Paramount // 2003 // 830 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Eric Profancik (Retired) // February 1st, 2006
"Johnny Fairplay is Johnny Pain-in-the-Ass."
It's still going. Survivor is now in its twelfth "season." Who thought it would have gone the distance? I know I didn't, and I'm a huge fan of the show. This visit to the Pearl Islands, Panama, represents the seventh season of the show, following lackluster visits to Thailand and the Amazon. In the midst of this slump, Panama premiered, and everything changed, and its name was Rupert. A big, bear of a man, Rupert gave the show a huge shot in the arm, becoming the favorite castaway of any season; so popular, in fact, that the game was tweaked just so he could get a million dollars.
Fans -- line up, put on your pirate hat, hoist the Jolly Roger, and settle in to watch Rupert steal the show...and some shoes.
Beware: SPOILERS inundate this fine review.
Sixteen castaways find themselves marooned in the Pearl Islands. Over the next thirty-nine days, they will have to outwit, outplay, and outlast each other to take home a cool million dollars. On the first day, they divide into two tribes:
* Ryan "Rhino"
* "Skinny" Ryan
Along the way these sixteen castaways will partake in reward and immunity challenges, face tribal councils, merge into the Balboa tribe, and eventually have a drawn-out three-hour finale.
Every season is the same, yet every season is also different. Players believe they know exactly how the game will unfold, but they invariably find themselves surprised by the little twists the game's masterminds have dreamt up. Nothing more dramatic has happened than the shock that transpired during this season: the infamous Outcast Tribe.
With three members of Drake and Morgan voted out, the remaining players believed a merger was coming next. Little did they know that their past was coming back to haunt them, as the six people voted out were coming back for a challenge. These Outcasts were pitted against the other players in a challenge that would give them a chance to come back into the game. The two "real" tribes were speechless; the Outcasts, ecstatic. And so it unfolded that the Outcasts trounced Drake and Morgan, winning the chance for two of the six to come back into the game, while a member each from Drake and Morgan had to go home.
This proves that you can never think you know how the game will unfold. If you take anything for granted, surprise, here come the Outcasts. Voted out early, the Outcasts made the most of their "resurrection," ending up in second and fifth places.
While the game is always fun to watch, it really boils down to the carefully selected people who end up playing. Every season there's fantastic chemistry and competition. This year gave us fantastic people to watch: the aforementioned Rupert, Jon "Johnny Fairplay," Osten, and Lillian.
Should we start with Rupert? Certainly. Rupert embraced the piracy theme of the game wholeheartedly. It was mere "minutes" into the first episode when the castaways found themselves in a local market trying to buy supplies. And there sat Rupert, totally exhausted from the swim in, when the Morgan tribe dropped their supplies right next to him. He thought for a moment, and said:
"This is definitely a pirate adventure. Pirates pillage. Pirates steal. Pirates take advantage."
Then with a maniacal gleam in his eye, Rupert stole the other team's meager supplies -- including their shoes -- sold and bartered them in the village, and started the game with the best surprise ever! Rupert instantly became a fan favorite. He was the talk of everyone at the office cooler. He soon dominated his tribe, and was adored by his competition. But he let his power go to his head, and did not win this season's money. Luckily for him, the next season was the "All-Stars" version, and he was invited to play. Again, he didn't win the million dollars, but the reunion show allowed America to vote for their favorite Survivor. It wasn't even close, nor a real contest, as Rupert handily won that million dollars.
Rupert was not the only strong personality this season. While he was loved, admired, and respected, his antithesis was in his tribe; his pseudonym was Johnny Fairplay. This arrogant, conceited, overly confident jerk lied, manipulated, and snuck his way into the final four. Everyone hated him, but he was a master conniver. What sets Johnny above that accomplishment is the greatest scam in Survivor history: the dead grandmother gambit. Believing this season would follow previous ones in bringing relatives into the game, Johnny concocted a story where his best friend would come on, say his grandma had died, and garner Jon instant goodwill. And it worked, perfectly. What an awesome ploy! You hated the little ass, but he really knew how to play the game.
