First Impressions On Palau

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Analysis of "Survivor: Palau" Episode One, by's Ellen Crean.

If you've watched every installment since the beginning, then you already know the truth: No reality show has ever matched the thrill of the very first "Survivor."

The corollary is: Watch every "Survivor," hoping that someday one of them will match the thrill of the very first "Survivor."

Well, it hasn't happened yet, and so we gathered 'round the small screen Thursday night, with hope in our hearts and doubt in our minds (along with the healthy cynicism that helps make the watching of a reality show such a guilty pleasure).

We had been promised a twist and we got it at the very start. Settled in a rowboat about a mile from shore, the 20 contestants were informed by host Jeff Probst that two immunity necklaces were waiting on the beach, to be awarded to the first man and first woman to reach the beach and claim them.

As it turned out, those necklaces bought the man (Ian) and the woman (Jolanda) the right to start a "choosing chain" that split the initial 20 into teams. That is: 20 MINUS 2. On the first day of the game, two players were sent packing. Then and only then were the teams buffed and christened (blue Ulong and brown Korer).

Here are some first impressions (in alphabetical order):

Coby Archa: The impish hairdresser who will betray you at the drop of a styling comb. He was almost the first contestant to dive into the water when Jeff Probst told the group the immunity necklaces were up for grabs. (He thought better of it when everyone else shouted that they were all going to row for it.) Less than a day after swearing brotherhood to the tattoed Angie (one "outcast" to another), he did not choose her to be part of his team, leaving his misfit sister to twist in the wind.

Ashlee Ashby: The name is like the name of a character on a daytime drama. Initial suspicion says that the soul is the same.

Gregg Carey: He's the kind of guy who is so "regulation handsome" that you tend to forget what he looks like five minutes after you glimpse him. He was memorable mainly for telling us: "We don't have a clue of what's happening next."

Bobby Jon Drinkard: The name they love to say. "Bobby Jon. Bobby Jon. Bobby Jon." Say it a few times and you'll understand why.

Katie Gallagher: She's an ad exec on the brink of 30, but let's call her "Snickering Katie." Why? Because that's what she did when Stephenie and Jonathan jumped into the water on the way to shore. Snickering Katie knew it was big mistake. Snickering Katie probably knows a lot about other people's mistakes.

Caryn Groedel: The first to wonder aloud if there were plots being made behind her back. Guessing she is not an original thinker.

Angie Jakusz: You might be tempted to call her The Girl With The Tattoos. Oh but that's just what she wants you to do, can't you see that? How about calling her The Girl With The Beautiful Eyes? Bet that would drive her crazy.

Jolanda Jones: Strong, vocal, winner of a 10-minute immunity, and the only contestant to proudly and voluntarily swallow an insect, followed by the announcement, "I just ate my first grasshopper." She was also the first to be voted off at Tribal Council. Let Ashlee Ashby pronounce her epitaph: "Jolanda is a strong personality. She is not a team player."

Stephenie LaGrossa: Do you know that Stephenie was the first player to dive into the water on the way to shore at the beginning of the adventure? Do you know the sea-faring term "Every man for himself"? Stephenie does. Do you know the rallying cry "All for one and one for all"? Stephenie...not so much. And do you remember that Stephenie told Jolanda that she was ready to vote Angie off the island, then orchestrated Jolanda's ouster? Just a reminder.

Jonathan Libby: In the choose-a-team-member portion of the game, Jonathan was the odd man out, the cheese standing alone, and the little engine that couldn't. Felt a little bad about that until he expressed surprise that Willard, who is 57 and not young and cute, had been chosen over him.

Jennifer Lyon: She likes to be called Jenn and she works as a nanny. Nanny Jenn.

James Miller: This steelworker from the South has the kind of mint-julep accent that makes a Yankee think of Mayberry and "Gone With the Wind." A fleeting observation: In the choose-a-member portion of the game, he chose Ashlee Ashby, which he might have done just to get a hug. That might be an unfair statement. Don't think so.

Kimberly Mullen: Prefers to be called Kim. Chose James the Southern
Steelworker. Stay tuned.

Ibrehem Rahman: Inclined to like him just because he chose Angie With the Beautiful Eyes, sparing the viewing audience any further exposure to Warbling Wanda (see below).

Ian Rosenberger: He was the first guy to reach shore, but he's a dolphin trainer and so he's bound to be a strong swimmer. The headline here is that this achievement caused James the Steelworker from the South to refer to him as "a fast little booger." Sounds good. Ian The Fast Little Booger.

Wanda Shirk: "I'm all about this being one big party as long as it lasts," she burbled, and for Warbling Wanda, the party didn't last long. On the boat coming toward the island, she was belting out a "Survivor" ditty to the tune of "Heart and Soul." And, as a speedboat whisked her and Jonathan away after they were both eliminated, she serenaded her erstwhile playmates with a song to the tune of "Maria" from "West Side Story." Perhaps "The Party's Over" from "Bells Are Ringing" would have been a better choice.

Willard Smith: The old guy. (He's 57.) He also told the camera that when
Warbling Wanda first stood up in the boat and started to sing, he thought she was "a lunatic" and wanted to knock her overboard with an oar.

Janu Tornell: She already had generated a lot of excitement before the first episode even aired, because she's a Vegas showgirl. By the time the first episode did air, she generated a lot of excitement, because she demonstrated that she can climb a palm tree like a lemur.

Tom Westman: Fireman Tom caused no small stir among the girls, and he's already being talked about as a candidate for leader of his tribe. But Fireman Tom also already is showing some good "Survivor" savvy: When they were doling out the tasks, he sidestepped the "build-a-fire" committee, confiding to the camera that fire, at the beginning of the game, is a "loser job."

Jeff Wilson: He's 22. He's from California. He's a personal trainer. He'll be gone by week 6.

NEXT WEEK: Rats! Rain! Romance!
By Ellen Crean