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Survivor: Philippines Episode 1 – First impressions

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Written by : published Thursday 20th September 2012

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Survivor’s 25th season has begun, and my first impression is mixed.  Man, was Russell Swan that annoying the first time around?  And where the heck has Michael Skupin been all these years?

In case you missed the episode, be sure to get caught up by watching Episode 1 of Survivor: Philippines, and then be sure to read my weekly Episode Recap before continuing on to this “Bonus Analysis” coverage.

On large, I felt that Survivor was off to a fairly promising start.  It was very interesting to see how the returning players – Russell, Penner and Skupin – were re-introduced to the game.  One glaring theme that I happened to pick up on?  Have confidence in knowing who you are.  It takes self-awareness and a certain kind of confidence to win Survivor – the ability to know how people are perceiving you and the ability to read other people is the basic name of the game.  What the heck do I mean?

Many of the players in tonight’s episode were functioning at different levels of self-awareness.  So who seemed to start off on the right foot?  How about Skupin, who is confident with where he is in life and is super-pumped for another opportunity to play Survivor.  Then there is Malcolm, cool as the other side of the pillow and just exuding confidence…seemingly with a firm mental grasp on what it takes to win the game.

Then on the other hand you have Russell Swan, the prototypical example of how it is nearly impossible to hide one’s true self on a show like this.  He’s a leader who is trying to adopt a follower’s strategy for himself?  That ain’t going to work.  Then there is Lisa Welchel, who is trying to cover up the fact that she is an iconic TV star.  And although he doesn’t know it yet, Jeff Kent will soon face some trouble now that we know that Dawson knows his real identity.

And don’t get me started on Zane.  Totally unaware of how others perceive him, totally inept at reading others.  But really, has there ever been a more memorable and entertaining first-person voted off the show?

Michael Skupin was an absolute joy to watch return and was my favorite part of this new season thus far.  Not only is this old-schooler back playing an evolved game, but he showed that if he can stay healthy, that he has a real shot this season.  That’s a big “if,” seeing how often he injured himself in just three days on island.  He is absolutely right when he talks about “going with the game,” and he seems to be in a very good position as a likeable guy on a tribe full of people enamored with him.

Penner on the other hand, faces the same uphill battle that Russell Hantz faced when he was the first person voted off of his tribe during Redemption Island.  Penner – unlike Russell Swan or Skupin – doesn’t seem to have the same amount of sympathy going for him, and his reputation as a schemer precedes him.  Even though his chilly reception was expected, I was still surprised to see him isolate himself from his tribe right off the bat.  He wants that hidden Idol, and it may save him if he does happen to find it.  But then what?  Of the three returning players, he faces the hardest challenge of assimilating into the rest of the newbies’ ranks.

But all in all, we were introduced to a few potential strategists, such as Malcolm, RC and Denise (the sex therapist who aligned with Malcolm), and there is a wide-range of interesting players to root for.  There are also likeable players that we kind of know don’t stand a real chance out here, like Lisa Welchel.  Remember though, just because she was shown having a mental breakdown next week, doesn’t mean that she can’t rebound.  Remember Holly from Nicaragua?  She was filling shoes with sand early on, and nearly went to the end.  If Skupin can somehow deflect attention away from her, she could turn into that innocent, non-threatening and loyal player that is worth sticking around.

Even better, there are still many players that didn’t get much air-time, meaning that we still have a few people to get to know.  Artis, Roxy, Abi, Carter, Pete and Dawson, we barely saw you!

The lasting impression I’ll take from this premiere episode is Skupin’s take on playing at the speed of the game.  Zane is an example of somebody playing too fast for those around him, and it cost him his game.  Had he just done nothing, Russell would have easily been the target.  Speed is important, but Survivor is a marathon.  Out of the gate though, there seems to be a great number of candidates who may be in it for the long-run.

So join me each week right here for my insight and analysis of every episode of Survivor!  What were your thoughts on Episode 1?  Promising cast?  Who was your favorite?  Does Penner stand a chance?  Is Skupin in as good of a position as I say he is?  Post your comments below!!!  See you next week!

Follow me on Twitter, @tomsantilli, and at tomsantilli.com.

About the author SurvivorTom


Tom Santilli is a respected journalist and member of the Detroit Film Critics Society.  He writes several on-line columns, most notably as the Detroit Movie Examiner and the Survivor Examiner for Examiner.com.  He also is a contributor as a Survivor-Insider to TVGeekArmy.com and writes exclusive Survivor in-depth episode analysis for TheTVKing.com. He has been featured on Rob Cesternino's "Rob Has a Podcast" and most recently landed the only exclusive Richard Hatch interview given since his latest legal trouble has surfaced. All of Tom's Survivor coverage as well as movie reviews can be found on his blog the "FilmSurvivor", at FilmSurvivor.com

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