Survivor fans got their first taste of Blood vs. Water Wednesday night, when the show kicked off its 27th season by pairing up past players with their loved ones and having them play against each other. The episode kicked off with "Day Zero" — the new strategy of having each pair spend a night on their own before the game officially began.
And within the first 20 minutes, two players were already voted out. (Don't worry, they'll still have a chance to get back in the game thanks to the reintroduction of Redemption Island.) The Loved Ones ("Tadhana") voted out Rupert's wife Laura, while the returning players ("Galang") voted out Candice.
The returning players jump to an early lead, winning immunity and flint at the first immunity challenge. But will playing with a family member bring out a softer side in the contestants, or make them all the more competitive? It remains to be seen, but as the season gets underway, host Jeff Probst gave TVGuide.com his analysis of the 10 pairs:
Tyson & Rachel:
"I had the question, who would date Tyson? I want to meet this girl," Probst says. "Rachel's beautiful and calm and rational. And Tyson is — well, he'd say he's beautiful, but he's certainly not calm or rational. He's the funny guy who makes spontaneous, quick decisions and sometimes shoots himself in the foot. But when you watch these two together, you see an amazing love affair. At first glance you might think, oh, Tyson? He's going to be selfish and do whatever suits Tyson. I don't know — if Rachel was in trouble, I think Tyson would be the first to lay down his sword and say, 'After you, my love.'"
Colton & Caleb:
Despite being cast as the villain right off the bat, Colton later shares a sob story about the persecution he faced growing up gay in the South. Monica is skeptical, already warning Colton that she's not looking for any more drama after their previous outing, and wonders if he's really changed. She's not the only one. "Colton is by far the most controversial person we brought back. And all of us are aware it's a controversial decision," Probst acknowledges. "I found Colton to be appalling, and I actually never thought he would be on the show again. But Colton's plea to us was, 'I was embarrassed. I didn't like how I behaved, and I'd like a shot at redemption.' So we met his fiancé, and Caleb as an archetype couldn't be further away from Colton. He's likable, hardworking, kind, accessible, open-minded. Every word you'd use to describe Caleb, you'd look for the antonym for Colton. So, Colton came out seeking redemption. Did he get it? Can't say. Is there closure with Colton's story? One hundred percent."
Aras & Vytas:
"Aras and Vytas grew up very close in age, but with completely different life experiences," Probst says of the brothers. "Aras was the golden child, college athlete, won a million dollars on Survivor. His brother Vytas was getting high on heroin and was in jail after robbing a woman at an ATM. Completely different paths." Now 14 years sober, Vytas has conquered his addiction (and is open with his teammates about his past) but still has "a chip on his shoulder," according to Probst. "[Vytas] want[s] to beat Aras at his game. You feel it, you hear it, you see it. It's not pretend. It goes deep, that wound. The question is, will the wound get exacerbated or will there be some healing?"
Rupert & Laura:
Rupert stuns his tribemates and Probst when he immediately switches places with his wife after she's voted off at the start of the game, thus buying his own ticket to Redemption Island. Not the best strategy, perhaps? Laura, in turn, feels like a fish out of water when she's teamed up with the former players. Blood vs. Water is Rupert's fourth go-round on Survivor, but Probst insists that doesn't put him at an unfair advantage. "God, no," Probst insists. "The big baggage that Rupert carries is, most fans of the show and most players don't really think Rupert is a great player. He's great around camp, but is he a good player? The reason we brought Rupert back is, despite questioning whether or not he really knows how to play the game, there are a lot of fans and a lot of new kids that are just starting to watch that are still attracted to the big, bellowing voice of the man in the tie-dye. And you can't deny that. ... We're building a show that is about human nature, and so to me, bringing a guy back like Rupert actually makes a lot of sense, because he's going to annoy a lot of people."
Candice & John:
Candice starts off on a bad note and holds a grudge after being voted out in the first round. She and John started out as the season's alternates, and were tapped to join the game after RC and Craig were forced to drop out due to a medical issue, Probst explains. "They got a call probably at 8 a.m. or something in the morning, and they were on a flight that day," Probst says of the "super-likable couple." "They are Ken and Barbie. They're the astronaut and the first lady. And they're both doctors now. It's kind of a killer combination. Candice gets a rep of being a quiet player, but for my money she's extremely strategic and very savvy about the game." She'll need to be, since she's stuck on Redemption Island for now, growing more annoyed with Rupert by the minute.
Tina & Katie:
Katie told Probst at the start of the game that she was looking forward to playing against her mother, with the potential to "beat her at her own game." But has she spoken too soon? "The mothers gave birth to their daughters. They raised them. So could they really vote them out, if push came to shove?" Probst ponders. "On the other hand, from a daughter's point of view, 'That's my mom. She'll understand.'"
Monica & Brad:
Brad's comment that he'd be willing to throw a challenge to give his wife a tarp was "one of the dumbest responses in the history of the game," according to Probst. Nevertheless, Probst calls the Culpeppers " two of the most fascinating people that I've ever met. ... The way they adore each other, with their matching tattoos and all of these things. But when you talk to them, Monica's very clear about one thing. 'I was Brad Culpepper's wife for 25 years. In this game, I'm Monica Culpepper. And I'm playing to win.' And that was interesting. I was very curious how Brad was going to react, knowing that only one person wins. You and your wife aren't going to win."
Laura & Ciera:
The second mother-daughter pair on Blood vs. Water, Laura doesn't hesitate in sharing her mom's strengths and weaknesses with her teammates ahead of the immunity challenge. But again, she might be harboring misplaced confidence. "The thing that struck me," Probst teases, "is mothers know their daughters. 'I raised you. I know you as well as you know yourself.' And daughters may not know as much about their parents as they think."
Gervase & Marissa:
Gervase is on his own, after his niece Marissa gets sent to Redemption Island at Tribal Council — in part because of Gervase's gloating after the immunity challenge. (He should probably also work on his swimming and physical fitness skills, based on his performance in the first challenge.) "One of the old-school original players," Probst says fondly of the Season 1 alum. "What was fun about having Gervase and Tina on was this question: Do they now realize the game is very different from when they played? Or is Gervase going to say, 'I don't know. I'll get around to strategy next week'? I love having Gervase out there. He was very funny and was aware that he was the old guy now."
Kat & Hayden:
As the winner of Big Brother 12 ("Survivor in a house"), Hayden is the first castaway who's won another reality show. Of his and Kat's relationship, Probst says: "Not to diminish it, but it's not a marriage. It's only a year long. Does that mean more to him because he wants to prove [his commitment], or does that give him a get-out-of-jail-free card? 'It's just my girlfriend.' That's one of the big questions."
Which player are you rooting for?
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