Season 23: Episode 1 - I Need Redemption
Posted on Sep 14, 2011 06:00pm

Sixteen new castaways, who have already been divided into two tribes, arrive via canoe at the Redemption Island arena to begin their Survivor adventure.   Jeff Probst, the host, welcomes them to the game and informs them that two more players will join them.  As they anxiously wait for the approaching helicopter to land, Edna Ma, the 35 year-old anesthesiologist from Los Angeles, CA, whispers to her tribe mate Brandon, "I just hope it's not Russell."   What she doesn't know is that Brandon Hantz, an oil tanker crewman from Katy, Texas is Russell's nephew.   Brandon doesn't want his tribe to know that he is related to Russell and vows, "I will never, ever tell them my last name."  The helicopter lands and out jumps Ozzy and Coach, both of whom are fan favorites and skilled two-time Survivor veterans.  The castaways welcome Ozzy and Coach with applause.  Christine Shields Markoski, the 39 year-old teacher from Merrick, N.Y., tells Jeff that although it is nice to see Ozzy and Coach in person, they are "temporary players."   In contrast, John Cochran, a 24 year-old Harvard law student from Washington D.C., admits that as a super fan, he is thrilled to see both Ozzy and Coach and knows "they will be huge assets to us."   Ozzy and Coach then each pick an egg and smash it to see which team they will join.   Coach's egg contains blue paint, so he joins the Upolu tribe with Rick Nelson, Stacey Powell, Brandon Hantz, Sophie Clarke, Albert Destrade, Edna Ma, Mikayla Wingle and Christine Markoski.     Ozzy smashes his egg over his heart to find red paint inside.  So Ozzy joins the Savaii tribe with Dawn Meehan, Mark Caruso, Elyse Umemoto, Jim Rice, Semhar Tadesse, Keith Tollefson, Whitney Duncan and John Cochran.     As Coach walks towards his tribe and sees Christine with a scowl on her face, he admits, "I'm not feeling a good vibe from the blue tribe."  Meanwhile, Ozzy gets a big hug from his tribe.   Jeff then reveals to all the castaways that Redemption Island is back.   Therefore, when a castaway is voted out at Tribal Council, they will go to Redemption Island, where they will live alone until the next person is voted out.   The two will then duel to see who stays on Redemption Island and who goes home.   At a certain point in the game, the remaining person on Redemption Island will be able to rejoin the game for another chance at the million-dollar prize.   Jeff then surprises everyone by announcing that they will be having their first challenge right away.


Jeff tells the castaways that this will be a hero challenge between Coach and Ozzy.  The first step is to climb to the top of a twelve-foot pole to retrieve a wooden turtle.  The second step is to crawl under a log, which is lying in the sand.   The third and final step is transfer a pyramid puzzle across a series of tables to the third table moving only one piece at a time and always moving smaller pieces on top of larger pieces.   The first person to transfer their puzzle to the third table with the turtle on top wins reward for their tribe.   The reward consists of a basket of taro to eat and a flint to make fire.

Ozzy takes an early lead by getting up the pole and retrieving his turtle before Coach does. The Upolu and Savaii tribes sit in the bleachers cheering for their respective heroes.  Ozzy maintains a slight lead by getting under his log and to his puzzle before Coach.    As Ozzy and Coach work on the puzzle, they both struggle to solve it.  Ozzy enlists the help of his tribe.  So, Jim Rice, a 35 year-old medical marijuana dispenser from Denver, CO. starts shouting out instructions to Ozzy from the Savaii tribe.  Meanwhile, Stacey Powell, a 44 year-old mortician from Grand Prairie, TX and Sophie Clarke, a 22 year-old medical student from Willsboro, NY give suggestions to Coach from the Upolu tribe.  Coach continues to struggle with the puzzle though.  In the end, Ozzy wins the challenge.   His Savaii tribe is delighted with Ozzy's performance.  Ozzy admits to Jeff, "There's no way I could have done that without them."  Meanwhile, Coach's tribe is very disappointed with him.  As both tribes head out to their camps, Coach reveals, "So, right off the bat, I've got to come face to face with that biggest fear "“ you're going home first."


