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'Survivor: Nicaragua' recap: And so it begins

Oh, you guys. I'm so excited for this season of Survivor. The last two have been so much fun, and I'm hoping this one will be great fun, even though we don't have Russell running around anymore.

Right off the bat, I'm so glad they started filming in high-def because Nicaragua is bee-yoo-tee-ful!

Host Jeff Probst gives a little clue to the theme when he mentions the country's "young volcanoes."

If you've been living under a rock, you might not know that Super Bowl champion NFL coach Jimmy Johnson is competing this season. He says he's had so many accomplishments ... "What could top it off like winning Survivor?" (If you have been living under a rock, don't worry; Russell will find you soon. Especially if you are a hidden immunity idol.)

The contestants make a trek by foot to meet up with Jeff, but they're not allowed to speak to one another yet. And even so, they're starting to annoy one another. Nice!

Once they reach him, they can start interacting.

Kelly B, by the way, is missing part of one leg due to a birth defect, which for the beginning anyway, she is keeping a secret.

Marty recognizes Jimmy J and doesn't know why he's there. "I'd rather have him on the other tribe, frankly." Not going to happen, dude.

Jeff tells them about the hidden Medallion of Power, which one person will win for his or her tribe. They go running off like crazy people looking for it. Self-described flirt Brenda finds it in a tree.

Alina, by the way, notices Kelly's limp pretty quickly and isn't sure what to make of it.

They think they're already into tribes, but they're wrong. 40 and older goes one direction, 30 and younger goes the other, Jeff says. There's a lot of "whaaaaaaaaaaaa?" going on there for a bit.

Jeff tells Brenda she can keep the medallion of power for the tribe or trade it for fire and a huge fishing kit. The other tribe gets whatever Brenda's tribe doesn't keep.

The children, as Yve (who has come to the game wearing a plaid dress, knee socks and boots, oh so practical) calls them, finally decide to take the gear, giving the older tribe the MOP.

Holly the swim coach jumps on Wendy the sheltered goat rancher, and they make an immediate alliance. Meanwhile, Jane the dog trainer takes the lead on making fire. She wants the million dollars to help her pay off her farm, which has been in jeopardy since the loss of her husband in 2009. And by the way, she was successful with the fire, in half an hour. Love that.

The La Flor "children" greet one another with high fives. Then all the guys start walking around in eccentric underwear that requires pixelation of their packages. I mean seriously, did they have a meeting about what to pack? Usually the first victim of pixelation is a woman, but not this year!

Kelly B reveals her prosthetic leg to her teammates, and everyone's impressed that she's taking on this challenge. In public. In the interviews, several of her tribemates express concern that if she makes it to the end, she's a big threat for sympathy votes.

That night, back at the Espada tribe, everyone's patting themselves on the back about making fire so soon. They should be directing it more toward Jane, but tribe unity isn't so bad. But then Jimmy J starts retching in the background. Lovely. He's concerned he overdid it setting up camp, and the next morning, he complains about the past 24 hours, and it doesn't come across too well.

Back on the other tribe, Brenda and Chase chat about Jimmy J, and Brenda reveals that she knew who he was right off the bat because she used to cheer for the Dolphins. Then Chase starts angling for an alliance even though, he says, he's already allied with Shannon (who by the way is a dude, and also a somewhat misogynistic one).

Kelly B and Alina (an art student) go for mail call and discover an immunity idol clue, which they decide to keep to themselves. Also: It's a lot tougher than the ones of old, which is thanks to our old friend Russell, I'm sure. Alina interviews that she wishes they hadn't been together because now they're sort of forced to ally, and she doesn't want to be allied with Kelly to the end. Sympathy votes, you know.

Next it's clue time. Jimmy J decides to call a "team huddle." He straight up says that no jury will give him a million bucks, and he knows that and that's not why he's there. He's there for the adventure and to help someone win a million bucks, and he thinks it should be one of his tribemates. Tyrone declares, "I just got a pep talk from Jimmy Johnson!" Hee.

Challenge time. Espada wanders in, whereas La Flor walks in doing some chant-cheer thing that just comes across as extremely lame. Shannon and Chase don't participate, and they look embarrassed on behalf of their teammates. Jeff just goes, "Mmmmmmkay?" For the challenge, one team member pours buckets of water while several others use tubing to direct the water into a barrel. When it's full, it releases a bag full of puzzle pieces. (SHOCKING!) These must be assembled, and whichever tribe finishes first wins immunity.

Oh, and here's some details from Jeff about the Medallion of Power: It gives you advantages at challenges. In this challenge, it means you start with a bucket of water already in the barrel, which gets you about 20 percent there. If you use it, it goes back to the other tribe for the next challenge. Or they can keep it and not use it, keeping it out of the hands of La Flor. They decide to keep it -- and "make a statement."

It's way close, but the younger tribe's puzzle pieces fall first. Not by much, though.  The younger women doing the puzzle get a bit of a lead -- and it works out for them. La Flor wins.

Back at camp, other Jimmy says he thinks Jimmy J is "hornswaggling" everyone about not wanting to win, and says he's voting Jimmy. For some reason, he gets way worked up and can't even talk. Jimmy J talks with Holly about voting out the weakest -- he thinks it's either him or Wendy. Holly immediately regrets that alliance and stops talking to Wendy, who might be naive, but she has been in seventh grade, so she recognizes that something is going on. 

People talk, but no one wants to say a name, as Marty notes. So of course we're headed to tribal council not knowing who's going out.

Jane tells Jeff that she read an article he wrote about why would anyone go to Survivor and not learn how to make fire first. (Word!) Jeff is shocked that anyone listened to him; Jane says she did and that she practiced how to make fire for two months. Go Jane! She has moved up my list of people I like this season. Jimmy not-J then tells everyone how frustrated he is seeing Jimmy J there since that turns him into "just another player" and not someone who gets listened to. Jimmy J says he's not a threat and he's always a target. Other Jimmy isn't buying.

Wendy looks so nervous I'm worried she might hurl. Things get a bit worse when Jeff starts questioning her about whether she feels she's at risk. She says she's at risk because she's not made connections at camp, that no one has really talked to her and that "not one person has asked me how old I am." A couple of folks note that they don't ask anyone that question, especially not a woman. She says she stayed quiet because she was trying to not talk too much and drive everyone insane. But she manages to do so in about two minutes. Whoops. In fact, she interrupts Jeff's "time to vote" line so she can launch into a monologue about how awesome she is, including the fact that she doesn't have any blisters on her feet.  I can't decide if Wendy's husband ruined her game by telling her she was going to get voted out first because she talked too much, causing her to hide her true self, or if he was just reading the situation right.

Votes come in: Wendy, "Eve," Wendy, Wendy, Wendy, Wendy and Wendy. And her husband was right. D'oh!

What do you think about the premiere? I think having Jimmy Johnson around is making things interesting, even though I don't think it's necessarily fair to have a celeb in there. But he needs to lay off the whole "I couldn't win this thing!" thing because it's starting to sound rehearsed and insincere. And no one really believes him anyway.

 

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