Surviving Impressions: Bush Tucker

Survivor.australia.logoThe most recent season of Survivor wrapped up last week on CBS.  It was a fun season for me, as I got to watch it with friends from church.  While I remember watching the first season of the classic reality show, it was the show’s second season that really captured my attention.  A big part of that, I believe, was the cast.  Sure, season one had lots of types and lots of tension, but something about the mixture of Survivor: The Australian Outback made it something I’d actually buy on DVD.  So, to fill the Survivor-shaped void in my life, I thought I’d revisit the show.

16 castaways.  42 days.  A location in Australia that seemed both desolate and beautiful.  Here are the things that stand out when comparing it to my impressions of the show from this most recent season, Survivor: Game Changers.

  •  Tree mail.  I really kind of miss tree mail.  It may still happen, but it doesn’t feel as if it’s a big deal at all.  Often, people just find things out when they arrive at the challenges, it seems.
  • The challenges in this early season of Survivor just seem more difficult.  Part of that is because the show was still trying to figure things out.  Any complications for the challenges were rooted in the use of the terrain (instead of fancy locks and combinations and puzzles).  Here’s the immunity challenge from the third episode of The Australian Outback as an example.
  • The show seemed to work at a slower pace.  I think part of that was because of the stated mission of the show: as much as it was to outwit, outplay, and outlast, Survivor was also about creating a community out of nothing.  And so shots seemed to linger more on conversations and walking to-and-fro.
  • The music wasn’t as fully-formed and codified.   Sure, you still have the main theme and the suspense note when the deciding vote is read.  But you also get some almost-electronica music playing during challenges.  And the didgeridoo is used often in this particular season, too.
  • Jeff Probst is so raw as a host.  I remember when I returned to Survivor a couple of years ago after feeling some “show fatigue” and being both surprised and impressed at his more sarcastic, intrusive tone.  It definitely makes tribal council a lot more interesting.  So far in season two, though, things are super simple and more about the words and facial expressions (i.e. angst) of the contestants present.

In the end, though, it really is a matter of the cast.  Even the “villains” of the show aren’t that frustrating (and nowhere near as destructive as contestants in later seasons).  You’ve got Kimmi, Skupin (he fell into the fire), and Varner (totally don’t remember him).  Then there’s Jerri and Amber, who were reality-show mainstays for a while.  But it was really Elizabeth, Rodger, Colby, and Tina that stood out as excellent players who really seemed to connect with one another and with the audience in meaningful ways.

The title for this post, bush tucker, comes from the season’s second episode.  The immunity challenge of episode two was the food challenge, where some contestants got to each candy bars while others ate all kinds of creepy crawlies (and brain) from the Outback (which is where Kimmi’s veganism came into play but didn’t get her voted out).  What you eat in the bush of the Outback: bush tucker.

(image from

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