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It's déj… vu all over again in the Outback.

Been There, Done That


First it was vuj… de. Now it's déj… vu. Vuj… de is the name for that startled feeling you get when you realize you've never seen anything like this before. And déj… vu is, of course, that prickling feeling you get on the back of your neck when you think you've seen this all happen before. "Survivor I" was a definite case of vuj… de. "Survivor II" is déj… vu all over again. How different is "Survivor: The Australian Outback?" Not very. And that's disappointing perhaps, but not too surprising. Since when did a network with a popular series tamper with it between the first and second seasons? Hello? This is network TV we're discussing. "Creative" is just a word, not a reality. So once again we have the intrepid host, Jeff Probst, and a crew of hundreds surrounding 16 - now down to 14 - beautiful people who are determined to follow in Richard "I'm Gay and Proud" Hatch's footsteps and walk away with the grand prize. Gosh, if it weren't for all those cameras sticking in their faces 24/7, the BPs might get lonely out there in the Outback. But there's a sameness to it all so far. The 16 survivors are dropped off in the middle of nowhere and divided into two tribes. What's the first thing they do? They waste oodles of time trying to start a fire from scratch. Didn't they watch "Survivor I?" Waterproof matches will be the prize that the winning tribe takes home from the first challenge. And with all those torches at the first Tribal Council, surely Jeff will let the losers have a little fire to take home. And in episode two, guess what happens: they dine on bugs and grubs. Sound familiar? But beauty and brawn win out over brains in this game. All you have to do to nail that idea down is to look at what the contestants brought with them as their one allowable luxury item. That eyeliner and case that Debb brought with her really did her a lot of good. She was bounced on Day Three. But - did you notice? — her eyes looked really, really, good. Colby's Texas flag came in handy. His tribe made a tent out of it right away. But Jeff's coloring book and crayons say maybe too much about him. Maralyn's lipstick will come in handy for writing messages on tree trunks. (Maybe she knows what Croatan means.) Michael brought along some war paint in case anybody wants to play cowboys and Indians. Oh, well. At least Amber is no fool: She brought a journal and a pen, just in case she wants to take notes for a book … if she lasts long enough. But back to my premise: Reality shows such as "Survivor" might turn out to have a very short shelf life. Part of the excitement of "Survivor I" was seeing how the game is played - learning the rules, tracking how the contestants manipulate each other and imagining strategies. But now we've been there and done that already. Will the TV audience really get that involved again in "II," "III" and "IV?" (CBS has already signed up for two more "Survivor" series to follow this one.) My guess is "No."

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