Survivor: The Australian Outback is Survivor season two, and the highly anticipated follow up to CBS’s Survivor: Borneo, which had premiered and become a cultural phenomenon in the summer of 2000.
Season two premiered with the CBS reality competition’s highest-rated premiere episode ever. It was also the longest season ever: Tina Wesson, Colby Donaldson, Jerri Manthey, Elisabeth Filarski, Rodger Bingham, Alicia Calaway, Amber Brkich, Kimmi Kappenberg, and other members of the Ogakor and Kucha tribes spent 41 days in the Outback, facing a flood, a food shortage, and the show’s first-ever medical evacuation.
These recaps cover those events, plus the players’ strategy and alliances, and the evolution of Survivor, including Jeff Probst’s slightly more active role as host.
While Survivor: The Australian Outback premiered after the Super Bowl in 2001, I didn’t actually recap Survivor back then. These recaps and reviews—which have a lot of analysis and reflection—were written 20 years later, when I rewatched the season in 2021, starting with my thoughts on the season’s 20th anniversary.
Survivor: The Australian Outback, season 2, episode 1, “Stranded,” which originally aired Sunday, July 28, 2001, after the Super Bowl, and became the highest-rated premiere in Survivor history. The Kucha and Ogakor tribes hiked to their camps, and began the 41-day game.
Kimmi Kappenberg’s vegetarianism presents a problem, Tina Wesson volunteers to be voted off first, and Kel Gleason is accused of eating beef jerky on episode two of Survivor: The Australian Outback, “Suspicion,” which originally aired Thursday, Feb. 1, 2001.
The season’s first alliance, Tina’s willingness to play, and Mike Skupin’s desire to stab a pig are all introduced on Survivor: The Australian Outback, episode 3, “Trust No One,” which originally aired Thursday, Feb. 8, 2001.
Survivor: The Australian Outback, season 2, episode 3, “The Killing Fields,” which originally aired Thursday, Feb. 15, 2001, may be best known for Michael Skupin’s pig slaughter—which is quite graphic—but it also has a Tribal Council first, and a surprising amount of strategy talk at camp.
Jeff Varner’s sweatshirt gets literally burned by an ember and there’s literal smoke in the air at Ogakor’s camp—foreshadowing the next episode—during Survivor: The Australian Outback, episode 5, “Gloves Come Off,” which originally aired Thursday, Feb. 22, 2001,
The merge arrives on Survivor: The Australian Outback, season 2, episode 7, “The Merge,” which originally aired Thursday, March 8, 2001, and while the producers try valiantly to get the evenly-matched tribes to cross tribal lines, they fail, and Tribal Council leads to another tie vote.
Ogakor has Kucha “outwitted,” Rodger says at the start of Survivor: The Australian Outback, season 2, episode 8, “Friends,” which originally aired Thursday, March 14, 2001., but two variables that could change that: the jury and Jerri Manthey.
Jerri Manthey and Colby Donaldson won a reward that sent them to the Great Barrier Reef, which led to Colby breaking the law while making a strategic move on Survivor: The Australian Outback, season 2, episode 10, “Honeymoon or Not,” which originally aired Thursday, March 29, 2001.
After Survivor’s first-ever auction, which made me miss the Survivor auction even more, Jeff Probst showed up to camp to trade shelter for food on Survivor: The Australian Outback, season 2, episode 11, “Let’s Make a Deal,” which originally aired Thursday, April 5, 2001.
A flood took out Barramundi’s camp and swept away their rice while Colby Donaldson chowed down on his latest reward: that’s the real-life drama that consumed Survivor: The Australian Outback, season 2, episode 12, “No Longer Just a Game,” which originally aired Thursday, April 12, 2001.
While the Survivor: The Australian Outback’s final five don’t get an actual visit from their loved ones, their loved ones do compete in the reward challenge. Meanwhile, Colby is driven to insanity by Keith, and explains his strategy to us on Survivor: The Australian Outback, season 2, episode 13, “Enough is Enough,” which originally aired Thursday, April 19, 2001.
In Survivor: The Australian Outback, season 2, episode 14, “The Final Four,” which originally aired Thursday, April 26, 2001, the final four compete in the first Survivor reward challenge to offer a car—and a curse—to its winner.
The finale of Survivor: The Australian Outback—season 2, episode 15, “The Most Deserving,” which originally aired Thursday, May 3, 2001—starts with Tina, Colby, and Keith competing in one final challenge, and doing a lot of reflecting, which precedes a lot of other padding. Still, it’s a great conclusion to a strong second season of Survivor.
I’m Andy Dehnart, a writer who obsessively and critically covers reality TV, focusing on how it’s made and what it means.
I created reality blurred 20 years ago as a place to collect interesting links I found. Today, I review and recommend reality shows, documentaries, and nonfiction entertainment; analyze news and report from behind the scenes; and interview people who create and star in reality TV shows. You'll also find other people's insightful takes on reality TV in these pages, too.
I believe pop culture can both entertain and affect us, and so reality blurred's goal is to amplify the best and hold the worst accountable. In other words, I’m here to call it out when it sucks and celebrate it when it’s amazing. Let’s talk about it together!