Surviving the Return Homeby David Bloomberg -- 07/10/2002
When I first heard about the “Back from the Outback” show, I thought, “Oh great, Mark Burnett came up with yet another way to wring some more bucks out of this thing.” I also wondered if they were going to show only the feel-good scenes of people coming home to family, or if they would include some of the not-so-nice stuff, like Debb’s tabloid problems.
I was happily surprised on both accounts. Indeed, this show was a pretty amusing addition in most respects – and probably surpassed some of the episodes in entertainment value! Plus, as we’ll see, they didn’t gloss over issues like Debb at all.
The show was broken into segments for each contestant, plus some other comments and a few words from some Survivor I folks. We begin on a high note with Maralyn, who says she is still the same old Mad Dog. Well, almost. She lost about 20 pounds and is now walking around in a bikini, and she bought herself a tanning bed so she could keep that Outback tan going. Still, she says you can’t allow Survivor to consume your identity – I don’t think there’s any chance of that happening with her!
From her humor we move to Debb’s situation. We see Debb at work – a prison. She notes that all the inmates have TVs and all have seen everything about her. They know as much about her as her own mother. To prove what they think about it, she walks into their area and yells up what they think about her and Survivor. I wish I could tell you what their response was, but there was too much bleeping to make any of it out.
She says it was tough to come home after being the first person voted off and the entire country hates your guts. She wasn’t ready for that. In case anybody hasn’t been keeping up, Debb’s talking about her relationship with her step-son. She says she loved her husband for 20 years, but he died. After that happened, she fell in love with his son and it’s the best thing that’s ever happened in her life. She says it all started when somebody at the National Enquirer saw that she and her boyfriend had the same last name but weren’t married, so they decided to check it out (indeed, I noticed the same thing when I first saw the list of friends and family for each contestant that had been released by Peter Lance of The Stingray).
She says she knew the public would find out, but she thought the public would be smart enough to try to understand the circumstances. Instead, it was a witch hunt. And she’s just sad that so many people would kick her while she was down. She says she had some great experiences in her short Outback stay, but the after-effects were not worth it. “If I could do it all over again, I wouldn’t do it all over again.”
Another person who had a difficult time was Kel, but he has apparently been handling it well with humor. He says that every time he hears the word, “Jerri,” it’s like fingernails on a blackboard – it just drives him nuts. He says he was relieved when he was voted off, so he could go back to being a soldier. When he did get back to the army, they didn’t believe the lies, which is good because they base everything there on integrity. He says he has a Top Secret clearance, and he sure wasn’t going to risk that by doing something against the rules of the game.
Kel does find it amusing that he has been approached by several beef jerky companies. He thinks making money off of Jerri’s lies would be the sweetest revenge. But his cohorts found another type of revenge. He says he walked in one day to find a huge dart board featuring Jerri’s face, and soldiers were nailing it. We even get to see them throw a volley.
So, let’s move on to Jerri. She says she is a kind, honest, straightforward, yadda yadda yadda person. This is immediately contrasted with Colby stating, “Jerri is a bitch. But a bitch that will be laughing all the way to the bank.”
She says that in the Outback she was strong and outspoken, and confronted people when it was necessary. She knows she was the person people loved to hate, but she did want people to like her. She admits she played in a bit of a selfish and self-centered way (no, really?). Then she talks about her starving actress routine before the show and how acting has been a life-long dream. The major thing that is different now is that her appointment book is full. Yeah, well, it won’t last forever, Jerri. You can only make it so far on being evil – then you might have to show some talent at some point. Good luck.
Before going to commercial, we get our first opinion from a Survivor I contestant about the second series. Since it’s an opinion, it fittingly comes from Rudy, who says the people had to be pretty dumb to build their camp in a river bed. They blamed the elements, but he blames their dumbness.
Coming back, they go to some short clips of the contestants talking about each other. Jeff describes Alicia as “Booyeah bootie.” Tina calls Jeff a “little devil” and Mike can’t think of any nice words for him. Elisabeth says Mike is nuts, Alicia says Kimmi is not her type of person, and Kimmi says she and Alicia don’t see eye to eye.
