And we’re back! It’s the Survivor 2012: Philippines premiere. Eighteen castaways - check. Three tribes- check. The dashing Jeff Probst - check. Now all we need are our second chance players, Russell Swan (Survivor: Samoa), Jonathan Penner  (Survivor: Macronesia) and Michael Skupin (Survivor: Australian Outback,) each of whom was pulled from the game after life threatening injuries.   Just to keep things interesting, we’ll toss in former San Francisco Giants MVP Jeff Kent and The Facts of Life star Lisa Whelchel (Blair.) Simmer for 39 days, until one player emerges as a million dollar winner.

Jeff, piloting a large boat, tells us that the 15 new players have already been divided into three teams. They don’t know that Jeff’s bringing them their team leaders, Russell, Jonathan and Michael. Considering how well newbies have treated returning players in the past, it could go either way for the leaders.

Russell will be leading the blue tribe, Matsing, the Phillipine name for “Monkey.” Jonathan will lead the Kalabaw “Water Buffalo” red tribe, and Michael the yellow Tandang “Rooster” tribe.

Jonathan Penner’s Kalabaw Tribe will include: Sarah Dawson, Katie Hanson, Jeff Kent, Dana Lambert, Carter Williams.

Michael Skupin’s Tandang Tribe: Abi-Maria Gomes, Roberta “RC” Saint-Amour, Artis Silvester, Lisa Whelchel, Peter “Pete” Yurkowski.

Russell Swan’s Matsing Tribe include: Malcolm Freberg, Zane Knight, Angie Layton, Roxanne “Roxy” Morris, Denise Stapley.

Jeff tells everyone that there will be hidden immunity idols again this season, but wastes no time in giving the castaways 60 seconds to gather up whatever supplies they can grab before their rafts are released. The red team loses everything as their raft goes sideways, taking Jeff with it. He damages his knee in the process but tries to hide it from his team.

Matsing arrives on their beach. Russell doffs his sports jacket, and has a team meeting, assuring the others that he may have been appointed their leader, but as far as he’s concerned, they are all leaders. He interviews that anyone crazy enough to want to be leader will crash and burn, so he hopes someone will step up to that role. But Russell quickly organizes work teams, and begins telling the other players what to do. The younger players figure they’ll do as he says for now, but are not impressed at being ordered around. Malcolm takes over fire making duty; fresh from living in Micronesia for a year, he’s quite capable of surviving without Russell’s help. Malcolm lets Russell take credit for starting the fire, to keep a target on Russell’s back, and off his own.

Kalabaw’s Jeff is nursing his popped knee, nauseous from the pain, but determined no one will know he’s injured. Jonathan is excited to be playing the game again, grateful for the privilege. His teammates, however, are already determined that one of them should win, as he’s already had his shot. Carter tells the others that they’ll use Jonathan for a few days, take advantage of his skills, and then cut him out of the game. Abby hopes to bond with Jeff over their southern roots. Jeff’s not talking about his baseball past, but Dawson recognizes him, and decides that she’ll keep his secret until the knowledge becomes valuable to her.  

Tandang wash up on their beach, and gather what they’ve brought with them. Michael is pleased with his team – he liked them on sight. He also recognized Lisa immediately, nearly calling her ‘Blair’ when they were introduced. He thinks they’ve got a good mix of brains and brawn. Abi and RC become instant ‘besties,’ although RC tells Abi she’s an executive assistant, rather than reveal she’s actually a banker. Abi has a strong Brazilian accent, and a flirtatious nature, setting her sights on hunky Peter immediately. Abi, RC, and Peter form an alliance, hoping to bring Michael in as their strong fourth. Apparently they’ve already written off Lisa. Michael, whose game plan is to ‘follow the group’s lead,’ agrees to the plan, but senses the younger women dislike Lisa. He thinks Lisa should let them know who she is, as it might elevate her status in their eyes. He tries to warn her, gently asking her why she isn’t coming forward with her past success. She fears the other players will assume she’s financially secure already.

On Matsing, sex therapist Denise tries to figure out what makes the heavily tattooed and belligerent Zane tick. She thinks the date on his arm represents someone he’s lost, and notes the Serenity Prayer on his hand as well. Zane takes the opportunity to form an alliance with Denise, and then quickly does the same with every other team member. Malcolm doesn’t trust Zane, and forms an alliance with Denise, vowing to keep an eye on Zane, but concentrate on ousting Russell. Malcolm and Denise share an extremely awkward hug.

Michael’s unhappy with the progress at Tandang; they don’t have a fire, which means they don’t have drinkable water. As he hustles to help his team build the shelter, he cuts his hand, beginning a series of accidents that lead the others to worry that Michael’s accident prone.

Jonathan, Kalabaw tribe leader, is not making friends, preferring to spend his time immunity idol hunting on his own. He finds the first clue in the rice bucket. On the Matsing site, Russell also finds the clue in their rice, and hides the clue in his pocket. On the beach, Russell isn’t aware that Zane is swimming nearby, watching him fumble with his pocket. Zane asks Russell if he’s been looking for the idol. Russell says he hasn’t, and that anyone caught looking for the idol will be a target at Tribal Council.