* I may be going back on what I said at the end of last season, but I think the Redemption Island concept will turn out to be a winner. The biggest strength it brings is adding an important new layer to the game. Exile Island was gimmicky and really didn't change the way that the game was played at all - the biggest thing it brought to the game was an added hidden immunity idol that was never very well hidden. Redemption, on the other hand, will dramatically alter not only the way that the members of a council consider who to vote off and when, but add the all-important second chance to all players involved. Had Kristina not known about its existence, I think she'd have played her idol tonight. Additionally, there's all of the added drama and show time that will be devoted to the player(s) on R.I., though you could argue that time spent on them will only take away from the valuable time we get to spend with the actual remaining tribes. I'm optimistic, though.
* On the other hand, all of my thoughts and fears about the inclusion of Russell and Rob were confirmed and then some. Not only are they already "all stars" amongst the field of contestants, but they got the rock star treatment from the producers. Flown in on their own chopper, de facto tribe leaders (what were the odds that they ended up on opposite teams?), and much of the gameplay centered squarely on their backs. To top it all off, Rob, who I normally like quite a bit, acted like a douchebag bully at council, flaunting his considerable clout on the first damn day. Try and convince me that another random player would have tried the "give me your idol or I can't trust you" bullshit on their first day of the game. Hate hate hated it.
* CRAFTSMAN sponsorship! Must be nice getting tools on your first day...
* Ugh, really? We spend considerable time getting to know two non-celebrity players this week, and wouldn't you know it, they're the ones either already voted out or soon to be. Now that kind of telegraphing I expect from the show, but as it happens, they were the two players on Rob's team that I liked the best thus far (I don't think we even heard Dreadlock Guy utter a word).
* Phillip seems like a scripted character. How he wasn't the first one off I'll never understand. What a flake of epic proportions. And, as Mrs. Fletch pointed out, after his council outburst, who's gonna trust that guy with any information going forward.
* I see that the producers were unhappy with the NYT (Nubile Young Thing) quotient last season and promptly remedied that this season. Good luck getting rid of all the eye candy so quickly this time, players! (Especially with many of them serving as Rob's acolytes.)
* Great challenge. Unique, grand in scale, and it was a decent fight to the finish.