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Paramount Studios presents
Survivor: The Australian Outback—Season Two (2001)

"Yeah, I lied to Jerri, but I'm not going to lose any sleep over it. If 'ifs' and 'buts' were candy and nuts, we'd all have a merry Christmas."
- Colby Donaldson

Review By: Dan Heaton   
Published: May 05, 2005

Stars: Jeff Probst, Tina Wesson, Colby Donaldson, Keith Famie, Michael Skupin, Jerri Manthey, Elisabeth Callaway, Roger Bingham
Other Stars: Jeff Varner, Amber Brkich, Alicia Calaway, Kimmi Kappenberg, Nick Brown, Maralyn Hershey, Mitchell Olson, Kel Gleason, Debb Eaton
Director: Various

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (suitable for most television audiences)
Run Time: 013h:00m:00s
Release Date: April 26, 2005
UPC: 097368877443
Genre: television


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B+ A-A-B+ A-

DVD Review

Tina, Colby, Jerri, Elisabeth, Rodger. Mention these first names to a Survivor fan, and they will immediately recognize the memorable characters from the reality series’ second season in the Australian Outback. In fact, nearly every member of this cast leaves a memorable impression. Even the hard-nosed Debb, who failed to understand the importance of social activity for survival, and Mitchell, the skinny seven-footer who quickly wore down, remain household names four years after the initial airing. Viewing this full season for the first time since its initial airing, I was surprised at how many scenes resonated clearly in my brain. More recent seasons have quickly faded from memory, but the experiences of the Australian cast still generated interest.

Creator Mark Burnett and host Jeff Probst had no idea when they pitched the first season of Survivor in Borneo to CBS that it would become such a grand sensation. Airing in the summer of 2000, it placed quotes like ”the tribe has spoken” and other common series terms into popular culture and made stars of the undoubtedly surprised lead cast members. In crafting the follow-up season, Burnett and Probst could have tried to alter the formula, but they stuck to the fairly simple system of rewards and tribal councils of its predecessor. Only in recent years have they started to stray from the mold, with widely divergent results. These tribes remained together until the merge and actually formed strong relationships rarely seen in the newer versions.

The season begins in a large cargo plane that succeeded in making nearly every airsick prior to being dropped in the Australian Outback. The sixteen cast members were divided into two tribes: the tightly bonded Kucha (Mike, Jeff, Alicia, Kimmi, Debb, Nick, Elisabeth, and Rodger) and more-divided Ogakor (Colby, Jerri, Amber, Tina, Keith, Kel, Mitchell, and Maralyn). Both tribes encountered their share of drama during the first 18 days of competition prior to the merge. Kucha faced the most harrowing moment when Mike was badly burned during a freak accident at camp. This moment still ranks as the most difficult one in the series’ history and drastically alters the direction of the game. This tragic occurrence helped to make Kucha tighter than any other tribe on the show. However, there were some disagreements. Kimmi creates tension when she grows attached to some chickens won by the group at a reward challenge. Her dour attitude eventually leads to an intense argument between Kimmi and the strong-willed Alicia.

It only took a few days before the arguments began at the Ogakor tribe, and the focus centered on the military man Kel and his possible eating of beef jerky. The entire discussion is very silly, but it reveals several key elements about the game. First of all, eating together is essential and any deviations could lead to huge problems. Secondly, even the suspicion of false activity can be enough to get you voted out of the tribe. An aspiring actress, Jerri perfectly utilizes the suspicions concerning Kel to her advantage and placed all the focus on him, which leads to his demise. This tribe also has numerous arguments concerning food, specifically rice, and again many involved the scheming Jerri. Her target this time is the gourmet chef Keith, who wisely avoids stooping to her level and keeps himself afloat. Spirits remain low for many of the early days at Ogakor and drop with each successive loss in the challenges. But this game is always unpredictable, and the early frontrunners rarely survive until the end.

The success (or lack thereof) of each Survivor season depends on the interest viewers develop in the cast members as the game becomes an individual battle. This cast benefited considerably from the father-daughter relationship of the friendly small-town Rodger and the adorable Elisabeth. She charmed the hearts of many, and their connection caused audiences to root for them against their more ruthless opponents. Colby also gained support through an utter dominance of numerous immunity challenges that has never been recreated. In case you have not viewed this season before, I will not reveal the winner in this review. However, you should avoid reading the episode summaries are looking too closely at the discs’ packaging, which spoil the surprise.

