A new era of Survivor is back for its second edition. “Feels Like A Rollercoaster” kicked off Survivor 42, the second season in this new world of a rougher and tougher Survivor. We’ve already experienced the twist-heavy shenanigans of Survivor 41, but does its sequel match the same tone? It’s still early to tell since it’s only the season premiere, but since Survivor 42 was filmed back-to-back with Survivor 41, it’s safe to assume more gameshow twists are right around the corner. In the case of “Feels Like A Rollercoaster,” there were a few heavy hitters right out of the gate.
For example, the new amulet twist already feels like a complicated mess. The concept of an advantage gaining more power as other castaways get voted off sounds interesting on paper, but the execution won’t play out the way Survivor is expecting. Why would anyone use the power if they didn’t have to? Drea, Hai, and Lindsay would be better off holding onto their advantage in the hopes that the others would be voted out so they could end up with the hidden immunity idol. The only benefit is forming the secret alliance and hoping they survive to a point where they can use it.
The “Risk/Protect Your Vote” twist came back from Survivor 41, which wasn’t the worst decision. Out of all the twists from that season, this power was the easiest to understand and one of the fairest. This decision was completely placed on Maryanne, Jenny, and Drea, so they had all the power for deciding their fate. This is the right direction for Survivor to move in with their twists because the power doesn’t completely screw over the players and the game is upfront about what they’ll win (and what they’ll lose). Though, Drea should cross all her fingers that no one spills the truth about the twists; she’s already superpowered with two twists—a dangerous combination this early into Survivor 42.
When it came to competitions, the return of the “Savvy vs. Sweat” game was a pleasant surprise. Camp resources are essential in this new era of Survivor, and if the players need to compete to start on the right foot, this type of challenge seriously puts them to the test. There were so many variables that could’ve hindered the tribes during the “Savvy” brain puzzle, so I was surprised that both the Taku and Vati tribes chose it. (“Sweat” would’ve been simpler in the grand scheme.) Both made the right approach by working together and placing their best team members on it; if anyone messed up, the blame would be equally spread between them. And the brain teaser wasn’t an easy one to solve too!
The other two challenges were classic Survivor. We’ve seen variations of them in the past, so there wasn’t anything that blew us out of the water. Incorporating the amulet twist into the opening obstacle course offered some surprise, but the thrill went away after they explained the rules of the power. (See above for why.) Daniel having his shoulder dislocated was very reminiscent of Stephanie during Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains. It’s a painful process and he’s very lucky medical was able to pop it back in—Survivor 42 didn’t need to have a third person leave in the opening round.
Speaking of leaving, were you shocked to see Jackson be medically evacuated? It’s not the first time that a castaway had to be removed from Survivor early on, but it usually comes from an injury, and the player gets cleared to move forward with caution. Jackson being removed due to Lithium is a sad reveal since they seemed like a nice player and someone we could’ve rooted for later in the season. Survivor can’t risk his body going into toxic shock or injury due to the side effects. This was a problem on both sides: Jackson should’ve been more open before starting the game, and the production shouldn’t have cleared him to play if this could’ve been an issue. Chances are they didn’t have an alternate ready to take their place when they found out. A very sad and messy outcome.
The developments on the Ika tribe were also the definition of messy. Rocksroy needs to tone down the leadership vibe when working with his campmates. It’s one thing to delegate and direct for building the camp, but it’s another to take charge and order everyone around like a parent. He nearly became the target; his best course of action is to take a step back and focus on his social game. His strength will carry him in the first few rounds, but he’ll need alliances to protect him when his target becomes too big to ignore.
Tori getting labeled as “searching for an idol” this early on could’ve ruined her chances to win. Granted, she was only gone for a little bit, but this was the type of gameplay rumor that could grow terribly. She did a good job shutting down the rumors and turning the tide against her naysayers. When there are rumors floating around, all a player can do is try to shift blame or shut them down quickly. Plus, her performance during the immunity challenge showed that they needed her strength for a little bit longer. We should keep our eyes on Tori because she has the makings of a player who could make a run into the game or flame out pretty quickly.
Zach, on the other hand, performed terribly during “Feels Like A Rollercoaster.” For someone who was a superfan of Survivor, they crashed and burned quickly with their too-hard-too-fast moves. His error started right away when he placed all the blame for his tribe losing during the immunity challenge on his puzzle performance. The right tactic here was to spread out the blame as a full tribe loss and divert attention away from himself; by calling it out, he placed the spotlight on himself. Even the rumors about Tori weren’t coming back to him. Zach could’ve relaxed a bit, worked in the background, and carried the conversation to another target, like Rocksroy, Tori, or Romeo.
Sometimes being a superfan works against a player on Survivor. You anticipate too much about the game, you become overly strategic, and you get too focused on playing the game instead of making connections. Zach could’ve been the next Adam on Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X, but those elements didn’t work out in his favor this time around. He made the right call by playing his “Shot in the Dark” (i.e., giving up his vote for a chance at immunity); he clearly was one of the top two targets. That was his only way of staying unless his tribe decided to keep him.
“Feels Like A Rollercoaster” was true to its name. A lot happened during the Survivor 42 premiere, especially with the twists and surprise eliminations. We learned a fair bit about the players, and the game jumped right into the sped-up pacing of this new Survivor era. Let’s hope that the twists don’t overshadow the gameplay and we can focus on strategy in the coming rounds.
Survivor airs new episodes Wednesdays at 8 p.m. EST on CBS.