Ironically, it was Survivor: The Australian Outback's weakest link who ended up stealing the spotlight at CBS's hour-long Bryant Gumbel-hosted reunion special, held immediately following the reality phenom's finale. Debb Eaton the 45-year-old corrections officer who earned the dubious distinction of being the first castaway voted out of the Outback, and whose marriage to her stepson later became fodder for the tabloids broke down midway through the special and conceded that the entire experience has been a nightmare.
"It hasn't been fun," she said, fighting back tears. Eaton who acknowledged that it was a "bad trade" having her personal life exposed after spending only three days in the Outback added that, "You can't look back. It's a done deal. You just got to move forward. I guess the hard part is that I'm a very strong, independent person... care about people a lot. And I seem to have lost my belief in myself, but I will get it back." Gumbel quickly chimed in, "You just did." (Cue applause from the audience.)
Other highlights of the sometimes raucous hour included:
ENEMIES, NOT A LOVE STORY: Kel Gleason was asked why he refused to forgive Outback witch Jerri Manthey for the whole beef jerky scandal. "I have forgiven Jerri," he said, "but I don't like her... She'll never get a Christmas card from me." To that, Manthey fired back: "I don't ever expect in my life to have everyone like me... I feel bad, Kel, that you harbor resentment and hatred for me." (Once more with feeling.)
CATFIGHT ROUND TWO: Gumbel asked buff trainer Alicia Calaway why she never returned vegetarian Kimmi Kappenberg's phone call after they arrived back home. (While Down Under, the dueling divas got into a finger-pointin' brawl over the fate of several caged chickens.) "Out of everything that's happened to me on this show, that was the one really negative thing," Calaway explained, "and at that time, I was not ready to confront the negative thing because I was having too much fun with all the positive things." And now? "It's all good." (Yeah, right.)
THERE WAS SOME ROMANCE: Calaway revealed that fellow Kuchan Nick Brown planted a wet one on her. "Nick kissed me on the lips," she shouted. (Is this third grade?)
IT'S SO FUNNY WE FORGOT TO LAUGH: Burn victim Michael Skupin who also was reduced to tears when discussing how his fall into the flames led to a spiritual awakening (oh, puh-leeze) was asked why, after brutally butchering a wild boar in the Outback, he wiped its blood on his face. "It was just meant to be a joke."
SHOWING SOME SKIN: Kappenberg revealed that she was all set to pull a Richard Hatch and disrobe on her birthday, but "you guys voted me out four days too soon. Thanks a lot." "We saw it anyway," cracked snarky Jeff Varner.
MAD DOG, THE COMEDIAN: Another early Survivor reject, Maralyn "Mad Dog" Hershey, proved quite the scene stealer, joking about everything from the lack of sex under those tents ("There were 12 condoms in that first aid kit when I got there, and by God, there were 12 when I left"), to how the whole experience changed her ("I've already gone through the change of life"). She also pointed out that had she stuck around longer, she probably would have been able to wear a thong due to the lack of food. (Mental picture!)
HAPPY THANKSGIVING: Good-natured Rodger "Kentucky Joe" Bingham recalled what it was like celebrating turkey day in the Outback. "All I had to eat Thanksgiving day was macadamia nuts," he sighed. "That will be a Thanksgiving I'll never forget."
The town hall meeting concluded with a brief preview of the next Survivor, which, as expected, will be set in Africa. Gumbel asked Colby Donaldson what advice he would give to the next batch of contestants: "Expect the absolute worst you're going to be really shocked if you don't."