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Survivor Hype

Saturday, March 03, 2001

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

Red alert! Survivor down! But executive producer Mark Burnett isn't about to let a potentially life-threatening injury spoil the show. Only "Survivor" can turn real-life pain and suffering into compelling prime-time entertainment.

While preparing a camp fire, Kucha tribe member Michael gulped down smoke and fainted into the fire. On CBS's "The Early Show," he said he was saved from severe burns on his face by the brim of his hat and sunglasses.

His hands weren't so lucky. After pig killer Michael jumped into a nearby river, viewers saw the skin peeling off his hands like a molting monster in a horror film.

Paramedics flew him away for treatment, and "Survivor" deviated from its format for the first time: There was no immunity challenge, but Kucha still lost a member.

MORE MICHAEL: In a teleconference with reporters yesterday, the now-spiritually enlightened Michael said he was hospitalized for two weeks for the second- and third-degree burns he sustained but "miraculously" healed and didn't require surgery. He didn't tell his wife about the accident; she found out watching the show last night.

Burnett refused to say whether cameras were rolling as Michael burned himself, but he acknowledged a cathartic Tribal Council was held for Kucha, but it didn't make for good TV, so he cut it. Ever the pitchman, he urged viewers to "buy the DVD" to see it.

HERO: Kucha's Elisabeth gets the prize for showing compassion. She was the first one into the water trying to calm Michael as he screamed in agony.

AMBER'S MOUTH: Hometown Hottie Amber (a k a Jerri's hand puppet) needs to rethink her alliances. Evil Jerri is rubbing off on her big time. While Jerri talked up the idea of covering Colby in chocolate before having sex with him, Amber moaned, "Meatball sub!"

Meanwhile, http://www.survivorsucks.com/ is tracking the number of times "Oh, my God!" is said each week, and Thursday night Amber was the winner. She contributed 11 uses of the phrase to what Survivorsucks reports was a total of 29 exclamations or exhortations.

SURVIVOR IN TOWN: Dirk Been, a contestant on the original "Survivor," will make an appearance at Geneva College in Beaver Falls tonight at 7:30 at Metheny Fieldhouse. There's no cost to attend Been's "Survivor" chat, which is open to the public.

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