20. The Australian Outback (season 2)
If there is any ranking that will have fellow old schoolers and purists wishing nothing more than for a trident to be lodged through my heart, this will be it. Bear with me, I can explain!I have been watching Survivor since day one (well, really since day four, because I missed the first episode. But I found it completely on my own when I was eight years old. Same with The Mole about a year later. TAR is the only series I found on episode one). The idea of taping episodes on VHS AND saving them didn’t occur to me until the season four finale. So for several years, I had to rely on my love for season 2 by memory. I remember talking about the Fuschia tribe to my fourth grade teacher, and how everyone and their mother was supposed to love Colby but hate Jerri. At this stage, being nine years old and watching only the second season didn’t really equate to me looking for exceptional strategic gameplay. So scenes like trading shelter for rice or burning your hands or grabbing rice out of a flooding river or Nick and Elisabeth having diarrhoea were the peaks of entertainment in a season.
Until about 2 1/2-3 years ago where my brother gave me “access” to the episodes. Maybe my expectations were too high, but you know what was my reaction as I went through the episodes? Complete boredom. I can always get through the first three episodes, but after that it starts to sizzle, er I mean fizzle until episodes six and seven. In fact, the last four or five episodes are very unmemorable to me. I can still watch those episodes anytime I want, but the discs continue to collect dust. The only reason why I bumped Outback UP to twentieth instead of twenty-first is because of how pure and untouched it is in the Survivor universe. Not because of enjoying it.
The issues I have with the season:
1) Strategy leading up to a TC takes about 30 seconds to two minutes of every episode. Seriously, do this with the first few episodes. If you didn’t start watching Survivor until the past few years, you absolutely need to watch Outback. You’ll rewind thinking you missed something because it’s like the contestants don’t even acknowledge one of them is about to be sent to the rail.
2) Everyone’s love for Colby and claiming him to be the all-time challenge beast. In the years leading up to Heroes vs. Villains, I tried in vain to convince relatives whenever they talked about Survivor that Colby ain’t the greatest. He didn’t start winning immunities until seven were left. Who was his competition? Tina, Keith, Ro(d)ger, Elisabeth, Amber, and Sick Nick who was first out in this group. Plus the challenges Colby won were all either physical or memory-based. Combine that with many of his reward winnings while others live in one of the all-time harshest camps in history, the challenges shouldn’t even be close. In fact, I’d be worried if Colby DIDN’T win immunities under that condition considering he was one of the fittest heading into the game. Not to mention one of Colby’s few immunity losses was in an endurance challenge. So when Hvs.V comes along and suddenly Colby isn’t performing in a very heavy endurance-based post-merge, we’re supposed to be shocked? C’mon.
3) The episodes don’t seem to build up to anything. “Epic” eliminations like Jerri’s elimination seems to come out of nowhere on a rewatch. And watching Rodger and Elisabeth try to climb back in as they spend 50% of every episode catching fish isn’t exactly great TV.
4) Kucha doesn’t win after Michael’s evacuation. It’s like one royal f*** you by the editors when the tribe 90% of viewers want to win ends up being reduced to a Zhan Hu’ing in the grand scheme of things.
5) Michael’s evacuation = the greatest (which means the most annoying) ’what if’ in Survivor history. Once the season plays out, I’m sure virtually every viewer wonders what would happen if Michael didn’t get cooked. At least if it happened in season 22, we would see the unedited footage on the next episode of tosh.0
6) Elisabeth Filarski’s evil twin sister Elizabeth Hasselback consumes Elizabeth Filarski’s image on a re-watch. Evil truly triumphs over good in the Outback. It’s like Jack Nicholson now instead of Jack Nicholson 1974.
7) The Final Four immunity is the least elaborate Final Four immunity in Survivor history and the Final Immunity is Fallen Comrades. Yuck. (When I say Final Four immunity in the future, I always refer to the 2nd to last immunity challenge.)
Things I enjoyed about this season:
1) It’s a classic. Anybody who claims this season to be their least favourite of all time isn’t a true Survivor fan. And it will be the only time I use this phrase. Yeah, it’s boring, but its place even in television and in the ORG world is very significant.
2) I love endurance challenges. The episode seven challenge is one of my favourites because if you win it, you end up guaranteeing yourself in the core of nine (remember when people used to throw this phrase around?) and viewers are left with the satisfaction that somebody involved in the end-game truly put everything they had to ensure they stuck around.
3) Getting a laugh out of how unbalanced the rewards were. A Doritos meal with your tribe, a day and a half trip that includes eating lunch with Probst while being accompanied by Aussie cowboys in an actual outback steakhouse, OR going on a trip for two to some lame world wonder called the Great Barrier Reef where you can’t even take the coral as a souvenir.
4) When Survivor eliminates camp life permanently, there will always be this season to bring back what the survivor are actually experiencing 90% of the time. Plus they actually read Tree Mail for every challenge. They stopped airing the tree mail when the producer who wrote these gems was pissed with how annoying the filming of Survivor: All Stars was and switched to being a producer for American Idol in ‘04.
Pardon the long write-up, but this is the second season and its place in Survivor lore is something that can’t be ignored. Even if I find it to really suck.