'Survivor' Season 42 Premiere Recap: Fake Blood, Lies and Rhino Butts

Let's dive into everything that happened in the bonkers season premiere.

Meara Isenberg Writer
Meara covers streaming service news for CNET. She recently graduated from the University of Texas at Austin, where she wrote for her college newspaper, The Daily Texan, as well as for state and local magazines. When she's not writing, she likes to dote over her cat, sip black coffee and try out new horror movies.
Meara Isenberg
4 min read

Tori is a therapist, but she told her Ika tribe-mates she's a caregiver.


The first episode of Survivor season 42 kicked a new season of competition off in spectacular fashion. One contestant let slip that his job could lead him to stick his hand up a rhino's butt, another dislocated his shoulder and a midchallenge shakeup led some Survivors to coat themselves in fake blood and mud. And that was all before the 19 new contestants even made it to their individual camps.

It was a wonderfully weird start to the newest season that was filmed back-to-back after the previous one. Host Jeff teased the return of the elements we saw implemented last time (remember the beware advantages?) but also promised fresh twists. The new bunch didn't see season 41, so they're in the dark about what lies ahead (No rice! Penalties for losing challenges! It's rough out there).

On a boat heading to land, we meet a couple of this season's zany cast members, including an exotic-animal vet who provides the aforementioned image of a hand going up a rhino's butt and a self-described gen-zer whose only "camping" experience comes from music festivals. They arrive on a gorgeous Fijian island, and the games begin. The three tribes, Vati (green buffs), Taku (orange) and Ika (blue), race to claim paddles, head out on the water, grab bamboo sticks and construct a pole they can use to hook a ring with flint on it. But near the start of the challenge, one Survivor on each team is stopped and presented with an opportunity: they can work together to get an advantage in the game. They obviously go for it, a decision that sees them smear fake blood and mud on themselves to throw their teammates off their scheming.


Swati is an Ivy League student on the Ika tribe.


The season premiere stretched over two hours for those watching live. Ika won the flint challenge and earned basic camp supplies. Everyone else had to work for it (they were given the puzzle or physical labor choice we saw last season, and both crushed a triangle-themed puzzle). We meet some more fun personalities: Romeo, a pageant coach on the Ika tribe, jokes that while his dream of winning Ms. Universe couldn't happen, he could at least win Survivor. We learn that the advantage from the reward challenge only works if it's played by multiple players in tandem. Depending on how many advantage-holders are left in the game, the power gets better (if two are left, they can steal a vote; if three are left, it becomes an idol).

The immunity challenge is a grueling affair that requires teams to push a heavy boat and three large chests on land. No tribe breezes through it, but Vati and Taku pull off a win. Back at the Ika camp, it becomes clear that Zach, a Survivor superfan, and Tori, a therapist who lied about being a caregiver, are in hot water. Tori makes some not-so-savvy moves, including looking for an idol and covering it up by saying she was actually searching for herbs. In the end, it was Zach who had his flame extinguished by Jeff. Tribal was made more interesting by Zach's choice to take a "shot in the dark" for a one in six chance of being safe. (This was brought in last season, but I don't think it was ever used). Unfortunately, the gamble didn't pay off. 

Stray observations:

  • Daniel, a law clerk, dislocates his shoulder during the reward challenge. Medical arrives and just… pops it back in. The show must go on. 
  • We meet a transgender man named Jackson, who's on the Taku tribe. He's a health care worker and shares a moving backstory involving his mom's health problems and how it brought him closer to his dad. However, Jeff appears later in the episode and reveals Jackson can't continue because he took medication that could, with the cumulative effect of this show, have a bad impact on him. (Jackson didn't disclose the medical information until right before the show started filming). Just like that, the Taku tribe is down a member.
  • We saw the same hike to the summit from last season, and the same dilemma at the top: Each Survivor player could choose to "protect" or "risk" their vote, with the possibility of losing it or gaining an extra one at tribal depending on what their counterparts choose. Jenny from Vati plays it safe, but Maryanne from Taku and Drea from Ika risk it and earn the extra vote. 
  • Before Zach left us, he appeared in a confessional and compared making alliances to… waiting to be kissed. It's as cringe-worthy as it sounds. 
  • That dragon-shaped immunity idol? Sick stuff. 

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