We don't know if blood is thicker than water, but we do know that no matter how much you adore your loved ones, the chance at gold and glory may be enough to make you push them face first in the mud and plot a tribal coup the likes of which we haven't seen since Tsar Nicholas was driven out of the Winter Palace.
That's probably what "Survivor: Blood vs. Water" producers were counting on when they came up with the theme for this year's version of the seminal reality show. We're not sure what genius came up with the idea of pairing returning players with their loved ones and then putting them on separate teams, but we like it.
When "Survivor" airs on CBS Wednesday night, there won't just be 20 contestants, there will be 10 pairs -- brother and sister, husband and wife, boyfriend and girlfriend, boyfriend and boyfriend, and best buds forever (or until it gets serious out there). The tribes will be the returnees versus the newbies, so we're anticipating the battles. As the game goes on, we expect some of those relationships may suffer. It's hard to cheer for your mate when he's sitting down to a feast and you're sucking on 3-day-old moldy papaya peels.
Allies have always been key in "Survivor." Richard Hatch, the first season's winner, showed the scores that came after him how it's done. Hatch formed a tight alliance with three others who were willing to vote together, even knowing eventually they'd have to turn on each other. The success, however, has always been in keeping those alliances under wraps until the alliance was in a strong, untouchable position.
This season throws a wrench into that plan, but opens up enough new possibilities that we're almost willing to overlook the return of (ugh) Redemption Island.
In past seasons, Redemption Island gave those voted off another shot at eventually returning to the game. This time around, if you get sent to the Island, your loved one has the option of taking your place and letting you return to the game, but there's lots of other twists and turns involved. It should make for good television as well as boost the finances of about 10 family and marriage therapy counselors after the game is over.
Here's a look at the cast, along with our usual heap of snark. And remember, we'll be recapping every episode, so check back here after each show.
Aras Baskauskas, 31
Santa Monica, Calif.
Playing with: His brother, Vytas
Survivor skills: Aras played on "Survivor: Exile Island," and won? Where the heck were we? We have absolutely no memory of him even after going back and reading about the season. Apparently, his top skill is stealth.
Survivability: Heck, he's our favorite to win, because he seems to have the ability to cloud minds and leave no memory of his actions behind. Aras is the grandson of actor Macdonald Carey and had the chance to play professional basketball in Lithuania, where his family originated. He turned them down to go to South Africa to learn about yoga -- and mind control we're guessing.
Vytas Baskauskas, 33
Santa Monica, Calif
Occupation: Yoga instructor and math professor
Playing with: His brother, Aras
Survivor skills: The man beat a heroin addiction and has wicked math and yoga skills. He admires scientists and mathematicians and can't stand stupidity and showoffs. Well, let's hope there is none of that on the island.
Survivability: Our money on Aras and Vytas to have the first truly epic family split, and all the yoga and math isn't going to be able to mend it. At least not until the reunion show. Both brothers say their relationship has been rocky in the past and has only recently improved. Recipe for disaster.
Candice Woodcock Cody, 30
Occupation: Physician, anesthesiology resident
Playing with: Her husband, John
Survivor skills: Candice played on "Survivor: Cook Islands" and "Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains," finishing both times in 13th place and becoming the fifth member of the juries. We're not sure she'll do any better this time, but some people like to keep trying.
Survivability: Candice is probably best known for deciding to leave her tribe and join the opposing one. It was believed that she did it to follow her love interest at the time, but Candice says it was all strategy -- a strategy that backfired when her new tribe lost back-to-back-to-back-to-back challenges, and the power tribe became the torch snuffed. Candice also was sent to Exile Island four times, which, even though it didn't tell her anything, told us plenty.
John Cody, 30
Occupation: Physician, Army orthopedic surgery resident
Playing with: His wife, Candice
Survivor skills: John is a West Point graduate and says his inspirations are the "wounded warriors" that he and the other doctors and nurses care for at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. He doesn't like "slow thinkers, talkers and movers; people who eat paper; illogical, irrational and inflexible people; excuses; and mouth breathers. Guess we won't be inviting him to our annual slow thinking, talkers and movers party for people who eat paper while being illogical, irrational and inflexible. And we can't help breathing through our mouths -- our gills disappeared many millennia ago.
Survivability: He listed three things he'd like to have on the island with him as, in this order, his wife, his dog and a deck of cards. Well, at least he put the wife first. Military guys don't seem to do well on "Survivor." We think it has something to do with the way that they bark orders and expect others to obey, but we may just be breathing through our mouths. Something tells us that both John and Candice will be playing doctor at Loser's Lodge sooner rather than later.
Colton Cumbie, 22
Occupation: Student teacher
Playing with: His fiance, Caleb
Survivor skills: With the exception of Coach, The Evil Little Troll and the Evil Little Troll's Nephew, Colton is our least favorite player ever. And yes, we like Johnny Fairplay a hair better, which should tell you how much we don't like Colton. It's said that the camera adds 10 pounds, but we never knew it added 10 pounds of bully. We tried to like Colton on his season of "Survivor: One World," but he soon made it pretty difficult. He lashed out at his teammate because the man had the nerve to be both black and a standup comic, and when he hung out with his flying monkey, Alicia, it was "Mean Girls" times a million.
