This spring, I’m recapping Survivor’s second season week by week, roughly 20 years after each episode premiered. Today, Survivor: The Australian Outback, episode 3, “Trust No One,” which originally aired Thursday, Feb. 8, 2001.
“There’s not really a power struggle yet,” Colby says in Survivor: The Australian Outback’s third episode. And if this episode aired during the era of player quotations becoming episode titles, that would have made a good one.
Some significant things happen, but it many ways, it seems like set-up: for Michael Skupin’s killing of a pig in the next episode, an event that made headlines, and for conflict
When Skupin started to get ready for battle, taking the tribe’s knife and rope and attaching it to a stick to make a spear, I actually thought this woul dbe the pig-killing episode. But it just wasn’t. It’s also not the episode that the tension between Keith and, well, everyone else goes anywhere.
While Keith filets fish caught with the reward challenge’s equipment, he’s thrilled. “I think the team has been pretty excited about what I’ve been able to do for them,” he says. Colby dryly observes that means nothing: “All he did was basically play the role of instructor about how to cook fish.” (By the way: The tribes got salt, flour, and oil to cook with! Not as a reward but just in their initial supplies!)
Colby’s line about the “power struggle” refers to Jerri versus Keith, but could refer to anyone, really, because there is no external struggle yet. The tribe appears to make the easiest choice available, voting out Maralyn and her “Mad Dog” hat during their second visit to Tribal Council.
The real shock is that we see Tina write down her vote for Maralyn, along with a frowny face. (Can you believe this was filmed in pre-emoji times?) It’s surprising because of their friendship, and Maralyn telling Jeff Probst, “Jeff, I’m conjoined with Tina. She’s a constellation.”
Despite Maralyn being “our little songbird, our little cheerleader,” as Tina told us earlier, her vote against Mad Dog has “everything to do with a promise I made” and “nothing to do with you,” Tina says.
Tina Wesson has come to play Survivor, we have learned.
So, too, have others. Jerri echoes Tina, saying while voting, “It’s purely strategic, it’s nothing personal, I am going to miss you dearly.”
They key underlying factor here, though it is not mentioned again, is that Jerri, Colby, Mitchell, Amber and Tina have “kind of all decided to vote the same,” Jerri says during a confessional earlier in the episode.
The episode also spends time establishing a relationship inside that alliance: Jerri and Colby, who lay in the sand and chat. The editing really plays this interaction as something Colby should be suspicious of. Of course, everyone should be suspicious of everyone else in a game for $1 million, but why does the editing not suggest Jerri should be suspicious of Colby’s flirting with her?
Considering how impactful the alliance was in season one of Survivor, this moment when Jerri reveals the alliance’s existence is is underplayed, and we don’t even see it form. Still, it is also given some attention, which is more than the previous two episodes have given to any kind of strategic talk.
We even get camp intrigue after the immunity challenge. After Ogakor’s loss, it is a “sad mood, but it’s also a very strategic mood” at camp, Tina says. though the editors don’t let us hear any conversations, they just show the players talking in various configurations.
What’s disappointing is that we never really learn why Maralyn is the target. I think it’s safe to assume that it’s because she isn’t the strongest performer in the challenges.
But while she’s the second-oldest person on this season, she is neither old nor frail. “This experience has meant so much to me. At 52, I can feel myself really coming alive,” Maralyn said during her exit interview, revealing to me that she’s a full 20 years younger than Rudy Boesch, one of Survivor Borneo’s final three.
Maralyn fell during the challenge, but so did Rodger (poor guy was literally tangled in his ropes for the second time this season), and everyone was struggling at the end of the very physical obstacle course.
While they have lost two back-to-back immunity challenges, they also won back-to-back reward challenges, both of which were quite physical.
Of course, this episode’s reward challenge was won quite literally on Colby’s back, as he was the one who had to hold up 400 pounds of water delivered to him by the opposing tribe.
How crazy was it that the pole Skupin was using snapped from the weight—which could have seriously injured or even killed him, it snapped with such force and turned into two spears—and that the producers made them do it again, this time in a timed race? And did they test these poles to see if they could hold 400 pounds, or was it just a fluke that the pole Mike had was defective in some way?
Perhaps in his sadness of losing the reward challenge and its fishing gear, Skupin decides to hunt. “I’m going to find something that’s alive that we are going to kill,” he says, settling on a pig. “I’m going to ambush one.”
The tribe is hilariously dismissive: “That is not realistic,” Alicia says. Elisabeth adds, “We haven’t seen a pig.”
And in some brilliant editing, the cut to the other tribe focuses on Tina’s desire not for blood lust, but for Doritos. Spoiler alert: Mike will get his pig, but it’s Tina everyone should be watching out for.