Cook Islands: Episode 1

The premiere of Survivor: Cook Islands showed that the media
furor over dividing teams along ethnic lines was largely
unwarranted. Things went pretty much they same way they always do on
the show. The good-looking people banded together, and the lazy guy was
eliminated first.

The season started aboard a supply boat approaching a small island.  As the ship neared shore, host Jeff Probst told the latest crop of castaways to separate into their tribes, grab whatever supplies they
could carry, and begin paddling small rafts to their respective beaches.

Billy, of the Latino team,
Aitu, said he felt as if he was undoing some of the choices his parents
made years ago. They’d left the Dominican Republic by boat to reach the
United States, and here he was leaving America to paddle to another
island.

Rebecca, of the African-American team, Hiki, saw their
trip to shore as a chance to disprove some stereotypes: “Yes, black
people do swim. Yes, black people do know how to get on a boat and
paddle. We don’t just run track.”

For the most part, the Hiki
tribe got along well. Sundra and Rebecca, both of whom sport long
braids and wear yellow shirts, quickly formed a bond, because they both live in
New York.

Jazz  musician Sekou, who plays a mean conch shell, tried to take charge of preparing the camp, but
undermined his own authority by following each command with a lengthy
break. His breaks left the third woman on the tribe, Stephannie, in “a
state of pisstation.”

Puka, the team of Asian-Americans, hadn’t even reached shore before Cao Boi (pronounced “cowboy“)
offended all of his teammates with a ceaseless flow of Asian jokes.
Despite some regional ancestral similarities, Cao Boi couldn’t be more
different from his teammates. He fled wartime Vietnam as a child, while
his teammates — whose parents or grandparents hail from places as
diverse as the Philippines, Korea, and Hawaii — were all born in the
continental United States.

Cao Boi’s cultural peculiarities
weren’t entirely without value. Cao Boi’s knowledge of Eastern folk
medicine helped him diagnose Brad’s headache as a case of “bad wind,”
which Cao Boi treated by roughly massaging Brad’s face, and then
pulling and pinching the skin at the bridge of Brad’s nose. The
headache disappeared, although the treatment did have an unfortunate
side effect: a giant red mark between Brad’s eyes.

The Caucasian
tribe, Raro, seemed the most uncomfortable with the potentially
politically incorrect tribal divisions. But they got over it, jokingly
referring to themselves as the “Whiteys.”

It didn’t take Raro tribe members
Adam and Candice long to realize they’re not only white; they’re also
young, fit, and attractive. Thus, they felt obligated to start
snuggling romantically on the first night.

At their camp, Raro
flipped over a wooden box to create a makeshift coop for their two
chickens — one of which Adam had grabbed from the supply boat
legitimately, and the other that Jonathan had stolen from the Puka
tribe en route to the island. Jessica, this season’s dreadlocked fire
dancer, absentmindedly lifted the box, and the chickens quickly escaped
into the jungle. To this day, they rule with an iron fist over
all the island’s other beasts.

At the Immunity Challenge, teams
learned that the first three teams to complete the challenge would win
both immunity from Tribal Council and a flint for making fire. The
first place team would receive additional fire making supplies, such as
matches, kindling, and Aqua-Net.

Before the challenge started, host Jeff made small talk, asking the teams about their supply
situation. Brad and Yul pointed to Jonathan as the man who stole their
chicken. Jonathan shrugged, unconvincingly.

The challenge
consisted of two parts. Part one required each team to assemble a boat,
grab an unlit torch, row to a fiery platform, light their torch on
fire, and return to shore.

Ashore, teams solved four small block
puzzles (which composed the letters N, S, E, and W). Once the puzzles
were complete, teams placed the puzzle blocks in appropriate slots on a
wall: N on top, S on the bottom, etc. They then attached pieces from their
boat to the wall, creating a ladder. The challenge was complete when
the members of a team had climbed their ladder to a platform, and then used their torch to light a brazier.

Hiki fell behind early when they couldn’t figure out how
to assemble their boat. They made a push near the end when Raro
struggled with their small block puzzles, but couldn’t make up the
difference.

The consolation prize for losing was a chance to
send any contestant from one of the other three teams for a two day
stay on Exile Island. As payback for stealing Puka’s chicken, the men
of Hiki (who didn’t consult the women of their tribe) chose Jonathan.

Before
Tribal Council, the two Hiki men, Sekou and Nathan, tried to convince
Stephannie that she’d never be able to break up an alliance between Sundra and Rebecca. But, since the same was
probably true of buddies Sekou and Nathan — and since Sekou’s laziness
already annoyed her — Stephannie stuck with the ladies and voted off
Sekou.

Nathan didn’t seem too troubled by the vote, since Jeff
gave the tribe flint on their way back to camp. The prospect of a
toasty fire and parasite-free water was enough incentive to make him
forget all about Sekou.

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