Survivability: Colton's reign of terror was cut short when he developed appendicitis and robbed us of the chance to see him get voted off. That said, he is a good strategic player, but we weep at the thought of watching him bully a new group of castaways.
Caleb Bankston, 26
Occupation: Post office manager and farmer
Playing with: His fiance, Colton
Survivor skills: We're trying hard not to tar Caleb with Colton's brush, so let's look at him for himself. His personal claim to fame is shooting a 12-point buck on his first deer hunt (Colton would just have shamed the deer to death). He rides horses, works with his dogs and likes to hunt and fish. He loves his mama and his papa and says they taught him to be a man. He doesn't like people who don't put down their cell phones, which is interesting, because Colton just likes putting people down.
Survivability: Caleb is a stand-by-your-man kind of man, and he says that Colton learned a lot about himself during his time on "Survivor," and some of it was bad. He says Colton has changed, and now Caleb wants to put their relationship through the same trial by fire and make their bond even stronger. All righty then, Caleb. Thanks for coming. Next.
Gervase Peterson, 43
Occupation: Cigar lounge owner
Playing with: His niece, Marissa
Survivor skills: Gervase was on the very first season of "Survivor" and had one of the least successful strategies for playing the game ever. He sat on his backside and refused to do any work at all around the camp, "saving" himself for challenges. Yeah, that's what he was doing. Uh huh, it was his genius plan, and his tribe fell right into his trap of being voted off once his allegiance was no longer required. If that weren't enough, he said nothing was dumber than a woman, except for maybe a cow. Oh, he was beloved.
Survivability: It's been a long time since Gervase played the game, and we hope he's gained some wisdom with age, and from the abuse that came his way for playing into nasty racial stereotypes and for being a misogynist. Playing the game with his niece sort of smacks of trying too hard, but we're hoping he'll redeem himself. The man ate a rat, after all, and declared it tasted just like chicken.
Marissa Peterson, 21
Chapel Hill, N.C.
Playing with: Her uncle, Gervase
Survivor skills: She is putting herself through college, and one of the reasons she signed up for "Survivor" was to see how tough she is. She likes playing sports, exercising, doing crafts and DIY projects, and her pet peeve is when someone fails to follow through on a promise. We like her, on paper anyway.
Survivability: She was in the fourth grade when her Uncle Gerv played the game. She's looking forward to bonding with him in the crucible known as "Survivor." If nothing else, it should be good for her uncle to see her strength and her smarts. She certainly appears to have the determination to go through with it. We're hoping she lives up to our expectations.
Kat Edorsson, 23
Occupation: Full-time student and sales
Playing with: Her boyfriend, Hayden
Survivor skills: Kat was on the "Survivor: One World" season, and she was not one of our favorites. She was silly and used her youth as an excuse for a lot of things, and she fell into a trap of thinking she owned the game, or at least a good part of it. At one memorable tribal council, she commented that blindsides were "fun," but when her torch was snuffed, she left sobbing. Not so fun after all.
Survivability: We think that the game actually changed Kat. At the final tribal council, she talked not about revenge or payback, but about forgiveness. She disclosed that she had undergone heart surgery and was facing another one, and life was too short to live in anger. She definitely seems to have grown up some, but on the other hand she says she couldn't resist the chance to see what her man is made of. Oh honey, you do that by asking him to let you use the remote for a while and see how he reacts, not by watching him fight over the last bite of rice.
Hayden Moss, 26
Occupation: Real estate
Playing with: His girlfriend, Kat
Survivor skills: Hayden isn't a stranger to reality shows. He played in and won "Big Brother 12," which we suppose is the rationale behind his saying that he has played other "Survivor" games and won, so no probs.
Survivability: Hayden is going to be sadly mistaken if he thinks this "Survivor" is "Big Brother" with foliage. If you are lucky enough to stay in the game long enough, the starvation and paranoia, as well as the rain, the wind, the heat, the mosquitoes and the bugs you'd rather not think about, take a huge physical and mental toll. And then there's this quote: "I can't wait to compete with or against Kat, and watch our relationship grow." Is it wrong of us to want to see him cry?
Laura Morett, 43
Occupation: Co-owner of a construction company
Playing with: Her daughter, Ciera
Survivor skills: Laura played on "Survivor: Samoa," where she made it onto the jury. Her biggest mistakes appeared to have been her strength and intelligence, and running afoul of the Evil Little Troll, Russell Hantz.
Survivability: We have some worries about Laura this time out. She lists as her reason for wanting to return with her daughter in tow is so that "Ciera will understand what I went through," which sounds suspiciously like what our mothers used to say about how we'd feel when we had children of our own.
Ciera Eastin, 24
Occupation: Cosmetology student
Playing with: Her mom, Laura
Survivor skills: She became pregnant at 17, but still finished high school while working three jobs to support herself and her daughter. She is now married with two children and in perhaps a telling comment says her inspiration in life is her dad, who is her biggest fan even when her mother is mad at her. Oh, we can see this little adventure is going to go really well.
