“Survivor”

More than you want to know about CBS's twisted island challenge.

Topics: Survivor, CBS,

CBS’s twisted reality show “Survivor” shipwrecks 16 carefully selected stereotypes onto the remote Pulau Tiga island near Borneo in the South China Sea. One half “Real World,” one half “American Gladiators,” each weekly episode features a bizarre physical challenge that first pit two teams — the Tagi and Pagong — against one another, and then every player against everyone else. Every three days, the castaways must oust one person at the weirdly ritualized “Tribal Council.” At the end of the summer season, only one member will remain — and walk out with a $1 million prize.

“Survivor” works not because it’s real, but because it’s so beautifully manipulated. The natural environment provides water snakes and abundant rats — which the contestants have roasted and tell us taste something like chicken, naturally. Both are icky enough to titillate and gross out armchair survivalists. And the characters, surely chosen for conflict potential, are even more transfixing. Two older islanders bit it in the first two rounds. A lawyer from San Francisco got dumped on the third episode, a whining biochemist in the fourth. Tagi’s secret, ad hoc voting alliance took down two victims on the fifth and seventh: the Bible-thumping virgin and an impressive schoolteacher and team-leader. In between, the women of Pagong ditched a mildly sexist beefcake. In the eighth, a silly ivy league student — another threat to the alliance — was tossed by the alliance. The alliance broke in the ninth, but the three who were left managed to take out a single mom. Remaining are a crotchety Navy SEAL, a tough truck driver, a devious gay motivational speaker, a doctor with a pierced nipple, a cute young student and a guy who won’t work and can’t swim.

Watch them argue! Start your own “Survivor” pool! Participate in a cultural phenomenon! Stay tuned to Salon.com for even more coverage!!!

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“Survivor”: The story so far
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Survival of the dullest
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“Survivor”: The merchandise
The castaways went to Pulau Tiga and we didn’t even get a crummy action figure. When are the pop-crap purveyors going to deliver the goods?
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My Ramona
A song for the rejected castaway, sung to the tune of “My Sharona.”
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Tiga after television
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Island fever
I was willing to spring my gay porn past on my unsuspecting family if it would get me on the TV show “Survivor.” But would it?
By Dylan James
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The Wacky World of Television
On American game shows, you answer questions and win money. In the rest of the world, you get naked and bob for false teeth in a bucket of pig eyeballs.
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They’ve booted Mrs. Howell!
The debut episode of “Survivor” sees the castaways turning on the aged first — and beats “Millionaire” in the ratings.
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How to win at “Survivor”
The Darwinian undercurrents of “Survivor” are plain, but the real winner will be the castaway who understands the show’s endgame.
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Song for a “Survivor”
An ode to B.B. Anderson, the second castaway thrown out of CBS’s island paradise.
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I lived my own version of “Survivor” one winter in St. Thomas with a friend and three strangers.
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