The tribes, Yasur and Lopevi, are split according to sex. Gender division became an issue early in the episode -- with tribal customs that celebrated the status of men and excluded their female counterparts -- and threaded through to the show's bitter end.
At a deeply divided tribal council - three members got votes for elimination - Brook Geraghty, a 27-year-old project manager from Winthrop, Mass., was ousted from the game.
The Survivors arrived by boat to the Vanuatu islands, located near Australia and Fiji in the southern Pacific, and were greeted by tribal residents skimming across clear, turquoise surf in hand-made skiffs to shuttle them to the beach.
A ritual to grant the contestants access to the land followed and entailed a group of warriors rushing the Survivors with spears, the slaughtering of a live pig, and a competition to gain possession of a spiritual rock believed to grant good fortune to its holder. The male Lopevi tribe took the stone.
A sudden downpour ended the ceremony and the tribes set off in the dark to locate their camps in opposite directions down the beach. This battle of the sexes is also shaping up to become a clash between young and old.
Early in their efforts to build a shelter, the older women accused the young "sorority girls" of shirking work to bask in the sun. On the men's side, elder members made an early pact to form a united front against their younger, stronger tribemates.
The two tribes faced off for the first time in a combination reward-immunity challenge that included mud crawl, maze game, balance beam and fire-making obstacles. The men took an early lead, but last man on the balance beam, 33-year-old Chris Daugherty, could not make it across without falling off. The women were the final victors, nabbing both flint to make fire, and the immunity staff.
The Lopevi tribe was left to muddle through its first tribal council decision. The younger men dubbed Chris "the weakest link," and he seemed an easy target to become the first man voted off the island. But in an unexpected twist, Brook Geraghty, 27, who didn't make much of an impression positive or negative in this debut episode, got the most votes and was the first member of "Survivor: Vanuatu" to head home.
"The one thing I wanted was to not be the first person voted off Survivor," he said in his parting testimonial.
As The Early Show co-anchor Rene Syler said the morning after the premiere, it seemed "a no-brainer" that Chris would get the boot. After all, it was his inability to walk the balance beam that made it possible for the Yasur team to win immunity.
Brook's response: "I think Chris said it himself last night: 'Survivor' has nothing to do with balancing. If it did, he would be gone."
He liked the immunity challenge itself, telling Syler, "It was awesome and fun." He had no problem getting across the balance beam, though he did say that it hurt.
Syler asked him if there was anything that the home audience did not see on tape, something that would have made Brook a target.
"No, no, I didn't act up. Nothing," he said. "I was totally P.C. And I was having a great time. We had a blast, all nine of us. We got along really well. I think Rory was probably the only outcast of the group; he was doing his own thing. The first three days, we had so much fun. There is a group of crazy characters on the Lopevi tribe."
When the tribes were broken up into men and women, Brook said he was not pleased. He thought he might have fared better if there had been women in his tribe, because his physical strength would have been considered a greater asset.
"I kept thinking of 'Amazon,' and on the Amazon, first two strong guys went early, and they started with one strong guy last night," he told Syler. "I think I'm pretty strong."
Also on the first episode, Chad revealed that he's an amputee, having lost part of his right leg to cancer. This did come as a surprise to Brook, who explained, "He was running around doing everything. I had no idea he was an amputee… He did pretty good."
Syler pointed out that Brook has been a huge "Survivor" fan.
"Totally," he said. "I'm so happy I made it... But when I made it, I envisioned me being on day 30 just, like, sweating and hungry, dirty."
And, with only one stumble, he successfully named those in the "club" he had just joined, the first castoffs of each "Survivor" season: Sonja Christopher, Debb Eaton, Diane Ogden, Peter Harkey, John Raymond, Ryan Shoulders, Nicole Delma, Tina Wesson and – finally, unfortunately – Brook Geraghty.