Sometimes Big Egos Make Even Bigger Losers

US

A new season of Survivor is upon us, and I know what you’re thinking, didn’t one just end? Yes, yes it did. But they’re pumping these seasons out faster than Andy Cohen can get embroiled in some Housewives scandals. (See what I did there? That’s called topical humor.) Anyway, if you’re anything like me, you’re not mad about a new season of Survivor, because why? It’s the best show on TV, duh.

All season long I’ll be recapping every episode of Survivor 46. Make sure you’re subscribed to the Parting Shot podcast and my newsletter For the Culture for all things Survivor related. (And everything else entertainment related.)

Pictured (L-R): Jeff Probst and the Survivor contestants. Photo: Robert Voets/CBS ©2023 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Robert Voets/CBS ©2023 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Meet the Cast

“I don’t know whether to laugh or cry or crap my pants,” Soda said upon arriving at the beach, and she couldn’t be more right.

This new crop of players is diverse, unique, and ready to play.

In the Siga tribe it’s Ben, Charlie, Jem, Maria, Moriah and Tim. Ben is certainly the most colorful of the bunch, a musician from Miami, Florida, you can already tell he’s going to be one of the narrators of the season. Another standout from this tribe is Maria, who is a parent coach and mother from Dallas, Texas. From the first episode alone she’s already one to watch.

On the Yanu tribe is Bhanu, Jelinsky, Jess, Kenzie, Q, and Tiff. This tribe has a ton of standouts, but not all for the right reasons (as you’ll soon learn). Kenzie, a salon owner from Charlotte, North Carolina, is certainly the most boisterous of the bunch. Jelinsky, a slot machine salesperson from Las Vegas, Nevada, has an aura of (mostly false) confidence.

Finally, on the Nami tribe there is Hunter, Liz, Randen, Soda, Tevin and Venus. Like the Yanu tribe, there are a ton of unique personalities on this tribe, particularly Soda, who is a special education teacher from Lake Hopatcong, New Jersey, and Tevin, an actor from Richmond, Virginia.

In typical Jeff Probst style, he started things off by calling them losers. Technically, he is right as only one will win, but still, why you gotta be so harsh, Jeff?

1 of 22

First Challenge

To get the season started, Jeff is making them work for their flint (to make fire) and camp supplies. In this first challenge, pairs are to crawl through mud under a net and then pick up life-size puzzle pieces and bring it back to where they were previously standing. (Because nothing makes a great introduction to millions of viewers at home like being covered in mud.) Once they construct the puzzle—which makes a podium—they will then need to climb to the top of the podium to retrieve the key to get their supplies. The first team to get it gets their flint, pot, and machete, all essential items for setting up camp. The second-place team will get a choice between one of two tasks: a sweat task or a savvy task. The final team will get whatever the second team doesn’t choose.

A little life lesson, if “sweat” is in the assignment, I suggest avoiding it.

Survivor 46: Ep. 1
Pictured (L-R): Tiffany Ervin and Kenzie Veurink. Photo: Robert Voets/CBS ©2023 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Robert Voets/CBS ©2023 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Nami team starts with an early lead. Hunter, a science teacher from French Camp, MS, literally picks up a massive puzzle piece and carries it back like it’s a tiny little kitten in his arms. Because of his efforts, the Nami team finishes first, with Tevin getting the key to the supplies.

Siga gets second place, leaving Yanu in last place. (This will become a theme for this episode.) In deciding which task they’ll choose, you can hear Charlie from Siga, a law student from Boston, MA, saying, “wear em out,” referring to the Yanu tribe. So Siga chooses the savvy task, leaving the sweat task for Yanu.

From the very beginning you get the sense that many of these players are fully ready to go low and be villainous, which honestly makes for a very exciting season. Let’s hope they keep this up.

Yanu Tribe

Stuck in last place at the beginning of the game is never easy, but one thing it does do is identify the players who came to play and the players who came to brag about how big of a game they think they can play. This is more than apparent on Yanu.

They get to their beach and are greeted with their task. Because they came in last during the challenge, they were left with the sweat task. This means two of them will have to take tiny little buckets (with holes in em), fill them with ocean water, and then walk those buckets up their beach to two large urns. Timed by an hourglass, they’ll have to fill the urns up before time runs out. The instructions literally say that this task will take hours. (This is where I would look to the camera and tell Jeff, “I’m sorry, I think I need to leave.”)

Immediately Jelinsky is like, I got this. This player from Las Vegas, NV isn’t trying to conceal his hand at all, he’s laying all his cards out on the table. Meanwhile Q, a real estate agent from Memphis, TN, recognizes this will take endurance, and just one look at his perfect physique it’s clear he’s very familiar with endurance. So Jelinsky and Q start the hourglass and get to filling their urns while the rest of the tribe goes to camp to attempt to set up what they can and get to know each other.