Jeff can’t find the words to describe Jerri, and Keith uses his now-boring line about the two of them being in counseling (it wasn’t even that funny the first time he said it). Colby just doesn’t know where to start with her. Jerri, however, doesn’t have that problem – she says Colby is a very attractive guy, but he’s a boy and she needs a man. Uh, Jerri, I think he showed you who was the man when he helped orchestrate your removal, honey.
Kel describes Colby as a cheesy cowboy, and Colby calls Kel “socially inept.” Then Debb wonders aloud if Nick was on Survivor (maybe if you’d stuck around more than three days you’d know). Keith similarly seems to forget about him. Talk about flying under the radar. Amber says she loves Maralyn to death, and Maralyn calls Amber the “Mad Pup.”
So, we move on to that Mad Pup as the next focus. Amber says being on Survivor is like winning a different type of lottery. Instead of getting a lump sum of money, she gets a title: Amber from Survivor. She says a lot of people mess up when they win the lottery, and she wants to make sure that doesn’t happen. So she has to analyze the big questions, like whether or not she should pose for Playboy (I can help ya with that decision if you want, Amber – give me a call). Overall, she has different expectations out of life now than she did before, and she wants to take advantage of her opportunities.
Rodger thinks the whole fame thing will be fleeting. As an odd example, he says that when he goes to feed his cows, they still look at him the same as before he was on the show. But he’s satisfied with the way he lives – he has a good wife, a nice daughter, and a nice son-in-law.
His daughter notes that before he left, he was pretty reserved. The show helped to open him up a bit, and that is a plus. Rodger admits that the show gave him a deeper appreciation of such things.
His wife and Elisabeth make some comments about his whole Outback Dad position, and both are happy with how he helped out others on the show. Rodger says it wasn’t about the money, but rather to see how he could do in such a situation.
We interrupt this broadcast to again hear from a Survivor I contestant – Kelly. She talks about Kimmi fussing about her vegetarianism and notes that you’re not gonna last if you mess with people’s food. Hey, whaddaya know? Kelly said something intelligent!
Next is Jeff, who echoes the statements of many others in saying it was a life-altering experience. He had been burned out before going, but he knew that going through a challenge would change him and make him better and stronger. Even though he tried hard to win, it wasn’t really about the money (funny how many people say that when they don’t get first prize) – it was about pushing himself.
He says he has an agent, which is amazing to him because he has friends who have been trying to act and get agents for years, but here he goes on a camping trip and voila! They also show some clips of him doing radio shows, which is pretty amusing – especially where he falls asleep at the microphone waiting for the next one to come along.
Alicia says she’s not as serious and cut-throat as she may have appeared to be on the show. But she does say that her life was very controlled and regimented and that she likes structure. Still, sometimes life throws you a curve, and she has lots of options now, including some photo shoots.
Her nemesis, Kimmi, says that life before Survivor was pretty much bartending and hanging out with family. Being on the show opened her eyes to the importance of friends and family, but the lowest point was the food challenge where she was supposed to eat cow brain. She said she simply wouldn’t do it – it was a game, not real life, and she had to still be able to look at herself in the mirror. While she was disliked on the show for acting this way, she has been embraced by animal rights folks (I guess worms aren’t animals). She says she learned it’s okay to be yourself.
Mitchell says he really wasn’t as lazy or boring as he might have seemed to be. He plans to take his 15 minutes of fame as far as it will go, and even wrote a parody version of “I Will Survive” shortly after being booted. It’s actually quite amusing.
Before moving on, we again get to hear from the first contestants. Gervase contributes his thoughts that Mike was a whack-job for killing the pig. Oh, well, I’m sure Mike cares about what the laziest player ever thinks about his attempts to do something useful.
Also, we hear Jenna’s thoughts on Elisabeth – she says watching her was like playing a drinking game where everybody drinks when Elisabeth tears up. Hmmm. Who was the teariest member of the first group? Oh, yeah, Jenna.
When we come back from commercial, host Jeff Probst says they took a poll of the contestants and asked who they’d least like to get stranded on a desert island with. Not surprisingly, Jerri won that one. But in a bit of a shock, a poll asking who got a bad rap, Jerri also won. In response to the question of who they’d most like to be stranded with, it was a tie between Jeff and Mike.
