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'Survivor' spawns back-stabbing fever

Thursday, August 24, 2000

By Anjali Sachdeva, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

The eight guests at Mary Warwick's "Survivor" party in Murrysville were all close friends, but as a good hostess, Warwick did her best to work the back-stabbing spirit of the TV show into the party.

  Patti Wagner of Green Tree celebrates at a friend's party in Murrysville. (Lake Fong, Post-Gazette)

"Survivor," the show on which 16 castaways are one-by-one voted off an island in the South China Sea, gave rise to a number of parties centered around watching the finale episode to see who survives and wins one million dollars.

As long as Warwick's guests were lounging around in sarongs and Hawaiian shirts, eating chicken, fruit salad and, of course, lots of rice, everything was friendly.

But when the obstacle course, Warwick's own "Reward Challenge," began, the adrenaline started pumping. Guests picked colored bandannas out of a bag to decide the teams, and even the family dog, Hootie, was included.

Each team had a biker, runner, thrower, dog-handler, and, for the grand finale, a beer chugger. When team No. 2 lost by a slim 5 seconds, No. 1 was still happy to cheer for them. After all, the prize this time was only first pick for seats in front of the TV.

But the stakes continued to rise. Like the survivor contestants, each guest brought one luxury item with them to the party. In the contest to match each guest with his or her luxury item, the prize was a T-shirt bearing the "Survivor" motto "Outwit, outplay, outlast."

By the time the show finally started at 8 p.m., there was a $60 pool at stake and loyalties were changing from minute to minute.

As Rudy Boesch, Susan Hawk, Richard Hatch and Kelly Wiglesworth-- the four "Survivor" finalists -- battled it out in the Tribal Council, the castaways' choices brought shouts of approval or groans of disbelief from the guests now clustered around the television.

Joyce Warwick, 39, of Squirrel Hill, Mary's sister-in-law, was the only one who cheered when Susan was finally voted off.

"What?" Mary Warwick asked in disbelief, "I thought you wanted Richard off."

"Sue is my pick in the pool," Joyce Warwick answered. "I'm all about the money, now."

But as the show continued, the importance of the prize was overwhelmed by speculation over who would finally triumph.

When only two survivors remained, the sympathies of the room were with Kelly, while Richard was branded as "sneaky," or just plain "unlikable." Most of the party-goers seemed to agree with contestant Dr. Sean Kenniff's final comment that the show had turned "from a contest of who's most deserving to who's least objectionable."

While the adults discussed the strategic options of the final two "Survivors" as if they were watching a world-class chess match, no one was prepared for Richard's big win.

"I am so shocked," said Susie Sieger, 38, of Ingomar. "I don't know if I'm going to be able to drive myself home."

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