And so it begins. At first glance, I’m not at all happy with this season’s premise, but we’ll have to see how it plays out. This could either be fun, or a complete train wreck. Welcome to the 27th season of … Survivor.

We’ll be treated to returning players, along with newbies, and everyone’s significant others. And we’ve been promised a lot of twists. Twists can be good; I’ll keep an open mind.

But the thing that I’m not happy with, right off the top, is that the players will NOT be playing with their loved ones; rather, they will be competing against them. Returning players will be on the yellow Galang tribe. Newbies will make up the red Tadhana tribe.

So who’s playing? Well, there’s Colton and his fiancée Caleb; Rupert and his wife Laura; Survivor One player Gervase and his niece Marissa; Aras Baskauskas from Panama with his brother Vytas; Tina Wesson and daughter Katie; the frisky Kat and her boyfriend Hayden, who won his season of Big Brother; Monica Culpepper and her husband Brad, the football star; Tyson Apostol with his girlfriend Rachel; Candice with her husband John; and Laura M with her daughter Ciera).

Candice and John were flown in last minute to replace RC and her dad. During the final health checks, RC’s dad’s blood pressure was too high for him to be allowed to play. So Candice and John, alternates for this season, were brought in. It will remain to be seen if this late arrival will impact on how the other players will interact with the couple.

Day Zero. All 10 couples are dropped off in 10 separate areas, sent off to fend for themselves overnight, without supplies. No one seems to have a very restful night, but at least they have their loved one with them.

The next morning, they regroup, before being divided into opposing teams, and everyone is given their buffs. As the players greet their new team mates, Jeff Probst throws a wrench into their happiness. Not only will they be playing against their loved ones, but both teams will have to vote off one player from each tribe before beginning play. Rupert’s wife Laura is one; Candice, John’s wife, is the other. The two women will be sent to Redemption Island, for a second chance. And then the other twist happens; both Rupert and John are offered the opportunity to switch places with their wives. However, should they lose, they are out of the game. Rupert opts to do so. John does not.

This means that Rupert’s wife Laura will now be playing on the returning player’s tribe. It’s a decision Rupert makes with his whole heart, the big softie! He believes that Laura deserves to have a shot at playing the game. He’s determined to make it back, and play as a team with Laura.

Jeff explains the tradeoff that a switch will incur: yes, they can offer to play for another person. However, should they lose their duel, they will be eliminated from the game entirely.

Both tribes head for their assigned beaches. They find baskets full of food and other goodies. On Galang, Gervase is angry that he’s playing with Laura instead of Rupert. She’s aware she’ll have to be on her best behavior in order to have the returnee’s tribe accept her. And Monica cannot believe her bad luck in being teamed with Colton yet again. Can she trust him? Meanwhile, Tyson is able to start a fire without flint. And everyone helps to build a viable shelter.

It’s a different story on Tadhana. The newbies are trying to learn survival as they go. Without veterans, they’re discovering it’s very different to what they thought they knew. No fire, an iffy shelter, and it seems like the ladies are doing the majority of the work, while the guys goof off. Without fire, however, there will be no food or water.

Monica’s husband Brad has decided to hit the ground running. His first act is to try and assume a leadership role. Second, he’s hoping to get a guys’ alliance happening. “We’ve got five guys right now ... well, four guys and a gay guy.” Oh dear. And yet Brad is very friendly with Colton’s fiancé, Caleb, saying that the Southerners should stick together. Caleb is not fooled by Brad’s forced camaraderie.

The first night, both tribes try to let others know the sort of people they are. On Tadhana, Ciera confesses that she was a teenage mom at 16, while Vytas admits that he’s a recovering heroin addict of 14 years. On Galang, Colton tells everyone how hard life is for him as a gay Southern man, and has his first cry of the series.

On Day Two, at Redemption Island, Candice attacks a coconut, showing her anger at the people who voted her off on Day One, as she names each one with every chop. She’s furious with Rupert, who’s decided to conserve his strength for the duel, and leaves Candice to do all the work. She’s fetching coconuts and water, gathering firewood, and boiling water for rice, while Rupert spends his time either sleeping, or splashing around in the water.   

Rupert feels that he’s never won an individual immunity challenge because he’s always spent all of his time and strength caring for his tribe. This time, he’s decided to relax, and let Candice use up her energy being domestic. His mission is solely to beat all challengers, and get back to his wife and tribe.

Treemail! According to the note, there will be two aspects to the first challenge; an athletic component, and a puzzle to solve. The newbies hope that their youth and skills will defeat the returning players. On Tadhana, Ciera is sure that she’s a better puzzle solver than her mother. On Galang, Ciera’s mother Laura M. is positive that she’ll beat her daughter.

Probst welcomes the two tribes. For some reason, Brad decides to lie and say that they have made fire on the Tadhana beach.  Probst describes the challenge.

Six members of each tribe will race over a series of obstacles to a boat, which they will untie and paddle back. On the boat is a chest of puzzle pieces, which the three remaining players will assemble and attempt to solve. First tribe to form the puzzle pieces into a ship’s wheel and raise their flag will win immunity. They will also be playing for fire, in the form of flint. Survivors ready?

And they’re off! Tyson is an athletic thing of beauty from the beginning. Tadhana works well together, helping each other over the obstacles. Gervase, on the other hand, struggles from the beginning. Never a strong swimmer, he’s a drag on his team from the start. The new players take a big lead. Without Aras’ help, Gervase would sink like a stone.