Survivor Cagayan: Brawn vs. Brains vs. Beauty – Premiere – Recap and Discussion (UPDATED)

Survivor Cagayan
Episode 1

Three tribes rush to their meeting point in three different vehicles: a red chopper, an old truck, and a boat. Jeff Probst takes this moment to introduce us to this season’s theme.

In the helicopter are the brainy people. Spencer, young, blond, and cute, is an economics student and chessmaster. David, straight out of The Shark Tank, is the president of the Miami Marlins. Kass, red-blond and bespeckled, is an attorney. She describes herself as “cunning and ruthless.” There are three other brainiacs that we’ll meet later on.

The boat contains the beauties. Honey-blonde Morgan is a cheerleader. She says she usually gets what she wants. Jeremiah is both a model and a good ol’ boy. Jefra has been Miss Kentucky three times in a row.

On the brawn truck are Cliff Robinson — an NBA player. He played for the Trail Blazers! Woo hoo! Police officer Sarah is happy because she gets paid to punch people in the face. Tony is also a police officer, but don’t spread that around. He’s keeping it on the down low.

And there you have it: Brain vs. Brawn vs. Beauty.

The fourth member of the Brawn team is Lindsay, a hairstylist with white-girl dreads. She claims to be tough, and I believe it. She sneers at the beauty team, saying she expected to hear cheesy music when they came into view. Brawn number 5 is Trish, a Pilates trainer who’s even tougher than Lindsay.

Jeff welcomes the teams and explains the concept. He asks Morgan to guess her tribe. She doesn’t want to be conceited, but correctly guesses that she’s among the pretty people. Spencer correctly guesses that he’s a nerd. Which leaves the third team to be Brawn. Tony tells Jeff that he accepts his lot. His team will stomp on the beauty and smarts.

The first task Jeff hands out is picking a leader. The tribes confer, and the Beauty tribe chooses their tallest man, LJ, as their head. Brawn goes with Sarah, because of her confident air. David is chosen for by the brainy people because he had the sense to wear a jacket to a camping trip in a tropical location.

Now Jeff pulls out a twist by making each leader identify the weakest member of their tribe. LJ chooses Morgan. He explains in a confessional that he divides all attractive women into two categories: “Hot” and “cute.” He finds cute women more trustworthy. So, since Morgan is the hottest woman on his tribe, he doesn’t trust her.

Sarah chooses Trish. She doesn’t say why, but Trish knows. It’s because she’s the oldest woman, and thus viewed as weak. Obviously no one on this season saw last season, where the old women kicked butt deep into the competition.

David kicks Garrett, the largest and buffest man on his tribe, out. He explains that he’s thinking about the last two-thirds of the competition when Garrett would be a threat.

However, Jeff is Twisty McTwister this season. The three weaklings are not out of the game. Instead, they get to ride in the chopper, while the others have to walk to their camps. The weaklings will have to make a choice when they arrive at the camp — but Jeff naturally doesn’t reveal what the choices will be. “Now it’s the tribes who are worried,” Jeff crows.

Once the chopper takes off, Jeff hands out maps to each tribe, along with their names. The Beautiful people are named Solana. The Strong are Aparri. The Smart are Luzon. Jeff tells them to get moving and warns that they are playing during the rainy season.

At Luzon, Garrett is bummed to be called the weakest. He discovers that the decision is either to get a second bag of rice for the whole tribe or a clue to finding the hidden immunity idol for himself. It’s a no-brainer to Garrett. Garrett, by the way, is a “high stakes professional poker player.” He says he likes to go “all in.” And he does, when he realizes the idol must be hidden in a pool of water. Intelligently, he takes his clothes off first, so they don’t get wet. After floundering around a bit, he discovers the idol. So, that set of cards worked out for him.

Meanwhile, Brawny Trish agonizes over her choice. She finally decides to forgo the clue and try to win her tribe over by getting them the rice. They do hug as soon as they arrive. Tony commends her for thinking of the tribe, but says he would have gone for the idol in a minute.

Finally, Morgan takes the selfish choice. Plus, she decides she’ll never forgive LJ for voting her out. Unfortunately, she doesn’t find the idol before her tribe arrives and has to scramble for a lie to tell them. She makes up a story about taking shelter-building materials over comfort items and they seem to be happy. Except LJ, who still doesn’t trust her.

