Survivor: Gabon, Week 1: Negative Nancy and Elephant Dung

After the preliminary shots of African wildlife and the 18 Survivors walking through the savannah, the contestants stand in a line and introduce themselves, telling their name and what they do for a living. It’s interesting to see what people choose to reveal about themselves. Crystal doesn’t let on that she’s a 2004 Olympic gold medalist in track and field, Charlie calls himself a “management consultant” instead of an attorney, which is what the CBS website calls him, and Marcus just says he’s “in the medical field,” although the CBS website calls him a doctor.

The oldest folks on the show, Bob and Gillian, are appointed to be the ones to start off the picking for their respective tribes. The picking doesn’t have to alternate between genders; it’s just based on first impressions from the introductions. Like me at home, the players don’t remember who everyone is, and Bob’s first pick is “Baldy” (a bald man named Ace). If I’d had to pick, I would have called Randy “Gary Busey,” and Marcus “that guy who looks like the doctor friend on the show Ed.”
The yellow tribe consists of Bob, Ace, Sugar, Marcus, Charlie (they both wore suits — they were destined to be together), Paloma, Kelly, Jacquie and Corinne.

The members of the red tribe are Gillian, Crystal, Susie (Charlie, who establishes himself early on as a quotable Survivor, responds to this pick by telling the camera “OK, now we’re playing Stupid Survivor ’cause this makes zero sense”), Matty, Randy, Dan, GC, Ken and Michelle.

Emmy-winning host Jeff Probst says, “Red tribe — you’re a thong, here are your buffs.” Wait, what? “Yellow tribe — you are Kota.” Oh. He’s saying what the tribe names are. And the red tribe’s name is Fang, not Thong. Dang.

Once the buffs are distributed, the players participate in a challenge where they run up a hill. GC and Marcus get to the top first and grab an individual immunity idol, making them safe at the first Tribal Council. A few people have a lot of trouble getting up the hill and have to be pushed or dragged up, including Gillian and Olympian Crystal (her defense is that she was slowed down by the dress and heavy shoes she was wearing), and the Kota tribe wins an extra bag of corn and beans for being the first entire tribe to get up there.

Michelle, the last player chosen, is the first woman to make it to the top, a fact that she thinks means her tribe must not be too smart (I guess because otherwise they would have recognized her obvious awesomeness and chosen her sooner).

“I think we’re screwed in a lot of physical challenges, because Gillian is going to be a huge, huge, huge load to carry,” says Matty. “She’s a slow-moving human being.”

Before the first commercial break, we see snippets of upcoming scenes, and I’m thinking, “No wonder this episode is two hours long, if you’re going to give us previews whenever you go to commercial.” But the preview shows blood streaming down Randy’s face, so it was worth it.

The Kota tribe loves Bob, who’s like a “forever Boy Scout” and can do anything around camp. He gets up on the hut to reinforce the roof, and the tribe applauds him.

The Fang tribe is not loving Gillian, despite the pep talk she gives to convince them that they were awesome and did not in fact suck at the challenge. She then gets really excited about finding elephant dung because it burns well, and it’s really interesting, and everyone should look at it, and there could be something edible within.

Randy concludes that Gillian is “so busy at just trying to look busy, and she’s not accomplishing crap.” And right after he says the word “crap,” we see a shot of the elephant dung. Why did this show not win an Emmy?

Ken, who sees himself as an antisocial nerd, flirts with Michelle by getting her to eat a termite.

Randy hits his head on sharp branch while kneeling to get into the hut, and blood streams down the side of his face. Gillian the nurse can’t really help him (apparently she knows of no home remedies involving elephant dung), so the medics are called in. Randy gets stitches and a big bandage.

Michelle becomes whiny and miserable pretty quickly. She gets really cold, especially at night (which upsets her, since she thought the equator would be warm), and she thinks she’s stuck on a tribe of dorks, while the other tribe has smart, beautiful people.

The challenge is for immunity and reward (flint, for fire), and it involves six people being belted together while going through an obstacle course and digging up bags of puzzle pieces, which the other three people assemble. Kota wins very easily.

Fang debates between kicking out Gillian or Michelle — Gillian because she’s seen as worthless, and Michelle because she’s a miserable “negative Nancy.” Ken gives Michelle a heads up that she’s on the outs because she hasn’t really connected with anyone besides him, and she responds with “they’re all retarded.” Yeah. That’s the attitude they’re talking about, sweetie. Now even I want you gone.

At Tribal Council, Dan says he thinks the tribe did OK at the challenge. This is officially our first clue that Dan is clueless.

There’s a lot of talk about whether someone will step up and be the leader of the tribe. No one wants to do it. GC says the leader should be chosen by the people, and, pushed by Emmy winner Jeff Probst, GC very reluctantly says he’d be the leader if everyone’s OK with it. Of course, everyone says sure (and thinks “better you than me”), and so GC becomes the unhappy leader of Fang.

Oh, and Michelle’s voted out. (I would guess that she was further convinced of her tribemates’ idiocy when she saw that one of them spelled her name “Mishell.”) We don’t get to hear her final words — you’ve got to go online to hear them. Hang on, you are online. OK, then go here. (In a nutshell, she said, “I’m not really surprised. Losers stick together. Fat people stick together. They decided to keep Gillian, who’s like 105, and to vote me, who’s 24 and completely fit. I mean, they’re all idiots.” I’m looking forward to the reunion show already.)

Man, these two-hour episodes take a while to recap. Let’s pick up the pace.

Over on Kota, Charlie’s attracted to Marcus, who, being straight, doesn’t like Charlie in that way, but they do get along well and trust each other. Marcus says they’re in the Large Onion Alliance, with him and Charlie as the inner layer, Jacquie and Corinne being the next layer, and a layer of Bob being furthest from the core.

GC tries delegating tasks to his tribemates, but folks seem a little slow and unresponsive. Randy, who says he has launched “Operation Let Other People Crash and Burn” (you might want to try an acronym, Randy: Operation LOPCAB), tries explaining something to GC, but he doesn’t get it. Neither do I, actually. Boiling water once, or twice, or from the lake, or something. I’d be one of the slow, unresponsive people.

GC steps down from his leadership position after a spat with Gillian, and no one says that they’d like to lead (Dan’s reason is that leading the tribe wouldn’t fit with his management style), so Fang will be leaderless.

The challenge is once again for immunity and reward (fishing gear), and it involves pushing a boulder through gates, getting keys and opening locks. This challenge was closer than the last one, but Kota still wins.

Dan’s the one Kota chooses to exile. While exiled, he is presented with a choice between comfort or a clue to the location of an immunity idol. He picks the clue, which says something about a sandy crater across the lake. Using his self-professed shrewd analytical skills, Dan looks in the lake and then digs futilely nowhere in particular, saying, “I can’t possibly be this stupid that I’m missing something.” Nothing is impossible, Dan.

It looks like Fang will definitely vote out Gillian, but then Dan returns from Exile, sputtering strange things, like how it’s a bad place, and that they should send a weak person instead of a strong one, and how there was a choice to make. People start believing Dan may have the idol, and perhaps it’d be best to boot him out.

The topic of the idol comes up at Tribal Council, where Crystal says she thinks Dan found it. Dan empties his bag, says he doesn’t have the idol, and asks his tribemates to please not try to flush it out, because he doesn’t want to go home yet.

I haven’t been too impressed with Dan’s smarts so far, but emptying his bag was a good move. And one good move deserves another: Gillian gets voted out.