You've heard about it, you've waited for it, and here it is: four tribes, divided by race. Shockingly, the contestants' own good humor about the weirdness of the situation relieves a lot of the discomfort early on. Of course, if you're looking for true "diversity," you might wish for a few more people not from California, not to mention a few more people who aren't already associated with television. On the other hand, it's not bad when the first guy sent to Exile Island used to be on The Naked Truth and is banished for being a rotten chicken-stealer. Hiki (also known as "The African-American Tribe") loses the first challenge after struggling with one of the show's patented puzzle boats, and it quickly becomes clear that as much as The Mark Burnett Accounting Firm And Alligator Wrestling Company may have been hoping for racial politics to dominate, there are also plenty of gender politics to contend with. Specifically, the two Hiki men decide to take over the decision-making, and the three women are like, "Not so much," and before you know it, the first person out is one of the two guys. Goodbye, Sekou. Elsewhere, we learn a little bit about curing headaches with welts, a little bit about incredibly early snuggles, and a whole lot about our humanity. Okay, I'm just kidding about the last one.
Previously: Mark Burnett found himself in the position of saying to several hundred people, "No, I am not kidding. Man, why do people keep asking me that?"
The opening helicopter shot, in which we are flown over an idyllic, misty land mass surrounded by water, is our immediate indicator that our every expectation is about to be challenged, because everything has changed. A sailboat cruises through the water, and what stands out is that it is carrying something other than people who, demographically, could be the members of the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh 1997-98 cheerleading squad, so now it is looking kind of different. The boat pitches as if it is perhaps about to capsize and bring the season to a sudden, dramatic, and possibly rather karmic conclusion, but instead, it settles back down, and we continue.
Jeff "You Learn Something New Every Day, And For Me, Today's Fact Is That Not All Asian People Are From The Same Country" Probst solemnly announces that the ship is "cutting through the remote waters of the South Pacific." You know, I would totally watch Survivor: South Pacific, in which the challenges involved washing that man right out of your hair. But at any rate, Jeff says that we are on our way to the Cook Islands. (From this part of the premiere, they cut Jeff's shout of, "Did you even know there were islands named after Rachael Leigh Cook? My horizons, they are broadened!") These strangers are going to be left without resources and so forth, and they'll be forming their own society, and all those other creepy, rat-in-a-maze things. Behold, the power of cheese.
"This is their story," Jeff says, and the anchor is thrown overboard. He explains that survivors have been given two minutes to get whatever they can. Immediately, all the contestants begin to scramble to untie and run off with everything that's on the ship. There are a couple of live chickens available, and one of them makes a run for it, flapping its way into the water, at which point it's like, "Okay, do I look like a penguin? Do I look like I'm meant for this? Do you suppose one of you useless schmoes with the cameras could get off your asses and help a chicken out?" An attractive young dude grabs the chicken. (Chicken: "Thanks! Oh, wait...shit.") Jeff also announces -- meaning we do not see this revealed to the contestants -- that they have been divided into the much-discussed four racially/ethnically (I'm not going there) separate tribes. There is the Caucasian Tribe, the African-American Tribe, the Hispanic Tribe, and the Asian-American Tribe. Yep, that should cover everybody, pretty much!