That works out well for social worker Brice. He’s African American and possibly gay, since he refers to himself being viewed as “the fourth girl on the team.” He likes Morgan and figures he can get friendly with her based on her dislike of LJ. Eventually, he notices a romance brewing betweenn Morgan and Jeremiah. He slides in easily between them, creating a neat three-person alliance.

The Beauty team seems to get along well, even with Brice’s scheming. They manage to get their fire going quicker than I’ve ever seen on Survivor.

Most of the Brawn team has gravitated to Cliff. Usually pro athletes are targeted for expulsion, but it turns out Woo is a card-carrying fan boy of the NBA, and both Sarah and Lindsay are as attracted to Cliff as the sixteen-year-old girls used to be in Portland. The only ones unimpressed are Tony and Trish. Tony is, in fact, plotting to stab Cliff in the metaphorical heart as soon as possible. He likens it to killing the lion in order to take over the pride. Where upon he will immediately kill all the cubs.

Speaking of Tony, Sarah is convinced that he’s a cop. There’s a look cops have, she tells us. She asks him point-blank. He lies and tells her that he’s in construction. An experienced interrogator, she knows that he’s lying, but leaves it alone. For now.

Over in the brains department, nuclear engineer J’Tia has a plan for building the shelter. Hearing the word “engineer,” the others fall in line and start working on J’Tia’s orders. Then they start badmouthing her behind her back, calling her “bossy” and basically incompetent. That’s not untrue. She is blatantly taking on the supervisor role to avoid doing any physical work. And her shelter immediately falls apart.

“Not very smart for the brain tribe,” Kass snarks, surveying the bamboo supports scattered on the ground.

The first challenge commences! The task is to move a rickety cart around an obstacle course, gathering keys, unlocking chests, loading them on the cart, and then carrying them to a puzzle frame. Part of the course requires dismantling the cart, putting it through a gate, climbing over the gate, re-assembling the cart and taking it through a field of boulders and logs that must be moved out of the way. It looks utterly exhausting.

Brawn makes the smart decision to have Cliff knock the keys off their tall perches. Brains makes the stupid decision to use Spencer instead of Garrett (who is both taller and stronger). But it is Beauty that wins the challenge. In addition to immunity, they receive an excellent fire-making kit, complete with dry kindling. Brawn comes in second, winning a flint (and immunity). Brains puts in one of the worst performances ever in the games. Not only does their cart fall apart, they keep knocking over the chests, spilling puzzles into the sand. It’s really embarrassing.

Back at the Luzon (or Lu-zer) camp, Spencer, J’Tia, Tasha, and Garrett realize that they can’t underestimate the other teams. At the same time, David and Kass are conducting their own post-mortem of the challenge. According to Kass, J’Tia screwed everything up by grabbing the keys from Kass, the designed key master of the group. She wants J’Tia out. David, however, still wants Garrett out.

Stupidly, Kass tells J’Tia that she wants to vote her out. J’Tia “appreciates” her honesty, but confesses that her feelings are hurt. Tasha and Garrett quickly reassure her that they’ll support her. Turns out, Garrett wants David out. His only worry is whether or not he can get Spencer to come along.

“I may be bossy, but I am loyal,” J’tia assures him.

Garrett talks to Spencer. Spencer wants David out, but it worried that David might have the hidden immunity idol. Garrett is now stuck between having a wavering Spencer, or admitting that he has the idol.

At Tribal Council, J’Tia admits both her bossiness and her incompetence at designing shelters. She’s quite charming. But David still throws shade for her for being a nuclear engineer with no engineering skills.

Jeff brings up the issue of David picking Garrett as weak. Garrett’s no longer worried about getting voted out. J’Tia says David should be, and David replies, “That’s what you do when you’re going home.” He amends that to “think that you’re doing home.”

David writes down J’Tia’s name, whispering, “In the real world, I might hire you. But in this world… not tonight.”

The votes are read, and it turns out that David was the one who got fired. I’m glad. David was on the wrong game. He should have been playing The Apprentice.

Jeff tosses a flint at the Luzon tribe and they leave. David’s final assessment of his tribe is that they don’t have it together. Or else they do, but not with him. He has no hard feelings about it. I bet that’s what all CEOs say when they get fired.

By the next day, Garrett is tired of the game. He doesn’t like manual labor or being hungry. He likes sitting in a comfortable chair around a poker table, getting food brought to him. He wants to strategize, but not to survive. Realizing that J’Tia and Tasha are tight, he and Spencer try to win over Kass. She’s smart enough to know her position as the swing vote. She shakes hands with them, but only because it doesn’t mean anything to her.

