Bathroom secrets of the outback

Episode 11: Everything you didn't want to know about survivor digestion! Plus: Jeff Probst makes a deal.

By Salon Staff
Published April 6, 2001 1:07PM (EDT)

On Day 28, the first shot focuses in on Jerri's leather cowboy hat, resting atop her hand drum under a shady corner of the tent.

Just a few weeks ago, Jerri seemed to be sitting on top of the outback. But now these are the only reminders that remain.

That and the acrid smell of burning sulfur.

Well, there is one other thing. Her name is Amber, the sniveling Riff Raff to Jerri's done-in Doctor Frank-N-Furter.

Amber sits alone on a fallen tree, staring into fire.

Get it? Without Jerri, she's just a bump on a log.


Last week, you'll remember, three former members of the Ogakor tribe joined forces with three former Kuchas to oust Jerri, the evil Heather Queen, whose tyrannical mood swings and imperious arrogance made living in Camp Barramundi about as much fun as that little room in "No Exit."

Amber was her unquestioning myrmidon.

Now Amber feels left out.

"I think the group definitely isolated me from their decision because they felt I was too close to Jerri," says the 22-year-old administrative assistant from Beaver, Pa. "It's sad."

Sad like that time when Robespierre lost his wig in the guillotine, ending the Reign of Terror.

Her isolation brings up an interesting point. Maybe the five-strong Ogakor should have just filleted the three remaining Kuchas and then offed Jerri. Because now, Amber, as Jerri's jilted toady, feels left out.

Maybe she'll switch her allegiance to the three remaining Kuchas. Maybe she'll go solo.

Maybe she'll start to vote according to the alphabet.

And maybe "Survivor" will be able to eke out some drama from the show for the next six episodes.

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

We admit that we wanted to see Jerri get her comeuppance more than we wanted ever to love again. But we just had a terrible, terrible flash while watching ponytailed Amber saunter across camp with a water sack in her hands.

What happens when all the jerks get thrown off and we're left with a bunch of bland nobodies?

Then we remembered that we've already seen that reality show.

It was called "Big Brother."

With only seven players left, this much is certain: This is not the same show we saw last season. Basically, all the nasty people are gone. Now the only easy targets are the somewhat lunkheaded cowboy Colby, a seemingly shallow Amber and, in a stretch, nurse Tina's passive-aggressive meddling or chef Keith, whose barely restrained arrogance has been mostly shielded by our loathing of Jerri.

Ah, Jerri. Was it sweet to watch her go.

"Ding-dong, the witch is dead," sings Keith.

It's funny, 'cause that's just what we said last week -- along with 7,500 of our letter-writing readers.

If you want a consensus, find an enemy.

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

Without Jerri, there's a new, slightly less painful obstacle to overcome: relentless hunger.

Last week, we learned that the seven final survivors were almost out of rice rations. In this episode, they have only a few grains left. They're also down to two fishhooks, which keep getting caught in the weeds or snapped up by unfortunate turtles.

The tribe is losing weight and losing energy.

Nick, the Harvard student and Army officer, shows off a sad six-pack. Poor farmer Rodger, who is somehow still sheet white after a month under the blazing outback sun, squeezes some loose flesh around his gut. A shot of Keith, lying on the sand, tightens in on a caved-in stomach.

We were waiting for Sally Struthers to pop up on the screen with an 800 number.

Colby says they can make it without food, but they won't be able to stay mentally alert for the challenges.

"If ifs and buts were candy and nuts we'd all have a merry Christmas," he says.

We'd by him a steak if it made him lay off the local color.

(Colby's lucky to be walking around a free man. Last week, on his big trip to the Great Barrier Reef, he brought back coral samples for the others. That's illegal in Australia. For the full story, click here.)

The rest of them lie listlessly on the ground or mope around with fishing poles and sagging faces.

"Everyone here was just in slow motion," says shoe designer Elisabeth-with-an-s. "I think everyone here would bring back Jerri if we had rice to go with her."

We picture Jerri with an apple in her teeth, sweaty and naked and splayed over a bed of rice.

We give up rice.

