Ken Tucker
June 08, 2000 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Me, I would have voted Richard, the smug, fake sincere corporate trainer, off the island first. All that blather about wanting to ”talk about the process” — hey, can it, buster; we want to see some rat eatin’ around here! The casting directors of Survivor picked a fine specimen of humorless condescension when they chose Richard to spend 39 days hectoring his fellow castaways on the Borneo island of Pulau Tiga.

But the first to get the boot was that nice, older, out of shape musician, Sonja, who sang a depressing composition about the joys of Prozac. What started as 16 Americans divided into two ”tribes” — the Tagi and the Pagong — are steadily being narrowed down to one winner, who, after the poor devil is done digging latrines, building shelters, flicking rats off various extremities, and tripping over the Survivor crew, may not even have sufficient muscle tone left to drag home the $1 million prize.

Host Jeff Probst, who probably found this assignment a lark after his previous gig on Rock ‘n’ Roll Jeopardy, said Survivor is foremost a ”test of social skills,” because every few days each team forms a ”tribal council” to vote one member off the island. So if you cheese people off — like, say, the resourceful but officious 72-year-old retired Navy SEAL, Rudy, who if you squint at the screen looks like Harrison Ford in Six Days, Seven Nights — you’re in trouble no matter how useful you are.

Anyone who has worked in an office can identify with the tribalists’ permanent state of exhaustion and paranoid mistrust, so Survivor‘s chief goal in the upcoming weeks is to make distinctive some of the initially rather bland-seeming participants (I’m not sure if I know the difference between preschool teacher Gretchen and college student/mother Jenna yet). ABC has tried counterprogramming with Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, but I’d rather see a ”crossover” show: Throw all of Regis’ millionaire winners on that island; how long do you think it would take for those nerds to start bashing rats and each other’s skulls with their Palm VIIs?

So far, I’m rooting for Susan, a 38-year-old Wisconsin truck driver, to win the million. Susan isn’t afraid of rats and already said that Stacey, a prissy lawyer, ”doesn’t move her ass” enough during group jobs. Go, Susan! Hope you’re still in the show by the time this sees print!

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