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'Survivor' recap: An agent of change

February 17, 2011 | 10:22 am

Survivor phillip You have to clap for crazy people on “Survivor.” They make tribal councils much more awesome than they should be, especially this early on. I mean, it’s the first tribal council! It was all so ridiculously entertaining, which hits you when you’re unhappy over the first person voted out.

Let’s start from the beginning, when host Jeff Probst was seemingly sitting unharnessed at the back edge of a moving helicopter. The tribes were already assembled when the newbies found out veterans Boston Rob and Russell would be playing with them. Here’s how it went: jubilation when Rob got off of the second helicopter, icy head-shaking when Russell did the same. They randomly picked buffs, and Rob went to Ometepe while Russell went with Zapatera, whose members made a quick turnaround and welcomed him to the tribe.

Next we saw more of the usual first episode stuff –- the tribes begin to set up their camps, and someone sticks out for being too rude or awkward. For Ometepe, that’d be Phillip, the former federal agent (in case he didn’t announce that enough) dressed in “droopy fuchsia briefs,” as the hilarious Francesca put it. He was a little too bossy as people built their shelter with their Craftsman tools (is that the earliest promo ever?), and I thought for sure he’d be gone by the end of the episode.

Then again, Kristina was a little too obvious as she somewhat frantically looked for the hidden immunity idol, so I figured she should be on notice. Somehow, though, that girl actually found the freakin’ hidden immunity idol without any freakin’ clues. She's got a problem, though. Looking for that idol kept her from getting closer to her fellow tribe mates. So she ended up having to align with Mr. Crazy Special Agent. No bueno.

Over in Zapatera, there wasn’t nearly as much drama. David Murphy, from West Hollywood, looks impressive (arriving in a suit, no less), but Russell was his old self when trying to align with another petite and somewhat unassuming woman. That would be Stephanie, a funny girl who is under no illusions and seems to want to see how things play out. David and the others know what’s up, though, so she’s the most likely to go first with their tribe.

At the first immunity challenge, the tribes had to push four blocks of steps toward a temple, chop some ropes and then fix a puzzle forming another temple. Stephanie made a comment back at Zapatera’s camp that she thought Ometepe was more formidable, physically, but Zapatera came out with a strong lead. Ometepe caught up at the puzzle portion, but Rob’s skill there wasn’t enough to grab a W.

So back to camp Ometepe went, and Kristina told Francesca about the idol she found. She wants to get Rob out before he solidifies his leadership, but her makeshift alliance with Francesca and Phillip isn’t exactly on the same page. Or at least Phillip isn’t on board. Mr. CSA wants answers and he wants them now as to how the three of them can make that happen. Kristina feels she has to tell him about the idol too, which has him emboldened in a confessional where he says he’s the new leader of the tribe.

Oh boy. What a hot, droopy, fuchsia mess. (Side note: Did Phillip think wearing pink underwear would make people less intimidated by him or something?)

Cut to tribal, where things are going calmly until Francesca opens a can of worms when discussing the new Redemption Island twist. She plays what-if over voting out Rob, says that’s not going to happen. But then Phillip tells Probst and everyone else that that was, in fact, the plan. Then he goes on to out Kristina having the hidden idol! It looked like everyone put a hand to their shaking heads on that one. Rob then tried to play Kristina into giving him her idol for “safety,” which didn’t happen. Kristina didn’t even play the idol, which I thought was really stupid. But even given all of that craziness, the tribe voted out Francesca.

Next week there should be more Phillip insanity, a challenger to Russell in Zapatera and Francesca will duel with the next person voted out in Redemption Island.

It’s just the first episode, but I’m enjoying this season a lot already. I hope Francesca can make it a little bit longer, but they surely won’t make it easy for her or anyone over on Redemption Island. What do you think? Who stood out to you? Any bold, early predictions?

-- Anthony Williams
Twitter.com/anthonyw_ent

Photo: Phillip shows what he’s working with. Credit: CBS

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