Synopsis by Hal Erickson
After its spectacularly successful first season, Survivor returned on January 28, 2001 (right after CBS' coverage of Super Bowl XXXV), with 16 new contestants -- Americans all -- and an exotic and potentially dangerous new locale: the Australian Outback. More specifically, the 16 "castaways" were flown by members of the Royal Australian Rescue Team to Goshen Station, a eucalyptus-laden cattle ranch some 1500 miles north of Sydney. Although not exactly desolate, Goshen Station was nonetheless treacherous, especially for anyone accustomed to the niceties of urban civilization. Particularly vexing was the possibility of snakebite, with no fewer than ten deadly serpentine species to choose from. Distinguishing this Survivor season from the previous one, which took place off the coast of Borneo, were several factors. For one, the site of the weekly Tribal Council was designed in a different fashion, with a local cliff transformed into a Stonehenge-like edifice, festooned with "ancient" Aboriginal artifacts (which were largely products of the producers' imaginations). Also, the various and sundry challenges were much tougher this time out as exemplified by the "Tuckered Out" challenge, wherein the castaways were required to eat such delicacies as cow intestines. Finally, the "final four" castaways were expected to endure no fewer than 42 days in the Outback, as opposed to the 39 days spent in the first season's Pulau Tiga island. As before, the 16 contestants were divided into two tribes: the Kucha (from the Aboriginal word for kangaroo) and the Ogakor (the native word for freshwater crocodile). And, adhering to formula, both tribes eventually merged into the single Barrumundi tribe, with one castaway per episode being voted off the settlement on both sides of the merger. While none of the contestants was quite as venerable as the first season's Rudy (72 years young), there was still quite an age range with contestant Rodger Bingham topping the chart at age 53. Ultimately, the race did not go to the youngest but the swiftest: The person who ended up winning the one-million-dollar grand prize on Survivor: The Australian Outback turned out to be a 40-year-old nurse; however, the season's most memorable moments were provided by one of the early "losers," castaway Michael Skupin, who in one episode cheerfully slaughtered a pig in full view of his companions -- and in his farewell episode fainted face-first into a smoldering campfire.