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‘Survivor’ 45 Premiere Recap: ‘Lulu Losers’

Survivor’s season premiere Wednesday night served up the drama, tension, and scheming viewers have come to expect from the long-running reality show, but episode one ended not with a bang but a whimper as the first person off the island volunteered to leave. 

In the show, 18 contestants form three six-member teams — Reba (red), Belo (blue), and Lulu (yellow) — to compete in a variety of obstacles and puzzles. Winners get prizes while losers are forced to vote to remove teammates one by one from the Fiji island. 

Most of the drama in season 45’s opener belonged to team Lulu as they failed all of their challenges, singled out an unlikeable teammate, and had two members cry nearly the entire show as they performed well below par. One member summarized the team’s performance as the “Lulu losers.”

This Survivor 45 premiere recap will include spoilers.

The One Who Walked Away

hanna rose
“Survivor” contestant Hanna Rose. Image: Screenshot/CBS

Hannah Rose, a 33-year-old therapist from Baltimore City, Maryland, announced during the final minutes of the show that she’d quit even if her team didn’t vote her out. 

Ahead of the elimination vote, she said: “My concern is how can I get them to write my name. I want to sleep in a bed tonight. Maybe I like my comfort and that’s okay. I want nicotine and I want food.” 

Then, during the voting council, she added: “Please don’t make me go back to that camp. I’m going to be really honest, I don’t need to be voted out to go home.”

She explained that her “heart” just wasn’t in the game, and she called it “exhausting in a way I’ve never experienced.” She convinced her entire team to send her home. 

Of course, there was some foreshadowing that she’d be voted out. On day one, she discussed her anxiety and struggle with the drastic change in lifestyle with teammate Brandon Donlon, a 26-year-old content producer from New Jersey. 

During their conversation, they both cried and she repeated, “We can do hard things,” a mantra shared with the episode’s title. 

Brandon Donlon
“Survivor” contestant Brandon Donlon. Photo: Robert Voets/CBS

Throughout the 90-minute premiere, we were led to believe that Donlon was the most likely person to be eliminated because he, admittedly, delivered the weakest performance out of all of the castaways on the show. 

Donlon billed himself as desperate to join the cast, even going so far as to begin submitting audition tapes at age 11, but it didn’t appear as if he ever conditioned himself in any way for the challenge. 

Minutes into the episode, Donlon needed medical treatment after having an anxiety attack and passed out during the first team competition. He was struggling to climb a ladder out of the water. 

Then, on day two, he revealed that he woke up in the middle of the night with the “worst chest pain” he felt in his life and explained that it was most likely due to stress, anxiety, and his acid reflux. 

“I’m a zero right now. I feel like a zero,” he said when describing his physical well-being. “I felt like a zero for a while now.”

After the immunity challenge, he explained that he didn’t contribute “really much of anything” and he believed the others thought that as well.  

“What I’m having a struggle with is that I’m going to vote for somebody who performed better than me in this challenge and I feel bad,” he said. 

For a fleeting moment, he considered using a “shot in the dark” challenge, a tool introduced in season 41 that replaces a contestant’s vote with a six-sided die with each teammate’s name. 

The Pessimist

Emily Flippen
“Survivor” contestant Emily Flippen. Image: Screenshot/CBS

Although each tribe had its own contentious moments — hiding and spying on the red team and a returning contestant breaking his word on the blue team — the Lulu team’s Emily Flippen introduced the most conflict. 

Her teammates described her as negative and pessimistic, and she didn’t seem to disagree with them. In two telling moments, the 28-year-old investment analyst described her team as incompatible with her. 

In one of those moments, they finished fashioning their camp, and Flippen said: “They’re patting themselves on the back for the world’s worst Survivor shelter. I know that I have this personality that is so different from the people that I’m around, and I can’t even pretend to be the same as them.” 

And in another telling moment, her teammates all seemed to agree that the Egyptian pyramids were built by aliens. “I don’t know what to say to these people. I’m not this person who jives with the mood of the tribe,” she said. 

She added that she wouldn’t be surprised if they voted her out, which was a point of discussion among her teammates. 

For Future Episodes

survivor 45 teams
Image: Screenshot/CBS

While the above was the main drama, other details sprinkled in the episode showed budding alliances and storylines. 

We’re no lawyers 

Neither castaways Julie Alley nor Katurah Topps wanted anyone to know they’re lawyers and for good reason. Other contestants — including Topps — secretly colluded against Jake O’Kane as he openly talked about being a lawyer. 

Is Sifu trustworthy? 

As his teammates wandered the campsite, Nicholas “Sifu” Alsup hid in the bushes and listened in to their conversations. When they caught him, he joked that he wasn’t spying, but he also revealed to the audience: “I’m going stealth game.” 

Austin finds a clue

As Austin casually walked along the beachfront and collected firewood, he found a note that read: “If you take it, it’s yours. You must do what it says.” And it took him all but a second to agree. It was a challenge for an immunity idol that will require him to match up the bottom half of letters to the top half on the team flag.

Bruce wants it both ways

At camp, returning contestant Bruce Perreault immediately told his tribe that he’d rather be seen as the “crazy drunk uncle” than a father figure, and then began offering unsolicited advice – the best advice — about setting up a campsite and collecting firewood. His teammates did not appreciate it.

Watch Survivor on Wednesday nights at 8 p.m. Eastern on CBS.

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