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'Survivor 2012: Philippines' Premiere - How To Blind Side Yourself

September 20th, 2012 1:01pm EDT

The Tandang tribe during the premiere episode of Survivor: Phili And we’re back! It’s the Survivor 2012: Philippines premiere. Eighteen castaways - check. Three tribes- check. The dashing Jeff Probst - check. Now all we need are our second chance players, Russell Swan (Survivor: Samoa), Jonathan Penner (Survivor: Macronesia) and Michael Skupin (Survivor: Australian Outback,) each of whom was pulled from the game after life threatening injuries. Just to keep things interesting, we’ll toss in former San Francisco Giants MVP Jeff Kent and The Facts of Life star Lisa Whelchel (Blair.) Simmer for 39 days, until one player emerges as a million dollar winner.

Jeff, piloting a large boat, tells us that the 15 new players have already been divided into three teams. They don’t know that Jeff’s bringing them their team leaders, Russell, Jonathan and Michael. Considering how well newbies have treated returning players in the past, it could go either way for the leaders.

Russell will be leading the blue tribe, Matsing, the Phillipine name for “Monkey.” Jonathan will lead the Kalabaw “Water Buffalo” red tribe, and Michael the yellow Tandang “Rooster” tribe.

Jonathan Penner’s Kalabaw Tribe will include: Sarah Dawson, Katie Hanson, Jeff Kent, Dana Lambert, Carter Williams.

Michael Skupin’s Tandang Tribe: Abi-Maria Gomes, Roberta “RC” Saint-Amour, Artis Silvester, Lisa Whelchel, Peter “Pete” Yurkowski.

Russell Swan’s Matsing Tribe include: Malcolm Freberg, Zane Knight, Angie Layton, Roxanne “Roxy” Morris, Denise Stapley.

Jeff tells everyone that there will be hidden immunity idols again this season, but wastes no time in giving the castaways 60 seconds to gather up whatever supplies they can grab before their rafts are released. The red team loses everything as their raft goes sideways, taking Jeff with it. He damages his knee in the process but tries to hide it from his team.

Matsing arrives on their beach. Russell doffs his sports jacket, and has a team meeting, assuring the others that he may have been appointed their leader, but as far as he’s concerned, they are all leaders. He interviews that anyone crazy enough to want to be leader will crash and burn, so he hopes someone will step up to that role. But Russell quickly organizes work teams, and begins telling the other players what to do. The younger players figure they’ll do as he says for now, but are not impressed at being ordered around. Malcolm takes over fire making duty; fresh from living in Micronesia for a year, he’s quite capable of surviving without Russell’s help. Malcolm lets Russell take credit for starting the fire, to keep a target on Russell’s back, and off his own.

Kalabaw’s Jeff is nursing his popped knee, nauseous from the pain, but determined no one will know he’s injured. Jonathan is excited to be playing the game again, grateful for the privilege. His teammates, however, are already determined that one of them should win, as he’s already had his shot. Carter tells the others that they’ll use Jonathan for a few days, take advantage of his skills, and then cut him out of the game. Abby hopes to bond with Jeff over their southern roots. Jeff’s not talking about his baseball past, but Dawson recognizes him, and decides that she’ll keep his secret until the knowledge becomes valuable to her.

Tandang wash up on their beach, and gather what they’ve brought with them. Michael is pleased with his team – he liked them on sight. He also recognized Lisa immediately, nearly calling her ‘Blair’ when they were introduced. He thinks they’ve got a good mix of brains and brawn. Abi and RC become instant ‘besties,’ although RC tells Abi she’s an executive assistant, rather than reveal she’s actually a banker. Abi has a strong Brazilian accent, and a flirtatious nature, setting her sights on hunky Peter immediately. Abi, RC, and Peter form an alliance, hoping to bring Michael in as their strong fourth. Apparently they’ve already written off Lisa. Michael, whose game plan is to ‘follow the group’s lead,’ agrees to the plan, but senses the younger women dislike Lisa. He thinks Lisa should let them know who she is, as it might elevate her status in their eyes. He tries to warn her, gently asking her why she isn’t coming forward with her past success. She fears the other players will assume she’s financially secure already.

On Matsing, sex therapist Denise tries to figure out what makes the heavily tattooed and belligerent Zane tick. She thinks the date on his arm represents someone he’s lost, and notes the Serenity Prayer on his hand as well. Zane takes the opportunity to form an alliance with Denise, and then quickly does the same with every other team member. Malcolm doesn’t trust Zane, and forms an alliance with Denise, vowing to keep an eye on Zane, but concentrate on ousting Russell. Malcolm and Denise share an extremely awkward hug.

Michael’s unhappy with the progress at Tandang; they don’t have a fire, which means they don’t have drinkable water. As he hustles to help his team build the shelter, he cuts his hand, beginning a series of accidents that lead the others to worry that Michael’s accident prone.