Next we're treated to what passes for an action sequence: Keith chasing down grasshoppers. (The group needs them for bait.) He runs through the grass with a fishing net in his hand, chasing after a flying insect.

American couch potatoes, rest easy. Even if there's a writers strike this summer, reality TV promises plenty of action-packed entertainment.

When Keith finally snares one, he places it in his front shirt pocket like a proud, accomplished hunter.

"Look at that," says Keith. "You show me Colby doing that."

It's an odd place to piss for a big dog like Keith.

We see a humiliated Colby beating the bush with a stick. As if to mock him, the camera produces a close-up of two grasshoppers in flagrante delicto on a twig.

"I may have to go to the master so he can teach young Grasshopper how to wrangle grasshoppers," says Colby, who actually gets the absurdity of Keith's contest.

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

We're thinking, at this point, that something awesome is getting ready to happen, what with all of this insect tomfoolery and aching hunger. We figure the reward challenge will have the survivors scaling rock walls in the blazing heat or maybe hanging off helicopters and trying to catch rings placed on the tops of trees. We need action, damn it!

Instead, we get the lamest nonchallenge we've seen so far: an auction.

Here's the so-called game. All the survivors get leather wallets with their names printed on them. Inside each of the wallets is Australian cash. The nonchallenge is that Dingo Jeff Probst puts a plate of food on a stump and the survivors bid for it with their money.

Basically, this is an opportunity to give the show's sponsors a few more product-placement opportunities. We're surprised when Jeff doesn't try to auction off a pair of Dr. Scholl's shoe inserts seasoned with salt.

They all buy some stuff with their money.

Jeff does much gavel banging.

They look really, really happy.

We aren't. We want to see Colby box with a kangaroo.

We follow a bidding war from start to finish. Colby wants an iced coffee and two energy bars. So does Amber. As the bidding slows down, Colby starts making sly little movements with his fingers to indicate that he wants to place a bid. He's obviously been to stock shows, or at least seen "Ultimate Auction" on Fox.

Colby's superior form gets him the protein bars for $280.

"Sold to the movie star!" says Jeff.

Amber buys a mystery plate for $200. It turns out to be river water.

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

The real challenge is for all of the malnourished survivors to make it back to the camp without puking. Almost all of them hold their shocked stomachs.

It's "No. 2" week for reality TV fans. On Wednesday, on "Boot Camp," we learned that bathroom practices in basic training ain't for the modest.

And on "Survivor," we find out that Charmin's not a sponsor.

It turns out that if you haven't been eating for days, your body treats a sudden influx of food with the digestive system equivalent of an ejection seat.

"Now I think I'm going to have to take a trip over the hill," says Rodger, "to the latrine."

Nick gets in line, too.

"Everybody else is trying to find paper bark to wipe their butts," Colby tells Amber.

"I'm going to go take a bath so the whole tent doesn't smell like ass," says Nick, back from his trip over the hill. "You can only get so much with leaves."

We considered flipping over to the WB to catch the rest of "The Gilmore Girls."

If we had, we might have missed a quick shot of the latrine, built near some trees with a little privacy wall made out of sticks, and a board with a missing plank placed over a pit in the ground.

We would have also missed a shot of Rodger wiggling his ass back and forth in the water with a big grin on his face.

"My leaf had a big hole in it," he shouts.

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

After a rainy night, the survivors wake up to notice that the river is creeping up on them. They're camped in a riverbed because the sand is soft to sleep on, but they're somehow surprised.

Tina says they're going to have to move camp in a day or two. From one of the shots of her walking through the wet sand at the back of their camp, it looks like they need to move today.

Of course, they have no food, and there are no reward nonchallenge auctions today.

They get a couple of fish. Nick's energy is so depleted he can't get up to fish. Tina and Elisabeth are pretty upset about it.

"I never thought I'd say this," says Elisabeth, "but I'm really disappointed in Nick right now."

She figures that maybe he's conserving his energy for the immunity challenge.

"I'm feeling vulnerable," says Nick. "If I don't win the immunity challenge I definitely expect to go."

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

The immunity challenge is simple and clever. The theme is water and fire. Each survivor is placed in front of a towering seesaw.

There's a steel drum on each end. On one end, they have to start a fire in the drum. Then they have to fill up the other side with enough water to teeter the fire side up to the top.

