For its 10th anniversary and 20th installment, "Survivor" isn't messing around with a bunch of unknown L.A. bartenders, models and hangers-on.
Instead, it has brought back some of its most memorable cast members from seasons past (many now sorta-known L.A. bartenders, models and hangers-on who were once on a reality show.)
The 20 cast members are divided into two teams -- Heroes and Villains -- and the first episode doesn't disappoint. Within the first few minutes we have a dislocated body part, a broken body part and several gratuitously pixelated body parts.
As host Jeff Probst piles on the hyperbole, the cast members enter, "Apocalypse Now"-style, on helicopters. We're in the South Pacific, Probst intones, though careful viewers will recognize that the island looks amazingly like the Samoan scene of Season 19, taped just a few months earlier.
Returning Survivors include:
--Rupert, the fan favorite, still rockin' the tie-dyed shirt and Captain Lou Albano facial hair. He's a Hero.
--Cirie, the giggly, yet scheming Hero. She claims she's "a gangsta in an Oprah suit." It's unclear whether this is meant to be a good thing or not.
--Russell, last season's breakout character. He's the greatest "Survivor" ever in the history of the game. Just ask him. He'll tell you. Again. And again. And again. Of course, he's never really won. Need I say that he's a Villain?
--"Boston" Rob, back for his third time on "Survivor." He's also done two tours of duty on "The Amazing Race" with his wife, Amber, another two-time "Survivor" player. She's not here this time, thankfully. Rob, a Villain, reminds us again how great he is.
--Coach, the mystical, gibberish-spouting, yoga-practicing doofus. He's a Villain and once again starts talking some of his patented "Dragon Slayer" mumbo-jumbo. Ah, Coach. How we've missed you.
Probst immediately begins pumping up the egos of these folks even more, noting that they are among the best of the best of the previous 19 seasons. (Not so fast, Jeff. The biggest Villain of them all, Season 1's Richard Hatch, isn't here because of legal woes from not paying his taxes. Given his penchant for walking around naked, this is likely good news for the "Survivor" pixelation bill.)
Also missing is the "Survivor" with the biggest post-island career, Season 2's Elisabeth. Now Mrs. Hasselbeck, she's engaged in her own Heroism and Villainy weekdays with Whoopi, Barbara and Joy on "The View."
Probst is particularly effusive with Colby, the Hero jock from Season 2. He notes that Colby was so popular 10 years ago, many parents named their children after him. (Really, Jeff? And how do you know this? Maybe some parents have a special fondness for cheeses.) Colby sheepishly says maybe dogs, not kids, were named for him.
We're off to the first challenge, in which two players from each team must dig up a bag from the sand and wrestle to claim it. In the first heat, Danielle (wait ... who?) has her top pulled down. (Don't cut that pixelation budget just yet, CBS.)
Then, Stephenie from the Heroes team dislocates her shoulder. We learn this from medical student Candice, who we recognize as the Fayetteville native and UNC-Chapel Hill graduate who was on the Cook Islands season. There's another North Carolina tie this season: Fayetteville resident Sandra Diaz-Twine, who won the Pearl Islands season, is back as a member of the Villain team.
The "Survivor" medical folk snap Stephenie's shoulder back in place, and viewers nationwide cringe.
The competition continues, with Coach barely besting Colby in a heat. This leads Tyson, Coach's Villainous sidekick, to suggest that Colby is so humiliated he should "just become a woman." Fathers everywhere can't believe they named their sons "Colby."
Before the challenge ends, Sugar on the Heroes team has lost her top (more pixelation!) and Rupert has broken his toe somehow. Still, the Heroes win, earning flint to make fire.
Over at Camp Villain, Coach and Jerri, the self-proclaimed "Black Widow" from Season 2, are flirting with each other. It's all very ... ewwwwww. Frankly, I'd rather see doctors cracking Stephenie's shoulder again.
In Hero Land, meanwhile, Sugar is keeping everyone awake as she tries to snuggle with Colby. He's not interested in the least.
The immunity challenge is an elaborate race that includes building a boat, paddling it out to a flame and back, putting together a puzzle, building a ladder and climbing it. The Heroes take a dominating lead in the boat construction and paddling, but then Cirie, Sugar and Rupert blow it on the puzzle.
The Villains win. Sugar cries. Again, Colby ain't buying it.
The producers try to build tension leading to Tribal Council by suggesting that some of the Heroes are friends and may have prior alliances. But it's pretty clear that weepy Sugar, right, is the odd woman out. Everyone votes against her, and she's sent packing.
That'll teach her to try to cuddle to Mr. He Who Has Many Children Named After Him. (But you know, Sugar would be a nice name for a dog ...)
Next week: Boston Rob dies in the jungle. I suspect that doesn't really happen, since we would probably have heard about this by now. But that's what the CBS promos seem to be suggesting.