Tina, Colby, Jerri, Elizabeth..they're all here in the second season of this popular reality TV series.
Survivor: The Australian Outback, the second season of the reality-show titan, remains the best season in the series' history. But assuming most people already know who won the million-dollar prize, is there still any appeal to watching on DVD? Yep, because first, the cast was exceptional, claiming no fewer than five of the 18 participants in Survivor All Stars and a few others who could have been. The group included Texas powerhouse Colby Donaldson, villainess-bartender-"aspiring actress" Jerri Manthey; tough Michael Skupin; Keith Famie, the chef who couldn't make rice; buff personal trainer Alicia Calaway; sweet Elisabeth Filarski (who as Elisabeth Hasselbeck later became a TV personality on The View) and her protector Rodger Bingham; mom Tina Wesson; savvy Jeff Varner; and pretty Amber Brkich.
Second, the show was still new and the Australian Outback has an appealing freshness when compared to so many subsequent seasons in which the competitors are continually trying to game the system. The challenges are still exciting to watch (though they might seem relatively tame). There was also the beef-jerky incident, the Colby-Jerri dynamic, Rodger's cliff jump, and the domination of the Kucha tribe before the game turned. You might have forgotten many of these developments over the years, though the season was represented on home video by the 2000 highlights compilation The Greatest and Most Outrageous Moments (also included in this set for completists), which now feels a lot like the dreary recap episode that drags down almost every season.
The bonus features are pretty good as well. Colby again proves he's top dog by recording commentary for two episodes with host Jeff Probst (who calls the Texan "one of my closest friends"). A more titillating combination is the commentary by Kimmi Kappenberg, Alicia, and Michael for two episodes, including the famous finger-wagging incident and Michael's misfortune. Keith, Rodger, Tina, and Amber also pitch in on commentary for two episodes, and all nine of the above contributors are interviewed for the half-hour of featurettes. (Jerri and Elisabeth are the most notable absences.) Unlike some Survivor DVD featurettes, these are all Outback-specific, offering insight into luxury items, real dangers, and eating, and Keith gets an opportunity to redeem himself by demonstrating how to prepare a dish of paella. The real appeal of the set, however, is watching the episodes again and remembering why Survivor: The Australian Outback remains the standard against which all subsequent seasons are judged. --David Horiuchi