Warning: This post contains spoilers and graphic images from the season 44 premiere of Survivors.
The latest season of Survivors began quite literally with a bang — to the head.
Less than 20 minutes into the first episode of Survivors 44 on Wednesday, 46-year-old contestant Bruce Perreault slammed his head into a wooden beam during the first challenge of the whole season in a physical contest that required the castaways to army-crawl back and forth through the mud underneath a wooden structure.
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Most likely fueled by adrenaline, Bruce told host Jeff Probst several times that he was fine — even as blood poured from the wound and down his face.
After a few minutes, though, Bruce eventually crumpled on the beach and fell momentarily unconscious. At that point, the challenge has officially stopped.
The EMTs ran in, and Probst himself helped hold up Bruce’s head while the medics administered oxygen and bandaged up the injury.
Bruce, a Rhode Island-based realtor and insurance agent, regained consciousness after a few moments. Over the next several hours, he helped his fellow members of the newly formed Tika tribe settle into their Fijian encampment and seemed like he was ready to “Outwit, Outplay, Outlast.”
But later that night, his eyes grew distant and medical help was called in again.
“My head is killing me,” he told them, appearing glazed over.
After examining Bruce’s medics, Probst returned (never a good sign) and told Bruce he would have to leave.
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“I know it’s hard to hear, but there is no doubt this is the right decision,” said Probst.
“I wanted this so bad,” Bruce said, crying in disappointment.
“I’m so sorry,” said Probst, 61. “I am genuinely heartbroken for you. You are a shining light. You are so positive. You are a leader. But you understand why we’re doing this right?”
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After Bruce acknowledged that he did understand, another castaway told him: “We’re gonna bring it home for you.”
Another one shouted, “We love you!” Through tears, Bruce affirmed, “I love you back.”
As he was taken away on a stretcher, another castaway called the decision “devastating.”
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Bruce’s injury was the most horrifying of the premiere, but it wasn’t the only — the next day Ratu tribe member Matthew Grinstead-Mayle was walking over craggy rocks when he fell through, severely dislocated his shoulder and cut up one of his feet. After he popped his shoulder back into place, the medics came to put his arm in a sling and bandage his foot. He remained in the sling for the rest of the episode but continued on.
Later, during the immunity challenge, fellow Ratu member Brandon Cotton had to be attended to by medics when he was overtaken by heat and dehydration. He stayed on the sidelines for the remainder of the competition to cool down but was able to continue competing (and got a lucky break when he discovered a hidden immunity idol that saved him from elimination during that night’s tribal council).
Just before Brandon’s medical scare, though, Probst had given the remaining players an update on Bruce, telling them he was “happy to report [Bruce is] in great shape — no danger, no damage.”
But there had been damage, and Ratu’s Kane Fritzler summed up the theme of the premiere best: “Unprecedented body damage.”
In an unexpected happy ending to the surprisingly grim episode Probst revealed on his On Fire podcast, released as the episode ended, that Bruce will have the chance to have a proper Survivors experience after all — the host confirmed he’ll invite Bruce to compete on a future season.
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Survivors airs Wednesdays at 8 pm ET on CBS.