‘Survivor’ Season 42 Premiere: Surprise Elimination Brings Dramatic Twists (RECAP)

'Survivor,' Season 42, Omar Zaheer, Maryanne Oketch, Lydia Meredith, Daniel Strunk, Jenny Kim, Zach Wurtenberger, Swati Goel, Tori Meehan, Rocksroy Bailey, and Chanelle Howell
Spoiler Alert
Robert Voets/CBS Entertainment


Feels Like a Rollercoaster

Season 42 • Episode 1

[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for Survivor Season 42 Episode 1, “Feels Like a Rollercoaster.”]

Survivor aired its two-hour Season 42 premiere Wednesday, March 9, and already the game is intense. The season was filmed immediately after Survivor 41, and unlike the viewers, the players had no idea what twists were added last time.

The 18 players arrived to Fiji thinking they knew the game, and then Jeff Probst flipped their perceptions upside-down. Here’s everything that went down in the dramatic Survivor 42 premiere on CBS.

Survivor Season 42 premiere

Robert Voets/CBS Entertainment

Day One: Reward Challenge

The contestants arrived and were split into their three teams: Taku (orange), Vati (green), and Ika (blue). The groups were told their flint, machetes, and pots had to be earned by winning the challenge. That was plot twist number one for the players.

The first reward challenge was a relay race with a twist. One person from each tribe races into the jungle and unties two paddles from a cargo net. They run back, and then another player races down the far end of the beach to get two more paddles. Teams paddle out and around a buoy collecting bags of bamboo sticks. One tribe member then assembles a pole out of the bamboo sticks and tries to retrieve the flint. The first person to get the flint earns a pot, machete, and flint for their tribe.

All three tribes started the game with no food source, putting them all at a disadvantage. Winning the challenge was of the utmost importance.


The first runners were Jonathan (orange), Daniel (green), and Tori (blue). Daniel fell behind, and then dislocated his shoulder in a fall. The next relay racers — Drea, Hai, and Lindsay — have to make a decision when they arrive at their beach destination. In came the first advantage.

“If you want, you can your paddles and race back to your tribe,” the message said. “Or you can agree to secretly work together and each earn an advantage in the process. You must each untie 20 knots to retrieve your advantage. You’re only moments into this game, and you already have your first big opportunity.”

They take the advantage, opting to create an alliance on the other tribes. They covered themselves in mud and fake blood, as instructed, to make it look like they did a grueling task, and then ran back to their teams for the last leg of the race. Rocksroy nabbed the flint, giving Ika its first win.

Medical was brought in for Daniel, who did indeed dislocate his shoulder. They popped it back in right on the beach in front of the other players. He can stay in the game, but has to be careful.

At the Camps

At the winning camp, alliances start to form between the three youngest and three oldest members. Tori lies and says she’s a caregiver, not a therapist, saying it’s part of her social game. Rocksroy, a stay-at-home dad, goes into dad mode and instructs everyone to focus and help build the shelter. Drea advises him to tone down the stern dad energy a bit, which he agrees to. Going from taking care of two young children every day to working with adults was a mental switch he forgot to prepare for, but he corrected course.

At the losing camps, Vati and Taku played Savvy or Sweat to win flint, machetes, and pots. Savvy was a visual riddle requiring them to guess the number of triangles in one big triangle. Everyone can partake, but they only get two guesses. In Sweat, one tribe member fills a bucket with water and walks it back up the beach repeatedly until a large barrel is full. They would work alone, whereas last season, two players could do this. The teams had four hours to complete each challenge. Failure means no supplies until after the first immunity challenge.

Both teams chose Savvy, and both teams guessed correctly with 51. Now, all three teams have their necessary supplies, but no food source just yet.

Advantage Amulets

Drea, Hai, and Lindsay took private moments to learn what they earned in the first challenge with their advantage amulets. The amulets must be played with all other amulets in the game. But here’s the twist: the fewer amulets in the game, the more power they have.

Three amulets have the power of an extra vote. Two amulets have the power of a Steal-A-Vote. One amulet has the full power of an idol. The last time the advantage can be used in any capacity is when there are six players left in the game. If you’re the last person with an amulet standing, it’s an idol “with full power.”

Tribe Bonding

At Vati, Daniel shares he had leukemia as a child and watched Survivor while he was sick. It made him feel better. Being on the show is a lifelong dream fulfilled.