Savaii cheers as they arrive at their camp and congratulate Ozzy on his win at the challenge.   Immediately the Savaii members look to Ozzy for guidance in the game.   Ozzy wants to be more than just a leader and food provider though.  He reveals, "I'm actually trying to play a strategic game this time."  As the Savaii members tell each other about their careers, Ozzy takes special notice of Semhar Tadesse, who is a 24 year-old spoken word artist from Los Angeles, CA.    At her tribe's request, she gives an impromptu performance of her spoken word.   Even though she was put on the spot, Semhar reveals, "I think it's important that when people challenge you, that you step up to that, so they know that they can trust you."  Ozzy is impressed by Semhar's beauty and passion and thinks she might be a good person with whom to align.  As the tribe gets to know each other, Ozzy announces, "I've had a few tribes.  This is the best tribe ever."  He suggests they relax and go swimming.   The tribe agrees and heads to the ocean.   Cochran is not as excited as the others about swimming, especially as they all strip down to their underwear.  He is self-conscious of his body and reveals, "It's just going to make me look more like a pathetic twerp, than I already do with my clothes on."


As the Upolu tribe arrives at their camp, Coach apologizes to his team for losing the challenge.    The tribe then discusses their occupations.   When Sophie reveals that she just graduated as a Russian and economics major, Coach starts speaking Russian to her.   Sophie is not impressed with Coach's basic Russian, but admits, "Coach has been out here twice before and he knows some things."  The Upolu tribe then gets to work on building their shelter.   Coach helps his tribe choose the shelter's location and works right along with them.     Edna appreciates Coach's help and comments, "Right now, I think he's an asset."  Christine decides to leave the shelter building and search for a hidden immunity idol.  As a fan of Survivor, she knows that is it possible that an idol already exists somewhere at the camp.    Albert Destrade, the 26 year-old baseball/dating coach from Plantation, FL, brings Christine's idol search to the attention of this tribe mates.    Coach admits that he is most concerned about Christine after she called him a "temporary player" in the beginning and is now searching for the idol.  Coach decides, "Christine is target number one."


Over at Savaii, the tribe is in the ocean cooling off and getting to know more about each other.  Jim is enjoying the beautiful scenery of the South Pacific and of his fellow female tribe mates whom he describes as "hot as hell."   When asked about his profession, Jim lies and tells his tribe that he is a teacher.  He doesn't want to tell them he is really a poker champion and medical marijuana dispensary owner.    Mark Caruso, the 48 year-old retired NYPD detective from Forest Hills, NY decides to reveal to the tribe that he is gay and asks his tribe to call him Papa Bear.   He admits, "It's not about being gay, it's about surviving.  I'm a guy who is a team player and hopefully they are going to see that."  The tribe decides to leave the water and start setting up their camp and making fire.   Dawn Meehan, the 41 year-old English professor from South Jordan, UT is relieved that they are finally getting to work on their camp before the night comes.   As a mother of six, she is used calling the shots and making sure that everyone is cared for.   Meanwhile, Ozzy is not too worried about having the shelter done by the end of the day, since he is happy to sleep on the beach.


As Coach, Brandon and Mikayla, the 22 year-old lingerie football player, from Tampa, FL gather bamboo and palm fronds for the shelter, Coach asks Brandon about the "loco" tattoo on his neck.   Brandon tells them that he is ashamed of that tattoo now.  He explains that when he was younger he tried to act like his Uncle Russell and bully people.  Brandon reveals, "I grew up a lot.  God's number one for me now."  As Mikayla gathers palm fronds in the distance, Coach comments to Brandon that Mikayla is pretty.    Brandon responds, "That's Delilah, son.  I don't play that."   Back at camp, the tribe is putting the roof on the shelter.   Mikayla doesn't hesitate climbing up on the roof to cover it with palm fronds.  She admits, "I have no patience.  I just want to get things done."   Brandon watches Mikayla work and reveals, "I don't feel comfortable around Mikayla.  It's just the way that she carries herself."    Brandon vows to avoid temptation.


