It probably won’t surprise anyone who knows me, but I loved last night’s Survivor premiere. The pirate theme, which could’ve been spectacularly cheesy, was pretty well executed, and I loved the bartering trip through the fishing village (though it did make you question just how “remote” this year’s location really was). Already, the cast looks like it’s full of freaks (I love them freaks!), and there are lots of budding conflicts which seem likely to bubble over in weeks ahead.

I love how there’s always one tribe that has its shit together and another that’s in complete disarray. How did Mark Burnett manage to find seven people dumb enough to leave the fishing village without spending all their money? (Poor Ryan S. He’s smarter than all of them put together.) And how do you not know that the location of the fresh water is printed on your map? It’s on the map EVERY FREAKING SEASON!

Now, I’d like to make a very bold prediction.

Ryan S. will win.

Maybe I’m crazy. Maybe I’m going to look really stupid next week. But I get a sneaking suspicion that the way the show was edited was all part of a big ruse. Everyone knows that typically, whoever gets the most screen time in Episode One is bound to get the boot. And last night, Skinny Ryan was the most visible castaway by far. Nicole didn’t even register until after the immunity challenge, which made her seem like the obligatory red herring. But stunningly, it was Nicole who got sent packing. All through the episode, the editors worked really hard to make Ryan look like an underdog. His only friend is the one person on his tribe who’s a bigger oddball than he is. His ideas, no-brainers like making a plan for how to spend their money, not letting extra money go to waste, and stopping for a moment to establish some tribe morale, went unspoken or ignored. He was the only guy on the tribe who didn’t needlessly get naked. It sure didn’t seem like he fit in. And what was with that speech Probst gave about not counting yourself out of the game too soon? They’re setting us up! If Lillian goes next and Ryan hangs around until some kind of tribal switch happens, he could find himself with a lot more power than he has now. That would be a startling, unpredictable twist. Except that I’m predicting it right now.

According to the previews, someone begs to leave next week. I think it’s Big Lill. They probably want us to think it’s Ryan, but Lillian seems more discouraged than he does at being an outcast. Which begs the question: Has she really gotten through her entire life wearing a boy scout uniform and never being shunned before? I liked Lillian a lot more than I expected. She actually seemed like a really nice woman who was just learning a lesson about assimilation a little late in life.

I also liked Sandra. From what little I saw of Sandra before last night’s episode, I thought she looked bossy and irrational. But as it turned out, she was bossy and hilarious. I agreed with almost everything she said, especially about Jon being annoying. Sandra’s my favorite so far.

The ones I don’t like: moronic, unfunny Jon. Shrill, temperamental Tijuana. Andrew, who foolishly thought taking a leadership role would help him in the game. (The last “leader” to win was Rich, in Season 1.) And especially Osten, who fawned over his “Nubian princess” and let himself get led around by the penis rather than the thirst for a million dollars.

Ah, Thursday nights have meaning again. Welcome back, Survivor.

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