When I sat down to watch Survivor Outback, I have to admit I was a bit wary. "Second season," I said, "this is going to be cake! They have it so much harder now. What can happen that I haven't seen?" Well, I have to eat some crow here (and in true Survivor fashion I'll cook it on a stick) and say that this is truly the best season of Survivor. Watching the Ogakor and Kucha tribes grow (and dwindle) was riveting, and when the two tribes merge to form Barramundi it was just as entertaining as in 2001 and maybe even more so. What makes this a season to remember? Read on all you Probst lovers.
The first thing I noticed when watching was the fact that five of the Survivors were in the All Star Season. That's pretty incredible. Here's the rundown: Jerri (the annoying mouth), Alicia (the finger wagging personal trainer), Colby (the cowboy), Tina (who you wish was your aunt), and Amber (Ambah) (who is on TV every time you turn it on now-a-days). That fact alone means that this will be an enjoyable season. But like I said, my knee-jerk reaction to the season was that these guys have it pretty easy (comparatively! This is not an easy thing these guys are doing.) And it was reaffirmed during the first few episodes. For starters, the tribes had tarpaulins! That's right, no rain soaked sleeps. Also, a small supply of water was provided until they could start a fire to boil river water. Well, the first challenge awarded the winners matches and the losers got to take home their fire from council circle. By now, I was totally scoffing at the show and thinking how I could have done this. But then the craziness started flying. This season is full of "Holy Crap!!" moments and two of the biggest involved Michael the crazy man. This guy was hell bent on getting food for his tribe. So much so that he chased down a wild pig and killed it with a knife! Insanity! Also, the poor guy passed out from smoke inhalation and fell into the fire burning every inch of both his hands. The skin was literally peeling from them. By now, I'm thinking every person who believes this show is fixed hasn't a leg to stand on. He was lifted out by a helicopter. This made me think of one of my Survivor fantasies. (Yes, I have them and yes some involve Colleen.) I always want the tribes to get so into the bush that when they see a helicopter they start throwing rocks and sticks at the "big metal bird." Anyway... one more crazy thing happened worth mentioning, and I'll leave the rest for you to see. A flood washes away the merged tribe, Barramundi's, camp. If you want to see people at their lowest, this is your chance. This is real stuff happening to real people and if you want to see how a person really is, wait until they are hungry, tired, thirsty, and then take away what ever else they have. All masks come off.
Production wise, I noticed that the takes weren't as clean. The editing was a little choppy and Jeff wasn't as I don't know... Probst-y as he is currently. The conniving man we've grown to love isn't as sure of himself. He's still emotionally tied to the show. Both of these things actually added to the experience. The looser camera work and editing made it feel more natural. And Jeff is actually pretty nice! Finally, the fact that this is still a relatively new game, there weren't many players who had studied the game and had a plan to take each person out. Everyone was still figuring out what the show was all about and that was very refreshing.
There are quite a few features, some special, some not so. But they all are entertaining. There's a look back at the highlights of the show with player interviews on how the game changed their lives. This is very cool and insightful. Also, we get a peak at some of the Survivors' luxury items. I was disappointed that they don't show all of them, but it's very interesting. Did you know that on the application you are to list five items and the producers pick which you can bring? I didn't. For instance, Alicia brought a hair brush, but she really hoped to be able to bring a vibrating toothbrush for as she said, all those lonely nights!! Yowza! We also are treated to a look at eating in the Outback with the feature, Dining: Survivor Style. This looks at what the players ate regularly at camp and not so regularly in challenges. Some times gross, always entertaining! Finally, there's a recipe. Yes, a recipe. Keith (a gourmet chef) caught a lot of flack for not being able to make edible rice. Well, he saves face with a quick cook show describing how to make paella (which has rice in it). There's even a text recipe for you to copy down! This was pretty hokey, but alright. An extra disc is included with a two hour special look at the best and worst of the season. This is really fun, and as a nice surprise there are all the Early Show interviews with the Cast-offs. Bryant Gumbel grilling losing Survivors about how they didn't play the game right, or critiquing their decisions? Comedy gold. Come on, this guy doesn’' even trim his own toe nails!
Is it worth it?
You bet. Like I said, this is the best season of Survivor in my opinion. Quite often I found myself staring gape mouthed at the TV while these poor people dealt with what the Outback dished them. Over the years, Survivor has caught a lot of flack. Well, say what you will about the show. The bottom line is this is good TV.