SURVIVOR: NICARAGUA 21.1: Young at Heart

There was something about the premiere of SURVIVOR: NICARAGUA that immediately put me off, and I’m damned if I can figure out what it was. I simply was not real interested. I suppose it’s because no one in this cast was immediately colorful enough to capture my attention. This bloodless group has the misfortune of following up probably the best season ever, SURVIVOR: HEROES VS. VILLAINS. That one was packed with larger-than-life personalities. Everybody in this edition – with the exception of Coach Jimmy Johnson – seems rather bland. Even the location felt non-descript: a generic seaside beach that looked interchangeable with any of the previous seasons’ tropical settings.

The show began with host Jeff Probst’s usual narration, in which he called Nicaragua “remote.” Really? Nicaragua is in Central America, literally right between North America and South America. Nicaragua is a lot of things – tropical, hilly and forest-draped – but I would hardly call it remote. That gave the impression that the scriptwriter didn’t bother doing much research, and Jeff forgot where it was he actually went.

This season’s big gimmick saw the tribes divided along age lines: Those 40 and over vs. the 30 and younger set. Jeff said the challenge came down to “wisdom” vs. “enthusiasm.”

Espada
Most interesting player among the “Older” team is Jimmy Johnson, who coached the Dallas Cowboys to two Super Bowl victories. He has been a head coach and leader for all of his adult life. I expect him to be a strategist. He has been in command of a football team under the highest-stress situations, and with millions of people second-guessing his every move. As a former TV commentator, Jimmy is well-spoken and handles the on-camera interviews with aplomb. He is well-known for his impeccably coiffed hair, and it was good to see he has a sense of humor about mussing it up. Oh, did I mention that I absolutely hate (make the hate) the Dallas Cowboys. Jimmy J.’s big moment came before Espada set out for the first immunity challenge. He had the team tribe huddle up and he gave a motivating speech about helping someone else on the team win. He figures no jury will give him $1 million, so he’s in it strictly for the adventure. This is the kind of organization I expect from him. Top marks to teammate tribe mate Jane for starting a fire with her reading glasses. That’s an amazing accomplishment for SURVIVOR, because the inability to make fire has been a hallmark of hopelessness in seasons past.

LaFlor
Young team is cocky, sure they will win in a cakewalk from the word go. They have the youthful, “live in the moment” attitude one would expect from a bunch of callow youths. Brenda (apparently a former Miami Dolphins cheerleader) vocalized the attitude: Why think about tomorrow when you’re out to win today? Tall dude Jud, the “dumb blond” of the team, was dubbed “Fabio,” but it took him a while to realize he had been christened with a nickname. Shannon is tired of seeing women win the game, so he urged the guys to “sac up” and win it. That may be easier said than done, as everyone assumes that one-legged Kelly will get a sympathy win in the end, so they want her out as soon as possible.

The biggest twist in gameplay was the addition of an amulet of power: It gives the team holding the advantage of a head-start in competitions. LaFlor originally had it (It was found by Brenda), but surrendered it for fire and fishing gear. To be fair, Jeff had not revealed what the amulet was empowered to do, so the immediate-gratification younger team could be forgiven for not waiting around to see what it would eventually do.

I have yet to decide what I will do next Wednesday. The lack of a charismatic rooting interest (so far) has me ambivalent about watching again. In other words, SURVIVOR: NICARAGUA may not survive on my DVR schedule…

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