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Paramount Home Video presents
Survivor: Palau (2005)

"We're not going back to Immunity!...(pauses, rethinking statement) Tribal Council!"
- Angie Jakusz

Review By: Dan Heaton   
Published: August 28, 2006

Stars: Jeff Probst, Gregg Carey, Bobby Jon Drinkard, Katie Gallagher, Caryn Groedel, Stephenie LaGrossa, Jennifer Lyon, Ian Rosenberger, Tom Westman
Other Stars: Coby Archa, Ashlee Ashby, Angie Jakusz, Jolanda Jones, Jonathan Libby, James Miller, Kim Mullen, Ibrehem Rahman, Wanda Shirk, Willard Smith, Janu Tornell, Jeff Wilson
Director: Various

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (suitable for most television audiences)
Run Time: 12h:05m:00s
Release Date: August 29, 2006
UPC: 097368898943
Genre: television


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B+ A-A-B+ A-

DVD Review

After nine successful seasons, Survivor had maintained solid viewing numbers, but its previous two offerings had been pretty average. The casting and location selection for season ten would be pivotal, and Mark Burnett's crew succeeds greatly on both counts. Palau's crystal-clear waters and stunning island landscape rank among the best settings in the show's history. They wisely take advantage of this prime area to craft excellent water challenges that seriously test the athletic competitors. The casting choices avoid arrogant, over-the-top characters (i.e. Johnny Fairplay), which helps to provide a more likeable group of contestants.

Warning: During this review, I will not reveal the million-dollar winner. However, my comments about the various twists and characters could lessen the enjoyment for viewers who have not watched this season. So you may want to skip this review and go rent the collection before continuing reading. For everyone else, I will now return to this eagerly anticipated DVD review.

The Survivor: Palau premiere is one of the series' most unpredictable openings and includes several new twists. This cast begins with 20 membersóthe largest group everóbut that number dwindles quickly during the initial episode. After a schoolyard pick-em, the tribes appear split into an older, smarter clan versus a younger, stronger gang. The surprisingly effective Koror tribe includes the tall dolphin trainer Ian, very thin tree-climber Janu, sturdy fireman Tom, hairdresser Coby, quiet elder Willard, cranky Caryn, cute blond Jen, smart youngster Greg, and unexciting Katie. The less worthy Ulong tribe includes the tatooed outsider Angie, star athlete Stephanie, imposing Southerner Bobby Jon, self-described redneck James, muscled and quiet Ibrehem, useless Kim, her pal Jeff, overbearing Jolanda, and uninspired Ashlee. In rare fashion, the possibly annoying figures mostly disappear in the earlygoing, and some of my favorites do last a while this time.

Another first in Palau is the total supremacy of the Koror tribe during the immunity challenges. Lead by the dominant competitor Tom and excellent swimmer Ian, they find ways to grasp victory in all types of competitions. The eventual result is ridiculous and differs from anything seen in other seasons. Even when their top players are sitting out, Koror still finds a way to win and crush Ulong's spirit. Coby is particularly effective at puzzles, and Jen and Janu swim well enough to succeed. The difference in the tribal camps is also extreme, with Home Depot even offering some help in building an awesome structure. The sharp disparity also reveals some great moments from Ulong players like Bobby Jon and Stephanie, whose positive determination charmed audiences. In a controversial move, CBS brought them back for the subsequent season in Guatemala to again compete for the title of Sole Survivor.

With a few exceptions, this season's challenges are significantly more inventive than the typical contests. Aided by the majestically clear landscape, the crew put together grueling physical tasks that are rarely boring. An exciting early challenge involves a deceptively complex run through the water around a short course. Carrying 20-lb bags on their shoulders, the competitors simply have to catch one member of the opposing tribe. As they grow weary, participants may drop out, but they must pass the bags to other team members, which leads to a lengthy, compelling race. Another great team challenge involves "sumo-like" individual battles to push the opponent off an elevated platform. Making a furious rally, Ulong attempts to grasp immunity from the always-steady Koror, culminating in a tense final match.