Well, this big talk that Jelinsky was doing turns out to be just that, talk. After a couple hours he starts telling Q that he doesn’t think they’re going to be able to finish. He even somehow thinks “several” hours means seven hours because, in his head, “seven is in the word.” Not sure where that logic comes from. Q knows he can’t do it alone, so he reluctantly goes along with Jelinsky’s logic. Jelinsky does the dramatic thing and actually breaks the hourglass. (I hope he had to pay for that.)

Back at camp, Jelinsky and Q tell the tribe they gave up, and everyone is pretty cool with it. (It was a sweat task, after all.) Quickly people start getting to know one another.

Kenzie immediately goes into overdrive working the tribe, becoming everyone’s bestie. She even says, “I’m the queen of the tribe.” It seems to be working for her, because quickly an alliance is formed between Kenzie, Jelinsky, Bahnu (an IT analyst from Acton, MA) and Tiff (an artist from Elizabeth, NJ).

Jess, a software engineer from San Francisco, CA is setting herself up to be a bit of an outcast. She struggles with ADHD, which makes it difficult for her to connect with others. As the episode plays out, she also starts to struggle with sleep deprivation. I definitely feel for her, especially on a tribe of big personalities. For someone like her it’s going to be hard to carve your own path. But there’s something about her that tells me she’s not going to be going anywhere anytime soon.

Oh, and Tiff finds a Beware challenge. If she figures out the clues to a puzzle, she’ll get an immunity idol. Only she and Kenzie know about this. Well, over the course of the episode she figures out the clues to get her first immunity idol, and it’s honestly awesome. Like watching her figure out the puzzle was giving me big A Beautiful Mind vibes.

Siga Tribe

While Yanu was struggling with that sweat task, the Siga Tribe had to contend with the savvy task. When they got to their beach, they were presented with a puzzle. Two players had to figure out the word puzzle, which revealed numbers to a locked box. If they figured out the combination to the locked box before the hourglass ran out, they’d get their supplies.

Ben and Charlie step up to work the puzzle while the rest of the tribe head to camp to set up. The combination of Ben and Charlie is amusing, because Ben is this chill musician, happy and colorful, while Charlie gives off major lawyer “I’m smarter than you” vibes. They give it a shot, but aren’t able to figure out the puzzle before the hourglass runs out. When time runs out, Ben says, “It’s the beginning of the dumb and dumber alliance.” See, I told you he’d be the narrator of the season.

They head to camp and tell everyone they failed, and just like at Yanu, the tribe understands. They’re all just washing off in the ocean talking about their astrological signs—or as I like to call it, personalities for boring people.

Survivor 46: Ep. 1
Pictured (L-R): Ben Katzman, Moriah Gaynor, Charlie Davis, and Jem Hussain-Adams. Photo: Robert Voets/CBS ©2023 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Robert Voets/CBS ©2023 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

One thing does stand out to me about the Siga Tribe: the women. They have come to play. Immediately an alliance forms between Maria, Moriah (a program coordinator from San Diego, CA), and Jem (a brand mentor from Chicago IL). Knowing they need a fourth for numbers, they plot to rope in Charlie, because he seems persuadable. They jokingly call themselves Charlie’s Angels, which is actually perfect.

But it isn’t all sunshine and lollipops at Siga, because Tim, a college coach from Atlanta, GA, is suspicious of the ladies talking. He even confesses this to Charlie, after the girls try to get him to join their alliance. Feeling good, Charlie is ready to play both sides. I smell a villain!

Nami Tribe

The Nami Tribe are sitting pretty. They have everything they need thanks to their first challenge win, and they’re all just chilling, talking, setting up camp.

Soda steps up and says, “I got the fire.” Seriously, I love this woman. She’s a badass teacher out here making fires in the jungle, what’s not to love?!

Because they have nothing to worry about, this moment is all about relationship building for them. Tevin and Hunter bond over enjoying The Andy Griffith Show, which leads to them forming the Andy Griffith alliance. (Hilarious.)

Hunter here is the most interesting player to me, because he’s clearly different from the rest. You see, Tevin and Soda immediately bond, which then forces the other tribe members to figure out where to go, join Tevin/Soda, or form their own thing? The kicker is the rest of the players on the tribe seem to be marching to the beat of their own drum. So, Hunter, recognizing this and the strength of Tevin/Soda and their potential social game, befriends them. It’s a smart move that will likely keep him around for a long time.

