Rupert Boneham arrives at the CBS "Survivor" 10 Year Anniversary Party last month in Los Angeles.
Take a group of people who've played a game once or twice before, separate them into two groups and then let them wrestle in the sand, and you get the brutal, violent, entertaining opening challenge from "Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains."
The tribe of villains gave the heroes a dislocated shoulder (Stephenie), a broken toe (Rupert) and lots of exposure (Sugar, who ran to the finish line topless after Sandra undid her bikini top while they were wrestling).
It was a brutal brawl as two members from each tribe fought for control of a bag that had been buried in the sand. Sometimes it looked like they were just being physical because they could, like when Stephenie's shoulder was pulled out of its socket (and then popped back in by a medical staff person), or when JT threw Randy to the ground and bent his legs backward, or when Cirie tackled competitors left and right. After Colby dragged Coach almost to the finish line, Coach dragged Colby over to the villains' mat and scored a point, humiliating Colby.
In the end, the heroes won, but despite their camaraderie and the dysfunction at the villains tribe, it was a hero who went home first after the heroes blew a huge lead in the immunity challenge.
‘The right decision’
Despite the heroes talking about strategy and using the first vote as an opportunity to get rid of a threat — perhaps Tom or JT, who already won; Cirie, who's known as a cunning strategist (she called herself "a gangsta in an Oprah suit"); or Stephenie, who's a physical powerhouse — they got rid of the crying pin-up, Sugar. While she didn't help in the immunity challenge, failing to put together a puzzle quickly despite a huge lead, she was one of four people putting that puzzle together. But she was also annoying, keeping people awake at night by talking.
After she was voted out, Sugar said that her tribe "probably made the right decision," even though she said, "It's not a great feeling to be the first person voted out."
Although they had a functional shelter and even caught four chickens who wandered into their camp, the heroes weren't exactly without problems. Rupert couldn't make fire with the flint they won in the first reward challenge, and after wasting magnesium, he wandered away, leaving others to do it.
Playing with the ‘devil’
Meanwhile, at the flintless villains' tribe, Rob started fire by basically rubbing two sticks together, an impressive accomplishment. Still, Rob was less than impressed by his tribemates, who didn't want to do much with their shelter or anything else that would require work.
Also at the villains' camp, Russell Hantz started playing exactly the same game he did last season, forming alliances with everyone. But this time, he's not playing with a bunch of clueless people. Although none of his tribemates watched "Survivor: Samoa," which started airing long after "Heroes vs. Villains" began filming, they were smart enough to see through it. However, they don't seem to be ready to get rid of him. Parvati told us that although Russell was "telling everyone the same thing ... he's just an incredible force. ... I want the devil on my side."
That wasn't the only unholy alliance. Self-proclaimed "Dragon Slayer" Coach and original villain Jerri Manthey flirted, and Sandra said, "You might find love here." The shock of that pairing aside, the two seemed to be ready to work together, although they were cautious of being viewed by their tribemates as a team.
That seems to be the theme: Although in the first challenge they were ready to fight hard, the heroes and villains are playing cautious strategic games, at least at first.