Strong Personalities Start Off Season of Survivor: China

This season’s Survivor premiere took the tribe members from the towering skyline of Shanghai, through the countryside, into the remotest area of China. They went from the relative luxury of the city to cramped sleeping quarters on a train, to the back of a truck. The journey was a little heavy-handedly symbolic, but The Lake of 1,000 Islands, where the tribes will make camp, is perhaps the most visually spectacular location the show has ever visited.

The first leg of the journey culminated at a welcoming ceremony in a Buddhist temple. If it was the intention of the producers to immediately bring out the true personality of some of the survivors, they certainly accomplished it. Waitress Courtney was incredibly, despicably disrespectful of the ceremony, and devout Christian Leslie walked out in the middle.

Taking a page from the Pearl Islands, contestants were not allowed to take any luggage, nor were they allowed to change out of their traveling clothes. Whose idea was this, anyway? Did they forget an entire season of Lill in her granny panties and Boy Scout blouse? Street clothes don’t seem to last long, and traditional undergarments (not all of the survivors were even wearing those) just don’t work as well as swimwear or other athletic clothes for challenges. The pixel guy is going to be very, very busy this season. (Fortunately, contestants were given their running shoes before the first challenge.)

After the ceremony, contestants were divided into tribes (predetermined, not chosen schoolyard style, so they look pretty evenly matched), given their buffs and copies of The Art of War, and sent off in boats to their camps. Once there the typical first-episode activities commenced, including attempted building of both shelters and alliances, and the obligatory whining about how much harder it is than they expected it to be.

It’s always hard this early in the game to keep track of all the players, but there were a few standouts. Chicken (my sentimental favorite, if only because of his name) clearly had ideas about how the Zhan Hu (yellow) tribe should best build their shelter, but he made a good effort hang back and let his younger tribemates do their thing. In the Fei Long (red) tribe, Todd (possibly the only gay Mormon flight attendant in the whole entire world) stood out as an early contender by suggesting Aaron take the leader position (a spot that comes with a great big target).

Although Zhan Hu lost the first challenge, it was close. That makes me happy -- I hate it when one tribe gets whittled way down before the merge. Peih-Gee’s reaction to losing the challenge was to have a crying tantrum, then start bossing everybody around; either she wasn’t thinking at all, or she was feeling pretty safe because of Ashley not feeling well.

At tribal, I’m not really sure what the hell happened. Before voting there was a discussion about choosing a leader after which both Jeff and Peih-Gee seemed to think that she had been chosen as leader, although Dave also volunteered. But I didn’t see anything from the other tribe members that indicated agreement. At all. That was some weird editing. In the end, I guess his efforts to fit in weren’t enough, because Chicken was the one to go. (Dammit! There goes my plan of posting his folksy tidbits of wisdom every week under the heading “Chicken Nuggets.”)

Next week: Dave and Jean-Robert jockey for position at their respective tribes.

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Amy Kane spends as much quality time with her television as possible, when she's not busy at her day job as a cube dweller.