Survivor 46: Ep. 1
Pictured (L-R): Randen Montalvo, Hunter McKnight, and Tevin Davis. Photo: Robert Voets/CBS ©2023 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Robert Voets/CBS ©2023 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Meanwhile, Randen, an aerospace tech from Orlando, FL, notices Venus, a data analyst from Toronto, Canada, looking for an immunity idol. Tevin called her a princess, and she’s worried that label will put her on the bottom if they lose the next challenge. Well, Randen doesn’t like this and tells Soda, thinking Soda will like this piece of information and use it against Venus. Wrong. Soda immediately goes to Venus and tells her to watch her back with Randen.

And with that, I officially love Soda.

Come a Boat

While everyone is setting up camp, a boat visits. A member from each tribe will need to get on the boat and will return in the afternoon before the immunity challenge. The Nami tribe chooses Tevin, the Siga tribe chooses Maria, and Jelinsky chooses himself for Yanu. (Because of course he does. I swear this dude!)

When they get to the island, they’re presented with three cards. One has a skull, one has a vote, and another has a torch. The person who gets the torch card has to identify themselves, and then the two others must convince the person with the torch card that they have the vote card. If the person with the torch card accurately chooses the person with the vote card, they get an extra vote.

Maria chooses the torch card, and Tevin and Jelinsky attempt to convince her they each have the vote card. Tevin actually does have the vote card, while Jelinsky has the skull card. Within minutes Jelinksy gives up (again) and confesses he has the skull card, losing his vote at tribal council. (I swear this dude is driving me crazy.)

They each go back to camp and basically make fun of Jelinsky. Even Jelinsky’s tribe is like, WTF?! Not a good first impression dude.

Immunity Challenge

This is where the game really starts, because the players all know each other now and they’ve gotten their sea legs, if you will, to how Survivor works.

For their first immunity challenge, each tribe will have to race to the top of a ramp. There they’ll be greeted by a massive gecko, which they’ll need to untie and drag over a number of large walls and up another ramp, which leads them to a puzzle they’ll have to solve the puzzle. The first two tribes to finish win immunity and won’t have to go to tribal. The losing tribe will have to go to tribal council and vote someone out.

The Nami tribe gets an early lead. (That Hunter fella is very strong.) While they get their gecko up the final ramp, the other two tribes are still trying to get the gecko over the obstacles. Obviously the Nami tribe is first, followed by Siga. Once again, the Yanu tribe is in last place. (I think they’re cursed by Jelinsky.)

Survivor 46: Ep. 1
Pictured (L-R): Tribes SIGA and NAMI compete. Photo: Robert Voets/CBS ©2023 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Robert Voets/CBS ©2023 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Pre-Tribal Anxiety

Yanu is feeling low. Like the lowest of lows. And Jelinsky knows he’s on the bottom, which is why he’s trying to pivot attention from him to Jess. She’s been very vocal about her struggles, never a good thing on Survivor, and Jelinksky thinks if he can put a spotlight on her, it’ll take attention away from him. He’s also worried because he doesn’t have a vote at tribal (because of his stupid move with that card game).

Well, Q isn’t having any of it. He wants Jelinsky gone for giving up on multiple challenges, and he starts to tell other tribe members that before tribal council. Will it work? Let’s find out.

Tribal Council

It’s the first tribal council of Survivor 46, and honestly, it’s a good one. Jelinsky is on the hot seat and Jeff knows it. He immediately starts in on all the moments Jelinsky gave up, and the rest of the tribe basically turn it into a joke.

Meanwhile Jeff talks with Jess about her struggles. This is where Jelinsky tries and compare his game to Jess, but makes it seem like she hasn’t done anything, and he has (he hasn’t). Even in this moment, when he’s saying he’s done things, his tribe mates are like, “that you gave up on.” Eeek!

The writing was on the wall for Jelinsky, and it turns out it’s also on the parchment of all the votes. Jelinsky out!

For the first episode of a new season, this premiere is pretty great. It’s packed with colorful players who are still a little mysterious, which is always fun for a new season. You want slow reveals of who they are, or rather, who they’ll become as the game continues. This is just a little taste of what’s to come. Based on this first episode, it’s clear we’ve got a fun season on our hands here.

Oh, and Jeff Probst’s official Survivor podcast On Fire is back with an all new co-host, the winner of Survivor 45, Dee Valladares. On the first episode for this new season, Jeff and Dee talk about the new cast and some of their standouts for the season.

Who Needs to Get Snuffed?

Well, the one I wanted to get snuffed, Jelinksky, got snuffed, so I’m happy about that. But looking at the rest of the cast, I’m kind of not digging Tim and Randen. Both made moves in this episode that just leaves me feeling icky. But time will tell.

Who Should be the Sole Survivor?

At this point I’m all in for Soda and Hunter. Those are my two standouts. I need to see more of what they’ll do. And I instantly lova Soda, which I’ve said before, but I felt bared repeating.

Watch Survivor every Wednesday on CBS or anytime on Paramount+ to follow along as I react to every episode this season.