That night, at a Taku fireside chat, Jackson shares they’re a transgender man and originally applied to Survivor 10 years prior before they transitioned. He said he was ostracized by his family after coming out. But years into transitioning, Jackson’s mother got sick. He came home to care for his sick mother full-time, where he started bonding with his father again and got to introduce his wife to his family. Jackson wanted to tell the tribe to be honest about who he was, but also to take pride in claiming his truth.

Day Two

Suspicions rose at Ika when Tori went looking for food by herself. Romeo, Drea, and Zach think she went looking for an idol and lied about the food as a cover. She really did look for food, but she did also look for an idol (unsuccessfully). She says she’ll make a plan to come back from this.

A boat then arrives at Taku, Ika, and Vati. One person must get on the boat and will return to camp that afternoon. It’s the first Summit challenge. Maryanne voluntarily goes for Taku. Jenny pulls the short straw and goes for Vati. Ika plays rock paper scissors, and Drea goes. After a long trek, the women are met with a Prisoner’s dilemma, putting their votes at the next tribal council at risk.

If all players choose protect, nothing changes. If all players choose risk, all players lose their vote at the next council. If the vote is split, nothing changes for the players who chose protect. Nothing lost; nothing gained. Players who chose risk get an extra vote. Drea risked. Maryanne risked. Jenny protected. Each doesn’t know what the other chose, nor do their tribe members know what happened while they were gone. Drea now has an advantage amulet and an extra vote.

Day Three: An Unexpected Exit

The biggest surprise of the season premiere didn’t come from one of the show’s new rules. The morning of Day Three, Jeff arrived at Taku for one-on-one with Jackson, saying he and the producers are concerned about a medical reveal Jackson made at the last minute.

Jackson voluntarily said he was weening himself off of lithium (a mood stabilizer) before coming on the show. He noted that it wasn’t for his transition, like some may assume. He took it for sleep and anxiety while taking care of his ailing mother before she died. The problem with the medication, as Jeff pointed out, is it can cause a reaction when you’re under physical and mental duress. Before Jeff arrived, Jackson had noted to another team member that he felt dizzy for hours the day before. This scene directly leading into Jeff and Jackson’s conversation implied the dizziness could have been a medication complication.

Sadly, Jeff said the show can’t risk Jackson’s health and he’s sent home before the first immunity challenge. The conversation was sad, and Jackson was heartbroken, but he understood. The tribe’s reaction is emotional.

Immunity Challenge

At last, it was time for the first immunity challenge. After the players learned of Jackson’s departure, Jeff explained the game.

Each team starts on a platform in the water. On Jeff’s signal, players dive in, swim to a boat, and paddle to shore, collecting three chests along the way. Once on shore, they drag the chests and boat across a track and under a net to the finish, where two players solve a massive dragon puzzle with the contents of the chests.

Lydia and Romeo from Vati and Ika sit the challenge out to even out the team numbers. Once the challenge starts, the contestants quickly learn the chests are incredibly heavy, and they all struggle to get the chests in the boats.

Taku took an early lead, and Ika fell behind when they dropped their chests from the boat into the water. After extreme physical demands and a tight race to finish the puzzle between Taku and Vati, Taku won the first immunity challenge. Vati came in second place, holding onto their survival resources. Ika lost, sending them to tribal council and forcing them to give up their flint.

Survivor Season 42 premiere

Robert Voets/CBS Entertainment

Back at camp, Drea and Tori agreed Zach and Rocksroy should be on the chopping block. They settled on Rocksroy. Rocksroy and Swati decide on Zach because he played poorly on the puzzle and gave up physically multiple times. Romeo wants to keep Rocksroy because of his strength and the alliance he made with Rocksroy and Drea on day one. He tries to get people to vote for Tori, but it’s all leaning toward Zach.

First Tribal Council

Having performed poorly in the puzzle portion of the immunity challenge and realizing he was in danger, Zach stirred up some commotion with Tori, saying she’s untrustworthy. Tori defended herself, and Zach’s attempt at swaying peoples’ votes to Tori didn’t seem to work.

He tried his shot in the dark, losing his vote for a one in six chance at immunity. But luck wasn’t on his side. Any votes for Zach still counted, and he was ultimately the first person voted out of Survivor 42.

What did you think of the Survivor 42 premiere? Sound off in the comments below.

Survivor Season 42, Wednesdays, 8/7c, CBS