Jolanda Jones: Monty Brinton/CBS
Dalton Ross
February 17, 2005 AT 05:00 AM EST

”Survivor: Palau”: Messing with the rules

Okay, we all know Vanuatu was a bit of a bore. No great moments. No great characters. And until the last few episodes, a very predictable voting pattern. What would Mark Burnett do to spice things up for the tenth season of Survivor? (Or, as I like to call it — Survivor X! It just sounds so much more badass that way.) Well, he has given us his answer — sharks! I don’t mean ruthless sharklike players; I mean actual sharks! We see the castaways rowing to the shore for the first time, and all of a sudden, there’s a shark! We see the victorious Koror tribe capsizing their boat and losing their fire-starting materials — and there’s another shark milling about! Now, us savvy viewers know how TV editing works — these sharks were probably filmed nowhere near the actual events and probably at a different time and were just spliced in to heighten the drama and suspense. We know no one is really in danger of being eaten. But you know what? I don’t care! It worked! I’m a sucker! Hell, when the Survivors were first paddling to shore, and they played that eerie music and showed footage of sharks and downed fighter planes, I thought I was watching freakin’ Jaws! And I liked it.

We didn’t even hear from an actual Survivor until about five minutes in, and once we finally did, I couldn’t understand a single word he was saying. Seriously, is James the second coming of Big Tom or what? Now, whether he can chug moonshine and dance like a maniac remains to be seen, but otherwise I’m catching the same vibe from him.

As for the 5,372 twists that took place in the first 15 minutes, my favorite had to be placing those two immunity idols up on the beach and telling the contestants that the first one to ’em gets ’em. Why? Because it’s so damn cutthroat I can’t get over it. And it also guaranteed that some idiot would make a colossal mistake in the process. Only this time it was two idiots. Stephenie and Jonathan dove off the boat early (and subsequently got passed by the boat). People, have you never watched the show? Don’t you realize that makes you an immediate target? Somehow, Stephenie managed to survive this blunder, but Jonathan was not too lucky and got ousted alongside Wanda, which just makes me feel like . . . breaking into song!

Wow. Let me say it again — wow. Now, Wanda does seem like a very sweet lady, but at the same time, she also seems like she would have driven every single person completely insane had she lasted any longer. (Even mellow-as-a-cello Willard described her as a ”lunatic.”) Sure, we’ll never get a chance to hear the complete collection of Wanda Sings Survivor, but truth be told, she seemed like a bit of a one-note wonder. I noticed a repetition of not only lyrical content but also rhythm and melody in the two numbers she crooned before her departure. Sure, every Ramones song sounds the same, you may argue, but the Ramones wore cool-looking leather jackets and sang about sniffing glue — my kind of stuff. Anyway, I’d like to ask her if she regrets showing off her pipes. In fact, I think I will! (Somehow I scammed my way into the hosting chair for this season of Survivor: Live and will actually be taking on the three evictees Friday at 2 p.m. Eastern at If you’re reading this after that, I believe they archive the shows at so you can see them whenever, but I’m really not sure. Technology scares and confuses me. Sort of like singing Survivor contestants.)

Now let’s get to Jolanda . . . before she kicks my ass. Obviously, Jolanda wrote her return ticket home by demanding they take food and water during the challenge, and she certainly didn’t help matters by becoming the first Survivor in memory to yell at people to take rest breaks. (Interesting approach.) But she also certainly didn’t help matters by practically knocking poor Jen unconscious while running for the immunity necklace on the beach. (Ian, on the other hand, somehow managed to kick all the guys’ butts while looking casual in the process, which I guess is what dolphin trainers do.)

First impressions from first episodes can be tricky because there are so many faces and personalities to get used to (especially when there’s 20), but this cast and season is starting off infinitely more interesting than Vanuatu. I really like Ian, and not just because he’s a skinny freak like me. The guy is a killer swimmer, and judging by his immediate decision to grab only the fire in the immunity challenge, he’s smart too — unlike me. Coby, Angie, and Stephenie are ones to keep an eye on as well. And Jeff too, but that’s just mostly because I can’t get over the fact that he lists Bio-Dome as one of his favorite movies over on the Survivor website. Bio-Dome!

And if for some reason they all turn out to be duds, well . . . we still have the sharks, right?

What do you think? Are you enjoying the twists? Was the early eviction intriguing or unfair? And who are your favorites to win?

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