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TV Preview: Former 'Survivors' compete again

Sunday, February 01, 2004

By Rob Owen, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

HOLLYWOOD -- It's hard to imagine an edition of "Survivor" with more built-in appeal than "Survivor: All-Stars," which premieres tonight following Super Bowl XXXVIII. After all, this isn't a whole new cast viewers have to get to know, just the most compelling characters from the previous seven editions.

"Survivor: All-Stars"

When: Tonight following the Super Bowl; airs regularly at 8 p.m. Thursdays on CBS.

Stars: Amber Brkich, Jenna Morasca, Richard Hatch.

A preview reel shown to critics last month offered plenty of entertaining moments, including "Survivor: Pulau Tiga" star Rudy Boesch attempting to drink contaminated water that had not yet been boiled. She-devil Jerri Manthey ("Survivor: The Australian Outback") claimed she'll keep her mouth shut this time.

It all begins with three teams -- 18 contestants playing for the $1 million grand prize -- on boats with military escorts cruising toward their temporary tropical home, which, like "Survivor: Pearl Islands," is off the coast of Panama.

"In order to ensure top secrecy, we are under military escort," explains host Jeff Probst, who welcomes viewers at one point while clinging to the side of a helicopter as it makes a banking turn.

Why such cheesy theatrics?

"We are a couple of drama queens," admitted "Survivor" executive producer Mark Burnett.

Two Pittsburgh-area women who competed in earlier editions of the show are back. Both Amber Brkich ("Survivor: The Australian Outback") and Jenna Morasca (winner of "Survivor: The Amazon") once again donned their bikinis for "All-Stars."

"I can't believe we're here," Jenna says in the premiere. "We're such morons. We left everything we loved to starve and have no fire and have no water. Seriously, we have issues."

Probst said this edition of "Survivor" is the hardest since the one set in Africa. The castaways are left with only one machete per tribe and no matches for a fire, necessary not only for cooking but also for boiling water.

Picking the cast of "Survivor: All-Stars" was far less exacting than previous editions, Burnett said. Instead of winnowing down contestants over a three-day period, he just jotted down names of past players on a legal pad and cut his list from 24 to 18. Some are to be expected -- every past winner but Brian Heidik from "Survivor: Thailand," Vecepia Towery of "Survivor: Marquesas" and Sandra Diaz-Twine of "Survivor: Pearl Islands" is competing again -- but others are less obvious, including Brkich, who was pretty invisible in her season compared to other contestants.

"I was pushing for her because we had 18 slots and you want to take some chances," Probst said. "She's probably the most naive person to ever play 'Survivor.' And in the last 2 1/2 years, she's lived a lot of life. Has it changed her any?"

Probst said some fans have questioned the return of Shii Ann, but Probst said she made sense because she "drove the drama."

"Shii Ann is the first person to shoot from the hip," he said. "Everybody there, there's a reason they're there even if it may not be evident."

Burnett said two former players turned him down: Elisabeth Filarski ("Survivor: The Australian Outback"), who landed a job as a co-host on ABC's "The View," and Colleen Haskell ("Survivor" Pulau Tiga"), who just wasn't interested.

Past winners may have a difficult time repeating their success, Burnett said. "If you're a winner and you're a threat, people target you and that's life."

Having played "Survivor" once before and watched the other editions, these repeat performers had a somewhat paranoid expectation of new twists, Burnett said. "It allowed us just to play pretty much the original game, and their own imaginations did them in."

The tribes and their colors:

Chapera (Red)
Amber Brkich (The Australian Outback)
Tom Buchanan (Africa)
Alicia Calaway (The Australian Outback)
Rob Cesternino (The Amazon)
Susan Hawk (Pulau Tiga)
Rob Mariano (Marquesas)

Saboga (Yellow)
Rudy Boesch (Pulau Tiga)
Rupert Boneham (Pearl Islands)
Jenna Lewis (Pulau Tiga)
Jerri Manthey (The Australian Outback)
Tina Wesson (The Australian Outback)
Ethan Zohn (Africa)

Mogo Mogo (Green)
Colby Donaldson (The Australian Outback)
Richard Hatch (Pulau Tiga)
Shii Ann Huang (Thailand)
Jenna Morasca (The Amazon)
Lex van den Berghe (Africa)
Kathy Vavrick-O'Brien (Marquesas)


TV Editor Rob Owen can be reached at rowen@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2582.

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