As it turned out, the big Survivor Guatemala surprise wasn’t that Survivor Palau cast members Bobby Jon Drinkard and Stephenie LaGrossa joined the cast. (They are full-fledged players, competing once again for $1 million.)
The real surprise was that the first challenge–an 11-mile, 24-hour race through the jungle–was so physically demanding that it left Bobby Jon on the ground, cramping severly as his eyes rolled back into his head. The other male members of his tribe were all vomiting and incapacitated, leaving the women–including, conveniently, Margaret, a nurse–to care for them. Despite having won the first challenge/race, Bobby Jon’s tribe lost the immunity challenge. But instead of booting him, the tribe kicked off the old guy, Jim, who injured his bicep during the immunity challenge.
The other big surprise was the fact that a large part of the conversation was about previous editions of Survivor. A few years ago, I recall that Mark Burnett told the cast members they could talk about past seasons all they wanted, but that those discussions would never be aired. But this season, even Jeff Probst made continual references to other seasons and to the history of the game. In its 11th season, we’re now apparently in meta-Survivor.