HOLLYWOOD—Thank the reality TV gods, because I’ve been waiting for a new season of “Survivor” for more than 18 months. I mean the last time this guilty pleasure impacted our lives was May 2020 with the once in a lifetime “Winners At War.” Well, “Survivor” season 41 premiered on Wednesday and it was a whopper of an episode with a 2-hour premiere.

Do I like the theme element? At times, but sometimes when you do a theme you have to stick to it and I think it can impact the game so I’m glad that moniker is leaving. Things are vastly different this time around. We have a cast of 18 people, with 3 tribes and the game is ONLY taking place for 26 days instead of the typical 39. That’s a big difference people, you’re talking about 13 days of the game gone, which means the challenges are going to be intense, the danger (as we’ve been teased in promos) is at its highest and the gameplay will likely advance as a result.

We open with a new twist, the ‘Beware’ advantage that will be hidden at all 3 camps and comes with consequences. With that said, no rice, minor supplies and penalties for losing the challenges. I must admit that notion of losing leads to punishment will indeed force the contestants to play that much harder. Ok, 2 minutes in and I’m excited people. Yase, Luvu and UA are our three tribes. I admit her bio intrigued me and her presence on the screen made me admire Shantel ‘Shan’ that much more. She’s here to play people.

Damn, there is a challenge right on the boat for the pot, machete and flint. The tribe that wins gets it, the other two heads to camp with nothing. Luvu was in the lead, but got stuck allowing UA to move ahead and win the first challenge smoking Luvu and leaving Yasa who couldn’t find their sixth paddle. The only thing I hate about “Survivor” is the fact that Jeff Probst talks too much sometimes. Could you imagine Julie Chen giving a play-by-play of everything the players did in “Big Brother?” Of course not.

UA seems like a cohesive bunch with JD making fire and Brad having the skills to build as a rancher. However, on Yasa they received a task, and if they failed they would NOT get supplies until after Voce was tasked with gathering water for two barrels. He didn’t want to do it and to be honest it was smart. Why? No social bonds and he’ll be gassed out. So Voce had the right strategy in mind people. Luvu was tasked with the same decision and they chose to also gather water for the barrels. The triangle task seemed like a better choice. The diversity this season is great, I mean hearing Genie’s story and Ricard, just tears to the eyes people. It was apparent Evie and Abraham were bonding, but throwing Tiffany under the bus. It wasn’t just happening on the Yasa tribe, but also on Luvu with Naseer throwing Danny and Deshawn under the bus for apparently looking for idols.

One person must get on a boat from each tribe, so Danny, Xander and JD are off and going on day 2. Things are indeed moving very fast than usual. Ok, so it is apparent the game wants these three to bond as they journey this trail which is intense. “Survivor” absolutely giving excellent character development because JD’s tale is tugging at the heart people and a decision has to be made, ‘Protect Your Vote’ or “Risk Your Vote.” Decision has to be made, those who risk could get an extra vote. Oh, I like this element people. Danny protected his vote, but we have no idea what Xander and JD decided to do.

Danny told the truth to his tribe about what transpired and that he protected his vote. Xander shared the same tale to his tribe and was honest, so he risked his vote. Could be a good thing, could be a bad thing people. JD shared his tale, but it was longer than it needed to be, but he noted he protected his vote, but Ricard and Brad did not believe what he was selling.

Ok we get our first immunity challenge, but again we have another twist come Tribal Council. A die gives you the opportunity NOT to vote, but a 1 in 6 chances to earn safety. It can be played ONCE during the game.  So you would make this decision when you vote, so no one knows. Yeah, that is another layer of complication to the game. So numbers might not dictate everything that transpires in the game this time around.

Damn if you lose the challenge, your flint is lost. “Survivor” is not messing around for season 41 people, with two tribes heading to Tribal Council and two people going home. It was a race between Luvu and UA, where Luvu managed to come from behind and win. So UA and Yasa are headed to tribal people.

For Yasa it’s a battle between Tiffany and Abraham, while on UA was a battle between JD and Sarah. Tiffany was worried, so she started to look for an idol. She came close to finding the ‘Beware’ advantage, but we don’t know. Whoa, Brad bluntly said Sarah and Shan were on the chopping block over JD. Brad are you intentionally putting a target on yourself? I’m so excited for these Tribals people.

Yasa was first to head to Tribal Council and the tiff between Abraham and Tiffany was obvious right off the back. Xander got the extra vote, which he stashed and Abraham got blindsided people. Abraham is out, Tiffany remains, however, what the hell with UA. That Tribal Council was wild, epic and the type of gameplay I want to see people. I thought Sarah and JD were obvious targets, but then Brad came into play, whispers between Shan, Sarah and Ricard.

They wanted to target Brad, Brad and JD got nervous and they started chatting. Sarah was nervous, I had no idea who was going because the theatrics was at a high level, but when the dust settled it was Sarah who was sent packing and I did not expect that, but damn this is the type of gameplay I want to see on “Big Brother 23” right now.

Thank you “Survivor” gods I have been blessed with some entertaining TV and that is great. Cannot wait till next Wednesday at 8 p.m. “Survivor” fanatics!