Jonathan, Kalabaw tribe leader, is not making friends, preferring to spend his time immunity idol hunting on his own. He finds the first clue in the rice bucket. On the Matsing site, Russell also finds the clue in their rice, and hides the clue in his pocket. On the beach, Russell isn’t aware that Zane is swimming nearby, watching him fumble with his pocket. Zane asks Russell if he’s been looking for the idol. Russell says he hasn’t, and that anyone caught looking for the idol will be a target at Tribal Council.

Immunity challenge time and everyone shows up wearing war paint. Jeff says there are two immunity idols, but only the first tribe to finish gets the fire-making kit while the second tribe gets flint. The three tribes are split into teams of two. The first pair have to run, tied together, to a spot where they will release two paddles. Two more players will paddle out to release a submerged chest and bring it back, and the final two will assemble a puzzle from its contents.

When the teams strategize, Russell highhandedly decides which of his tribe will do which task, despite their protests. No one is happy with his plan, and it shows when they begin the task.

Kalabaw are neck and neck with Tandang, but finally beat them for first place, winning immunity and the fire-making tools. Tandang, in second, gets the flint and immunity. Matsing, in third place, is heading to Tribal Council, where someone will be voted out and sent home.

Russell tells Jeff he’ll have to take ‘some’ of the blame for Matsing’s loss, since he made the decision of who would do what, but there’s always next time. Jeff says there’s a next time for five of the team, but not all six, since someone will be voted out at Tribal Council.

Back at the Matsing camp, Russell tries to pep talk by assuring the tribe that all challenges are brutal, and that they’ll have to dig deep to win. Suddenly, Zane pipes up that he’s the one that blew the challenge, because he couldn’t pull his weight on his leg of the trial, having just quit smoking the day he left for the Philippines. Everyone looks at Zane in shock – why would he be asking the tribe to vote him off, after just one lost challenge?

Zane interviews that his words were a ruse, to see if he is indeed running the show, a psychological mind game. He hopes the tribe would rather have him as a hindrance, than keep Russell.

Well, Russell’s pretty happy about Zane’s words, and the rest of the tribe are thrilled that Zane has picked himself. After all, they may not like Russell, but they don’t want to go home early either! Angie and Roxie are still steaming that Russell made them do the puzzle portion of the challenge, although both had insisted puzzles were not their strength.

Angie would prefer Zane stay, so she confronts him, asking him why he’s giving up. Zane is happy to hear that she will vote for Russell at Tribal. Malcolm also wants Zane to stay, and Zane begins to think that the tribe could blindside Russell, especially when Zane hints that Russell already has the immunity idol. Malcolm tells Denise they are 95% sure that Russell has an idol.

Russell interviews that he’s pretty sure he’s safe at the vote, but you never know – although he’d vowed not to pull a leadership trip, he went right into ‘Chief’ mode, thinking he had to make all of the decisions. Leadership kills, dude, and he may have made his first mistake at the challenge. He could well be voted out tonight.

Jeff welcomes everyone to Tribal Council. He asks Denise how she feels about playing with returning players. She says she had mixed feelings, but it’s been an asset and a gift to have someone with experience help them through their first three days. Zane tells Jeff that Russell has been like an onion; the first few layers are great, but too deep in, and you’ll start to cry. The more you peel back, the more you understand how much of a better player you’re up against.

Russell agrees that Zane’s words are both complimentary and a warning, in that the tribe perceive him as a strong player that they will have to eliminate. He admits to making a mistake in dictating decision making at the failed challenge. Malcolm agrees with Russell’s words. Roxie says Russell’s demeanor threw her into a subordinate role, and Angie adds that, despite her ability to run, she was asked to puzzle solve, and told that if they lost it would be her fault.

Again, Zane insists that they should vote him out, because he’s the weakest. Russell still thinks they might boot him. Voting begins. Russell votes for Zane. Zane votes for Russell. Everyone else votes Zane, who becomes the first person voted out of Survivor Philippines by a 5-1 vote. Jeff snuffs Zane’s torch, tosses a piece of flint to Denise, and shoos the tribe out of Tribal.

Surprisingly, Zane can’t believe the tribe really voted him out, after he told them to. “I honestly thought I had this whole game figured out,” says Zane. Which leaves me wondering which game he was thinking about, because Zane blindsided himself.

In terms of shaking up the camp, Zane might have been an asset, but as a self-admitted loser, he’s not a big loss to the tribe. What do you think? Should the tribe have blindsided Russell? Let us know, in the comments below. And I’ll be back next week with my recap of Survivor: Philippines.

Related: Jeff Probst, Lisa Whelchel, Survivor: Philippines, Starpulse Exclusives, Recaps, Television, Reality, CBS

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Photo Credits: CBS

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