Survivability: Her pet peeves are incompetent, slow moving and negative people who bring the mojo down. Wow, what a bummer this is going to be for her. She also lists her reason for being on "Survivor" as "I want to beat my mom. I love her, but you have to have tough skin in my family, and my mom needs to be shown the real survivor in our family." Oh yes, this is going to go really, really well.
Monica Culpepper, 42
Playing with: Her husband, Brad
Survivor skills: Monica is married to a former National League football player. We tell you this now so you'll be prepared to hear it 20 or 30 times. An hour. In fact, she lists her occupation as "former NFL wife," which could be read two ways, but because we just aren't lucky enough for them to cast a divorced couple, we'll put the emphasis on "former NFL" and not on the wife part.
Survivability: Monica did not cover herself with glory during her time on "Survivor: One World." She was the fifth person voted out based mostly on her inability to do well in physical challenges, and because the Misfit Alliance run by Colton decided she needed to go. She says this time she hopes to redeem herself, so she brought her strong ex-NFL playing hubby to be her "shield." Oops, too bad they will be on different teams. Sorry, Monica, but it's the fourth quarter, and you're out of timeouts.
Brad Culpepper, 44
Occupation: Attorney and retired NFL player
Playing with: His wife, Monica
Survivor skills: Played defensive tackle for the Minnesota Vikings, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Chicago Bears, and now he's an attorney. Enough said.
Survivability: Brad didn't have to protect his quarterback's blindside -- he was one of the guys trying to get to the quarterback -- but it appears that he will be willing to take one for the Gipper when it comes to advancing his wife's dream of winning "Survivor." Shame, that. His pet peeves are hypocrisy and long goodbyes. Well, we're pretty sure he won't have to worry about one of those things.
Rupert Boneham, 49
Occupation: Mentor for troubled teens
Playing with: His wife, Laura
Survivor skills: Rupert, the tie-dyed wonder, is either a lovable pirate or a hairy annoyance, depending on what camp you fall into. We love Rupert, and while he can be annoying at times, we sense a good heart. This is the fourth go for Rupert, who made it onto the jury in each of his three appearances -- "Survivor: Pearl Island," "Survivor: All Stars" and "Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains." He never made it to sole survivor, but he did win $1 million in the fan favorite vote.
Survivability: Rupert will have a target on his back from the start. Everybody pretty much likes him, and that makes him a huge threat to win the jury votes. He is loyal to a fault and just doesn't seem to make enemies -- all the things that his tribemates hate to see in a competitor. Something tells us he'll be fiercely protecting his wife even if they compete against each other. The big lug.
Laura Boneham, 44
Playing with: Her husband, Rupert
Survivor skills: She scubas, water skis and manages to carry her tie-dye well. She promises that she can get along well with others and kick butt in challenges.
Survivability:Her tribemates may be too afraid of her husband to vote her off, so that could work in her favor.
Tina Wesson, 52
Occupation: Motivational speaker
Playing with: Her daughter, Katie
Survivor skills: Tina won "Survivor: Australia," thanks to Colby Donaldson, who decided to take her with him to the finals instead of a roundly disliked player. On "Survivor: All Stars," the supremely nice Tina was voted out first.
Survivability: If the vote was for the nicest person on the planet, Tina would win. Heck, we'd vote for her twice. But this is "Survivor," and it's cutthroat. She sneaked into the finals because people failed to realize what a threat she was, but they learned their lesson and got rid of her quickly. She'll have to be as lucky as she is nice to make it far this time.
Katie Collins, 25
New York, N.Y.
Occupation: Hedge fund support
Playing with: Her mom, Tina
Survivor skills: She raised thousands of dollars for the American Lung Association by climbing 55 flights of stairs. "Survivor" should be a walk in the park after that.
Survivability: She enjoys yoga, playing ukulele and banjolele, hiking and sailing. As long as she doesn't bring her uke with her, she should be OK. Survivors apparently have a dislike for uke-playing competitors. Her pet peeves are grammar misuses and poor manners. Poor thing, she could be in for a rude shock, but we wish her well just because she's Tina's little girl.
Tyson Apostol, 34
Occupation: Shop manager and former professional bicyclist
Playing with: His girlfriend, Rachel
Survivor skills: Tyson has played twice -- "Survivor: Tocantins" and "Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains" -- and he is one of our favorite players just because he is so goofy. He made a huge mistake in his second appearance, allowing himself to be manipulated by the Evil Little Troll and, in essence, dooming himself. Despite that, we still love him.
Survivability: When asked why he was returning for a third try at "Survivor," he said "I returned to Survivor to play with my loved one so we could make some sweet cash, have a rad experience and an excuse to take all life's responsibilities off for a couple months." Can't argue with that.
Rachel Foulger, 33
Occupation: Cocktail waitress/graphic designer
Playing with: Her boyfriend, Tyson
Survivor skills: Her pet peeves are "chewing with your mouth open, driving slow in the fast lane and getting in my personal space." Do you think she's ever watched the show?
Survivability: She says she's nice to have around, strong enough to win challenges and smart enough to read people. A triple threat, if it's true. And too often, it isn't.