her queen status (for the first out of 800 times). And Debbie says something too. Probst starts the game and everyone scrambles for supplies.

Top 5 moment: Ozzy dives in for the sunken tools and literally NOBODY goes after him. He gets a solid five minute head start. And THEN Caleb decides it’s a good time to catch him. Which, he doesn’t, in case you were wondering. 

The tribes get to their respective beaches and the game begins. I’m always fascinated by the first few minutes of being on the beach. People sizing each other up, thinking about others’ reputations, and how they can change their own reputation. It’s like coming back from summer vacation to the first day of school and you’re looking for your friends, but you aren’t sure who your friends are anymore. They’re hanging out with different people, there’s a new kid that nobody knows and you don’t know if you should be his friend, and the big bad llama has returned. What do you do?

I’ll tell you what not to do: anything that Tony does. Tony decides to play around with the others, yell out that he’s going for the idol, and makes loud llama noises as he runs. Instead of it being this playful, fun act, it actually turns the bullseye directly onto him. Nobody trusted Tony going into this thing and nobody trusts him on day-freaking-one.

His one saving grace, though, is a small child named Ciera. Look, it’s an all-star season. I would expect people to hit the ground running and go 0-100 real quick. Apparently this season is a little different, with nobody wanting to make the first move. Except Ciera (big movez) Eastin. She suggests they take out Tony and, maybe, split the votes with Caleb. It’s not a bad plan since the guy is running around asking for a bigger target. But these players see someone offer a name and instead of taking the name, they target the one doing the offering. She’s overplaying, I guess. IDK.

ciera overplaying
” I promise it’s me and you to the end. I definitely haven’t said that to anyone else, so if they tell you otherwise it’s all lies. Also I voted out my mom, so don’t mess with me.”

Over on the Nuku tribe, things seem to be going well. The biggest piece of conflict we get is between Cirie and Ozzy, and this is another thing I love about returner seasons. Their past gets brought into the present and directly affects their future in the game. Cirie wants to work with Ozzy (or just be sure he doesn’t want her out) and Ozzy seems to let bygones be bygones, but we know Ozzy is about tribe strength and Cirie is not the most helpful in challenges. The two play each other well… until Tai steps in.

Top 5 moment: Cirie makes amends with Ozzy -> Ozzy tells Tai that Cirie should go for being weaker -> Tai tells Cirie to make amends with Ozzy -> Cirie confronts Tai -> Tai becomes mute. THIS IS TELEVISION GOLD. Watching Tai try to think of a quick response only to stay silent for a long period of time is phenomenal. 

So Cirie knows to be watchful of Ozzy. There go my hopes of the two aligning. And with a challenge win from the Nuku tribe, there’s no worry of a Cirie-Ozzy showdown.

We get back to the Mana camp and a group huddles by the water well making a plan for the vote. Ciera is the target and, also, is walking up to the water well. They come up with a fake target – Michaela. She’s an unknown, let’s just get rid of her to make things easy. This is about the point where I become frustrated at Ciera. She knows they’ll want to keep the tribe strong (it is the first vote, you know) so the target should be someone weak. She KNOWS this. But when they say Michaela’s name, someone who just showed her strength in their first challenge and is definitely not among the weaker players (looking at you, Varner), she believes it. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

mana losing
Michaela (the weakest) leads her tribe as Troyzan regrets everything

Long story short – they go to tribal council and Ciera is voted off in an incredible 9-1 vote. I don’t know the last time a vote was THAT unanimous with such a large tribe. Someone should look that up, maybe I’m mistaken.

Ciera heads to Ponderosa where she can only talk to herself about all the big movez she wanted to make. Hopefully her eventual fourth time doesn’t end so badly.

Now for part two…