The outback bites back!

Jerri needs chocolate and sex, in that order; and, at Kucha, a trial by fire.


Salon Staff
March 2, 2001 9:51PM (UTC)

Over at the Ogakor camp two comely women in their 20s are lying on their back in a tent, legs splayed wide, and howling for a Texas stud to come in and service them.

Only on "Survivor" would that be the second-most interesting scene on a particular episode.

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Last week's show ended, as always, with scenes from the next week's show.

The little teasers are always titillating, but last week's looked like something more. In the few quick cuts, we saw a lot of splashing around in the water, a few shrieks of horror -- and a helicopter landing on a sand dune.

We could see that someone would be injured -- perhaps seriously. We imagined that, maybe, some kind of water reptile might be involved.

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Like, for instance, that crocodile we keep seeing in the credits.

We could tell the accident happened in the Kucha tribe, and using a process of elimination of the people seen grieving, we could tell that it would be either psycho Mike or buff Alicia taking a helicopter ride to where they serve saline cocktails at the side of the bed.

But then we remembered a dozen red herrings unleashed last season and just figured the whole thing could be a ruse.

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We laughed. We lined up the jokes. We even wrote some headlines. The best one we came up with was "Crocodile Tears."

Now, we've said some bad things about Mike the Jesus freak. He seemed a little suspicious when we found out he brought war paint from home.

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A little scary when he was chasing down that baby pig with a knife.

And his ravings about leaders and God around the dinner table were the most delusional and terrifying of all.

Then, recently, a tabloid of sometimes questionable reputation reported that Mike was as violent in his home life as he seems on the show.

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But does he deserve what we see happen to him tonight?

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The show starts off with the long walk home from last week's very wet tribal council meeting. It's a two-and-a-half-hour walk, we know from our "Survivor" manual, and the Kucha team makes the whole way in a downpour.

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Kentucky Joe, the older guy whose real name is Rodger, says it's the worst they've seen in 16 days.

It will turn out to be the second worst.

"When it rains here it means you're cold at night; you don't sleep," says shoe designer Elisabeth in a voice-over. "It takes you a day to recover from rain. Being cold at night is guaranteed, but being cold and wet ... Stick a fork in me."

The next morning, Mike starts a new fire. He sums up his "Survivor" experience. He's impressed that eight city people have been able to live off the land. They've found food, made shelter, started fire. He's standing next to the little luxuries provided by the producers -- rope, matches, fishhooks and stainless-steel knives -- but who's keeping track?

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"My outlook on life has changed 180 degrees," Mike says. "I'm a changed man."

We're sure that Mike's going to quit his job as the president of a software company, run a few Outward Bounds and end up trapping beavers in the Canadian Rockies, trading pelts for mushrooms at the annual Rainbow Gathering.

Either that or host a new UPN reality show based on bow hunting. Ted Nugent will guest-host.

Sitting by the stream, Alicia says that Kucha has been thinking about the merger, which will happen in four days, or one show, after the next tribal council meeting.

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Right now, Kucha has six people; Ogakor, five.

Last week, Ogakor put together a win in the immunity challenge, but all it really did was allow the Kuchas to jettison Kimmi, the most irritating vegetarian in all of the outback.

Jeff and Nick are both imagining what will happen as well. Both of them see a scenario where Kucha wins the next immunity challenge and can enter into the merger six to four, picking off Ogakors one by one.

Jeff is Mr. Negativity. He's been Mike's biggest critic, running behind bushes to snipe at him for the "Survivor" cameras and then slipping back out to chow down on the fish and pork Mike had provided for the camp.

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We here at recap central have received several letters from people who live in New York, and take issue with our having called Jeff "a bitchy New Yorker."

They agree he's a bitch.

But they argue, with some vehemence, that Jeff gives New Yorkers a bad name -- and that the show identifies him as being from North Carolina.

Too bad -- he lives, and has been living for years, in New York.

Now Jeff's focusing on Ogakor. "It's fun to beat them and make fun of it," Jeff says. "To hear them talk about how hungry they are and us go in there and win all of their food."

It's a setup. The action cuts over to Ogakor.

"Oh, my God, I'm so hungry," says Amber, the administrative assistant and myrmidon to the evil Heather queen Jerri.

The tribe has enough flour for three, maybe only two, tortillas. And rice.

"To think, the other tribe is eating eggs," says Amber.

"Bastards!" says Jerri.

"And soup, and spices, and pig," continues Amber.

"I have to get my hands on some chocolate," says Jerri. "Or I might go psycho."

Too late!

What follows is an unnecessarily detailed inquiry into Jerri's fantasies about sex and chocolate.

She says she needs one or the other, and she's not above wanting both.

"Right now, in my wildest fantasy, I can imagine pouring chocolate all over some hot dude's bod and having sex while licking it off at the same time," she says.

