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‘Survivor’ brawl ends in injuries, topless hero

Take a group of people who've played a game once or twice before, separate them into two groups and then let them wrestle in the sand, and you get the brutal, violent, entertaining opening challenge from "Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains."

The tribe of villains gave the heroes a dislocated shoulder (Stephenie), a broken toe (Rupert) and lots of exposure (Sugar, who ran to the finish line topless after Sandra undid her bikini top while they were wrestling).

It was a brutal brawl as two members from each tribe fought for control of a bag that had been buried in the sand. Sometimes it looked like they were just being physical because they could, like when Stephenie's shoulder was pulled out of its socket (and then popped back in by a medical staff person), or when JT threw Randy to the ground and bent his legs backward, or when Cirie tackled competitors left and right. After Colby dragged Coach almost to the finish line, Coach dragged Colby over to the villains' mat and scored a point, humiliating Colby.

In the end, the heroes won, but despite their camaraderie and the dysfunction at the villains tribe, it was a hero who went home first after the heroes blew a huge lead in the immunity challenge.

‘The right decision’Despite the heroes talking about strategy and using the first vote as an opportunity to get rid of a threat — perhaps Tom or JT, who already won; Cirie, who's known as a cunning strategist (she called herself "a gangsta in an Oprah suit"); or Stephenie, who's a physical powerhouse — they got rid of the crying pin-up, Sugar. While she didn't help in the immunity challenge, failing to put together a puzzle quickly despite a huge lead, she was one of four people putting that puzzle together. But she was also annoying, keeping people awake at night by talking.

After she was voted out, Sugar said that her tribe "probably made the right decision," even though she said, "It's not a great feeling to be the first person voted out."

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    Producers are bringing back some of the biggest personalities from the previous 19 seasons. From Rupert to Rob, Coach to Russell, they're now known by their first names thanks to their game play and/or behavior.

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    Producers are bringing back some of the biggest personalities from the previous 19 seasons. From Rupert to Rob, Coach to Russell, they're now known by their first names thanks to their game play and/or behavior.

    Some of them are very memorable: Nine of the 20 contestants will be making their third appearance on "Survivor," and many appeared recently on "Survivor Micronesia." The group includes three winners and seven runner-ups, and several fan favorites.

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    Rupert Boneham

    Team: Heroes Hometown: Indianapolis
    Previous season: Pearl Islands (10th out), All-Stars (13th out)

    Rupert is big and friendly and has a thick beard and a thicker laugh. He always wears tie-dye t-shirts, his trademark, and he loves to point out that he's "America's Favorite Survivor" for winning the fan favorite award after the first all-stars. But being likeable doesn't necessarily translate to being a good player. And he may not be 19 other Survivors' favorite Survivor. Rupert needs to bring more to the table than his laugh and t-shirt if he expects to do well this time around.

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    James Clement

    Team: Heroes
    Hometown: Los Angeles
    Previous seasons: China (10th out), Micronesia (medically evacuated, 4th jury member)

    Despite his likability, gravedigger James' first two attempts at the game ended badly: He became, at the time, the dumbest Survivor ever in China when he was voted out with not one but two hidden immunity idols in his possession. And in Micronesia, he was forced out of the game by an infection that could have cost him his hand. If he can stay injury free and use his physical strength to power his tribe and them himself to immunity, he could have a shot -- if he doesn't let anyone play him again.

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    Colby Donaldson

    Team: Heroes
    Hometown: Pensacola, Fla.
    Previous seasons: Australia (runner-up), all-stars (5th out)

    Remember Colby's Texas flag in Australia? The flood that took away his tribe's supplies? And Jeff Probst trading new rice for the flag and their tarps? That was nine years ago, and although Colby returned for the all-star edition five years ago, he was a shadow of the player he was the first time he played. He didn't seem like the same player who'd almost effortlessly made it to the end during season two. Will age -- in Survivor years -- have any impact? Or will Colby's defeat in the first all-stars give him renewed energy, and cause others to underestimate him?

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    Cirie Fields

    Team: Heroes
    Hometown: Norwalk, Conn.
    Previous seasons: Panama (12th out), Micronesia (15th out)

    Cirie is one of the most disarmingly smart contestants to ever play the game, masking her smart game play behind her smile. She's both social and sharp, and did well forming an alliance in Micronesia. In the "heroes" group, she may be the most cunning player, which could bode well for her, or it could mean they'll want to get rid of her fast. But her game play has been strong, if not perfect, during her previous two attempts, so expect Cirie to play hard and well once again.

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    Jessica 'Sugar' Kiper

    Team: Heroes
    Hometown: Los Angeles
    Previous season: Gabon (second runner-up)
    The teary pin-up Sugar surprised other players in Gabon by playing smartly and ruthlessly, although it came with a lot of emotion (read: endless tears). But she received zero votes, and even Susie, who was seen as a less strategic player, received three votes to the four that winner Bob received. Sugar was dealing with the death of her father in Gabon, but a year has passed since she first played, so we may see a different Sugar this time around. Still, there may be echoes of Gabon, as her castmate, and arch enemy, Randy is on the Villains tribe.

