Now, we move to a boat being rowed by a bunch of aspiring basic-cable hosts whom I certainly hope I never have to see again, let alone write 150 pages about in the next three months. Ha ha ha! Just kidding. No, these are totally the new castaways, and I will learn to love them. And by "love them," I mean "hate them," but at this point, I'll be damned if it's not basically the same thing. For now, it's just a bunch of pretty people rowing and rowing and rowing to nowhere, like it's Groupthink Day at Bally's Total Fitness and they've all grown tired of the elliptical trainer. And for an added bonus of the confusing kind, there are twenty people on the boat. Yes, bloat has now carried us from the sixteen contestants of the first season to the eighteen contestants of the eighth and ninth seasons to the twenty contestants of this season. Because bigger always means better. It should also run for thirty episodes, and it should give away $5 million, and Probst should wear lifts in his shoes. It's what you call creative growth, people. As this approximation of the touring cast of Cats rows, rows, rows its boat, Probst explains that they've been put out here "with only the clothes on their back [sic] and one canteen of water each." And Jeff swears that this time, the game will be different. No, really! Really different! Baby, this won't be like all the other times he's said it. Sure, he's got a lot of ladies, but you're the only one he really cares about. Don't go away mad, kitten.
Rowing! Boat-o-Probst! Probst's sporty cap! Swelling music! Probst snarls over the roar of the boat's motor, "Thirty-nine days, twenty people, one survivor!" And nothing says "we're changing everything" like repeating your opening patter verbatim from previous seasons.
I'm not going to bother going into a lot of detail about the credits, except that they contain even more grunting than usual, like we've dropped in unexpectedly on a bunch of guys lifting weights. "HYUUUH!"
After the credits, we peek down at the sharks underwater. These are the sharks who will become your friends. You will root for them many times in the coming minutes and days. "Goooo, shark!" you will say. And then you will pretend to feel guilty, but really, you will be amused by your own blood lust. "Day 1," reads the little yellow caption as we drift along the ocean floor, staring at the wreckage of some mondo military vehicle. I have a feeling that if you happen to know a rust fetishist, this would be the season to get him or her tuning in to Survivor. We move to the underside of the boat-o-survivors, and then we finally surface. As the boat makes its way aimlessly toward...something (given that direction is apparently being provided on a need-to-know basis, even though they are rowing right now), the banging drums kick up and the boat-o-Probst comes into view again. The show is extremely serious, by the way, about making it appear that Jeff is driving his own great big boat, because the insurance company wouldn't get golf-ball-sized gallstones over that or anything. Jeff pulls up the boat "he" is "driving" next to the boat-o-survivors and "stops." They all stop, too, and stare at him. For a minute, things are a little tense, and it occurs to me that someone in this scenario may be eaten. Now that would get the season off to an unusual start. Although if they ate Probst, you know who they would get to host? Fuckin' Rupert. So that puts me in the unfortunate position of rooting against the castaways having an uprising at the end of which Probst is devoured.