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Survivor The Australian Outback - The Complete Season

Paramount // Unrated // April 26, 2005
List Price: $49.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Scott Weinberg | posted May 8, 2005 | E-mail the Author
The Series

Despite the fact that I consider myself a snotty little cynic regarding many things, once in a while something comes along that I fully expect to hate ... and then don't. A good example would be CBS' Survivor. Allow me to make this clear and obvious: I hate "reality TV." A whole lot. Not only because the reality shows are overstuffed with obnoxious jerks doing moronic things just so they can become "famous" for 14.7 minutes, but also because, in most cases, there's no creativity or artistry involved. Hey, who needs writers and actors when we can just point a camera at Wanda Whitetrash from Knuckledrag, U.S.A.? It works for Jerry Springer! And all we have to do is pony up some big cash prize and viola! A new TV sensation.

Feh, says I.

But Survivor? Damn show had me hooked from Season 1, and I've yet to miss an episode. It's the combination of the disparate contestants, the exotic locales, the fun-time competition segments, and the non-stop psychological mindgames that fill practically every show. Sure, the producers will sometimes manage to edit "conveniently" so that you'll hate Jody from Omaha yet you'll love Sally from Pittsburgh, but that's just part of the fun. It's like watching a broad and sweat-laden soap opera in which one character gets jettisoned every week. And, despite my general disdain for nearly every reality show on the airwaves, Survivor (almost) never fails to entertain.

Basically you take a 16 total strangers, drop 'em on a beautiful, deserted locale, split 'em into two teams, and make the contestants fight for everything they need to survive. And one contestant gets booted every single week. Fun!

Season 2 remains one of the series' finest. It was known as Survivor: The Australian Outback, and it gave us a colorful collection of conniving contestants, many of whom would be invited back, years later, for Survivor: All-Stars. Cowboy Colby Donaldson, lovable mother figure Tina Wesson, the ill-fated Michael (watch those fingers!) Skupin, sexy schemers Jerry Matheny & Kimmi Kappenberg, the jerky-hording , and a whole bunch more.

I'm not exactly sure how much "replay value" an entire season of Survivor will have among the DVD buyers, but I had a darn good time revisiting the second season. This rather generous DVD collection features all 17 episodes from season two, a bonus DVD ("The Greatest and Most Outrageous Moments") that was previously sold as a stand-alone, and a solid handful of supplemental goodies.

Let's get to the goods on a disc-by-disc basis:

Disc 1 Episode 1: Stranded
Episode 2: Suspicion
Episode 3: Trust No One
Episode 4: The Killing Fields

"Stranded" offers an audio commentary with Survivor host Jeff Probst and fan-favorite Colby Donaldson. The pair sip margaritas as they sit back and enjoy a trip back in time and offer some interesting "behind-the-scenes" insights on the series.

"Suspicion" also has an audio commentary track, this one with season two contestants Amber Brkich, Rodger Bingham, Keith Famie, and Tina Wesson. The foursome coo and giggle over their old adventures and Survivor pals. Fun stuff, but nothing too earth-shaking.

Disc 2

Episode 5: The Gloves Come Off
Episode 6: Trial By Fire
Episode 7: The Merge
Episode 8: Friends?

"The Gloves Come Off" and "Trial By Fire" present a pair of audio commentaries with contestants Alicia Calaway, Kimmi Kappenberg, and Michael Skupin. The trio may have bickered and argued a lot during the series (particularly Kimmi and Alicia!), but everyone here seems to be having a good time looking back at their time in the Survivor sun. And poor Michael has to relive the moment when he passed out and stuck his hands into a burning fire!

Disc 3

Episode 9: The First 24 Days - A Closer Look
Episode 10: Honeymoon or Not?
Episode 11: Let's Make a Deal
Episode 12: No Longer Just a Game

Another Amber Brkich, Rodger Bingham, Keith Famie, and Tina Wesson audio commentary on "Let's Make a Deal." It's funny to listen in as the participants get to see what we saw of their Outback adventures. The quartet seems to look back on all of it, even the unpleasant bits, with a lot of fondness.

Disc 4

Episode 13: Enough is Enough
Episode 14: The Final Four
Episode 15: The Most Deserving

Survivor host Jeff Probst and contestant Colby Donaldson return to deliver an audio commentary on "Enough is Enough," which is basically two pleasant fellas who spend a lot of time talking about what good pals they are. Mr. Probst clearly has a little case of the Hero Worship for Cowboy Colby, but the guys are clearly good pals.

Disc 5

Episode 16: Reunion
Episode 17: Home from the Outback

No commentaries on this pair of post-competition episodes, but there are a few extra goodies to be found: "Surviving the Australian Outback" is a 15-minute interview featurette starring Jeff Probst, Rodger Bingham, Amber Brkich, Alicia Calaway, Colby Donaldson, Keith Famie, Kimmi Kappenberg, Michael Skupin, and Tina Wesson. No real nitty-gritty insights in this fuzzy little "look back" featurette, but fans will enjoy giving it a spin at least once.

A second featurette entitled "The Luxury Items" visits with all of the aforementioned contestants, each of whom explain what their Survivor luxury item was and why they chose to bring it. Runs about 5 and a half minutes, and ends on a pretty sexy note, thanks to Alicia!

"Dining: Survivor Style" runs 7:21 and details the eating habits of Survivors, from the stuff they had to find to the nasty stuff they were forced to eat. Last up is "Keith Famie's Paella Paella Recipe" (4:38), which is a goofy little addition, but hey, that recipe doesn't look half bad! (I'm guessing Mr. Famie had this featurette included as part of his DVD contract.)

Completists will appreciate the "toss-in" addition of the Greatest and Most Outrageous Moments DVD, but it's really not much more than a 2-hour summation of the entire season. And since you just bought five full discs of the whole season, you probably won't have much use for this disc. Previously released in 2001, it's worth owning for the hardcore Survivor fans, so thanks to Paramount for tossing it into the season set. The only extra feature on this sixth disc is a collection of contestant interviews, all of which were originally broadcast on CBS' The Early Show. Frankly these interviews are more "valuable" of a goodie than is the entire 2-hour recap!

Audio/Video: All six discs are presented in a standard Fullscreen format, which is (obviously) the norm for most TV shows. The transfers look fine and dandy indeed, even better than they did on the CBS network. Sound is delivered in Dolby Digital 2.0, which sounds perfectly fine across the board.

Final Thoughts

Every long-running television series has its fair share of great seasons and less-than-stellar seasons. As a longtime fan of the program, I can safely say that The Australian Outback is one of Survivor's very best. It delivers several colorful characters, a handful of dramatic moments, and satisfying array of competitive twists & turns. This six-disc DVD collection brings home all the episodes with a fairly generous, if unspectacular, collection of extra goodies. Fans should consider it a sure bet, and newcomers may find themselves addicted if they start from the very beginning.

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