Last week the premier episode of Survivor: Redemption Island aired, and boy was it good.
Within the first fifteen minutes I knew it was going to be a great season. And not because Boston Rob and Russell Hantz (that sneaky little troll) were back, or because of this season’s Redemption Island twist: if you’re voted off you live alone on an isolated island until the next person is voted off, then you battle for a spot back in the game. I’m hoping for something reminiscent of Captain Kirk and the Gorn. YouTube – Kirk vs Gorn.
No, this season is a guaranteed winner because of the contestants.
For example, after splitting into tribes, Mike (the cute marine: YouTube – Survivor S22 – Meet Mike Chiesl) was helping Ralph (the huge farmer and token southern oaf: YouTube – Survivor S22 – Meet Ralph Kiser) build a shelter. It was hot and Ralph had taken his shirt off, leaving him bare-chested in his overalls. But “bare-chested” isn’t exactly right, because under that serviceable denim shirt was another shirt, made completely of hair.
“Your superhero name is Steel Wool,” Mike said, nodding with the special admiration that only another guy could have for such a robust display of man-fur. “You have the most impressive man-sweater I’ve ever seen.”
And Mike was right. Best one ever. Plus, you could just see this Iraq war veteran spending time in the dusty barracks, handing out the perfect nick name. I want one.
But that was just the beginning. From there Survivor morphed into what I like to think of as “The Phil Sheppard Show.” There’s always the moron who meets his tribe members and decides to be assertive; to impress them with his leadership skills and to take charge. He bosses people around, corrects people he just met and generally assumes control. Or so he thinks. This season it was Phil Sheppard, the self-proclaimed “former federal agent.” YouTube – Survivor S22 – Meet Phillip Sheppard.
After dropping the privileged information of his former special agent status on his tribe (for a grand total of four times during the first show), he also let them know that he was an expert in analyzing people’s behavior. Hmmm…
And that would’ve been plenty. Really. I would’ve been very satisfied with just that. But “Phil Sheppard and Company,” as he began to refer to himself in the third person plural, was just getting started.
Sheppard spent the whole show wandering around the camp, shouting at fellow tribe members like he was a grouchy old school mistress. “Excuse me! Excuse me!” he said, over and over. “Answer my question! Answer me! I don’t need two people talking at once.” Then, when they didn’t obey, “We’re done with this conversation for now.”
And just for extra sprinkles, he did it all in the worst pair of faded fuschia underwear I’ve ever seen. I mean these things were priceless; sagging and out of shape (like him), and gapping in all the wrong places. Dangerous places. I know everyone on Survivor runs around in their underwear, and not everyone is in great shape. I get it. But why not boxers? Why faded, gaping fuschia briefs? I want to believe it’s some kind of awesome calculated irony, that his whole character has been written and not found among the masses. But I just don’t.
The premier episode ended, as always, with Tribal Council. And Phil Sheppard and Company didn’t disappoint. He interrupted Francesca to run his mouth about secret plans, called out the girl who’d been stupid enough to show him the secret immunity idol she’d found (Kristina), all while managing to mispronounce Francesca’s name three different ways. My favorite was Fransquesqua, like she was some kind of Indian princess. But no worries, he’s being treated for dry mouth. That’s why he was having trouble with her name. Just ask him, he’ll tell you.
It was a great hour of entertainment, with the best quote of the night going to Ralph, aka Steel Wool. “We ain’t never had a dumb ass win the million. Maybe it’s my turn.” Maybe so, Mr. Wool, maybe so.
Seriously, this is reality tv at it’s best. The producers of Survivor may have thought the two veterans and Redemption Island would shake things up enough to keep viewers coming back, but I’ll be tuning in for Phil Sheppard and Company. No doubt about it.