Following the merge, the individual immunity portion avoids the usual "will the tribes stick together?" questions because the disparity is so lopsided. Instead, a mostly friendly, cohesive group of competitors must split and battle each other for the ultimate prize. This complacency becomes apparent in the standard "perch" challenge, which tests endurance and confidence in tribal standing. This comfortable feeling will quickly change for one Koror member. As the end draws nearer, a strong player wins a series of challenges, but that individual must be careful or risk facing the unfortunate fate of past dominators like Colby and Boston Rob. Another person simply gives up and quits the game, which assists one alliance in gaining an even stronger foothold. Pretenders quickly become apparent and are excised without much of a fight, while others scramble to overtake the leading group.

Survivor: Palau concludes with a series of classic episodes that include some emotionally draining conflicts between several leading players. These arguments feel totally real and lack the pettiness of some disagreements from past seasons. The final tribal council is surprisingly nasty for this group, even if many of the comments are justifiable. The sole survivor is not a huge surprise, but the path taken by this player includes plenty of stunning moments. The pivotal event is the grueling final three challenge, which lasts for nearly 12 hours and contains an unbelievable decision. The reasons for this choice could be scrutinized, but the player's heart does seem to be in the right place. This genuine quality helps to make this season one of the series' best offerings.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: A-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: The Survivor DVD releases consistently offer strong transfers, and this version is no exception. Palau's crystal-clear waters are especially attractive on the screen, and grain isn't present anywhere within the picture. The colors are brighter than on the original television transfer, and this improvement is very evident during the credits sequence. It may lack the pristine qualities of the best film releases, but it still ranks among the top reality television sets.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: This four-disc collection includes a solid 2.0-channel Dolby Surround track with each episode. The speakers nicely inject the energetic music into the challenges, which adds to the overall excitement. The show is heavy with dialogue, which limits the chances for the audio to shine, but the numerous conversations are conveyed effectively. This transfer is powerful enough to present the series and warrants a recommendation.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
4 Featurette(s)
5 Feature/Episode commentaries by Combinations of Ian Rosenberger, Stephenie LaGrossa, Tom Westman, Caryn Groedel, Gregg Carey, Katie Gallagher, Jennifer Lyon, and Bobby Jon Drinkard
Packaging: Box Set
Picture Disc
4 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: Before describing these extras, please be warned that the commentaries and featurettes do include a few spoilers that could lessen your enjoyment of the season. Even the specific participants chosen for these features should hint about who performs well. Also, watch out for the exterior and interior packaging, which give clues on where the contestants finish.

This collection includes five enjoyable commentaries from two groups of speakers. Ian Rosenberger, Stephenie LaGrossa, Tom Westman, and Caryn Groedel discuss the premiere This Has Never Happened Before and the finale The Ultimate Shock. The other group includes youngsters Gregg Carey, Katie Gallagher, Jennifer Lyon, and Bobby Jon Drinkard. They cover Love is in the Air, Rats are Everywhere, Neanderthal Man, and We'll Make You Pay. These tracks are helped considerably by the likability of these cast members, who generally avoid the nastiness displayed by some Pearl Islands competitors. Both groups provide enjoyable commentaries that should be worthwhile for devoted fans.

Four short featurettes offer additional interviews and recaps of the season's most notable moments from the commentary participants. Each entry is about 10 minutes and appears on the applicable disc. Welcome to Palau includes details on the cast's initial reactions to the early twists and their thoughts when entering the game. Playing the Game chronicles the events of the four episodes on Disc 2 and includes comments from key participants about the stragetic elements as the contest progressed. Down to the Wire covers several key bootings later in the game and the reasons for the players' eliminations. Finally, Battle for Sole Survivor focuses on the last few episodes and the the effect of the game on the contestants' lives.

Extras Grade: A-

 

Final Comments

Survivor will premiere its 13th season in mid-September, and the players are comprised mostly of "California types" that were recruited by casting agents. The standard application process did not play a major role, which will probably lessen the unique aspects of the game. Survivor: Palau works because it brings together a wide range of individuals and places them in a beautiful marine environment. Also, a series of firsts, including one tribe's total dominance, make this series fresher than its recent predecessors. If you enjoy this show but have not watched the Palau season, this collection should definitely offer a worthwhile viewing.

 


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