Didgeridon't!

Jerri and Colby's big day out: "It was like a honeymoon -- without the sex!" Plus: A hell of a tribal council.


Salon Staff
March 30, 2001 9:02AM (UTC)

A hard rain falls as "Survivor" opens, as always, at dawn. Few have slept well last night; the water dripped off one tarp onto another, and then cozied in a neat puddle first next to Colby and then on to the next restless body.

The fire is out, too.

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"It's gonna be a long day," says a tired Colby, the big Texas stud.

We think so too. And it's gonna be a long series as well. Colby's part of the de facto ruling Ogakor tribe, which, after the tempestuous revenge of some raging outback porcine god upon Mike, the psycho Kucha warlord, is in the driver's seat.

At this point, it looks like the five remaining former Ogakors will summarily dismiss the last three former Kuchas: Ivy League Nick, farmer Rodger and sweetheart Elisabeth-with-an-s. The Ogakors, uneasily led by unpleasant, scheming Heather Queen Jerri, have taken out two Kuchas so far. The rest might as well be little tin ducks for the B.B.s that shoot out of Jerri's eyes every time she squints.

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The last full episode, remember, was a long, elaborate ruse to make us think that there was some chance that physical trainer Alicia would not be Ogakor's target.

In the end, she was sent to the Jury of the Damned. She now sits next to the ghosts of Sir Ernest Shackleton, Gloria Gaynor and the painful curse of modernism, the world's three greatest survivors.

Wait, Gloria Gaynor isn't dead, is she?

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Anyway, the weather makes Ogakor's power seem dreary. Jerri says that she feels drained and lazy. She's sleeping in.

The others talk about the rain. Chef Keith starts a fire. It looks like we're going to get an episode about the quotidian details of life in the outback: hauling wood, filtering water, Jerri's a bitch, eating rice, the delivery of another Kucha carcass to the front door of Sumner Redstone.

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We know what you're thinking: boooor-ing!

- - - - - - - - - - - -

Nick is having a hard time swallowing. He gargles. He says he has three enlarged "taste buds" as well. Even drinking water hurts.

We take the bait. We're pretty sure that this is one of those easy "Survivor" setups. We've noticed that in the past, the editing at the start of the show often subtly alludes to who will be thrown off at the end of the night.

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In storytelling, they call it foreshadowing.

On "Survivor," we call it hackneyed.

The rain has washed a lot of the soil into the river, which is now cloudy and brown.

The survivors are hungry. As we've noted myriad times before, one of the revelations of this engrossing show is that, almost without exception, even people who self-select to be survivors have virtually no ability actually to survive absent a bursting tackle box and a sturdy Coleman stove.

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Fishing isn't very good. The survivors only have two fishhooks left because the tackle gets snagged on branches and debris.

We watch Rodger in the process of losing another one. The tribe is blowing through its rice, too. It's about to run out.

Fortunately, the group comes together in its time of need. Keith attempts to fashion new hooks from Elisabeth's glasses; Nick and Colby light wildfires to flush pigs out of the bush; Tina begins to eye Rodger's rump roast.

Just joking.

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Actually, the group just sits around and starves.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

Colby and Elisabeth walk into camp with the day's tree mail. The rhyming note says that there will be a big challenge that day, and that the tribe needs to pair up in teams of one man and one woman. The note promises the biggest reward yet.

The tribe goes all a-twitter. Elisabeth's first question is how they should decide who plays with whom.

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The camera cuts over to Jerri, who has a skull cap pulled low across her forehead. She looks into the ground, plotting.

Elisabeth suggests pulling names out of a hat.

"I don't think so," mutters Jerri.

Jerri wants to pick teammates. The idea instantly quiets everyone else. Jerri's like that, a killjoy if she's not getting what Jerri wants.

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Elisabeth asks whom she would pick.

Colby, Jerri says.

Well, duh.

"Well, duh, who wouldn't?" we hear nurse Tina saying off-screen.

"When did this game start being fair?" asks Jerri.

Above the protests of Jerri, Colby comes around with all the men's names in his big, furry bunny hat.

Tina picks Rodger.

Amber picks Keith.

Elisabeth picks Nick.

And Jerri picks Colby.

We haven't seen such a nauseating, self-satisfied grin since George W. Bush's inaugural speech.

"Ironically enough, I ended up being Colby's partner anyway," says Jerri, who is pointing out serendipity, while missing the actual irony.

The irony is that at this point Colby finds Jerri about as attractive as a diseased wallaby.

"It's important that people are constantly reminded of the reality of our situation," says Jerri, later, to the cameras. "There is nothing fair about this. It's about winning."

Next we see Colby's version of events, given to Keith as the pair sit in the tent. It's a marvelous example of esprit de l'escalier.

"[Tina] said, 'Who would you pick?' [Jerri] said, 'Colby.' I'm sitting there going, 'Well now, hold on, let's think about who Colby would pick here!'"

This is a great story, except that we just saw Colby say no such thing.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

Jeff Probst, Benevolent King of all the Koalas, is front and center when the group shows up for their reward challenge. The reward, he tells them, is a helicopter ride to the Great Barrier Reef.

