Premieres Wednesday, Sept. 25 8/7c
Season 1: Episode 1 - 16 Castaways Marooned in the South China Sea
Posted on Jul 14, 2011 11:30am

No one said living 39 days on a deserted tropical island was going to be easy.Tagi team arrives at Tagi Beach

But after three days in their new island home, the sixteen men and women of Survivor are experiencing a test beyond their imaginings. "Going in I thought this was going to be tough," notes Sue Hawk, a 38-year old truck driver from Wisconsin and member of Survivor's Tagi tribe. "But the hardest part, though, is the people. You gotta make them like you or they'll vote you off."

Jenna Whitney, a single mom from New Hampshire and member of Survivor's Pagong tribe, seconded the notion. "We'll adapt to jungle living - it's hard but we have to. The real trick is proving to others that you belong on the island."

Survivor's premise is simple: maroon sixteen normal Americans -- men and women chosen from all walks of life -- on the island of Pulau Tiga, twenty miles off the coast of Borneo. Once every three days the castaways gather to vote one of their own off the island. The last person left wins a million dollars.

Over 6,000 applicants flooded CBS with videotapes explaining why they should be selected. That number was whittled to 800, then 48, then the final 16 (with two alternates). After medical and psychological testing, the Survivors were flown to the Bornean city of Kota Kinabalu. Then the fun began.

The castaways were separated into two tribes named after their respective beaches, Tagi and Pagong. The tribes were marooned two miles off the coast of the island of Pulau Tiga. They used rafts to go ashore. On Pagong's raft, Gretchen Cordy, the 38-year old "soccer mom" from Tennessee did the lion's share of the paddling.

Jenna, Pagong's cheerleader, wore a hot pink bikini. Forgetting that the world's highest concentration of sea snakes thrives in the water off Pulau Tiga, she breastroked behind the raft, singing "Welcome to the Jungle" at the top of her lungs.

Getting Acquainted

Tagi hit the beach and immediately began working - all but Richard Hatch. The corporate trainer from Newport, Rhode Island, a Falstaffian figure who had already taken to going shirtless, sat in a tree while his fellow tribe members worked. (Kelly and Rudy about Richard) (Rich about himself)Richard sits in a tree while tribemates begin work

Sue called up to him in the tree, telling him to come down and work. It was hard to tell if she amused or angry with Richard. "Come on down, Richard."

But he wouldn't move.

Youth Versus Experience

Quest for Fire illuminated the biggest difference between Tagi and Pagong: Age. Pagong was the island's version of MTV's Beach House. They were all young and single, with the exception of BB and Gretchen. Their bodies were sleek and hard. (Jenna about her fellow tribemates)BB and Gretchen work on the hut

Tagi, on the other hand, were the older, more mature tribe. Searchers. They embraced their age and imperfect bodies, skinny dipping together at dawn (except Dirk and Rudy). Sean and Rudy ran and did push-ups on the beach. When they sat down in small groups for discussion, topics like God and love and relationships came up. Dirk had brought his Bible and read it, well, religiously.


Most castaways came to the island with a strategy for winning. Neurosurgeon Sean, for instance, planned on being "Jerry Seinfeld," and making everyone laugh so hard they would be unable to vote him off.

Mild-mannered Colleen planned to fly below the radar so no one would notice her. Gervase, the father of three, thought charm was his best trait. He wanted to smooth-talk the others and make friends. Richard planned to use his background as a corporate trainer to take leadership position.

BB swore to work so hard he would be indispensable.

Others, however, came to the island with plans to make their strategy up as the game went along. Rudy, with 45 years in the Navy under his belt promised that if he was given two weeks he would be able to figure the entire game, right down to the winner.

Jenna couldn't wait until the game got down to the final eight or nine, because "then it would get ruthless, which is good."


Sickness set into Survivor life within the first hours of the contest. The paddle from the Matahari took place under a hot equatorial sun. Pagong was fighting the current, and their journey took almost two hours longer than Tagi's. Both Ramona and Gretchen swallowed salt water en route, with Ramona vomiting over the side of the raft before reaching shore, and Gretchen heaving on the fringe of the jungle once they'd made land.

The difference between the two was that Ramona couldn't shake the nausea for several days, and was labeled "lazy" by BB; others including Gervase, sympathized with her situation. Gretchen had a rough few hours after arriving on the beach, then recovered and immediately went to work. Her work ethic was only matched by BB's.

Stacey, standing a few feet away, rolled her eyes at Richard.

Pagong, on the other hand, spent little time working. Gretchen, who'd taught military survival training before leaving the service to have children, cringed when 62-year old BB Andersen chose an oceanfront location. "We're going to get really wet at high tide with this spot," she warned.

Friendships were already forming. Gervase and Ramona, as the island's two African-Americans, agreed never to vote one another off. Greg Buis was winning the hearts of Jenna and Colleen with his irreverent antics. He was the island's counterculture hero, at least in his own eyes. He saw his job as keeping everything hip and flippant.

As day turned to night, neither tribe was entirely settled (though Tagi had constructed a magnificent latrine) and neither had fire for cooking a hot meal. With rats and snakes beginning their nocturnal beach invasion, the sixteen brave men and women settled down for a night of fitful rest.