The contestants of the next "Survivor" series had better hope luck is on their side. 

Survival Skills

Toughing it out on an island in the South China Sea? That's a cakewalk, compared to surviving in the Australian Outback.

So says an admittedly cynical Aussie friend of mine from Sydney when you ask him what he thinks about "Survivor II" setting up shop in the Antipodes. The next edition of the reality show that had viewers glued to their sets this past summer will originate in the Australian Outback. It will debut in January on CBS.

The first "Survivor" aired in Australia — but since it was summer here, it was winter Down Under — and the show was popular. (My friend asked me to e-mail him the minute we here in the U.S. learned who the winner was. The final episode aired in Australia 35 hours after it aired on the U.S. East Coast, and he told me he wanted to "ruin some fun" for a few close friends.) But it didn't rack up anywhere near the numbers in Australia that it did here, according to my friend. Two million Australians (about 11 percent of the country's television-viewing population) watched the final episode, but it was still beaten out by — brace yourself — the Aussie version of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire."

"Although you would expect a second series to generate less interest, in this case it's in our own back yard," says my Sydney correspondent. "You can be sure we'll be watching because of that."

But he's not so sure that the contestants will find the Outback as hospitable as Pulau Tiga, the island where the first "Survivor" was taped.

Here's how he put it: "The first series was filmed on a comfortable tropical island in Malaysia, with mild weather and easy access to food and water. We in Australia know rather more about the perils of Outback living than the next batch of eager American survivors, and we'll be watching in the hopes of seeing the contestants picked off one by one, not by group voting, but by the world's deadliest snakes, ferocious ants, dehydration, heat exhaustion and third-degree sunburn."

Sounds grim. Just what the show needs for another ratings success.

I disagree with my Sydney friend, though. It won't be the horrors of the Outback that determine who wins the next million dollars. It'll be luck.

Nobody much is talking about the part that fortune's vicissitudes played in Richard Hatch's win. But think about it. If Dr. Sean had not employed his alphabet voting system, who knows what might have happened. Jenna would have survived for another week — that much is certain.

And if kooky Greg — he of the coconut cell phone — had not employed his asinine "pick a number" scheme in the final jury vote, Kelly Wigglesworth might have won the game, as she deserved.

As I told my Aussie correspondent, it might not be the rigors of the Outback that will determine the winner. Depending on how much sense the contestants have, it could be pure dumb


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