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'Survivor: Nicaragua' recap: Former NFL coach Jimmy Johnson emerges as early favorite

99280_D00893 OK, I don’t want to start this season off on a bad note, but I have to admit: I found it somewhat more challenging than usual to get into the premiere of “Survivor” Wednesday night. Sure, the first episode always includes the necessary introductions, but I found myself striving to form a quick feeling of love or hate for any of the castaways. (One exception being Jimmy Johnson. Love at first sight.) It makes sense that it’d be harder to connect to the show after last season, where old favorites were showcased on “Heroes vs. Villains.” But even the season before that -- when the evil Russell Hantz stole the show -- set a high bar. I can only hope that once we learn more about the new tribe members in the coming weeks, my “Survivor” obsession will be back in full swing.

This season, the tribes have been divided into young (La Flor) versus old (Espada). It’s a split I don’t know I’m all that excited about. For one thing, without sounding ageist, I think it seems inherently unfair. The young tribe is more physically fit. And let’s face it, even though there are a couple of puzzles thrown into the challenges, the majority of them involve some pretty rigorous physical activity. Not to mention the toll that simply living on the island has on the body. And those with older bodies -- like Jimmy J., who dry-heaved dramatically on only his first night -- already are showing signs of wear and tear. But beyond the potential unevenness, I don’t like the dynamic that typically emerges when young and old players are divided. In past seasons when the younger players have bonded together, they’ve quickly become obnoxious and egotistical, bragging about how strong they are and spending most of their time flirting. Meanwhile, the older players come off as pathetic underdogs, bitter that they’ve lost their youth.

There are already a handful of contestants on La Flor who I’m finding annoying because of their bravado.

Shannon, the ignorant eye candy. “It’s important that we don’t let these girls take over,” he told Chase, the second-most-muscular guy in the tribe and with whom he immediately formed an alliance. “I mean, we already get owned in marriage. Pretty soon we’ll have a woman president.” I know this is the kind of trashy remark the “Survivor” producers must love, but really? Gross. One plus? He referenced Boston Rob's and Russell’s game on “Heroes vs. Villains” last year, which means he’s at least paid attention to the game in the past and might have a strategy he wants to employ.

Jud, the blond surfer dude, a.k.a. "Fabio." First of all, what did this guy get stuck on his thumbnail? It looked brutal. Second, why isn’t he defending himself against the horrible nickname "Fabio," which doesn’t even seem to fit him, because his hair isn’t all that long and he couldn’t seem less European.

Brenda, the flirt. OK, she seemed somewhat endearing, and she’s certainly beautiful. But I never like the girls whose only game-play is using their sexuality to get ahead, especially when that’s the first thing they say out of the gate. “I’m kind of used to having guys do what I say,” she shrugged coyly. Blah.

Meanwhile, for whatever reason, I’m totally loving some of the older players.

Jimmy Johnson: This guy is awesome. He’s got great spirit and seems to be up front about his physical weakness at 66, which is a smart move. And I love how his tribe mates are alternately starstruck by him and repulsed by his celebrity. But I’m not sure if I buy his “there’s no way I’m going to win a million dollars, so I’m just here to help all of you win a million dollars” line. I can already tell that he’s a man many of his tribe members respect for what he’s done in the past, and if he takes on a leadership role in the game, the jury could feel he deserves the prize despite the fact that he’s already financially sound. 

Jane: She's something else. She took Jeff Probst’s comment about learning how to start a fire to heart and quickly got a flame going within hours of setting up camp. “If they think I’m some middle-aged housewife that toodles around the house all day long, they’re in for a surprise, because that is not me,” she said, adding that she recently lost her husband. I’m a sucker for a tough broad who’s an emotional softy at heart.

Other thoughts: 

-- I like the newly introduced "Medallion of Power," though its name is pretttttty hokey. 

-- Why do the producers allow guys to wear boxer shorts if they have to awkwardly blur out their nether regions for the entire season?

-- Wendy was the perfect person to go home first. Her painfully awkward speech at tribal council really clinched it. “I just want to make sure you get everything off your chest,” Probst chimed in, reading all of our minds. 

