Volume 96, Issue 13
Thursday September 19, 2002

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Survive this: it's ba-ack - again

Mark Polishuk
Gazette Staff

Jan Genry - Survivor Thailand

After three years and four series, Survivor is still the best reality show on television. This distinction is sort of like being the smartest student at Brock, but Survivor, as opposed to garbage like American Idol or Big Brother, is still a show you can watch without fear of losing any IQ points – well, for the most part.

The fifth installment makes its debut this Thursday, Sept. 19 at 8 p.m. on CBS, and this version of the series is set on an island just outside of Thailand (idea for a reward challenge: survive a caning). The basic concept of the show is still the same: 16 people are "stranded" on an island and have to live by their wits to gather food, build shelter and resist the temptation to make Gilligan jokes. Each week, the contestants get together and vote somebody off the island until only one person is left to win the $1 million prize.

All of this is old hat to Survivor fans, but the interesting part of this new series is that CBS is promising all sorts of changes to the rules of the game. This is one of the side effects of having the very first winner (Richard Hatch) figuring out the perfect strategy right off the bat.

Will the players be split into different tribes in each episode? Will the game just be a 16-person free-for-all, with the tribe format being scrapped altogether? Will the game involve actual survival, as cannibalism rears its ugly head? The CBS legal team might not go for that last one, but then again, there's always Sweeps month.

The contestants are the usual mixed bag, and it is difficult to tell from their brief biographies how they will behave (or how they'll be edited to behave) on the show. This group seems more athletic than usual, as shown from some of their jobs: firefighter, Navy swim instructor, NYPD cop and the staple profession of every reality show, the bartender.

Seriously, is there a quota system in place? Some network should air a reality show about bartending; Ted "Sam Malone" Danson could host.

Getting back to Survivor, however, the clear favorite at this point would have to be Brian Heidik, a used car salesman from California (so now that I've picked him, he'll probably be the first one out).

You've got to be a little sleazy to win the game, and there is hardly a sleazier profession on the planet than selling used cars. Heidik's luxury item on the island is a guitar, which gives him the added edge of being able to take out potential rivals by breaking the guitar over their heads la the Honky Tonk Man. It's a better idea for a luxury item than some of the other players: Body paint? A skateboard? A golf club and ball? Dude, you're ON AN ISLAND!

No matter how the rules change, there are a few things you can count on for this edition of Survivor:

* Somebody will definitely win 500 grand after taxes.

* At least one person will end up incredibly bitter after being voted out (guessing who this will be is just as fun as trying to guess a winner).

* There will be a lot of talk about the history and tradition of Thailand, accompanied by an orchestral score, in an attempt to bring a feeling of cultural significance to what is a glorified game show.

* Chicks in bikinis! Booyah!

* The players who last until the end will lose at least 40 pounds. If the show ever becomes unpopular, the producers can always fall back on the Survivor diet plan.

* Host Jeff Probst will continue to challenge Craig Kilborn for the title of Smuggest Bastard On TV.


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