A time for tears as nation bids farewell to 'Survivor'

by Hank Leukart | 5/3/01 5:00am

I'm not sure if I will be able to make it through the next five weeks of my life. As with all good things, CBS's "Survivor: The Australian Outback" will cease with tonight's episode, and there's a lot of crying going on in my dorm room lately: Colby's crying about missing his mother, Tina's crying about missing Doritos (and essentially anything edible), Keith's crying over the engagement to his girlfriend; and of course, my crying over the poignancy of the "Survivor" contestants crying, my crying over Elisabeth's recent exit from the show, and my crying about trying to make it through the final five weeks of my college career and beyond without "Survivor" to keep me company during lonely Thursday nights.

What will I be missing? Let's take a look at what happened during the previous two episodes:

Fire: The TV of the Australian Outback

On day 34 in the Outback, everyone (Colby, Tina, Keith, Elisabeth and Rodger remained) found themselves miserably wet and dying of boredom. Elisabeth and Tina looked as though without an extra bowl rice, they could slim themselves into nonexistence. As Colby vacantly stared into the campfire as though it were showing a first-run episode of NBC's "West Wing," slimy host Jeff Probst came to their rescue with CBS's silliest and greatest idea yet: the "Outback Internet Caf," complete with a cute blue iMac and AOL Instant Messenger.

And suddenly, the tears started flowing, as each contestant spoke to his or her loved ones via satellite. Colby broke down when his mother wrote, "Hi, baby," Tina and Elisabeth broke down when Colby broke down, hardened Keith lost it when he asked his girlfriend to marry him on national television, and even Rodger got a little weepy. It was a cosponsored Kodak-Apple Computer moment.

Incidentally, the crying fest was also a reward challenge, and Jeff let Tina talk to her family for 30 minutes.

CBS tried to convince viewers that the Colby-Tina-Keith alliance might have been on its way out with a rift over rice rising between Colby and Keith, but after Colby won immunity for the third consecutive time in a shackled trivia/running contest, Colby seemed to have no trouble joining the rest of the group (except Elisabeth, who of course voted for Keith) in sending Rodger home.

The episode ended with Elisabeth shedding tears over her best friend Rodger's departure. "Survivor" watchers cried, because unknown to Elisabeth, Rodger intentionally sacrificed himself by telling the remainder of the group that Elisabeth needed the grand prize much more than he did. Somehow, some shred of integrity and decency still remains in the Outback.

The "Survivor" Weight Loss Program: Lose 27 pounds in 37 days!

Day 37 began with Elisabeth --who looked suspiciously like an extremely slimmed-down version of Kate Moss -- weeping over the loneliness of the Outback without Rodger to keep her company. Meanwhile, Colby lamented the absence of his mother after he joked with his fellow survivors about plans to take a trip to the Outback grocery store. Things seemed predictable at this point -- Colby was sure to win both challenges, Elisabeth seemed on her way out, and Keith and Tina had little chance of winning. Even CBS had trouble spicing up this certainty.

In the show's final reward challenge, Jeff invented a horribly painful event that combined every reward challenge from past episodes. After Colby unsurprisingly beat everyone by putting on a blindfold and shackles, navigating a rope maze, solving a tile puzzle, filling a bucket of water and lighting a wood fire, Jeff awarded him with -- you guessed it -- a Pontiac Aztec, the ugliest car ever to be molded by human engineers.

Survivor viewers cried, because Elisabeth was inevitably on her way out, and she was cute and amiable enough to get a new car as a consolation prize. Instead, CBS upped the crying ante when Colby's mother surprised him at his Aztec awarding ceremony and entertained the contestants with stories of the Bush/Gore presidential election (the contestants were clueless of these events during the show's taping in the fall).

Then, as Elisabeth started to lose her hair, Jeff brought the contestants a scale and a mini-competition ensued. Colby, surprisingly, lost the competition; he lost only 25 pounds during the show, while Keith lost 27.

Finally, in an enormous game of Outback Memory, CBS bored us to death with survivors trying to guess where clay pots and jawbones were located. Colby (gasp!) won immunity for the fourth consecutive time, and Elisabeth was booted out of the tribe.

And as Elisabeth cried, so did I, knowing that in five weeks, my college friends would all be heading their separate ways, and CBS would leave me without television's most perfect reality show this summer to keep me company in my isolated and lonely new apartment.

The final episode of "Survivor: The Australian Outback" airs in a special two-hour format tonight at 8:00 p.m. on CBS.

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