He tells them they'll go snorkeling in the "clear, blue water and be treated to a great lunch."

The survivors let out a collective "Oooooh." The lucky couple.

The challenge is a rigorous obstacle course. They have to negotiate it in pairs.

We're treated to several slow-motion shots of players contesting rope bridges, swinging on wooden platforms, crawling through the sand and walking up balance beams.

Colby and Jerri and Keith and Amber win the first round. They face each other in a final heat.

It's a tough course, and they're really tired. Jerri shrieks in pain the whole time. There's a great shot of Colby pulling her over a wall by the back of her shorts and dropping her on her back on the other side.

It's fun watching Jerri take a fall.

It's close, but Colby and Jerri win.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

Back at camp, Jerri and Colby are waiting to get into their helicopter. The tribe is waiting for them to leave so it has two fewer mouths to feed.

Jerri delightedly notes that there has to be some jealousy among her tribe mates because she's won two reward challenges in a row. That's the thing about Jerri. For Heathers like her, the world revolves around them. They project the feelings and ideas they have onto others. And they confuse the simple dislike they've engendered in others with something as complicated as jealousy.

It's like the cheerleader who scratches and bites and lies her way to the top and then figures that all the people she stepped on to get there aren't really mad that they were stepped on, but just envious because she made head cheerleader.

"It bothers me a little bit," says Jerri of this perceived jealously, "because I think it might influence voting. But it this point, I really couldn't give a crap."

She's wearing her fetchingest blue top, unzipped down the front to show as much cleavage as is decent.

A metallic blue helicopter lands on the beach and the pilot approaches the group and asks who his passengers will be.

"Let's head out to the ma-shine," the Aussie says.

The next sequence shows the pair in the copter, shot from the vantage point of another helicopter, coursing over the bush, up a river and in front of a massive waterfall. It's gorgeous.

We cut to an inside shot of Colby, yee-haw-ing into a headset.

"I really got to get me one of these choppers," he says.

Jerri smiles a big grin. There's a distant look in her eyes. She realizes it's just the two of them. Jerri's got something besides food and snorkeling on her mind. Colby was, after all, her flirting buddy from the first few days. And as long as there's no chocolate around, she's still craving sex.

She reaches over and grabs his arm for a squeeze. Colby turns and looks out the window.

Strike one!

The chopper lands on a beach and the two climb into a boat. While they're motoring across the water we hear the pair agreeing not to talk about the game. When Colby talks to the camera later his version of his role in the conversation, again, is a lot more forceful than the one we saw.

They're anchored on a sand spit. There's a tent. Underneath is champagne, bottled water, fruit, various salads, a bag of chips from one of the show's many sponsors, sandwiches, vegetables and, for Jerri, a chocolate brownie. There's also a bunch of scuba gear and some underwater cameras.

The episode is no longer a game show, it's a video travel brochure.

They dig in. "We feasted for a while, and then we wondered how everyone else was doing," says Jerri, disinterestedly. "But I knew."

She's the most special girl in the world!

Of course we cut back to camp, where everyone is eating rice with wooden spoons and breaking firewood. Nick is pretty bummed he didn't get to go.

Out at the reef, the music playing is some sort of bad rip-off of that "Under the Sea" song from "The Little Mermaid." This is the richest show on television and they couldn't just license it?

Underwater, Colby and Jerri snap pictures of big brains of coral.

"It was paradise," says Jerri later. "It was very romantic on top of everything else."

Helicopter shot of Jerri and Colby barefoot on a sand spit slowly disappearing with the tide.

"I even looked at him one time and said, 'This is one hell of a first date, Colby.'"

Strike two!

We see a setting sun, and hear Jerri talking about getting to know Colby outside of the game. All the edits dissolve into one another. Everything about this section is suggesting romance.

Jerri offers him half of her brownie.

Ahem.

"It's like being on a honeymoon without the sex!" Jerri says.

But wait: "Jerri was quite giddy on our little getaway," says Colby. "She made a comment to me about it being like a honeymoon without the sex. That couldn't be further from the truth."

Strike three!

Jerri has to go back to dreaming about chocolate.

"I feel like a tender side of me was touched today," she says.

Metaphorically speaking.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

Back at camp, everyone rushes the two to ask how it was. Colby mentions eating some apples and oranges. He says it was nice. He says he wishes he could have brought all of them. He's downplaying it like a gentleman.

He's brought them all back pieces of coral, which is nice, and he's personalized each one of them, which is really nice. Keith gets one with a hole in it, to match the empty space "between his ears." (Everyone laughs. Keith dutifully holds it next to one of his ears.) Tina gets an orange one, for Tennessee. We're guessing there is a Tennessee football team that has orange uniforms.

Really, the whole thing is really thoughtful.

Well, not to be an environmental spoilsport, but it's really bad as well. Taking coral away from the reef is not exactly illegal, but the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority asks its visitors not to. "If you pick up anything under water (living or dead), always return it to exactly the same position," the authority advises.

But it's a nice gesture, and the tribe loves it. We cut to a voice-over with Jerri. "Colby's little shell maneuver was most definitely strategy," she says.

