HOLLYWOOD—I have been doing my best to stay away from potential spoilers for the upcoming season of “Survivor” which kicked off its 43rd season on Wednesday, September 21. I was NOT the biggest fan of season 41 which aired nearly 2 years after the pandemic kicked off, I thought season 42 was an improvement, but there were some twists I wasn’t happy about. That hour glass twist, thank God it’s gone, and the same about that Do or Die twist, which I just think is unfair. Reality competition series work best when you let the game play out fluidly.

So season 43 is back with a new crop of 18 contestants who have been split into 3 tribes and the game is only 26 days compared to the 39 days and I’m still up in the air about the change in days. I noticed the pacing seems much faster with the 26 days compared to the 39 days. There was an excitement with the 39 days, whereas I don’t feel that with 26 days. With that said, let’s talk about our 2-hour premiere that saw three tribes: Vesi (Cody, Justine, Nneka, Noelle, Jesse and Dwight), Coco (Ryan, James, Karla, Cassidy, Lindsay and Geo) and Baka (Mike/Gabler, Owen, Sami, Elie, Morriah and Jeanine).

Per usual host Jeff Probst has to explain how “Survivor” works like viewers don’t already know the game after 43 seasons people! This is a lot of people to know in just one episode. James seems like a fan and Noelle, being an amputee with just one leg has a hell of an inspiring story; so I’m already rooting for her. First challenge gives the winner the opportunity to earn supplies (a pot, a machete and flint for their camp); the losing tribes head to their camp and have to fight in another challenge to get the bare bones minimum. It was a close battle, but Vesi captured the win thanks to some smart strategy from Cody; this guy is a ball of energy, perhaps annoying to some, but contagious. Vesi is about to be a hot mess, but Dwight feels like a bit of comic relief for the audience.

Over at Baka, Gabler already realized he was the old man out and we get the first twist of the game, using one task Savvy or Sweat, work as a group or two people work solo. Sami and Gabler wanted to Sweat, but Owen was smart about not being divided and letting alliances form. So they choose Savvy which involved using bones to come up with the largest number possible. I can’t believe Coco wanted to utilize Sweat to find the tribe’s supplies.

Ryan was already looking like a beast, but Geo seemed to be struggling right at the beginning of the challenge. Ryan’s story was indeed inspiring people and his ‘X’ theory helped to locate the supplies within 30 minutes time. Sami is good at puzzles and wanted to conceal that strength, but realized it might cost his tribe supplies, but he stepped to the plate people. Sami is young, 19, but lied and said he’s 22. So if I’m looking at standouts from the first three tribes I like Cody, I like Ryan and I like Sami, but of course they’re getting all the confessionals so that can change people.

It was apparent that Cody, Nneka and Jesse realized that Noelle and Justine were close already and a target was placed on Justine’s back because of her sales background. Wow, Cody talk about hypocrisy being a salesperson. Jesse found himself in between two alliances, and I will admit I appreciate the episode giving the audience a deep dive into which these people are so the audience has a lot to decipher. Owen was ready to play and started to talk to everyone, not sure if that is a good thing or bad thing, because it might place a target on his back.

Elie shared details about the death of her sister who died from a drug overdose was painful, but once again it proves how “Survivor” is great storytelling. That moment bonded Elie, Morriah and Jeanine, so we might have a female alliance hear people. Back at Coco, Cassidy started to strategize with Lindsay and Karla, so it looks like another female alliance, with James in the mix courtesy of Lindsay. So this immediately tells me that Ryan and Geo might be on the outs people.

Look, I’m going to say it right now; Sami looks like he’s going to be a major threat in the game people. Elie and Gabler bonded over music, while Geo and Karla bonded over their upbringing and being members of the LBGTQ community. Karla felt like she was in the middle of two alliances as well, working with Ryan and Geo also. Jesse’s tale about being in a gang as a teenager and how he was able to turn his life around as a result and pursing his education at the highest level despite all of the obstacles he faced at an early age. So many inspiring tales, I love this show!

Ok, now the game is about to become interesting as a decision had to be made on Vesi, Baka and Coco. Karla was heading on the boat for Baka, Dwight and Gabler. So this is similar to what we saw on seasons 41 and 42. Risking your vote or not risking your vote. Gain an advantage or no vote at the Tribal Council. So what choices would be made people, but the fact that nearly 30 hours later and no one on Vesi could start a fire, but it was Justine who finally got it to ignite says a lot? Dwight admitted to his tribe what transpired on the island, but Cody did not trust him.

Gabler admitted to his tribe that he took the risk, but wasn’t sure if he got the advantage or not. So Gabler won an immunity idol for the next two TC, which I think is a great twist this time around, but NOT if your entire tribe knows. Too bad for Dwight, who lost his vote and he admitted to the tribe. I don’t understand these players as this seems stupid to reveal your advantages. Gabler’s idol is ONLY good for 2 TCs, people could easily blindside him if they wanted to. Dwight could easily be voted out because he has no vote people. I feel this is a bit late for an Immunity Challenge. Coco and Vesi were working in tandem, but Baka was struggling. This challenge feels like a real beast people. Coco looked like they were going to be victorious from the start of the challenge.

So it’s between Vesi and Baka, but it looks like Vesi is about to outwit Baka as Gabler and Sami was struggling big time, and you could sense the tension people. It looks like Sami and Gabler could be in trouble, but Gabler has an idol so I don’t see him playing it people. What the hell is Gabler doing people; he plans on utilizing his Shot in the Dark and not playing his immunity idol. Dude you are playing for a million dollars I don’t understand that at all? Could this be the dumbest move in “Survivor” people? Elie and Owen did not want to vote out Gabler and Elie, but wanted to target Morriah, who everyone witnessed as being weak. Morriah and Sami wanted to target Owen, but Morriah; you’re not safe with the girls.

Elie really wanted Morriah out, but Jeanine realized doing that places the women in the minority. So Elie, yeah you need to think about this move because Jeanine struggled in that challenge, so this could be interesting people. Elie does indeed have a bit of an inflated ego if I must ad, and this setting for Tribal Council is a wild one people. Jeez, Jeanine really bruised her chin quite bad. Jeff being Jeff was being too excited, Sami was the voice of reason, Gabler spoke little to nothing, Elie and Jeanine were quiet, so when are people going to start throwing people under the bus. The psychologist is hard at work, and it is apparent that Jeanine and Elie will be a duo that will have to be targeted.

It does feel like Morriah might be the first casualty of the season people. So wait Gabler didn’t even utilize a Shot in the Dark, after he promised it? I would have voted him out and took that idol. Yeah, Morriah is out. I liked Elie at the start of the episode, but already I want her out. Gabler and Elie they can both go in my opinion, I’m looking forward to the swap to see how they navigate not being on top. Interesting start to the season cannot wait to see how the rest of the season plays out. Till next Wednesday “Survivor” fanatics!