I'm Not Crazy, I'm Confident

Survivor is back, baby! Only fans and purists will believe you when you announce that Survivor – the original and best Reality TV Competition Program – is about to enter its 35th (!!!) season on Wednesday night. It’s just a regular-sized ep (one hour) but it promises to be packed with tons of excitement and interesting characters for you to root for – or against – as 18 all-new contestants begin the 39-day-long competition for the one-million dollar prize and title of Sole Survivor.

We’re going to get you set up and ready for the Premiere Episode, Wednesday, September 27 at 8 pm on CBS. Now is the time to get back into Survivor if you’ve taken some time away, and now is the time to get some new people hooked on the show! There is not a more easily accessible show to jump onto than Survivor, as it re-establishes itself with every new season. Sure, host Jeff Probst always fills us up with lofty expectations of greatness each and every new season, but for Season 35, he promises “one of the best finishes” ever!

What follows is everything you’ll need to know to get ready for Survivor: Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers, whether you’re a veteran Survivor-slappy (like me) or a brand-spankin’ new fan of the show looking to join the absolute best fan community of any TV show. So let’s get to it!

So first things first: What you are reading right now may be the last time this season that I refer to Season 35 as “Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers.” It’s too much. Too many words, too many keystrokes. Henceforth, this season shall be known as “Survivor: HHH” on these pages. Why not “H3” or “Triple-H”? Let the debates begin in the comment section below.

I'm Not Crazy, I'm Confident

With that out of the way, let’s spell out what this season is all about and what we know to be true:

  • Season 35 – Survivor: HHH – was filmed last Summer on the islands of Fiji, as have the past few seasons of the show (as well as the upcoming Season 36 which will air in Spring of 2018). That means that we can expect some beautiful scenery, clear blue waters and tropic wildlife, in what has quietly become one of the most splendid visual settings on all of TV.
  • This season features an all-new cast, so no returning players this time. The 18 contestants will initially be divided up into three tribes of  six (for more on the tribe divisions and for an introduction to these new players, click here). They’re being split up based on their “positive traits” and their professions, so you can expect the “heroes” to be firefighters, police, etc, and “healers” to be in the medical profession. The term “hustlers” has caused some pre-game confusion, but the term is not supposed to be a negative…instead think of a “hustler” as somebody who works really hard and has to push through to get things done.

I'm Not Crazy, I'm Confident

  • Hidden Immunity Idols – shielding a player from having votes cast against him/her at Tribal Council – will once again be in play, but as always, you can expect some new twists…starting as early as in the very first episode. Probst teased that there would be a “Super Idol” advantage introduced during the opening days of the game, which allows the person who possesses it to uses it AFTER the votes are read at Tribal, instead of before like a normal Idol. This is a huge game-changer, but it comes with a condition: It MUST be played during the very first Tribal Council. This could shake the game up right from the very start for sure. But what if the person who finds it doesn’t go to that first Tribal? Well, according to Probst, he/she must then blindly choose a person on the losing tribe to give it to, in secret. This move too, could come with some excitement, and nobody says that this Super Idol has to be played at all. It’s a new wrinkle that will surely make that first Tribal very interesting, to say the least.
  • The only other thing we really know about the cast is that Probst describes many of them as “superfans,” meaning that we can expect players who know the game and know that big moves are often necessary (wow, how refreshing this sounds coming on the heels of Big Brother 19!). Click here to watch Probst’s pre-season cast assessment.
  • If you’re still jonesing for some Survivor and can’t even wait until Wednesday night’s premiere, here are some more little treats for you: First off, read this article by EW’s Dalton Ross, who everybody knows is one of the best in the business and closest to the action…this walk down Survivor-memory-lane was one of my favorite write-ups of the off-season. Still need a Survivor fix? Well I’m happy to share with you the first six-minutes of the Survivor: HHH Premiere episode here.

I'm Not Crazy, I'm Confident

That brings me to what you can expect from this column. First off, I’m very ecstatic to be back covering Survivor for Reality Tea for this, my third season (prior to that, I was the “Survivor Examiner” for, having covered the show professionally since Season 20, Heroes vs. Villains). If you’re wondering where my voice is coming from, well, I’ve been a mega-fan of the show since the very first episode of Season 1, and I’ve never, ever missed an episode going into Season 35. I’m a married 38-year-old dude with a 1-year-old son (who is amazing). I’m also a film critic, and am the national film critic for and a member of the Detroit and Online Critic Societies as well as the Broadcast Film Critics Association (the group that puts on the Critics Choice Awards on TV each year). In addition, I co-produce a syndicated TV show, “Movie Show Plus” and if you’re in the Detroit area, I’m also on the local FOX affiliate each and every Friday at 6:30pm EST on the 30-minute movie show, “Critic Lee Speaking” with host Lee Thomas. If you’re NOT in the Detroit area, that’s OK too, because we put the full show up on our Facebook page usually by Sunday of each week…so if you like movies at all and want to read my movie reviews or watch me on TV (or on Facebook), please follow me on Twitter (@tomsantilli) and like the Critic Lee Speaking Facebook Page!

I'm Not Crazy, I'm Confident

But that being all fine and dandy, here’s what to expect with my Survivor coverage and this column for this season! I may or may not post an “Episode Preview” each week (although I might occasionally), but you can count on EACH AND EVERY WEEK my written Recap/Analysis right here on Reality Tea. My “FilmSurvivor Podcast” will be back every Thursday with my exclusive audio chat with each contestant voted-out that week on Survivor: HHH. And don’t worry, the Podcast will post right here on Reality Tea, but you can also find it and download it on Podbean and on iTunes. On the podcast, I’ll do a short recap of the week’s episode giving you my thoughts and expanding on my written Recap article, and then I’ll bring you the exit interview. As a movie critic, my Podcasts may also contain interviews with celebrities, directors, actors or people within the film universe, but I will usually have a description of each podcast so you can go right to the part that you want, or listen to the whole damn thing. If you love movies, great. If you love Survivor, great. But if you love movies AND Survivor like me, then the FilmSurvivor Podcast is something you are going to want to get into!

So to summarize:

  • Wednesdays: Expect an Episode Preview (sometimes) and a Recap/Analysis late night or the following morning, right here on Reality Tea.
  • Thursdays: Expect to listen to the FilmSurvivor Podcast for my exclusive weekly exit interview with the voted-out contestant.
  • The best way to follow all of this is to follow me on Twitter (see above!).

So are you shaking with anticipation for the new season? I am! There are a lot of divisive things going on in this world, so let’s all unite under the entertainment umbrella that Survivor provides us! I for one look forward to the escape! We’ll see you right here following Wednesday’s Premiere Episode!


Photo Credit: CBS/Monty Brinton/Robert Voets

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