Barring starvation, Colby is likely winner of 'Survivor'

by Hank Leukart | 4/17/01 5:00am

At the end of my previous three-episode "Survivor: The Australian Outback" recaps, I flexed my television savvy, challenging CBS to keep "Survivor" interesting.

After all, Alicia's ejection on episode eight was about as suspenseful as watching a third-run episode of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire," and we television geniuses knew that it would simply be a matter of time before all of the remaining Kucha tribe members (Elizabeth, Rodger and Nick) were sent back to the States.

Not only were my predictions wrong, but CBS also has injected a huge shot of adrenaline into the past three episodes, once again threatening the original "Survivor's" position as the best reality show of all time.

Episode nine: "Ding, dong the witch is dead!"

"When did this game start being fair?" Jerri asked rhetorically, after announcing she wanted to have Colby as her partner for this episode's reward challenge.

Although Tina grumbled, Jerri eventually got her wish when she picked Colby's name out of a hat, and suddenly Jerri and Colby found themselves being whisked away to Australia's Great Barrier Reef after winning a grueling obstacle course challenge.

Jerri tried to attract Colby's attention with her cleavage-showing blue top, while Colby tried to avoid her evil clutches completely.

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

Not even three bottles of champagne could help Colby hide his horror at this comment. Suddenly, it became clear that Colby will almost certainly win "Survivor," and he instantly became everyone's favorite character.

When they returned, Colby delighted the other players with individually collected (and illegally removed) pieces of coral from the Reef; now, Jerri was the one watching in horror as she returned with nothing but her spiteful personality.

At the immunity challenge, which involved balancing on above-water platforms, everything came down to Nick and Colby. Luckily for Nick, Colby fell into the water first, and suddenly we feared lovable Rodger's or even more lovable Elizabeth's demise.

Then, in a sudden statement that there may indeed be hope for all of mankind, everyone (excepting Jerri and Amber, of course) voted against Jerri. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief, and as Keith sang in the following episode, thank God -- "Ding, dong the witch is dead!"

Sorry Jerri, but this game simply isn't fair.

Episode 10: "I don't think you'll be able to make it!"

One of the biggest criticisms of "Survivor" has always been its lack of realism: "It's not like they're going to die out there," people insist. I have long argued that the best thing about "Survivor" is its lack of realism and its stellar story-telling, but I now have another point of argument.

In episode 10, Elisabeth, Rodger, Colby, Keith, Tina, Amber and Nick began to starve to death. Of course, Jeff (our slimy host) decided to step in ("I don't think you'll be able to make it," he snorts) and brought the group a few tiny bags of rice to live on for the remaining two weeks.

In return, he demanded their entire shelter, including Colby's Texas flag that they used as a tarp. CBS has never looked more evil, and the situation of the survivors has never been more dire.

In another episode 10 highlight, Jeff gave each of the Barramundi tribe 500 Australian dollars to use in a bidding war for various food items. Amber, displaying her continuing infinite wisdom, mistakenly purchased a "mystery plate" for $200 that turned out to be undrinkable river water.

Elisabeth obtained a plate of peanut butter and chocolate for $260.

Aside from that excitement, episode 10's remainder lacked suspense; it was obvious that Nick had to be the one to go after Colby won the immunity challenge, and anyway, no one cared. He was barely ever on the show, because he sat around and did nothing for his entire time in the Outback.

Episode 11: "This game has become drastically primal."

Immediately after Tina announced her relief for the new rice that would allow her to stay alive for the remainder of the show, an enormous rain storm attacked their camp -- they cleverly built their shelter and put their belongings at the mouth of a dry river bed -- while they competed in an immunity challenge that Colby won (again!).

Thus, while Colby spent a night eating hot food (with unlimited Bud Light!) and sleeping on a cot with "real Australian cowboys," the remainder of the tribe attempted to find a dry place to sleep. That is, until they discovered that the storm had washed away their supply of rice.

Echoes of Jeff's "I don't think you'll be able to make it," ran through everyone's head.

Through a string of death-defying feats, however, Keith and Tina managed to recover their rice tin by wading through a roaring river. With rice in hand, the group returned to the camp in an attempt to sleep through the miserably wet night. Upon his return, the surprised Colby thanked God that he spent the night with Pedro, the singing Australian Stockman.

In another Tribal Council twist, the group voted Amber off the show, destroying tribal loyalties and buying Elisabeth and Rodger some more time on the show.

It's hard to believe that only three episodes remain. If they don't starve to death, my bet is still on Colby to win the million dollars.

"Survivor" airs Thursday nights on CBS at 8:00 p.m.

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