Kristen Baldwin maps out the high and low points on CBS's desert island series

By Kristen Baldwin
Updated June 05, 2000 at 04:00 AM EDT

Why ”Survivor” has viewers hooked

Having been a fan of ”The Real World” for the past eight years, I’ve learned that in order for a reality show to be truly addictive, it’s got to be able to do one thing: piss the viewer off. Television’s never better than when it’s so involving it gets you mad enough to toss the set out the window.

If any series fits that description, it’s ”Survivor,” CBS’ new ”stranded folks on an icky island” true-life drama. Sporting 16 wildly different castaways, ”Survivor” is chockful of compelling competition and conflict, and it’s already got me yelling at my TV screen. That means, of course, that I’m hopelessly hooked for the series’ entire run. So now, a few things that bug me about ”Survivor”:

? Was I the only person surprised to see that B.B. and Ramona’s hike to find fresh water ended with the discovery of a CBS-placed bucket of H2O buried underground? In a show ostensibly about survival skills, it seems pretty cheap to give the ”castaways” the jungle equivalent of a watercooler instead of having them use their wits and outdoorsy abilities to locate a stream on their own. I want to see some near misses with dehydration, dammit!

? I’m also perturbed about Ramona, the biochemist from New Jersey. Just a few minutes into the show, before they even got to the island, poor Ramona was heaving and practically fainting from the exertion of rowing to shore. It seems clear that she won’t last, which is distressing, because so far, Ramona is the least annoying Survivor. Unlike the others, she arrived sans the ”I’m so superprepared” bravado, and instead seemed fully ready to ‘fess up to how much life on the island of Pulau Tiga is going to suck. (”I’m gonna die! This is just day 1!” she moaned.)

? For the love of God, why wasn’t there an age limit for this show? Poor, squishy, 63-year-old Sonja (a cancer survivor, ironically) was the first booted off the island -? primarily because, as she admitted, she couldn’t keep up with the young ‘uns.

Indeed, ”Survivor” is way too full of old fogies. At first, I thought I’d like B.B., the cute grandpa type who suggested that he and Ramona hide the water map so no one could vote them off the island. But B.B. soon showed his true curmudgeonly colors while constructing a hut with his tribe. ”We’ve got a lot of lazy people!” he harrumphed. Retired Navy SEAL Rudy is no better, with his random military musings: ”If they listened to me, they’d all have haircuts,” he tells the camera. Good idea, sir. Somebody boot these old coots off the island, pronto!

? Like the rest of America, I really hate Richard, the arrogant know-it-all ”corporate communications consultant” who annoyed his fellow castaways by harassing them with team building nonsense: ”Why are we here? What’s the point?” Thank God for truck driver Susan, who shot back, ”Oh, I figured that out before I come here — you haven’t?” You gotta love a woman who combs her hair with a knife. I can almost forgive her for heartlessly calling Sonja (or as she spelled it, ”Souna”) ”the weakest link in the crew.”