Sandra Diaz-Twine and Rob Mariano are two of the most intelligent “Survivor” winners of all time, which is why CBS invited them back to serve as mentors in Season 39. Dubbed “Survivor: Island of the Idols,” this latest installment is the eighth overall to film in the islands of Fiji. Wednesday’s 90-minute season premiere introduced 20 brand new castaways in a sort of “boot camp” atmosphere where they’re able to take advice from Queen Sandra and Boston Rob. How did it all play out, and who was the first player to get their torch snuffed by Jeff Probst?
Below, check out our minute-by-minute “Survivor” recap of Season 39, Episode 1, titled “I Vote You Out and That’s It,” to find out what happened Wednesday, September 25 at 8/7c. Then be sure to sound off in the comments section about your favorite castaways on CBS’s reality TV show and who you think will ultimately join the “Survivor” winners list. Keep refreshing/reloading this live blog for the most recent updates.
8:00 p.m. – “Previously on ‘Survivor’!” In last season’s finale, Chris Underwood earned his chance to return to the game thanks to the “Edge of Extinction” twist. Against all odds, Chris ended up winning the $1 million prize, with Gavin Whitson placing second, Julie Rosenberg in third, Rick Devens in fourth, Lauren O’Connell in fifth and Victoria Baamonde in sixth. Chis’ victory was quite the controversy among “Survivor” fans since he only played 13 out of the 39 days. Who will follow in Chris’ footsteps as the winner of “Island of the Idols”? Let’s go!
8:01 p.m. – The episode began with the clarification that Sandra and and Rob are not eligible to win the game and will not vote at tribal councils. They will, however, be coaching the players on different facets of the game on the Island of Idols before they compete for an opportunity to win an advantage. Seems convoluted, right? It wouldn’t Survivor if it wasn’t!
8:03 p.m. – On Lairo beach the tribe was shocked to not be greeted immediately by Jeff, instead finding the flag that says “Island of the Idols,” cluing them in to this being another season of twists and advantages. Right away they got to work building their shelter and introducing themselves to each other. Olympic swimmer Elizabeth Beisel entered in a pretty good position when the other girls found out how athletically promising she’ll be for their tribe. She bonded instantly with Missy Byrd, another athlete who is also here after beating a brain tumor that had developed.
8:06 p.m. – Over at Vokai things were off to a fast start thanks to 59 year old Janet Carbin who knew that as an older woman she’d need to prove herself much quicker than the younger players. Her first mission was to start a fire, which she did quickly and handily on her own. It was a savvy move for someone in her position and could really set the tone not only for herself, but for her tribe as a whole.
8:09 p.m. – As the first Hmong person to ever play the game, Vince Moua brought some skills to the table (like hard work) that impressed Tom Laidlaw and Elaine Stott to the point of building an initial alliance. But while the three of them were off the rest of the tribe formed a 7-person alliance without them.
8:11 p.m. – Later in the day Jason Linden also disappeared (from the Vokai camp), which everyone caught on to knowing that he’s probably off looking for an idol, which ostracized himself as well. Dan Spilo jumped on that chance to paint a huge target on someone else’s back, enacting a plan of his to make sure that someone else was the first vote choice so that he wouldn’t be. Looks like Vokai is playing really hard, really fast! And they are cutthroat af.
8:17 p.m. – 23 year old Jack Nichting is the youngest player on his tribe. As such his goal is to build up a social game where everyone likes being around him. He paired up with Tommy Sheehan, the second youngest player on this tribe, who also has the strategy of connecting with people via one-on-one conversations. Both guys are feeling like they’re in a strong position because of their social games early on. Together they formed a core group adding Molly Byman, Kellee Kim, Lauren Beck and Jamal Shipman, but as they began targeting Jason Noura Salman gave him the heads up that he was already on the lips of everyone else.
8:21 p.m. – This was also a problem at the Lairo tribe because Missy gave Elaine the heads up that she, Vince and Tom were already being brought up as the group outside the majority alliance. It’s actually becoming impossible to keep up with how messy these tribes already are!
8:27 p.m. – How well is this going to work out for admitted “germaphobe” Kellee? She’s already annoyed with Dan because he’s too touchy and she’s not okay with other people’s dirtiness. She’s also concerned with how comfortable he is touching women’s bodies. Molly picked up on this lack of spacial awareness as well. She brought her concerns up to Janet privately, but tip-toed knowing that she didn’t want to rustle feathers too quickly. By the end of the day the topic had spread to all the women in the tribe and so Janet advised them to speak to Dan about it in order to nip it in the bud. Luckily Dan was receptive to the conversation, but it’s still unclear whether his behavior is going to improve.
8:30 p.m. – At Lairo, Ronnie Bardah was sitting back watching the tribe and the first person that caught his eye was Elaine who he clocked as the most likable player and someone that will have a great story to tell at the end of the game to get the prize. He pulled her aside in order to get her on his good side so that he can blindside her, but smartly she knew immediately that he was playing her and not to trust him. Yes! We love to see a head-to-head!
8:36 p.m. – We get our first glimpse of Jeff at the same time that he gets his first look at the two tribes–at the site of the season’s first challenge. It’s here that the players tell Jeff how upset they are he wasn’t around to greet him on Day 1, but he tells them for the first time they got to experience the game without the umbrella of a theme. From there he set them on their first reward/immunity challenge–an obstacle course with a puzzle at the end.