We get a cute and comic interlude from the Aparri Tribe. Cliff and Woo go fishing, tip over their boat, and have to have Tony help them pour out the water.

When Trish suggests that Lindsay get some wood, it turns into a personality clash. Lindsay dislikes Trish, wonders why she’s getting singled out as lazy, and mocks Trish’s horse teeth behind Trish’s back. Tony sympathizes with Trish and tells her that he “has something going” that he’ll tell her about later. That “something” turns out to a secret cubby hole he’s building into the shelter in order to spy on Cliff and Woo. He calls it a “spy shack.”

With that, we head into the second immunity challenge. This one is in water. The team must swim out to a cage, climb into it, untie some rope, releasing an underwater gate. Then they drag three fish traps, filled with puzzle pieces, to the shore. Finally, one person from each tribe will solve a complicated fish puzzle.

Brawn takes the early lead, but Brains catch up and get their traps to shore long before any other tribe. J’Tia has started the puzzle before Beauty has even started bringing their traps back to shore.

And that’s as good as it gets for the Brain tribe. Brawn arrives at shore with two injured people, Sarah and Tony. Sarah’s cut finger is bleeding all over the puzzle pieces, and Tony’s foot looks like someone took a knife to it. Injured or not, Sarah makes quick work of her puzzle, fitting in all eight pieces before J’Tia has gotten her second in place.

By now, Beauty has finally reached the shore. LJ takes the puzzle on and he finishes it lickety-split, while J’Tia panics. It’s a humiliating defeat for Luzon. Beaten at the brainy part!

For their reward, Brawn gets fishing gear, and stuff to cook the fish with. Beauty gets from fishing line, lures, and weights. (No hooks?) Luzon gets nothing but another Tribal Council.

Weirdly, we don’t return to Luzon immediately, but instead we go to Aparri. The reason for this is that Tony astutely reasons that they’ll be getting a clue to their hidden idol. He’s right, and he palms the clue. A bit later, he meets up with a camera crew and reads it. It directs him a large log in a nearby pond, when he quickly finds the idol. So, that’s two idols in play!

Now we go to the Luzon tribe, where all hell is quietly preparing to break loose. J’Tia is the obvious choice to send home. Since she’s proven to be lazy, bossy, and bad under pressure. Garrett, however, decides to lock down Kass’s vote by making her declare it in front of the entire tribe.

Then he tells everyone to stay together until the Tribal Council, so that no one will start strategizing. Tasha objects to this as improper Survivor game play. She starts to freak out, because the part of Survivor she wanted most to play was the scheming and the strategizing and all the side conversations. I’ve never heard anyone talk like this about Survivor. Usually people talk about how much they hate that part. But, then again, I’ve never seen someone basically tell their team mates to sit on their mats like kindergartners until nap time is over.

Tasha goes to the shoreline to cool down. Kass joins her and Tasha starts trying, sotto-voce to get Kass to flip on Garrett. Garrett and Spencer (“babysitting” the girls) arrive to keep them from talking. Left alone, with absolutely nothing to lose at this point, J’Tia goes crazy. She takes the bag of rice and dumps almost all of it into the fire.

By the time the other four get back, the rice is burned up. Tasha just shakes her head.

And, on that note, they head to Tribal Council. Jeff cannot believe the story they start telling him. Tasha blames Garrett for stupidly telling J’Tia she was going home and then leaving her alone. Kass agrees, saying she and Tasha were simply washing their feet. Was that so interesting that Garret and Spencer had to leave J’Tia alone with the rice and the fire?

Jeff explains to Garrett that this is why you don’t tell people that they’re going home. Nobody likes blindsides, he says, but they’re necessary to the game. Garrett then alienates Tasha completely by admitting that he and Spencer replaced her and J’Tia in their alliance by siding with Kass. Then he rats Kass out by saying she proposed that alliance.

And then they vote. Spencer, hilariously, declares how scary it is to think that J’Tia is a nuclear engineer. But, the vote turns out to be three to two for Garrett. “Welcome to the bottom,” Spencer remarks.

In his final words, Garrett has the grace to be embarrassed. Turns out he left his hidden idol back at camp. He didn’t think he could possibly be in danger. He probably wasn’t until he shot himself in the foot.

I guess that’s what happens when you go all in. Maybe Garrett should have held his cards a little closer to his (well-buffed) chest.

Next week: Tony cops to being a police officer.

I have only one question for ya’ll. How CRAZY was that?