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 8, “Friends,” which originally aired Thursday, March 14, 2001.
The Survivor: The Australian Outback tribes were tied going into the merge, but a deadlocked vote sent Jeff Varner out of the game.
Rodger said Kucha had been “outwitted,” and a Pagonging looks very likely. “Someone in your group is going to be a millionaire,” he says to a member of the other tribe.
There are two things that may change that: the jury and Jerri.
The next person voted out will be the first member of jury, prompting Alicia to explain that there are “mew people” and a “mew set of rules.” Actually, she said “new people” and a “new set of rules,” but somehow I mistyped it in my notes and liked “mew people” enough to keep it in.
Alicia says that Ogakor, despite having the advantage, “better start stepping up and being real nice to us,” because at least four of them will be on the jury.
The other variable this episode is Jerri, whose villainy and obnoxiousness is so tame that it doesn’t even register on the scale established by future Survivor players and reality TV stars, but which apparently was driving many of these players absolutely nuts.
Tina says, flatly, “I want the good guys to win.” The editors cut to Jerri hammering a stake into the ground, hammering home the point that Jerri does not fall under that heading.
The primary “Jerri is terrible!” moment we get in the episode is when Elisabeth and Alicia are cooking rice, and Jerri is, um, offering feedback. “Don’t tell me what I’m supposed to be doing when I’m making you dinner,” Elisabeth tells us in an interview, but not to Jerri’s face. (Tina does, however, say something in the moment about not cooking because she doesn’t want to be judged.)
Here’s the thing: Jerri is pointing out that the rice is “mushy” because, well, it is. It looks like paste mixed with chunks of styrofoam. Like, they really screwed it up, and rice is not hard to screw up. If all you have to do to not screw up rice is not touch it, and then people touch it and screw it up, maybe don’t be surprised if someone calls you on that?
Of course, maybe don’t call people out for their cooking skills when you need them to vote for you to win $1 million.
The fascinating part about all of this is that it shifts into strategy. This is nearly an entire episode where Survivor players are—drum roll!—playing the game!
Elisabeth says, “I’ll do whatever it takes,” and tells Alicia, “I think there’s a crack in their tribe” and “I think she’s going to get votes from their tribe.”
She then approaches Keith about that, but for some reason the cameras don’t follow her there so we don’t hear that conversation.
We do, however, hear Tina tell Elisabeth, “She’ll get hers. It’s coming.” Tina is speaking of Jerri, of course.
But will Tina Wesson—who gave up individual immunity last week just to protect her tribe—vote out one of her majority alliance? Oh no she will not.
Instead, the two tribes will vote along tribal lines, and send Alicia to the jury. (“I was expecting this,” Alicia says in her exit interview.)
Host Jeff Probst says, “the game has changed.” Has it? In terms of showing us strategizing, it sure has.
Meanwhile, there’s even more strategizing as Jerri approaches Colby, and he lies to her about wanting to work with her and Amber, even though he actually has a deal with Keith and Tina. Look at all this playing going on!
Also: Look at these challenges! Why doesn’t Survivor do challenges like these any more?
The reward challenge was a boomerang toss (won by Jerri, who took Amber for a weird lunch of shrimp and rolls), and the immunity challenge was a human-sized version of dots and boxes. (By the way, I just played the computer version and lost three times in a row.)
Both of them were mental challenges, not physical ones, and Survivor really needs to bring back more challenges—especially post-merge—that are not just about endurance or strength.
If we could also bring back this version of Jeff Probst, that’d be great, too. He’s so not heavy-handed that, at the reward challenge, when it’s Amber’s turn, he casually says to her, “You’re it, right?” As if the host doesn’t even know how many players there are! It is a welcome change from screaming exposition at the players, though.
Probst is almost a completely different person—which is also what Amber says about Tina, that since the merge Tina has become “a completely different person.” Guess who has come to play?
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