8:39 p.m. – After the first section of the course both tribes were keeping pace. Janet took the grappling hook for Vokai, getting hers hooked before Lairo could get theirs and proving yet again what an asset she can be for her tribe. At the human ladder section Lairo made up significant ground and surpassed Vokai, but not by much due in large part to Jack’s “heroic” effort.
8:43 p.m. – Vokai was much better on the puzzle, finishing the first section first almost twice as fast as Lairo did. Jamal was a workhorse with the heavy puzzle pieces while Vince, Chelsea Walker and Dean Kowalski struggled majorly with theirs. Eventually it became a blowout and Vokai took the challenge, earning immunity and a flint as a reward!
8:45 p.m. – Before Lairo left the challenge site, Jeff introduced the first twist to the players. With a bag in hand, Jeff asked them to draw one name out of it, sending that person to Island of the Idols. The name drawn was Elizabeth, who said that she knows she’ll be alone and can handle it. Jeff clarified that she will still return before tribal council and will get to vote. But with time away from camp she knows she’ll be out of the discussion and have a huge target on her back.
8:52 p.m. – Elizabeth arrived at Island of the Idols not knowing what to expect only to turn a corner of the beach and see the two huge statue heads of Sandra and Rob and then, sure enough, they walked out of the forest to greet her! Elizabeth was awestruck as they asked her to join them for an explanation of the twist. They told her they’d mentor her and then test what she learned.
8:55 p.m. – After hearing that their tribe doesn’t have fire yet, Rob decided to teach Elizabeth how to start a fire with flint. Once Rob showed her once how to use the flint, Sandra took her away from Rob to try building fire on her own. Rob knew that her test of what she was taught was coming. With a little more instruction from Sandra, Elizabeth was able to successfully build her own fire, but when she returned to where Rob was she saw a fire making challenge set up for her. He told her that if she agrees to compete one-on-one that she can win an idol good for the next two tribal councils, but if she loses her vote for tonight will be nullified.
9:00 p.m. – Without seeing the decision Elizabeth made, we returned to camp where her peers were discussing who to vote for tonight. Elaine knew her name might be on the chopping block so she worked overtime to get together six votes to be a majority, targeting Ronnie with Vince, Tom, Chelsea and Elizabeth. But Ronnie was working his own angle with Karishma Patel and Aaron Meredith to get their own six against Elaine.
9:04 p.m. – Back at Island of the Idols, Elizabeth was faced with her hard decision. Ultimately the competitor in her decided to attempt to beat Rob at fire. Little did she know, Rob was prepared to up the ante if she didn’t bite on the first offer and so the deal stood as originally explained. Sandra coached her through the steps, getting her to a place where she got fire first, but it wasn’t capitalized on quickly enough for her to beat Rob’s large fire that came quick. And so she returns to camp without a vote in her pocket–a vote that her allies back at camp were banking on. Rob taught her the new lesson–always go with your gut and make decisions based on what you’re capable of.
9:06 p.m. – In addition, Elizabeth got to choose a random person from the other tribe’s bag to make their own journey to the Island of the Idols. He did not let her see the name and we didn’t get to see it either!
9:08 p.m. – Feeling the pressure, Elaine went to Ronnie’s side of the tribe in order to understand why her name is being thrown out as the vote. Aaron told her that her likability is threatening, but asked her if she’d be willing to vote for anyone else out along with them. But they were just playing her and still unsure if they’d vote her out or Vince.
9:10 p.m. – Upon Elizabeth’s return she was compelled to lie to everyone about exactly what she experienced at Island of the Idols. She told the lie of three urns with the chance at an advantage and that she smashed an urn that said she got no game. No one seemed concerned by that because they were more focused on pulling her in for her vote. She was spinning in circles hearing many names, but incapable of telling any of them that she doesn’t even have a vote!
9:19 p.m. – In another twist, we got to see Rob and Sandra arrive in secret to watch over tribal council from a hut above the set. They listened as Jeff probed Lairo for information about how their tribe was getting on in the first few days. Elaine quickly admitted she’s on the chopping block because of her likability. When Karishma said that “likability is a liability” Rob called her “smart” to Sandra. Ronnie argued for keeping the tribe strong physically which could have also felt like an anti-Elaine statement since it sent her into tears. She appealed to the emotional sensibilities of her tribe, passionately speaking to how big of a dream the show is for her and how she wanted it to build her up from her hardships. Ronnie used that as a bridge to connecting with Elaine, but ended up just taking about his many (many!) jobs as if they were hardships for him, too.
9:24 p.m. – With the emotion out of the way, Jeff sent them up to cast their votes. We know no one has an idol yet, so all votes (except Elizabeth’s) counted and were read: Vince, Ronnie, Vince, Ronnie, Ronnie, Ronnie, Ronnie, Ronnie. And with that, Ronnie was a clear elimination with only him and Aaron voting against Vince! For now it looks like the Lairo female alliance is going to be strong. We love to see it.
NEXT WEEK: After being blindsided Aaron is out for vengeance at Lairo, but Vokai tribe is going loco on their own beach? Bring the drama, season 39!
SEE exclusive predictions: Who will win ‘Survivor’?
Be sure to make your predictions to influence our reality TV racetrack odds. You can keep changing your predictions until just before the next episode airs on CBS. You’ll compete to win a spot on our Season 39 leaderboard and eternal bragging rights. See our contest rules and sound off with other fans in our reality TV forum. Read more Gold Derby entertainment news.