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Survivor: Redemption Island Episode 1 analysis: The good, the bad, and the former federal agent

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Written by : published Thursday 17th February 2011

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So the wait is over!  Survivor returned for it's 22nd season last night with Redemption Island.  It's a pretty simple premise really, 39 days, 18 people, 1 survivor.  So, now that we've had our cast introductions, let's break down what we saw, and make a few bold predictions!


If you missed the premiere episode don't worry, you can watch Episode 1 here, and then check out my Survivor Examiner full episode recap.  This weekly analysis for TVKing will assume you've already caught up on what happened, and will act sort of like a companion piece to my full recap, so if you're caught up then keep reading!


So what were your general impressions?  For starters, I was instantly excited and thought that this season holds a lot of promise.  The verdict is still out on Redemption Island, and how it effects the game.  There are so many layers to consider at Tribal Council, now that the person doesn't go home.  And what about seeing Boston Rob and Russell again?  I personally love this, and already you can see the effect this has on the game.  Sure, on one hand, their presence does over-shadow us getting to know the other 16 players, but I am so stoked to see these two in the game that it almost doesn't even matter.  Here's what I noticed:


Boston Rob:  Rob is just a cool dude, but you can tell he's ready to play this time around.  On Heroes vs. Villains I felt like Rob was 80 years old, as he often talked about the "good ole' days" of Survivor, and how the game has changed...how maybe he wasn't ready for those changes.  Well, he seems focused, confident, and ready to raise hell this season.  Already, his charisma and experience has made him the tribe leader, and he has an uncanny ability to attract young women (please Rob, write a book and share your secrets!!)  Can Rob win?  I don't think he can, but without a Tyson-like boneheaded move from an alliance-mate, Rob already looks capable of making the merge with a strong alliance...if they can keep the numbers heading into it.


Russell:  Now to Russell...equally famous in the Survivor-verse, nobody creates fear, panic, and nervousness more than Russell.  I mean, I get butterflies by his mere presence on the show.  He too, is ready to play, but was smart enough to realize that he had to confront his tribe and attempt to create a new image.  But as we saw, Russell is Russell.  He was always an aggressive, cut-throat player who would do anything to win, but I think his fatal flaw is that now he thinks he's a king...the "greatest" to ever play.  He appears to be the same old Russell, even approaching the young girl of the tribe as his right-hand woman...This to me, is the predictable approach, and I'm not sure it'll work for a 3rd time.  But don't for a second count him out...remember Parvati?  She was so feared that on Day 1 people wanted her gone...and she made the final 3.  Just because Russell is feared doesn't mean that he can't go far...but come on, this guy will NEVER actually win.  I however, will cheer to the bloody end that he can somehow make it to a 3rd consecutive Finale Episode.


So look what I've done...I, like CBS, seem to be focusing all of my attention on these 2 Survivor All-Stars and not on the new 16 players.  To be fair, there was so much going on this first episode, we all knew it would be impossible to get to know everybody.  But even in the shadow of Rob and Russell, there were definitely a few stand-outs and players of interest...


Phillip:  Did you know that Phillip was a former federal agent?  He may have mentioned it once or twice or fifteen times.  When I saw Jeff Probst compare Phillip to Coach in his pre-season cast assessment, I was shocked.  You don't just go around comparing people to Coach, perhaps the looniest crazy person this side of the Tea Party.  Oh wait, this is my first article for TheTVKing, I mean no offense to my Tea Party readers out there...Anyways, Phillip lived up to this comparison.  We've seen people go crazy early on (Holly last season), and then rebound back to planet Earth.  But Phillip seems a special kind of crazy.  Kristina knew better than to trust him, and summed him up perfectly at Tribal when she called him "unstable."  By outing Kristina's Idol and fighting with Francesca, Phillip has no allies right off the bat, and even when we saw him in a working alliance, he doesn't seem to have the social skills to do very well in this game.  But for entertainment's sake, I hope he sticks around for quite a while.


Kristina:  The other new player that stood out the most for me was Kristina.  Early in the episode, she established herself as a hard player, who was always thinking.  And then, good golly, she finds a hidden Immunity Idol without a clue!!!  This wasn't supposed to happen anymore after the "Russell Factor" was supposed to make these Idols harder to find.  But poor Kristina, she misplayed her new-found power and now looks to have an impossible battle to get back into a position of power.  With Phillip being expendable to Boston Rob, they can split their votes again, flush her Idol and vote Phillip off...then it's just Kristina, Idol-less, against Rob's team of 6.  Short of a merge or a Tribe switch, she seems doomed.  The best play she could have made?  What about going to Rob with her Idol earlier?  This may not have saved Francesca, but it would have put Kristina in a better position with Rob and the rest.  I'm just sayin'.


Stephanie:  Over at Russell's camp, the young Stephanie saw Russell enter the game and immediately wanted to connect.  It shows the influence Russell has, that she just assumes he's going to the end because he's Russell.  This time around, aligning with Russell could be the wrong way to go, and the rest of the camp seems to be gearing up to oust Russell.  Even if not with Russell to the end, she may have made a good move aligning with him...if he is indeed targeted, that's just one more week that she's in the game.


David:  We didn't get to see much of David this episode (he's the young guy who showed up wearing a suit.)  But the short clip we did see was of him seeing right through Russell's speech to the tribe.  This, and a short clip where he seems to align himself with soldier Mike.  Small scenes, but unlike Sarita or Ralph (who we see in next week's preview butting heads with Russell), David may be smart enough to avoid Russell's wrath, which may be the best thing to do early in the game.


Francesca:  Now Francesca, or "Franscheheskkea" as Phillip pronounced it, seemed an interesting character as well, just on the wrong side of the numbers.  She's the first person on Redemption Island, so in Episode 3 we'll see her duel whomever is kicked out next week.  I liked Francesca a lot, although her initial comments on the beach about Rob and Russell "sizing them up like prey" was not a good thing to say, and ended up costing her dearly.  Can she get back into the game?  It just occured to me that we may see a few people get voted out at Tribal several times in one season, only to return to the game again.  Will anyone award the million to someone who had their torch snuffed?


As for the rest?  Ralph, Andrea, Ashley, Grant, Matt, Natalie, Julie, Krista, Mike, Sarita, and Steve, we saw them all in bits and pieces, but not nearly enough to form an opinion on their strategy or how they'll fit in this season.  It looks like we'll see a bit more personality from Ralph next week, as the preview showed.


So next week, maybe we'll be able to discuss these others?  Either way it'll be interesting.  So the way it'll work is, every Thursday morning you can expect an analysis right here at TheTVKing.com, where you can also watch the episode if you need to.  The best thing to do is to check out and subscribe (for free of course) to my blog, FilmSurvivor.com, which collects all of my articles in one place:  My full recap and exit interviews with cast from my Survivor Examiner column, my analysis for TheTVKing.com, and my weekly "Survivor Round-up" for TVGeekArmy.com.  It also contains my movie reviews (yes, I have a life outside of Survivor as a film critic in the Detroit market.)


So post your comments and join in the conversation!  What are your thoughts on the new cast?  On Redemption Island?  Does Rob or Russell have a shot at the million?  Can't wait to hear from you!



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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