Paramount // 2004 // 692 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // December 20th, 2006
Outwit. Outplay. Etc.
The series that propelled reality programming to the forefront of pop culture (for at least a stretch) returns for its ninth outing in the exotic wilds of places that have bugs that bite you in the genitals. For this go-round, host Jeff Probst and his stable of 18 survivors head to Vanuatu, a volcanic island crammed full of lava and smoke and voodoo priests with bone piercings.
For Vanuatu, the producers split the tribes by gender, pitting the guys against the girls. This rift pretty much held fast throughout the course of the game, though the typical assortment of backstabbing and betrayals rear up as the $1 million grand prize looms ever closer.
And that's really as far as I care to go with the particulars of this season. A cliffhanger-happy game show like this is all build-up, so if you have no clue how this thing ends up I don't want to reveal anything. Which leads into the question of target audience. I confess Survivor, as well as similar ilk like The Amazing Race never struck me as ideal DVD releases. One sentence from me -- "The winner of this season of Survivor is BLANK" -- would screw the pooch for viewers not in the know. But there's obviously a desire out there to own these seasons and I hazard the consumers fall into two categories: 1) folks who missed the season and want to run the marathon and, 2) utter fanboys (and girls).
For those of you that dig the show but missed the season, by all means snatch this up. I don't consider myself a Survivor fan, but my wife loves the show and by a type of proximity-based osmosis, I found myself actually tuned into this go-round. It's a good season, features a bunch of twists and a truly unlikely winner. It didn't entertain as much as the ridiculous "All-Stars" episode that brought together some half-assed pseudo-celebs desperately trying to extend their 15 minutes, but on the whole I was into Vanuatu's maneuverings. The cast was colorful and interesting and while the gender split was transparently gimmicky, it provided much fodder for bitching and back-biting, the bread and butter of this series. So for the Vanuatu virgin, steer clear of spoilers (though the disc presentation makes it difficult) and a decent season awaits.
Now, the fans. Seeing you already know how this sucker plays out, I presume the only aspect to draw you in would be the extras (unless you just can't wait to relive those priceless John K. moments). Fortunately, this set delivers the dirt. Five episodes feature full-length audio commentary with a mixture of host Jeff Probst and players Chris Daugherty, Twila Tanner, Eliza Orlins, Scout Lee, Julie Berry, Chad Crittenden and Ami Cusick. Freed from the restrains of post-production, these folks let it all out, ripping on each other and other players, whining, laughing, whining some more and dishing plenty of behind-the-scenes action. Combined with the four featurettes on each disc -- "Fire, Fire Everywhere," "On Shaky Ground," "Solitary Man" and "A Taste of Home" -- which include even more interviews and candid footage, the extras should satiate even the most prying of Survivor fans. The shows themselves look fine, transferred well in their original full frame aspect ratio and supported by a 2.0 stereo mix.
So, overall, it's a good season with more tan a few surprises and all the deception and pissing and moaning you're used to in this series. Though the novelty of watching the series without knowing who wins will be short-lived, fans of the show will be treated to a wealth of backstage info through the bonus features.
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Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 692 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Cast Commentaries on Five Episodes
* "Fire, Fire Everywhere"
* "On Shaky Ground"
* "Solitary Man"
* "A Taste of Home"