It's going to be a season of twists, ties and tribe envy, if the first episode is any indication

By Stephen Fishbach
Updated February 16, 2012 01:15 PM
Credit: Monty Brinton/CBS

“Think long-term” – Ethan Zohn, Survivor: All Stars

It may be One World, but as cartoon chipmunk Jay said, “It’s still two hemispheres.” Survivor‘s new season premiered last night, and the big twist is that both tribes are forced to share a beach.

That’s about all they’re sharing. Castaways bristled, bonded and broke their bones. But one thing became very clear: one beach did not mean one happy reality television family.

Men are From Samoa, Women are from the South Pacific
Right off the bat, the One World twist threw traditional game dynamics into a tailspin. Normally on day one, tribes would focus on building shelter and discovering the island. They’d strip down and go for a swim and share life stories and braid each other’s hair.

Instead, the two tribes thumped their chests and marked their territory.

I was shocked how aggressively the groups clung to their separate identities. You’re given a chance to establish relationships and build merge allies. But instead you decide to hoard your pickaxe?

“I don’t care about the girls,” snoots ’80s movie villain Matt. Billy Zabka, call your agent!

Matt’s got an alliance of four with his henchmen Michael, Jay and Bill. “I’m sitting pretty as far as I’m concerned,” he says. “Everybody else is screwed.” They high five, pound some beers and laugh about how the nerds will never win the big ski race.

One problem for Matt – four people is not a “dominant alliance” on a tribe of nine.

On Salani, sexy special educator Alicia can count. She sets up an alliance of five herself, Chelsea Chicken-Catcher, Kat, Kim, and Sabrina. “It was done in a matter of seconds,” she says.

Alicia wins this season’s first Fishy for the way she quickly establishes her dominance. The best part is that nobody even knows it. When Jeff quizzes the girls about who’s in charge, they collectively shrug. But Alicia is obviously the dominant personality.

Cross-Tribal Ties
Meanwhile, odd man out Colton has major tribe envy. “There’s the guys over here and there’s the girls over there and I definitely want to be over there,” he says.

Colton knows he doesn’t fit in with Matt and the Cobra Kai. His only other option – Troyzan and Tarzan – are off having a yodel duel somewhere deep in the forest. So Colton goes to the place where he feels most accepted – the ladies – and begs for an idol.

When Sabrina stumbles across the men’s tribal idol, she decides to favor her new friend. By giving Colton a little power, she can throw the guys’ tribe hierarchy into disarray. And let’s be honest it’s personal. “If humor is his armor,” she says, “he has all of us sold like suckers.”

Meanwhile, the ladies have a tribal traitor of their own. Christina is bartering with the boys; she strikes a bizarre deal to weave 20 mats in exchange for fire. “I’m about to punch Christina in the face,” says future Bad Girls Club contestant Alicia.

Okay, Alicia may still be a little rough around the edges. But nobody said Fishy winners had to be civilized. And though Christina is saved by Kourtney’s medevac, Alicia isolates a threat and cements her position. But can she stay on top even without punching faces?

Challenging Decisions

Maybe the most “controversial” moment of the episode came when Kourney was evacuated from the challenge, and the men took the win. Jeff couldn’t contain his disdain but we all agree this was the obvious move, right? The guys guarantee that none of them is first voted out.

Good will only matters if you’re actually in the game.