As the sun goes down on the first day, Brandon, Albert, Sophie, Coach and Rick Nelson, the 51 year-old rancher from Aurora, UT are out on the Upolu beach admiring the stars, while the rest of the tribe is back at camp.  Coach takes advantage of the opportunity to talk to this group alone and says, "If you have a strong five, you can go so far, even if you're down numbers at the merge."    Albert agrees that he feels most comfortable with the four people in this group.    Sophie, Brandon and Keith agree.   With that, Coach finalizes the deal by saying, "First day alliances are the most solid.  You've seen it time and time again."    Coach is relieved to end the day with an alliance after starting the day losing a challenge for his tribe.  


The next morning at Savaii, Dawn is discouraged after she spills a boiling pot of water on the fire and then takes a hard fall after a tree vine gives way.  She admits, "I think I might be having a mini break down."    Papa Bear cautions Dawn to be strong or else their younger tribe mates might target them for being weak and older.    Dawn shares her struggle with Ozzie and admits that she did not expect to be emotional at all.   Dawn then starts to cry, which is noticed by others in the tribe.   Ozzy consoles Dawn and tells her, "You have what it takes to keep going."    Ozzy hopes that Dawn is able to compose herself, because he views her as a potential ally.   At the same time, Ozzy admits, "If Dawn doesn't get it together, she very well could be going home."


As day 3 begins at Upolu, Ozzy realizes that his tribe needs to complete their shelter and make camp as comfortable as possible.   Ozzy doesn't need much to survive, but he realizes that the rest of his tribe is feeling the impact of the lack of sleep and food.  So Dawn, Semhar and Ozzy start working on the shelter, while Elyse, the 27 year-old dance team manager from Las Vegas, NV and Cochran start opening coconuts.   As Ozzy watches Cochran struggle, he comments, "He doesn't seem like he has the most to offer on the physical side of things."  Cochran keeps Elyse laughing as he opens the coconuts.    Cochran reveals, "I'm not the strongest guy, but I think I have enough social game to kind of overcome any deficits I have."


Over at Savaii, Brandon is out fishing in the ocean with the spear trying to provide for his tribe and get on their good side.   Unlike his Uncle Russell, he wants to have a strong social game. Brandon quickly catches the first fish for the tribe.  Although it is only a small fish, his tribe is still impressed.   Brandon plans on never revealing to his tribe that he is Russell Hantz's nephew.  He explains, "I don't want to be judged by my uncle's reputation."    As Sophie watches Brandon fish in the water, she admits to feeling pretty good about being in a five-person alliance.  Sophie does have reservations about Brandon though and says, "I feel like he's hiding something."


The Savaii and Upolu tribes arrive on their mats. Jeff explains the rules of their first immunity challenge.  Each tribe will race through zig zagging pathways and then through a web of coconuts.  They must then work together to get all their tribe members over a ten-foot wall.  One tribe member will then dig up a machete and use it to chop a series of ropes, releasing a bin of coconuts.  Three tribe members will then shoot coconuts into their tribe's basket.  First tribe to get enough coconuts into their basket to raise their tribe flag wins immunity.   In addition, they win a clue to a hidden immunity idol back at their camp.  The losing tribe goes to Tribal Council and votes to send the first person to Redemption Island.  Before the challenge begins, each tribe gets together to discuss their strategy.  Coach informs Savaii that they will need two people at the top of the wall to help the others over.   Meanwhile, Ozzy, Semhar and Keith, the 26 year-old water treatment tech from Edina, Minn., volunteer to shoot the coconuts at the end of the challenge for Upolu.

Savaii and Upolu are pretty even after racing through the zig zagging pathways.  Upolu pulls ahead at the coconut web and extends their lead at the ten-foot wall, by sending their strongest members Rick and Albert up first to help the rest of the tribe.   Meanwhile, Savaii sends their smaller and weaker members over the wall first.  In addition, Cochran hesitates at the wall and costs his tribe some time.   Ozzy makes up some time for Savaii when digging for the machete to release the coconuts. Rick gets the lead back for Upolu though, as he quickly chops through the