She actually calls his gifts "a shell maneuver."

"In a perfect world, it would be me and him sitting up there in front of the Jury," Jerri says. She thinks that they're equals, and with his gifts, he's now got one up on her. Jerri lives in Los Angeles, when every gift is just a way of getting in good with a casting agent.

The funny thing is that Jerri is the only one talking about the shell maneuver as strategy. Colby doesn't even allude to it. We've never questioned that Colby was serious about the game, but he really does seem to be going at it from a jockish, give-it-110-percent angle. He thinks he can win if he just works harder and wants it more than anyone else.

Colby's gifts were kind of honest and sweet. Jerri, projecting as always, never misses a chance to question someone else's good intentions.

And we're actually stunned that she's so self-deluded that she thinks she'd have a chance against him in the final round.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

We're now on Day 27. We're in the third quarter of the show, and the talk of voting orders is surprisingly frank. Colby says that Ogakor determined long ago that Nick, strong and unhated and classy, is "more of a threat" than Elisabeth or Rodger.

This is, of course, typical Colby logic, thinking of threats as merely physical. In the final round, he could most likely beat Nick in front of the Jury, but maybe not Elisabeth or Rodger, who are liked by everyone. But he apparently hasn't realized this.

We digress.

Nick knows he's next. "It looks like everyone's voting on tribal lines now," he says.

The immunity challenge is a series of one-on-one balancing contests on floating platforms out in the stream. The winners advance to the next round. Dingo Jeff points out that this challenge demands smarts and strength: You have to know how to use your opponents' strength against them.

In the first round, two players stand on top of stumps jutting out of the water. Each grabs the end of a slack rope and tries to pull the other off the stump.

Rodger beats Keith.

Nick beats Jerri.

Colby beats Tina.

Amber, Jerri's factotum, her eyes glittering with contempt, beats Elisabeth. Amber is oddly reminiscent of the Robert Patrick character in "Terminator 2."

And her bedsheet bikini is tremendously unflattering.

In the next round, both players stand on top of platforms attached to a wobbly post. Both shake and dance. It's kind of like riding the surf, or a snowboard.

Colby beats Rodger.

Nick beats Amber.

In the final round, Nick and Colby stand on top of floating boxes and try to pull each other off with a rope.

The two seem pretty evenly matched. There's a lot of slack taken, a lot given back. Much shaking. In the end, to our delight, Colby tumbles.

Nick wins immunity.

The tribal council just got interesting.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

All talk is of tonight's vote.

Rodger and Elisabeth-with-an-s know they're in trouble.

"I think they all just know, so they have come to accept it," Amber tells Jerri.

Jerri tells the camera that the Ogakor has picked Elisabeth.

As Amber talks about the votes, there's a weird set of four shots of different players either licking their lips or trying to pick stuff out their teeth with their tongues. We have no idea what this means.

Elisabeth makes sure that Tina knows that the three former Kuchas will be voting for Jerri. Tina tells her, point blank, that the Ogakor alliance has to vote for her or Rodger because that's the safe thing to do.

Suddenly, we hear Keith's voice.

"There is one other alternative," Keith tells Colby and Tina. "We can eliminate Jerri and we're still ahead."

"Keith, I'm sorry," says Colby. "We're talking about a lot of money at stake."

They hike. Some large bats fly out of the trees. The full moon rises, again.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

In the tribal council circle, Jeff lets Nick tell everyone that he knew he was going if he didn't win immunity. He asks Jerri if she's surprised herself "with the way you've acted out here."

Jerri goes into an unconvincing speech about how she didn't expect the challenge to be so tough, about how the elements and the stress and the lack of food have made her say things that she never would otherwise.

Elisabeth frowns underneath her immunity headdress, that folksy, homemade thing -- her luxury item -- that she always wears on her head at tribal council.

Jeff asks Elisabeth if she's worried. She knows. Her voice wavers. "You're always vulnerable here," she says. "I come here prepared for the worst."

"Let's vote," says Jeff.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

Both Jerri and Amber spell Elisabeth correctly on their ballots.

The fires and torches crackle.

Jeff starts reading the votes. It's Jerri with two, Elisabeth with two.

Jerri gets a third.

We're expecting this. That's all three Kucha votes for Jerri. The final three will go to Elisabeth and send her to the Jury of the Damned.

Alicia, and Shackleton, await.

But no, the next vote is for Jerri.

And the next one!

Jerri's toast!

We listen closely and faintly hear Munchkins singing a song.

"Ding-dong, the witch is dead," they sing in their high little voices.

Jerri stands up, grabs her torch and turns to the remaining survivors.

"Checkmate. You guys got me," she says.

We giggle.

Jerri thinks she was outwitted. She was really just hated.

During the credits, she says she "saw it coming." Sure she did.

She says she figures that the group changed its mind about her when she said the game wasn't fair. But the truth is that she systematically made an enemy out of each one of her competitors. (Save Amber, now a good little soldier without a patron.) And they voted for her, fair and square.

Isn't this ironic?

-- Jeff Stark

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