We're not prudes, and we do like chocolate, but we'd rather have sex with an incensed wombat than listen to Jerri talk another second.

Jerri and Amber end up in the shade of the tent, on their backs, banging on a bongo and howling for food and for studly Colby, in that order.

Colby, it turns out, is all hat and no cattle when it comes to sex.

Either he's not man enough for Jerri and Amber, or he finds morally degenerate babes a turnoff. He's visibly repelled at their act. He slaps at his back in agitated disgust.

"Bring on Kucha," he says grimly. He's saying he can't wait for the two tribes to merge.

"I may be a lot of things," says Colby, "but I ain't no Hershey bar."

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Over at Kucha, the team members peck at their latest food source: chicken feed. They got some bags of it when they won their hens and rooster a few challenges ago. They've discovered that they can separate out the corn, heat the kernels over the fire and end up with popcorn.

They're discovering their own ingenuity -- creating new food for themselves, just as the original inhabitants of this wondrous planet did, thousands and thousands of years ago.

Except for the part about having been given processed chicken feed by an international media conglomerate in the first place, of course.

Mike works over the fire with the skillet. First, he almost burns his hand, then he steps on a coal with his bare feet. Careful, Mike!

We watch the camp, now a tight unit, rave over how good the popcorn is.

Back at Ogakor, Jerri has picked some wild cherry tomatoes. Only a few of them are ripe. She figures she'll make fried green tomatoes out of the others.

Keith points out that you can't make the famous Southern fried green tomatoes dish with cherry tomatoes.

But what would Keith know? He's just a chef!

The two bicker over the frying pan. They're both going nuts. Jerri's so invested in tweaking Keith she won't listen to reason.

And Keith -- if he doesn't like what she's doing, why doesn't he go out and pick his own damn tomatoes?

It gets so bad that Tina, absurdly but seriously, calls a timeout.

Colby eats the fried tomatoes. He says they taste kind of like okra. Translation for people who don't live in Texas: They taste like bitter twigs.

Ogakor's slow starvation makes this week's reward challenge particularly appealing. The prize is a picnic. A clue says that the challenge will involve one person leading around the others in the dark.

The Ogakor women -- Jerri, Amber and Tina -- squeal. They imagine barbecue, cheese and crackers, a bottle of chardonnay! They go on and on about how much better a picnic will be than a few chickens.

This is a hallmark of the Ogakors, who want stuff given to them rather than either working for it or being given tools that would allow them to do it for themselves.

Meanwhile, Kucha is practicing moving blindfolded as a group, to Nick's commands. Without vegetarian problem-maker Kimmi around, the team is a unified, meat-eating, Ogakor-crushing machine.

Ogakor does yoga.

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Jeff Probst, King of All the Koalas, meets the two teams at the challenge site. The show lapses into a really long commercial for two of the sponsors of "Survivor," neither of which we'll bother to name here, but whose products, we have to note, would make a pretty lame picnic.

The challenge is a series of tasks -- putting logs on a sawhorse, moving some fish traps into the stream, filling buckets with water -- that must be done blindfolded by the team working together.

One member of each team, Jerri for Ogakor, Nick for Kucha, sits at one end of the course barking directions.

Kucha works together, methodically. Ogakor splits into pairs and is disorganized. Colby and Tina flail, but not without progress. Keith and Amber wander out at the edge of the course into some bushes.

It goes on and on. There's a lot of screaming.

In the end, Amber is just a few feet away from the finish line, but she's flustered by Jerri's shrieked instructions.

The prize is a bunch of chips and soda. Just what you need in the outback, where protein is a daily obsession.

Colby, mad as a Tasmanian devil, throws a bucket of water on Jerri. It's the closest thing he can provide to a good, long cold shower.

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After the commercial, we're greeted with a printed content warning.

We've seen this card before. Last time, a little piggy cried "wee-wee-wee" all the way to the tip of Mike's hunting knife.

This one says that what follows may be too intense for kids.

Every image is a setup. We see Ogakor waking up in the morning.

It's peaceful. Nature. Keith stokes the fire.

The Ogakors are planning for the immunity challenge and the merger. They know they have to win.

Colby says that he's not going to lay down and die after the merger. Jerri plans on "freaking some people out." It looks like she's going to be playing the Jordan card after the merger.

Jordan was the contentious woman on "Big Brother" who got herself tossed off the show tout de suite. We hope Jerri sticks to this plan.

More nature shots. Quiet.

Kucha languishes, prepares some food.

Quiet. More nature sounds.

"Aaarrrrrrgggggghhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!"

A bird flies off a branch.

Mike is on the beach, near the campfire, screaming.

"He's burned!" says Nick. "Burned pretty bad."

The Kuchas come running.

