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Thursday February 17, 2011 11:46 am

Survivor: Redemption Island Premieres with Twists, Idols and Villains




Posted by K.C. Morgan Categories: Prime Time, Reality, CBS, Survivor, Gossip, Video,

 


Survivor: Redemption Island began with 16 contestants on a helicopter. Each new face hides a different personality, only a few of which began to emerge by the end of the season premiere. The new cast was dropped on the Nicaraguan beach, where show host Jeff Probst waited to greet them.

There was no lengthy sorting procedure -- each already knew to which tribe they belonged. Just as they formed their groups, Probst introduced a surprise in the form of two additional contestants. The helicopter arrived to deposit two of the show’s most well-known villains, “Boston Rob” Mariano and Russell Hanz, on the beach. They drew buffs to find which team they would lead. Russell ended up with the Zapatera group, receiving several groans. Rob was received with squeals and smiles by the Ometepe tribe.

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The addition of two Survivor greats isn’t the only twist this season brings with it. The show has also introduced Redemption Island into the mix, a land of lonely exile. Contestants who have been voted out will go here instead of leaving the show entirely. When two have been sent to the island, they will duel so that one victor may emerge. Redemption adds a whole new element to the game.

The groups were urged to make camp quickly. “It is going to rain -- a lot,” Jeff Probst promised.

Russell immediately assumed a leadership role, turning to his teammates with a message of friendship. “I’m not here to sabotage anything from nobody,” he said, adding “I’m here to win.” Mike, a former marine and Iraq war veteran, David the defense attorney and Ralph, a farmer, are also part of the male-dominated Zapatera tribe.

Meanwhile, Rob Mariano was hard at work on his tribe’s shelter. Rob’s team includes Francesca, the beautiful attorney, pre-med student Matt, and Phillip, the former federal agent. Phillip began to emerge as a leader on Rob’s team. He was quick to talk up his own skills, touting his ability to analyze others to his fellow tribe members. On the sly, Rob began having quiet conversations with some of his teammates.

Back at his own camp, Russell warmed up quickly to Stephanie. “You have to get on the right team,” he advised her. They quickly agreed on an alliance after a few words. Despite his opening message, it’s clear that Russell is up to his old tricks.

And, his machinations weren’t as sly as he believed. Others on the Zapatera tribe immediately noticed his private conversation with Stephanie, and agreed that he has to be voted out.

Back at the Ometepe tribe, Phillip, Kristina and Francesca began to talk early on about voting out Rob. Phillip wasn’t immediate to agree with Kristina’s plan like Francesca, telling her that an alliance of three simply isn’t strong enough. While others worked and planned, Kristina found the immunity idol on the beach and re-hid the item near a tree. The trio began to crumble as Francesca took a quick disliking to her own ally, Phillip, who insisted upon walking around on the beach in nothing but his red briefs.

They would have to come together soon enough. The season’s first challenge was an obstacle course of sorts. After pushing heavy blocks through the sand, contestants had to climb up stairs to reach a summit where a pyramid puzzle awaited them.

Zapatera, which has more males than Ometepe, pulled to an early lead during the block-pushing leg of the course. Rob shouted encouragement to his flagging team, but Zapatera made it up the stairs and started on the puzzle well before Rob’s Ometepe tribe. At one point, Jeff found them to be “completely out of” the challenge. Zapatera began working on their puzzle while Ometepe was still struggling to push blocks through the sand.

At last, the flagging team began to catch up. David led Zapatara’s puzzle-building, while Rob began to build for his team. They caught up quickly as Zapatera struggled with the puzzle. Russell took over to lead the puzzle challenge, and the seconds began to tick away. In the end, Zapatera finished their pyramid puzzle first, much to Rob’s disappointment.

Back at the Ometepe camp, Kristina revealed to Francesca that she found the hidden idol. Her plan? That Francesca, she and Phillip will vote for Rob. Francesca, however, believes that the team still needs Rob. After the defeat at the challenge, she’s probably right. “Everyone is going to be pissed off,” she predicted. “We don’t have numbers,” Francesca explained, putting forth Natalie’s name instead.

Kristina summed it up thusly: “Voting for Natalie is better for the tribe. Voting for Rob is better for me.”

“Originally, I wanted to vote Francesca off,” Rob explained to the camera. “She knows my game.” But he changed his mind when he saw Kristina looking for the idol among their box of supplies. “She’s dangerous. She knows strategy. She knows to get out there and work for it,” he explained.

He gathered a group of followers around him and pointedly told them Kristina likely has the idol, encouraging them to split the vote -- but making it clear they must follow along. As he said, “I got screwed by that last season,” a reference to Russell's successful scheme to oust Rob from Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains.

After Phillip continued to ask Kristina for more information, she took him to see the immunity idol as well. “Yours, mine and Francesca’s votes will determine who goes home,” she said, with the relic in hand.

Would Rob be the first to be sent to Redemption Island? Only the tribal council would tell. “It could be me walking away, and there’s nothing I can do about it,” Rob observed at the council.

“Francesca and Kristina asked me to cast my vote for Rob,” Phillip revealed to everyone prior to voting. Both women categorically denied his claims. Kristina turned to her other ally as Phillip spoke to Jeff, quietly suggesting that they vote for Phillip instead.

Meanwhile, Phillip announced to all that he would be changing his vote to Francesca. . .then, told the tribe that Kristina has an immunity idol. “Do you have the immunity idol?” Rob demanded, requesting her to show it to him. “Give me the immunity idol, and you’ll stay,” he told her, attempting to win the relic from her. She refused, and Rob addressed the group. “I’m going to do what I said I was going to do, with the people I said I was going to do it with,” he announced. “And that’s it.”

Moments later, a grinning Rob told the voting camera that he enjoys playing with amateurs. Kristina chose not to play her idol, and the vote counting began. Two votes for her were quickly read before Francesca and Phillip’s names emerged from the pot. Soon enough, all three were tied with two votes apiece. After the votes were read, Francesca’s torch was extinguished. She has now been exiled to Redemption Island. “Don’t trust Phillip,” she advised them as she walked away.

Not likely. After Phillip revealed the plans of his allies and shared Kristina’s secret with the group, Phillip’s ability to keep things to himself is definitely in question. The alliance against Rob is already one member down, and Redemption Island has its first victim.

It was an exciting tribal council, and Rob has successfully passed his first test on the new Survivor season. Russell is playing his old game, but will these new players go along? The show is off to a strong start, and we're pretty eager to see what's coming next.

Gallery: Survivor: Redemption Island Premieres with Twists, Idols and Villains

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