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    Amanda Kimmel

    Team: Heroes
    Hometown: Los Angeles
    Previous seasons: China (second runner-up), Micronesia (runner-up)

    Is the third time the charm, or strike three for Amanda? Amanda has come in second place twice, and none of her Survivor colleagues have done the same thing, so she obviously knows how to get to the end. But she doesn't know how to win, or at least doesn't know how to convince a jury that she should win. This time, she says she's going to play more aggressively. Her previous two seasons aired back-to-back, so she's had some time to rest and study her failures.

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    Stephenie LaGrossa

    Team: Heroes
    Hometown: Philadelphia
    Previous seasons: Palau (10th out), Guatemala (runner-up)

    Stephenie proved herself to be a formidable competitor both physically and mentally during both of her previous appearances. From outlasting everyone on her Palau tribe to her dominance in Guatemala -- although she wasn't dominant enough to win -- Stephenie is one of the strongest female competitors the show has ever seen. Her tribe will rely on her physicality, and if she can create new alliances, she'll power through the game once again.

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    JT Thomas

    Team: Heroes
    Hometown: Samson, Ala.
    Previous season: Tocantins (winner)

    JT won his season after never receiving a single vote against him, ever, a Survivor record. Even other people who've won unanimously have received votes against them during the game. Can he play a perfect game again? He won't have his Tocantins number-two, Stephen Fishbach, to deflect attention and absorb the blame for his moves, and besides the fact that others know about his subtle strategy, he's also a target just because he already won the game. In the first all-stars, all of the winners were voted out before the merge.

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    Tom Westman

    Team: Heroes
    Hometown: New York
    Previous season: Palau (winner)

    Tom Westman remains one of the series more well-known and loved winners, and fans and players alike respected him for his game play; he was strong physically and mentally. He didn't return for the first all-stars, and now, the former firefighter now faces off against a mostly younger group of people who know how beloved he is. Winners didn't fare well during the first all-stars, but Tom is also okay with being voted out early and doesn't seem to have anything to prove. And for a former winner, that could prove to be a winning strategy.

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    Candice Woodcock

    Team: Heroes
    Hometown: Fayetteville, NC
    Previous season: Cook Islands (13th out)

    Candace is one of the least recognizable people on "Heroes vs. Villains," and it's not even really obvious why she's a hero instead of a villain, considering her boldest move was to mutiny and join another tribe during her first season. But after the merge, her conflict with tribemates led her to be voted out, and she never really had a shot at the prize. Being so unknown could help her, or she could be seen as someone who's a wild card -- and one who will abandon her tribe when given the chance. That's not a great person to take into the merge, so she'll have to work hard to stay around.

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    Tyson Apostol

    Team: Villains
    Hometown: Lindon, Utah
    Previous season: Tocantins (8th out)

    Tyson was Coach's No. 2, and was known for his acerbic and sometimes viscous humor in confessionals, which came into the game when he clashed with a fellow contestant. He gets annoyed easily, although he managed to sidestep a lot of conflict and blame, at least until he was voted out. This season, he has the advantage of having Coach on his initial tribe, and the two could band together once again. Tyson may also want to stand out, though, and forge his own path instead of remaining in the shadow of the dragon.

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    Randy Bailey

    Team: Villains
    Hometown: Austin, Texas
    Previous season: Gabon (11th out)

    In Gabon, Randy stood out for being the grumpy, anti-social guy who was likely to say what he thought. But initially, he's facing nine other people who are very similar, and if he doesn't pick fights, could find himself overlooked because he's not the biggest and baddest of the villains. Ultimately, though, it's hard to see Randy get very far, because his social game isn't the best, and he tens to hold grudges.

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    Sandra Diaz

    Team: Villains
    Hometown: Fayetteville, N.C.
    Previous season: Pearl Islands (winner)

    Sandra may be one of the more forgettable winners, which isn't something she probably wants to embrace -- except here, where having won a previous season is a good reason for a tribe to vote someone out early on. While Sandra never has a hard time telling people what she thinks, in a group of strong personalities, she might clash with them. However, just as she won the Pearl Islands by thinking strategically and not personally, making tough moves when she needed to. She could easily play this group of evil players.

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    Danielle DiLorenzo

    Team: Villains
    Hometown: Los Angeles
    Previous season: Panama (runner-up)

    Like Candice, Danielle may prompt viewers and her tribemates alike to ask, "why is she here?" She did come in second place, but she was far less memorable than others. And her personality and game play led her tribes o exile her frequently to the game's first Exile Island. But in a tribe of villains who are far more well-known and outspoken, from Coach to Rob, Danielle could use her relative anonymity to her advantage.

