Tina Wesson, the gaunt 40-year-old minimum-wage private nurse from Knoxville, Tenn., won the second edition of CBS's "Survivor," America's favorite pastime.
Wesson, who had wasted away to under 100 pounds by the penultimate episode, was chosen take home the $1 million prize over hunky Texan Colby Donaldson, who had made the enormous mistake of picking Tina instead of the widely disliked Keith Famie to appear with him before the jury of seven previously booted contestants who would pick the final winner. The vote for Tina was 4-3.
Keith, the chef from Michigan who couldn't cook rice, got whacked early in last night's two-hour finale after the Colbster won the game's very last immunity challenge.
Of course Colby won the immunity challenge. Why should this episode have been any different from the past four?
He did it by narrowly edging out Tina in a trivia contest about their fellow contestants. Colby knew that ousted colleague Amber Brkich thought her proudest moment was being on the dean's list at her college for five semesters. Now that's some kind of trivia.
"Survivor 2" stranded 16 contestants in the Australian outback to compete in a game of elimination. The last person remaining won, among other things, $1 million. The first "Survivor," which aired last summer, was a gigantic ratings success for CBS and dramatically ended with corporate trainer Richard Hatch taking home the big prize by just one vote.
While not the ratings phenomenon of last summer, the second edition has been a hit, too, and made CBS a player on Thursday night for the first time in decades. The network already has plans for a third edition, set somewhere in Africa, to air in the fall.
In an effort to keep the winner's name secret, the final votes were held and flown in via helicopter live last night to a really hokey set at CBS Studios in Los Angeles, where they were counted by show host Jeff Probst. In the first "Survivor," the votes were counted immediately after being cast and provided the series with one of its knockout moments, when contestant Greg Buis revealed that he had cast the deciding vote for Hatch because Hatch had come closer to picking the number Greg had chosen between 1 and 10 than had the other finalist, Kelly Wiglesworth.
Last night's ending had no such drama; it also lacked the unforgettable "Rats and Snakes" speech delivered by juror and trucker Susan Hawk.
Despite the producer's efforts at secrecy, scrawny Tina's triumph was not much of a surprise to "Survivor" addicts. The Ghost of Calista Flockhart Future had been picked to win by, among other sources, the Web site Ellipsiiis Brain Trust, which had correctly predicted the outcome of the past six episodes.
The show's producer, Mark Burnett, said in a televised interview that aired earlier yesterday that Tina made it to the finale by stabbing three other female contestants in the back -- Maralyn "Mad Dog" Hershey, evil actress Jerri and sweet little Elisabeth -- while managing to maintain an image as the game's mom.
Donaldson, 27, had won four straight immunity challenges and most of the reward challenges going into last night's finale. But the jury voted for Tina, the contestant who had won almost nothing along the way, over Colby, who had won almost everything. Voting for Tina were Elisabeth, Alicia, Keith and Jerri; casting their votes for Colby were Rodger, Amber and Nick.
Colby should have, but didn't, vote Tina out after winning that final immunity challenge. Chef Keith had alienated almost everyone on the jury at some point during the 42-day competition. But Colby decided that Keith "didn't play the game in a fashion or well enough to deserve that [final] spot." That decision probably cost him a million bucks.
Nearly 52 million viewers tuned in to watch the final "Survivor" episode in August, the second most watched program last season, behind only the Super Bowl. Last night's final episode probably did not score that large an audience because it aired against May sweeps competition rather than summer reruns.
Even so, "Survivor: The Australian Outback" has been the most-watched program every week and you can count on last night's finale to be the most watched program this week.
This edition was criticized for its too-buff, too-pretty, too-young contestants and for their lack of spontaneity; this bunch had seen the first show and knew how to play the game and how to play to the camera.
Unfortunately, "Survivor 3" may be even more contrived. CBS Television CEO Les Moonves says the network is mulling whether to do a celebrity version of the series, Reuters reports.
Great. Sixteen publicity hogs spending 42 days starving themselves down to size 0 with cameras on them 24/7. And how is this gonna be different from any other day in their lives?
Moonves said Ray Romano, who just happens to be the star of a CBS sitcom, wants to be in the show, and the L.A. Lakers' Kobe Bryant have "expressed an interest."
But Moonves, who was interviewed at CBS offices by celeb fan show "Access Hollywood" yesterday morning, also said that film starlet and Oscar nominee Kate Hudson, the daughter of Goldie Hawn, stood in line for an hour at recent CBS auditions for "Survivor 3." Yeah, right -- all Hollywood starlets stand in lines. And they pay for the gowns they wear on Oscar night, too.
The Fox affiliate in Baltimore is bravely going where MTV fears to tread. Tonight WBFF will run the public-service announcement produced by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals that the network home of "Jackass" refuses to telecast.
The PSA, which briefly shows animatronic cats doing what comes naturally to the beat of fun music, informs viewers that 2.4 million unwanted kittens are born every year and that most will be put to death, and urges them to have their cats fixed.
WBFF will run the spot once in prime time, during "World's Wildest Police Videos." Who could object?
The first station to run the ad was UPN affiliate WGNT in Norfolk, which pulled it last month when viewers complained.
During the debut of "Chains of Love."
That show featured a guy who was chained to four women he'd just met; they all tried to woo him by doing things like running their hands up and down his body and sucking on his fingers.
PETA spokeswoman Lisa Lange said the Norfolk station told the group the ad got yanked because "some parents called to say their children were upset by our commercial." Of course, one naturally wonders what parents were doing letting their little angels watch "Chains of Love," but I guess that's another column.
Lange also wanted us to know that PETA got some calls commending it for the ad.
In addition to its one prime-time run tonight, WBFF plans to air the PSA a couple of times after midnight.
Daring WBFF general manager Bill Fanshawe said he found the ad appropriate to air.
"If you watch Discovery Channel, a lot of things go on Discovery that are more offensive to me than the PETA spot," he told The TV Column.
"My view of the world was that it was not problematic compared to what some networks normally run in prime time and some cable networks run that are educational-type programs," Fanshawe said. Plus, he said, the spot makes a good point.
MTV refuses to air the ad because, it says, no "fornication" is allowed on its schedule. PETA points out that that ad does not show cheating spouses.
MTV has in fact shown animals in the act; when it ran -- and ran, and ran and ran -- the Bloodhound Gang's video for its song "The Bad Touch." The gang croons: "You and me baby ain't nothin' but mammals, so let's do it like they do on the Discovery Channel."
And then the Bloodhound Gang showed us what they do on the Discovery Channel.