Falling somewhere in the middle of these two is Osten, the latest horrific role model for young black men everywhere. I don't believe there was every a bigger sissy on the show than Osten, and that includes all the girly girls and the sprinkling of gay men (who were all fairly butch, actually, except for the one in Africa). Osten, an impressively-muscled young black man, was afraid of his shadow. Literally. He became such a cliché of a wimp that he was even afraid of a pelican, "protecting" himself with a machete from the vicious animal. Beyond his wobbly legs, this strapping young man was also a hypochondriac. He was so out of his element that he was afraid he was going to get pneumonia. Remember, this man is very muscled, obviously exceptionally healthy, yet fearful of catching a cold. He was ready to quit on day four, but his tribe kept him around for his strength. A few tribal councils later he did give up, becoming the first castaway to quit voluntarily, generating quite an impressive dressing-down from Jeff Probst.
Tucked in the midst of all this testosterone was a meek woman who would also leave an indelible mark on the show, Lillian. Lil, from my current hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio, instantly became famous for wearing her Boy Scout uniform throughout the show. She was kind, polite, and shy, had solid morals, and didn't stand a chance. Her tribe voted her out early, but she was one of the two Outcasts to rejoin the game, eventually finishing in second place. That's where it gets interesting for her. Lil, truly a good person, found herself berated by the jury for her "lying" and "manipulations" during the game. It was quite shocking to see her raked over the coals for doing nicely what everyone else had done. This moment proved that no matter how nice you are, if you make it to the final two, your butt will be reamed.
You may have noticed my lack of mentioning the show's million-dollar winner. Honestly, I didn't remember who won this season, for she wasn't all that memorable. She expertly flew under the radar, caused little trouble, never received a vote against her, and won the final vote six to one. She's Sandra Diaz-Twine, and she had a great makeover in time for the reunion show.
I have reviewed each season of Survivor for DVD Verdict, so I can reasonably compare this release to the previous three. First, you have a full frame transfer that is "television average"; it's neither spectacular nor wanting. You'll find nicely rendered colors and details, though sharpness is a bit wanting and blacks completely fall apart. Did we expect anything else? Next, the audio is a simple Dolby Digital 2.0 mix that gives you clean, easily understood dialogue, and some surprising directionality with the surrounds. With some of the music and some "natural events" (e.g. thunderstorms), I found myself nicely immersed in the moment.
What sets this set apart from the rest is the stunning lack of bonus materials. The other three had quite a bit to offer, but this release comes with a mere sprinkling. There are five good commentary tracks scattered throughout the season. I do enjoy listening to the castaways talk about their time on the show. But once you get past that, there's very little else. You have "Pirates' Tales" (29 minutes), a featurette giving the Reader's Digest version of the season. It does have some candid interviews with the players, and isn't bad. But considering all that's left, "Game Strategies" (29 minutes again), which gives each player a minute or two to talk about the way they will or did play the game, it's a lacking set. Such a lazy release.
Whatever happened to "Must See TV"? Whatever happened to Thursday nights? Why do people keep tuning in to this drivel? What's so exciting about watching sixteen idiots backstab and lie for a month? What rubbish!
I'm biased; I love Survivor. Watching the different people come together, seeing how each will play the game, it's great reality television. I've said it before and I'll say it again, I haven't missed a single episode of any season, and I'm glued to my television Thursday nights at 8:00. If you're reading this, you're a fan of the show, so what should you do with this set? I believe this year is one of the best, filled with some great people placed in some very interesting situations. Solely because of that fact, the show wins the DVD set a purchase recommendation. The extras are quite disappointing and are, at best, the lightest frosting on the cake.
The show Survivor: Pearl Islands is hereby found not guilty of pillaging.
The extras on the DVD, however, are hereby found guilty of pillaging and are sentenced to twelve days on Exile Island.
Review content copyright © 2006 Eric Profancik; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 830 Minutes
Release Year: 2003
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Audio Commentary by Castaways on Five Episodes
* "Pirates' Tales"
* Game Strategies
* Official Site