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    Russell Hantz

    Team: Villains
    Hometown: Dayton, Texas
    Previous season: Samoa (runner-up)
    Russell either has the biggest advantage or disadvantage on the cast. Because season 20 was filmed before "Survivor Samoa" was broadcast, no one knows who he is or knows anything about his smart but self-defeating strategy. So while viewers will be looking out for Russell to see if he can avenge his loss in Samoa, the other contestants won't. Will his sneaky ways work on a group of all-star players just as well as they did on a group of first-time players? Since Samoa finished filming just 20 days before season 20, he also may have fatigue from playing and living with minimal food for six weeks

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    Rob Mariano

    Team: Villains
    Hometown: Pensacola, Fla.
    Previous seasons: Marquesas (7th out), All-Stars (runner-up)

    Rob may have more to prove than anyone else on the cast. That's because this is his fifth shot at $1 million on a CBS reality show. He almost won the last all-star season, but his strategy burned members so they didn't vote for him, kind of like a certain Samoa runner-up named Russell. Because of his success during the previous all-stars, he could be seen as a formidable threat, and go home long before he has a chance to even be on the jury. But if his third appearance on "Survivor" (and two appearances on "The Amazing Race") proves anything, it's that Rob is quite resilient.

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    Jerri Manthey

    Team: Villains
    Hometown: Los Angeles
    Previous seasons: Australia (8th out), All-Stars (7th out)

    Jerri was one of the first reality TV villains, although the Jerri we saw during the previous all-star season was significantly different than the Australia season, and she seems to have mellowed even more in the last five years. In addition, there's no way she matches up to villains like Russell, Coach, and Rob, or even Parvati and Courtney, so she could benefit from the company she finds herself in by flying under the radar. Nine years ago, that would have been inconceivable for Jerri, but now it seems like a significant possibility.

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    Parvati Shallow

    Team: Villains
    Hometown: Los Angeles
    Previous seasons: Cook Islands (15th out), Micronesia (winner)

    Parvati is the role model for many women who've played "Survivor" since she won the "Fans vs. Favorites" season, and her alternately flirty and unflinching strategy worked extremely well for her in Micronesia, as did her alliance building. But here, she doesn't have any naive Eriks to play, so if she wants to win again, she'll have to find another Amanda and convince everyone she's not a threat. She'll need to do that early, because she doesn't want to go home pre-merge like her winner colleagues during the first all-stars.

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    Benjamin Wade

    Team: Villains
    Hometown: Susanville, Calif.
    Previous season: Tocantins (11th out)

    Before there was Russell, there was the Dragon Slayer. Just a year ago, no one knew of Benjamin "Coach" Wade, but his over-the-top personality and delusional antics drew viewers' attention rapidly. The arrogance that made him think he could change "Survivor" forever and control other people will probably return, even though he lost in Brazil, but this time, he has to compete with Russell Hantz -- never mind eight other strong personalities -- for attention and control in his tribe. The other Villains who watched him on TV may dismiss him as a joke, and if he doesn't let that bruise his ego, he could use it to his advantage.

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    Courtney Yates

    Team: Villains
    Hometown: New York
    Previous season: China (runner-up)

    Courtney did extremely well in China, aligning herself with eventual winner Todd and runner-up Amanda, and together they dominated the game. But she lost because the jury credited Todd for his strategy and being honest about his lying, while she clashed with others. May be more well-known now for her appearance; during her season, ABC News called her an "emaciated waitress" and CBS News asked if she was anorexic. She says she's not, but she's still very thin, so if she lasts long, more weight loss might prompt discussion about her body instead of her game play once again.

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Although they had a functional shelter and even caught four chickens who wandered into their camp, the heroes weren't exactly without problems. Rupert couldn't make fire with the flint they won in the first reward challenge, and after wasting magnesium, he wandered away, leaving others to do it.

Playing with the ‘devil’Meanwhile, at the flintless villains' tribe, Rob started fire by basically rubbing two sticks together, an impressive accomplishment. Still, Rob was less than impressed by his tribemates, who didn't want to do much with their shelter or anything else that would require work.

Also at the villains' camp, Russell Hantz started playing exactly the same game he did last season, forming alliances with everyone. But this time, he's not playing with a bunch of clueless people. Although none of his tribemates watched "Survivor: Samoa," which started airing long after "Heroes vs. Villains" began filming, they were smart enough to see through it. However, they don't seem to be ready to get rid of him. Parvati told us that although Russell was "telling everyone the same thing ... he's just an incredible force. ... I want the devil on my side."

That wasn't the only unholy alliance. Self-proclaimed "Dragon Slayer" Coach and original villain Jerri Manthey flirted, and Sandra said, "You might find love here." The shock of that pairing aside, the two seemed to be ready to work together, although they were cautious of being viewed by their tribemates as a team.

That seems to be the theme: Although in the first challenge they were ready to fight hard, the heroes and villains are playing cautious strategic games, at least at first.

is a writer, TV critic and editor of reality blurred. Follow him on and .

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