"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 17 April 2001. Updated every WEEKDAY.

CSurvivor Guilt

"Please know that this was an honest mistake which we deeply regret."

- Survivor Executive Producer Mark Burnett to Australian authorities after learning that Colby's removal of corral from the Great Barrier Reef in Episode 8 violated Australian law.

As you know, the current series of the reality-TV show Survivor takes place in your beautiful country. You have been kind enough to draw our attention to a number of problems thus far in the production. We'd like to take this opportunity to anticipate and defuse further misunderstandings by offering this detailed, blanket apology — without, of course, revealing on who won. We can't begin to describe how embarrassing it is to have our production and everyone associated with it fall into the stereotype of "The Ugly American." Sometimes we just lose sight of what's really important, as our cast members slowly relinquish the last traces of dignity and civility in an effort to win the $1 million (US) cash award.

1) Although we certainly should have known better, most of our cast and crew were unaware that "Foster's" is Australian for "beer." On numerous occasions, I myself have committed the error of using our American term, fully expecting to be understood by bartenders and waitresses from Perth to Sydney. I realize now that this must have been perceived as callous, presumptuous, and insensitive.

2) Our frequent reference to "the Bush" was not intended to denigrate the formidable wilderness of interior Australia. As you know, our own president is a Bush;a happy coincidence and a promising start to finding common ground between our nations. Needless to say, use of the term without the utmost respect would almost be unpatriotic for an American, except in the case of "Bush league" which is a different story.

3) Also, we didn't mean to imply through the series that Australia is an island. We all know it's a continent, though of course the smallest one. A lot bigger than Pilau Pilau, you'll be pleased to know.

4) At no time was the word "marsupial" used in this production. I regret this error, but admit that it was fully intentional. We're not that sharp when it comes to animal taxonomy, and I didn't want any of the competitors to screw up that funny word. Marsupials are mammals though, right?

5) Our depiction of a boomerang-throwing competition in Episode 5 also simplified the learning curve of this difficult and exacting art, without indicating just how dangerous it can be for an untrained American. Thankfully, it was for an award challenge, rather than the Big Kahuna;an immunity challenge!

6) Jerri and Keith's petty squabbling in Episodes 1-6 was not intended to draw attention away from the essentially docile nature of the Australian crocodile.

7) In Episode 3, our contestants were asked during an immunity challenge to eat disgusting foods commonly consumed by your aboriginal peoples, like cow brains and sand worms. The exclusion of vegemite was an unfortunate oversight that led to the dismissal of several mid-level executives back in the States, I can assure you.

8) We tried, with very limited success, to incorporate the didgeridoo into the show. I regret that our production crew was on the wrong track well into the series, thinking marsupial and not indigenous musical instrument (see number 4).

9) Also, we hope you understand that the location was far too remote to make use of any Subaru all-wheel drive vehicles, which I understand are built almost entirely in Finland now anyway. Or Japan. Still, we adore that Crocodile Dundee guy!

10) Sky Lab was well before our time, and we don't know why it hasn't been cleaned up yet. Sorry, though.

Please accept our heartfelt apologies for these and any other as-yet-unforeseen infractions and misdemeanors. All I can say by way of excuse is that we were, after all, trying to survive. But we lost sight of the fact that survival sometimes comes at the cost of civility. You'd be surprised how a steady diet of refined white rice and no coffee plays havoc on international affairs. Please be assured: While we were conducting our well-financed, secretive, cultish encampment in your country, we had no intention of alienating you and the fine people in your penal colony.

Courtesy of the E.L. Skinner

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