5:45am PT by Josh Wigler
'Survivor David vs Goliath': How the First Tribal Council Played Out
[This story contains major spoilers for the second episode of CBS' Survivor: David vs. Goliath.]
Pat Cusack was the first one out of Survivor season 37, but he was not the first person voted out. That distinction falls to another member of the David tribe: 18-year-old waitress Jessica Peet.
Following the boat accident that removed Pat from the game, the new Survivor season pushed on, with even more stormy weather on the way. Eventually, rain gave way to heat, as the David and Goliath tribes once again met on the battlefield for an immunity challenge in the midst of a brutally hot day. For the second time in a row, Goliath crushed David, sending the underdogs to Tribal Council — and this time, there would be no skipping out on the date with host Jeff Probst.
For much of day six's plotting and scheming, all signs pointed toward one obvious target: Lyrsa Torres, the purple-haired chef who worked with robot scientist Christian Hubicki to win the season's very first challenge. As the day turned, so did the state of the game, as Lyrsa and ally Elizabeth Olson pitched Christian and others on a new plan: get rid of Jessica, as a means of untangling her close relationships with truck driver Carl Boudreaux, MMA fighter Bi Nguyen, and budding squid and idol hunter Davie Rickenbacker. In the end, Jessica went home in a five-to-four split decision, an outcome she never saw coming — and an outcome that wasn't even likely until shortly before the vote.
"It's interesting, when you remove someone from the equation who wasn't in any danger of going home, like Pat, and how that affects the strategy," executive producer Matt Van Wagenen tells The Hollywood Reporter about how the first vote of the season played out. "In this case, Jessica probably wasn't going home on the morning of day six, either. But she was playing hard. People saw the relationships she had. They saw that as dangerous."
According to Probst, Jessica was on the Survivor casting team's radar for quite some time before winding up on the current season: "She's somebody we really liked, was in the rotation the previous year, and it just didn't work out. It was nothing about her; we already had people in her age range, and we wanted to save her."
One season before David vs. Goliath, another teenager, Michael Yerger, competed on Survivor; though he didn't win, he made a deep run, filled with stone-faced bluffs and idol plays.
"With Jessica, we were hoping for the same results," says Van Wagenen. "She came in, and she came in hot. I don't think she came in too hot. It was just a twist of events, where a couple of people saw an opportunity to shift the game. I think she became a casualty of that."
Probst elaborates on the circumstances that washed Jessica out of the game: "She lost Pat in the accident, and he was kind of a father figure looking out for her. The weather was rough; it led to that very tough challenge where everybody was so hot and everybody was struggling, including her. Then there was some talk about a girls' alliance, which didn't come to be, and caused her some friction. Lyrsa really was in trouble the whole time — and then things, as they often do, started to shift. Trust became an issue. People started to question whether Jessica was trustworthy. It's that fast, how it happens. She was completely shocked. She was completely fine until day six. Even on the afternoon of day six, she was fine. As we got closer to Tribal, things started to shift."
While it marked the end of her time in the game, Jessica's departure led to a climactic first Tribal Council of the season — one that Christian might describe as "exhilarating," even if the word is perhaps too positive to adequately describe the mood on location just a few days earlier. With the shocking medical evacuation at the end of the premiere, not to mention the continued weather issues, Survivor producers and viewers alike were understandably shaken about the season's prospects moving forward.
"Truthfully, I think this may be the roughest start to a season since I've been with the show," admits Van Wagenen, who has worked on Survivor since 2007's Survivor: Fiji. "When people have been playing the game for two or three weeks and suddenly a storm comes, at that point, they have a great shelter and have figured out a routine. They have their Survivor legs underneath them. If you start a season with a storm like that and that kind of weather? It's hard to get your feet underneath you. It's really brutal. You can't stop from thinking, 'Is this what the whole game is going to be?' You can't see the light at the end of the tunnel. It doesn't feel like there is one. I would imagine that's a hard way to play."
Moving forward, while weather will continue to be an issue for both the castaways in the game and the production team who put the season together, Van Wagenen promises there is indeed a light at the end of the tunnel — beginning with this Tribal Council, the first major strategic inflection point of the season.
"It all starts with the cast," he says about what to expect from the season in the weeks ahead. "I loved that cast, and I still love that cast. There's aggressive game play. It's very fun to watch. It's a season where the theme definitely plays out. We took a big chance with it, and I think even with that big chance, we're happy with how it turned out. It doesn't rain the entire time. There's some sun in there! It allowed for some amazing challenges, and it helped them to play the game very aggressively. We had a lot of twists. There are some new game twists in there. We threw a few curveballs in there, and it really paid off with some very fun episodes."
What did you think of the first Tribal Council of season 37? Sound off in the comments ahead, and keep checking THR.com/Survivor for more coverage.