So, we go to Mike, who is standing in a church telling us about how his pre-Survivor life was about success in business and money. But he says he started to pray while in the Outback and developed a relationship with God (and people complained ‘cus they thought Kel had snuck some jerky – Mike was bringing in a supreme being!). He says the most significant part of his spiritual journey was falling into the fire. Whether it’s the fire or just being on the show, now people listen to him, and he uses that to get kids to listen to his anti-addiction message. He says his definition of success now has nothing to do with money, but is about his relationship with God and his family.
Nick says that “lazy” is the one thing he didn’t want to be called, but now everybody thinks that. He finds it amazing that he could be in Harvard law school and have been in the army and still have people think that about him. To help clear the air, Jeff says flat-out that Nick is not lazy. They even have a professor on saying you can’t make it through Harvard law school if you’re lazy. Okay, okay, we get the idea! Overall, Nick says he hasn’t changed – he’s still in school and all. But he is more of a risk-taker. He says he hopes Survivor was not the high point of his life. I agree – especially since you didn’t win!
Next up is Elisabeth, who says that going to the Outback put her relationships to the challenge, but she never had any doubts. Tim, her (now) fiancÚ, says he was really impressed that she held on to the heart-shaped rock that Rodger had given her for him, even after all she went through. On his birthday, he proposed to her, and she says she’s the most blessed girl in the world. She feels so loved. Well, she’s not the Outback Sweetheart for nothing.
Another break and another few words from former contestants. Jenna’s back, and saying that when you get to the end of the game, you can apologize then for doing what was necessary to win a million dollars. And Kelly chimes in with the whining I really got sick of last year, talking about how Survivor is not a nice game and how you have to be willing to compromise yourself and your beliefs. Yeah, yeah, we heard it all before. Jeez, don’t you ever get tired of playing the sore loser role?
Keith seems to be a not-too-sore loser. In fact, he seems perfectly happy. He is shown working in the kitchen (no rice to be found). As we’ve heard him say before, he indicates that he went in for the million dollars, but came out not worrying about it. He says he wouldn’t do it again for any amount of money because it would take him away from his family. In addition to his two kids and his now-fiancÚ, we find out that his father has Alzheimer’s and Keith is his guardian.
His fiancÚ, “peas,” says that she was a bit shocked to get his proposal over the Internet chat, and was happy to be able to see his face when the show finally aired. Keith adds that he does indeed plan to write a book called, Yes, I Can Cook Rice and he has Jerri to thank for it. So that makes two of her victims who are trying to make something out of the attacks she leveled at them. Maybe he and Kel could go together for some beef jerky/rice dishes.
Colby, the nice guy who finished second, is next. Amusingly, he says that the last thing his mom said to him before he left was that he should remember that it’s a game and he’s playing with people he doesn’t know. In other words, go for the kill, right? Alas, he didn’t heed her words.
Still, he says he felt comfortable in the Outback because it was fairly similar to West Texas, where he lived – except for the kangaroos, that is. He says that his true friends have not treated him any differently – he’s still the same big dork he was before. But he has moved to Dallas, probably for more anonymity according to his mom. He says he isn’t too worried about his future, but is focused on day-to-day stuff right now.
Finally, we get to Tina. She says that her first emotion upon finding out she won was shock and disbelief, then joy, then pride that she showed an older woman could win. She says it’s still a bit bizarre when people call her by name because she feels she should know them if they know her. She knew the show was popular and contestants got some notoriety, but didn’t know it would be this big.
Her husband, Dale, introduces himself as, “I’m Tina’s husband and I’m very famous now.” Well, at least until Tina shows up – then he becomes invisible or Mr. Photographer. But Tina says the same things are still important to her now like they were before the show – God, family, and fun. She says there are two sides of her: the good wife and mother, and the side that wants to hang out with a motorcycle gang. Overall, she doesn’t want to make many changes, but she has incredible opportunities now and she’s going to follow them.
So, all in all, we didn’t learn a whole lot. Much of what the contestants said was pretty much the same as what they had said before at the reunion show or in one of the many interviews they’ve had since then. But there were some amusing notes and a few new things snuck in. All in all, a pretty good way to wrap up the show – definitely better than leaving it on a Bryant Gumbel note.
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