Survivor: The Australian Outback—Season Two provides an entertaining experience heightened by countless memorable moments of great drama. While it lacks the innocence of the original season, the unpredictable events help it to surpass that excellent year. Now viewed four years after its initial airing, even my knowledge of the end result only slightly lessened the experience. Unfortunately, this series’ success led to numerous copycats that mostly offered terrible imitations of the real thing. It also helped to start the reality-series craze that continues today and grows more ludicrous each year. Taken apart from its negative effect on the genre, Survivor (especially the first three years) deserves credit for providing tense drama and a brief glimpse at lands unknown to the average television viewer.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: A-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: Survivor originally appeared on television in the full-frame format, so the need for a premier DVD transfer is slightly lessened. However, the bright colors of Australia and wide array of wildlife do appear much sharper than in the televised versions. The picture remains surprisingly clear throughout each episode, which leads to an enjoyable viewing experience.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: A key element of this series is lengthy dialogue by the cast members who scheme behind others' backs and describe their experiences. The 2.0-channel Dolby Surround transfer conveys all the conversations effectively, which leads to a solid presentation. The over-the-top music and outdoor sound effects also spring nicely from the speakers, though the complexity level is minimal.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
4 Featurette(s)
6 Feature/Episode commentaries by Colby Donaldson and Jeff Probst (2)
Roger Bingham, Amber Brkich, Keith Famie, and Tina Wesson (2)
Alicia Calaway, Kimmi Kappenberg, and Michael Skupin (2)
Packaging: Box Set
Picture Disc
6 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Keith Famie's Paella Recipe
  2. Bonus Disc: The Greatest and Most Outrageous Moments
Extras Review: This impressive six-disc box set includes all 17 episodes of Survivor: The Australian Outback—Season Two, including the mid-season recap, cast reunion, and a special on their return home. This set also includes Survivor: The Australian Outback—The Greatest and Most Outrageous Moments, released in the fall of 2001. This disc provides an overview of each episode and some previously unreleased footage. For additional details, please clink on the link above for my original DVD review.

The highlights of this collection are six highly entertaining commentaries from the cast members that showcase their considerable enjoyment about the series. Three groups tackle two episodes each, which provides a detailed picture of the survivors' experiences in Australia. My only complaint is the lack of even more commentaries on this release. Note to Paramount: For Survivor: Africa, offer this feature for every episode. Jeff Probst and Colby Donaldson discuss the premiere Stranded and Enough is Enough—the entry where contestants e-mailed their loved ones. These guys are obviously pals and even sip margaritas during the viewing. Probst's comments are especially interesting, as he is surprisingly open when discussing the cast and his perceptions. The second group includes Keith Famie, Tina Wesson, Rodger Bingham, and Amber Brkich, and they offer the most-entertaining tracks of the set for Suspicion and Let's Make a Deal. This group gets along so well that it feels like you're watching home movies with a four best friends. The less-effective commentaries come from Alicia Calaway, Kimmi Kappenberg, and Mike Skupin, though they still provide enjoyable entries. Their most compelling segments involve the discussions about the fire incident in Trial by Fire and Kimmi and Alicia's shouting match in The Gloves Come Off.

This release also contains four featurettes that offer even more recollections from the Australian contestants. Surviving the Australian Outback runs for nearly 15 minutes and provides an overview of the pivotal events in the second season. Jeff Probst discusses their challenges in trying to recreate the success of the first season and offers some interesting details about the challenge testers. All of the speakers on the various commentaries also participate in this feature. The Luxury Items depicts some of the odd items that were chosen by the cast and producers for the show. It lasts for about five minutes and includes a great story from Colby about his Texas flag. Dining: Survivor Style is a seven-minute featurette that covers the food issues in Australia. They also discuss the foods that they missed, with the oddest one being Rodger missing ice, though his reasons are totally understandable. Keith Famie's Paella is a brief four-minute piece concerning his complex dish, with the recipe also included.

Survivor is the type of series that warrants extensive bonus features due to all the background details not presented during each airing. Without these extras, veteran audiences would quickly grow weary once the final outcomes were known. Paramount deserves credit for packing these discs with supplements and hopefully will continue to offer improved releases in the future.

Extras Grade: A-

 

Final Comments

Survivor is currently airing its 10th season, and it becomes easy to forget how original the series was during the early years. Arguably the most entertaining cast of characters appeared in the Australian Outback—when the now-typical ideas concerning alliances and backstabbing still provided a fresh concept. If you feel that the show has lost its way in recent years, check out this DVD collection, which showcases the heyday of the reality television forerunner.

 


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