The catch is that they have to use a small bucket to get water out of the river. Plus, there's a small hole in the water drum; they have to fill it faster than it leaks. And when the fire side lifts, the flames must be high enough to light a fuse and set off a flare for the win.

Nick gets an early lead. Colby is way at the back, needing more tinder to get his fire started.

Tina is running second.

They're moving really slowly. All the trips up and down the bank are obviously killing them.

Colby comes from way behind. He empties one final can. The scale tips. He goes into a touchdown whoop. He high-fives Jeff and gives him one of those sports hugs. The music swells. He's pumped.

Nick is a cute little kitten surrounded by ravenous wallabies.

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

Day 30 opens with Rodger on the beach, wishing for food. Unlike all the other episodes, we're finished with the immunity challenge but we're only halfway through.

Elisabeth-with-an-s can barely make it out of the tent. She cries on the beach. She can't even make it up the hill to fish. Nick offers consolation.

Rodger loses another hook and they're down to one. It really does look grueling.

We wonder what would happen if the "Survivor" producers just watched the group starve. We'd like to see the group begin to consider cannibalism.

That would be an interesting study in human dynamics.

We see Dingo Jeff ambling along the dry creek bed that feeds into the camp.

He has a can of rice.

This, however, isn't Jeff Probst, benevolent King of All the Koalas. This is a Jeff we haven't met yet. Snake-eyed Jeff. A scolding Jeff.

A Jeff who has given away one too many tortilla chips and is done with it.

He's mad, or at least actor mad.

"You had enough rice, if rationed properly. You had 25 hooks," he says. "What happened?"

He sounds like a mean dad.

The survivors say they were all to blame. They say something about losing a bag of rice to condensation. Jeff doesn't want to hear it.

"Come on," he says.

"My role is a giver and a taker. Nothing comes cheap."

We haven't seen this side of Jeff before.

We kind of like it.

Probst sets down four bags of rice and tells them he will trade the rice for something of "substantial value." Rodger offers the blankets.

"I'm talking camp," says Jeff through his teeth.

Jeff Probst: Crocodile King!

He trades them the rice and 25 fishing hooks for both of their tent tarps and Colby's Texas flag.

Instead of moving camp away from the river, the survivors decide they're too tired to make it up the hill. They lay branches, sticks and tree boughs across a fallen tree.

We're guessing this is going to be important next week.

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

Returning to the theme established at the top of the show, Colby says Amber is a little nervous about last week's vote. He's a little worried that she's going to swing to the three remaining Kuchas and topple her former tribe mates.

Amber knows that she has to make a decision, and she knows she's in control of the game. Still, she doesn't know whom to trust.

"The game's getting harder," she says.

There's no one there to tell her that life is always harder when you're not following a bitch queen like a whimpering puppy.

They pack their bags -- all but Keith.

At tribal council, Jeff is full of all his usual questions. Tina is happy to have food. Nick says he's tired. Colby says everyone's pulling his or her own weight. Amber thinks she has grown as a person.

"I want you to take a second and look at Alicia and Jerri," says Jeff.

As the last nine survivors get ousted, they form the Jury From Hell, who, in the end, will award the $1 million grand prize to one of the last two contestants.

"Slowly the power base shifts from this side to that side," Probst says. "In the end, it comes down to politics. How can you possibly vote someone out and get their vote at the end? I just want to remind you of that as we go to vote."

The voting is pretty unremarkable. Nick votes for Keith because he was arrogant enough to leave his backpack at camp. Elisabeth and Rodger vote for Amber, perhaps hoping that Tina, Keith and Colby would make a fatal mistake.

They don't, and all four remaining Ogakors settle on Nick.

Nick's fire goes out.

It's kind of too bad, but the show makes a pretty good case that he never really followed through with his original strategy, which was to lay low at the start of the game and turn it on at the end.

And while you never know what the "Survivor" producers are leaving out, we really don't get any sense that Nick, Elisabeth and Rodger went to the mat to try to turn Amber.

They can still try to recoup next week, and engineer a 3-3 tie.

But we wouldn't bet our box of rice on it.

-- Jeff Stark

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