Mike runs for the water and flops in. It's too warm. He gets out and jumps into the deeper part.

The others want to know what happened.

"I was blowing in the fire, and some smoke got in my face, and I inhaled it," says Mike from the water. He's in a lot of pain. "I passed out."

Mike rises out of the water like an immense, anguished bear. His hands are bright red. There are flaps of skin hanging off them.

He's got second-degree, if not third-degree, burns. He's in trouble.

His face contorts into a scream. The tribe members don't know what to do. They stand on the riverbank talking to him.

"Stay strong," calls Elisabeth.

"His hands are pretty bad," Rodger says under his breath.

"They're stiffening up," hollers Mike, dunking his head into the water.

He's got burns on his arms, shoulders and maybe his face. Finally a few Kucha members go out into the water to comfort him.

A burly team of Australian medics arrives. The medics meet Mike in the water.

"You can shoot me," Mike shouts. "Shots, drugs, pain. I can take it. I'll take whatever you can give me."

There's a close-up of his hands. A piece of skin floats at the top of the water. The rest of his fingers look like they're covered with papier-mâché.

One of the medics pops a plastic anesthetic inhaler in Mike's mouth.

"It'll calm you down," the medic says.

We need one, too.

The medics wrap Michael's hands with loose gauze and walk him to a stretcher. A helicopter arrives.

Several burly guys carry Mike on the stretcher.

Mike shouts, "Kucha!"

Really.

His tribe gathers around him.

He's got a huge smile on his face, but you can see the pain -- and some burns.

Might be war paint.

The rest of the tribe sends him some upbeat farewells.

"I'll keep 'em in line for ya," says Rodger.

"Thank you, Joe," says Mike.

"I can't see Elisabeth," Mike says, his eyes glazing over.

"I'm right here," she says, stepping to the fore.

This is awful.

"I'm looking at some brave, beautiful people who I love so much," he says.

We hate ourselves for falling for all of this.

Mike has an oxygen mask on. "I love you guys," he says through it. "You guys do what's right. You guys know what to do."

The helicopter takes off. Kucha collapses.

Hugs. Tears. A mournful digeridoo.

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Over at Ogakor, Jerri receives the day's tree mail.

The mail says that there has been an accident at Kucha and that one member of the tribe was evacuated. There will be no immunity challenge.

The merger will happen with five Kuchas and five Ogakors.

Elisabeth, in a voice over the burning fire, site of Mike's injury, breaks down. She's a mess.

So too, Rodger. "We're gonna stick together as a team," he says. "Possibly Mike's accident reminded some of them that there are some things that are even more important than the million dollars."

Uh, Rodger, what's your point?

Jeff says that Kucha has been cemented as a team against Ogakor. "We're gonna kill 'em," he says. "We're gonna eat 'em up and spit 'em out. That's the way Mike would have wanted it to be."

An hour ago, Jeff hated Mike. Now he's using his name as a talisman.

The sun sets. We see the glowing fire and the sullen faces of Kucha.

The show ends with a prayer, spoken by Rodger. The team members hold hands.

"We thank thee for this food which Mike caught for us today, and we pray, dear Lord, that you will be with him as he undergoes surgery. We pray that you will be with the doctors, give them the knowledge, the experience and the wisdom to fix his hands, and once again return them to normal. We pray that you will be with him, be with his family ... We would ask, dear Lord, that you would also bless the ones remaining here in this group. And ask that you would be with us and give us guidance and also your strength and your support."

"Amen."

Ogakor is screwed.

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In the morning, Michael, whose last name is Skupin, appears on CBS's "The Early Show." His hands are fine.

He tells the interviewer that he'd been crouching over the fire and tossed some dried leaves onto it. A wind change blew smoke up into his face just as he inhaled.

He stood up, realized that he felt dizzy -- and then blacked out.

He fell face first into the fire and was there several seconds before coming to.

Fortunately, he'd been wearing a hat and some sunglasses.

He was airlifted out to Brisbane and spent two weeks in the hospital. By the time he got home his hands were well enough that he could tell his family that he'd merely been sunburned.

He watched the broadcast with them the night before; that was the first time they found out what really happened, he claimed.

Mark Burnett, the "Survivor" producer, is there too. He says, yes, the "Survivor" players sign liability agreements -- "as big as phone books."

He refuses to say whether he caught the actual accident on tape. "We showed the hands once. Showing stuff like that over and over again is not what 'Survivor' or CBS is all about," Burnett says.

"The Early Show," of course, had shown the shot of Mike's damaged hands about 75 times already that morning.

Then Mike says the best burn surgeon in Australia had told him that his hands having healed so fast was "a miracle."

Then he starts ranting about how it was all "proof of a higher power."

Right then we found the remote and turned off the damn TV.

-- Jeff Stark

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