Forget snakes and rats, which emerged from the first Survivor series as the dominant animal-eat-animal symbol of this exotic "reality" show. Colby Donaldson and Tina Wesson might as well have been cuddly koalas for all the warm and fuzzy philosophizing and hugging that occurred in the tedious conclusion of Survivor: The Australian Outback.
As with so many sequels, the second Survivor rarely lived up to the breakthrough original. (Michael Skupin's gruesome fall into the fire and the flooding of the Barramundi camp were the primary exceptions.) This failure to recapture the magic was magnified by the thudding boredom on display as CBS unconscionably dragged the finale out to fill two slow hours of minimal incident and, for the longest time, almost nonexistent tension. Things did finally pick up, however, after Colby, winning yet another Immunity Challenge, surprisingly chose to boot Keith Famie from the tribe, ensuring a less certain vote (and Colby's eventual defeat) with Tina by his side for the Jury's final judgment.
Whereas the first series ended on a high note of excruciating suspense, and the blistering impact of Susan Hawk's lacerating diatribe against runner-up Kelly Wiglesworth, nothing memorable emerged from the final Tribal Council, as Colby and Tina repeatedly were asked to express regrets and feelings of guilt over the way they played the game.
No dice. These were two mellow combatants, bathed in admiration for each other and exultation for having made it to the final round. "I felt joy. I felt peace. I began to feel closure," Tina exulted on her final day in camp.
Stopping to smell the roses, or perhaps some headier vegetation, Colby waxed rhapsodic: "It is life's subtleties that I cherish the most," to which Tina replied, "That's pretty heavy, Colb."
Pretty stupefying, if you ask me. All of a sudden, I began to miss Jerri Manthey, the resident bad girl. I almost expected Oprah Winfrey to emerge from behind a bush, given all the self-improvement posturing and preaching that was going on.
At the 9 pm hour, I wished I could flip over to see what was happening on Will & Grace. I pined for CSI. Anything but more of this blah-blah psychobabble.
Alas, CBS and the annoyingly self-important host Jeff Probst were committed to torturing us further. In a move as cheesy as anything at a Super Bowl halftime show, Probst collected the votes and boarded a helicopter, with the action picking up live in Los Angeles as Probst, feigning seriousness, was shown again in a helicopter, beginning his descent onto a CBS Television City helipad while a live version of the Survivor theme serenaded the studio audience.
Apparently unaware at how anticlimactic the night already had become, Probst peppered the contestants yet again for some final thoughts, insights, regrets. Colby said, "Let's get it on" and "Let's do it," echoing the shouts in living rooms nationwide to get this ordeal over with.
Finally, a nail-biting moment, as the tally (just like in the first series) came down to one last vote, with Tina winning and Colby sweeping her into his arms, unfortunately robbing us of much of a chance to see her reaction.
Kind of figures that Colby would hog the frame, even in defeat.
At least, for a few blissful minutes, no one said anything.
We'd survived the last night of Survivor, though CBS certainly made us pay for the privilege.