Every few years, Survivor will talk about going “back to basics.” With the debut of their 25th season, Survivor: Philippines certainly seems to be following the classic mode of bringing in exciting new characters, and putting them through the wringer. This time around, they have brought back three returning players, people who had their previous games end early due to medical evacuation.
Survivor has had returning players in the past, some say that the concept has been overused. But with the medevac twist, they have managed to breath new life into the game.
With the first episode, we were introduced to the three tribes, each of them with their own returning contestant, and the game was set in motion. In the end, only one will survive to claim the million dollar prize and the title of Sole Survivor.
The three tribes faced off in the first elimination challenge with the top two finishers receiving immunity, sending the blue-buffed Matsing to Tribal Council where Zane Knight was eliminated.
The first time a tribe goes to Tribal Council, it is always scary, and no one completely knows what to expect . Zane came on strong to try to get the tribe to vote returning player Russell Swan out of the game. But ultimately, his own poor performance at the challenge, and admitting to such, attempting to use reverse-psychology on the group where he had made personal alliances with every single tribe mate, ended up backfiring against him.
He played an aggressive game and ended up overthinking his hand. When that happens, it creates a tempting target for someone else to remove from the board, and giving them the excuse that they were just helping him out by letting him leave the game made it too easy of a solution to their problem.
The remaining Matsing returned to their camp, having survived their first encounter with Tribal Council. Who remains and where do I see their current status in the game?
Malcolm Freberg – Anyone who brings up Survivor: Thailand winner Brian Heidik as their inspiration, and refers to him as “The Iceman,” applauding his “borderline sociopathic” gameplay, is someone who is a hardcore fan and a very dangerous individual. He might very well be the most dangerous player out there. He’s definitely the sort of alpha male figure that Jeff Probst has been longing for to do well. If he’s also a successful villain, he can write his own ticket in the Survivor community.
He’s already showing himself to have a cool head and formed an immediate bond with sex therapist Denise Stapley. As a Heidik fan, I can’t but help but wonder if she reminds him of Helen Glover of Survivor: Thailand, who helped Brian immensely on his road to the final two and ultimately his victory.
Having the sense to allow Russell Swan to dig his own grave by stepping into the leader role, while quietly touching base with everyone else, letting them know that he could be easily taken out at a later time, that is a veteran move from a rookie player.
I wouldn’t count on seeing Freberg leave the game any time soon.
Angie Layton – If this group goes back to Tribal Council in the next couple weeks, I think it’s curtains for the former Miss Utah Teen USA. It’s not that she is in a horrible position or has made herself out to be a big target. In fact, she doesn’t seem to be much of a threat at all, which is great for later in the game, but after falling short on the first challenge, even a hint of weakness going forward is going to make her an easy boot.
Easy boots are awfully tempting, no one has to think very hard about it, and although she was one of the first to jump on the “Anti-Russell Swan” bandwagon, at this point everyone else is on it as well. If she can’t manage to convince everyone that she is worth more than he is, in the short run, she is going to be looking at taking the long walk to her postgame therapy session.
Roxanne Morris: The Army Reserves chaplain is definitely on the wrong tribe. If production had put her on Tandang, her stock would rise significantly due to being around more like-minded people. Things being what they are though, unless she can manage to bring out some of that inner resolve to the forefront and show people why she deserves to be there, she isn’t long for the game.
If she can manage to pull off getting to the first merging of the tribes when they change from three of them into two, she might have a better shot than it first appears. But the trouble is going to be getting there. Her one advantage seems to be that there are so many shiny objects in this tribe to distract people’s attention from her. Once it falls on her though, I don’t know if she is going to be able to escape her fate.
Denise Stapley: They also say, ” In a world of the blind, the one-eyed man is King,” but they might want to consider rewriting that to “In a world of high stress and emotional instability, the trained therapist is Queen.” Because that is where she is sitting now, in a terrific position that shows every sign of getting better. She is allied with Freberg, who appears to be the only person in his tribe other than herself with any real strategy, and she has the experience to be able to figure out where the rest of her tribe is at any point.
It makes you wonder why Survivor hasn’t cast more therapists over the years, in theory at least, they would be terrific at the game. Given her specialty of sex therapy, she is trained in getting people to tell her intensely private things on a regular basis. She has the skill set and the current position to be in this game for the long haul.
Russell Swan: At 45, he is the youngest of the returning players, he is also the only one of them to actually die. Well, OK, so technically he didn’t die on Samoa. But he sure looked like he did! Known more as “The Guy Who Died” and “The Other Russell,” he’s the most obscure of the returning players.
His collapse and removal from the game last time was the beginning of the end of the mighty Galu tribe.
Despite continually saying that he wants nothing to do with the leadership position, his nature keeps winning out, and he takes control every chance he gets, even when it’s clearly not in his best interest. It is as if he is out to prove that last time around wasn’t a fluke and that Galu’s success was due to him. If he doesn’t get his head into this particular game and find a way to fit into the tribe, he is doomed. Which means that he is doomed. There is absolutely no chance that he will manage to stop being who he is, and that will be the end of him, sooner rather than later.
Tribe Assessment: Of the three tribes, this one has the greatest capacity for exploding upon impact. From the moment that the initial interviews were released, it didn’t seem like they would be a group who would be able to gel with each other. The first episode proved how right that was. I foresee seeing quite a bit of this group at Tribal Council over the next couple of weeks.
Survivor: Philippines airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. EDT/9 p.m. CDT.