So what do you think -- can “Survivor: Nicaragua” live up to its past two stellar seasons? Vote in our poll.

-- Amy Kaufman
Twitter.com/AmyKinLA

Photo: Jimmy Johnson carries things back to camp on "Survivor: Nicaragua." Credit: CBS

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Comments () | Archives (8)

"Without Russell, the show is boring" - seriously? Without Russell, it was a pleasure to watch Survivor again!

And I agree, Jane is fantastic. Probst being genuinely shocked she'd not only read what he said but actually followed his advice was quite funny.

i loved it, yes a bit slow but i think we are in for a surprise...i have not watched since rupert season and i only caught bits and pieces of that season but i am back and ready for this season, i love jimmy and his hair!!!! i think fabio will surprise some of us, i think he is playing the dumb part really well, although i do think there are some screws a bit loose with him......i have a feeling we are going to see a "young" tribe lose next week, i am sure that the producers have created a few challenges that only the old timers will be able to do and do well......love the new twist with the power medallion i think it will for sure come in handy

Um, that might be the worst poll ever. This season won't be as good as Heroes vs. Villains, but not because of Russell Hantz. Because that was an unbelievable season. In fact, I think Russell's first season was one of the dullest Survivors ever.

This season looks like it will be more comedic than intensely strategic. There are a lot of weird characters on the tribes, and the first episode set a different tone than last season. Check out my review of the episode at www.couchtimewithjill.com and let me know who you're rooting for!

I think he got a fishing hook stuck in his foot because they were just opening the fishing gear. It did look like it hurt though.

I was really struck by the pixalating of the boxers. Ususally I have seen them do that when the butt crack is showing after people lose the weight and their clothes don't fit. But they are pixalating the young guys bulges. I mean they aren't tighty whiteys, they are boxer briefs. I mean the Olypics don't pixalate the swimmers in their speedos or the gymnasts in their gear.

Good recap Amy, thanks!

I always feel disappointed from the season premiere and now expect the let down. It's difficult to get a feel for the players. This is one episode that should last 2 hours. C'mon CBS.

Jimmy Johnson is awesome, I've been watching him for as long as I can remember and had no idea he had surgery for clogged arteries. What a champ! I was somewhat bugged by the negative comments the men made about him, and got a kick out of the fact that Dan didn't even recognize him!

The power medallion should have been used, hopefully next week will be better to the elders.

Jane is awesome.

I was appalled by the the comment Naonka made about Kelly B regarding her "disability". She challenged her to a race and said something snide like; "...if she thinks she can beat me, bring it..." OMG! Who does that? What a classless thing to say!

Poor Wendy, her husband was right...and she sealed her fate as soon as she started yapping. lol

Amy, I agree about Brenda. As soon as I peeped her attitude towards guys, I figured she will not win. At Survivor OR love. Didn't like her from that point on.

All I saw on Jud's thumb was some kind of creature with a pincher claw - it had a hold of him. Some weird foreign thing. He is already entertaining me. Hope he doesn't injure himself!

Shannon is just, well...I see no point in wasting my time yet. lol

Ouch Amy! I must have skimmed over the;
"Meanwhile, the older players come off as pathetic underdogs, bitter that they’ve lost their youth."

Not cool, girl. They didn't come off that way at all and all older people don't wish they were young.

Amy in all honestly, I don't log on here to read generalized statements from child authors who apparently have no respect for the older generation.

I simply can't relate to your line of thinking, as I never felt those things even when I was young. Age is an honor, not something to feel shameful about.

Maybe that's why some of us age better than others - maybe it's all in the attitude.

And as far as CBS blurring out the crotches goes - as a mother, I'm glad to see it. Children do not need to learn about anatomy on Survivor.

It's one thing to make lighthearted cracks about what you see, and it's entirely another to be mean, so I take back my "good recap" compliment. It is undeserving of you.

I thought the crotch-blurring was hilarious. Wondering why they didn't do the same for Naonka's dark nipples showing through her bikini top.


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