Passions: Why Survivor 4: St. Lisa's Was Scrapped
When Ryan told us that among the old Passions musings taking up space on his hard drive was a post that combined several of our favorite things -- reality TV, making fun of soaps, and press release parodies -- we couldn't wait to read it. Enjoy! (For those who require some initiation, skip to the end for some background from Ryan.)
WHY SURVIVOR 4: ST. LISA’S WAS SCRAPPED
ABS News Service, Saturday, April 20, 2002
It's a little-known fact that Survivor 4: Marquesas was actually a hastily thrown together last minute replacement for the intended fourth edition of the series, which was to be called Survivor 4: St. Lisa's.
"We didn't even make it through the first week before we decided to scrap it," said creator Mark Burnett. "I have never seen a bunch of such clueless, inept people in my life!"
Trouble began brewing even before the contestants reached the island. Miguel Lopez-Fitzgerald was upset that he wasn't on the same tribe as fellow contestant Charity Standish. A similar situation occurred with Miguel's sister, Theresa Lopez-Fitzgerald, who shrieked to the high heavens that she needed to be on the same tribe as Ethan Crane. Meanwhile, contestant TC Russell was incensed that his daughter Whitney was on the same tribe as Chad Harris. "He's a no-good punk who needs to stay away from my daughters!" he bellowed as the crew restrained him.
Once they reached their camps, there was immediate conflict within the Ptui tribe. Rebecca Hotchkiss and Ivy Crane refused to lift a finger to help build the tribe's shelter, saying only common people did manual labor. Both women were also outraged that the crew refused to fetch them mai tais or call room service for them. When it was explained to them that the concept of Survivor was to rough it in the wilderness with no modern conveniences, both women bellowed, "Do you know who I am? I am Mrs. Julian Crane!" in unison.
Matters only got worse once the shelter was built. Ivy, Rebecca, and Theresa each insisted that they were the real Mrs. Julian Crane and therefore were entitled to the entire shelter. Although they had done all the work in building it, their fellow tribemates decided to camp elsewhere to avoid the screaming.
Things weren't any better over at the Kabong tribe. Dr. Eve Russell started shrieking about the evils of singing when her fellow tribemates decided to break into a round of "Kumbaya" around the campfire. "The woman was some sort of fundamentalist wacko! She actually thought that singing would lead to drugs and prostitution! You would think that would make her an easy target for first person voted off the tribe, but amazingly everyone agreed, apologized, and stopped singing. There was no conflict at all," said Burnett.
But the real trouble came the next day with the reward challenge. It was a simple relay race in which contestants were required to untie an oar, race back, and tag the next contestant, who had to untie another oar and race back. The third contestant had to break open a batch of coconuts until they found one with a key. They had to hand that off to the fourth contestant, who would race down to the beach with the key and the oars to give them to the remaining four contestants, who were to row out to a buoy, grab the team flag, row back to shore and place it at the final platform. "They never even finished the race!" exclaimed Burnett.
The trouble started right at the starting gate. Pilar
Lopez-Fitzgerald refused to budge. "Dios Mio, I have a bad feeling
about this race," she said. "Mark my words, no good can come of
"I figured she was just nervous, so I tried encouraging her," said host Jeff Probst. "But she just looked me straight in the eye and said 'Competition is the root of all evil and will only tear people apart.' So I tried explaining to her that that was the point of the game, to eliminate people one by one and wind up the winner, but she just shook her head disapprovingly and asked, 'Would Jesus vote off His teammates, Mr. Probst? Would He?' I have to admit I didn't know quite what to say to that one. She was an interesting piece of work. I don't think I saw her crack a smile once the entire time she was there."
But things weren't going any better for the Kabongs, who had Sheridan Crane as their frontrunner. Instead of taking off when Probst yelled "Go!", she just stood there and repeated, "I wonder if that key is the key to my past?" Then she shouted, "I remember!"
"I was hoping she remembered to start running the race, but instead she told me she remembered using a key once to open a door with her dead lover," said Probst. "The whole thing sounded a little too kinky for me, but who am I to judge? I encouraged her to start racing, but she just kept talking to herself. 'Why is he so interested in me running the race?' she said. 'Could he have known my dead lover?' Finally I was able to convince her to go, but then she reached the oar and stopped dead in her tracks. Apparently she felt a connection to that oar. I never understood her. Plus, she kept calling herself Diana. Maybe she has multiple personalities. In any event, I think she needs some serious therapy."
Amazingly, the teams finally managed to make it to the stage where they needed to break open the coconuts to find a key, but that's where the race stopped dead in its tracks. "It was Ivy for Ptui and Eve for Kabong," recalled Probst. "They reached the coconut pile and picked one up, so I thought all was well. But then they stopped cold and stared at each other. 'Oh, you think you're so smug now, Eve, but when I open this coconut...' Ivy told her. And that was it! Ivy kept saying that over and over while Eve just kept staring back and forth between Ivy, the coconut, and her tribemates. It was unreal! What was even more bizarre was that none of the other contestants yelled and screamed at them to open the frigging thing like you'd expect. They all seemed to accept this as perfectly normal behavior.
"To make matters even worse," continued Probst, "Tabitha Lenox kept tugging at my sleeve and saying over and over that once that coconut was opened, all hell would break loose. I could not get her to go away! At that point, I felt like I myself deserved to be declared the Ultimate Survivor for putting up with those loons!
"We tried to be fair about it," continued Probst. "We gave them two days. But no amount of coaxing, pleading, or even bribery was going to get those women to open those coconuts! I can still hear Ivy's voice in my head as clear as a bell. 'Oh, you think you're so smug now, Eve, but when I open this coconut...' At one point Eve did give an impromptu lecture on the history of traditional uses of coconuts which seemed to rivet all the other contestants, but at that point it took all the self-restraint I had not to bash her over the head with one of the blessed things. Nuts is the word, alright!"
"I felt the most sorry for that poor cameraman Rebecca Hotchkiss cornered," chimed in Burnett. "She made the poor guy tape endless footage of her saying over and over again, 'I know you rigged those coconuts, Ivy Crane, and I'm going to find out what you're up to!' I personally explained to her that there was no way Ivy could have rigged the coconuts, but she just glared at me and sniffed, 'You don't know Ivy Crane!' What did she care, anyway? Even if Ivy had rigged the coconuts, they were on the same team! It only would have benefited her!
"Finally, we declared it a draw and gave both teams a crate of Sierra Mist™," continued Burnett. "But even then, they just stared at it blankly. 'We only drink hot chocolate,' Miguel Lopez-Fitzgerald explained. Talk about looking your gift horses in the mouth! I swear, even Mitchell or Diane could have had these clowns for breakfast!
"At that point, we decided just to give them all union scale wages and send them home," continued Burnett. "No amount of editing could have made those morons even remotely interesting. So we started from scratch with the Marquesas group. Sure, it was costly, but it was worth it."
Did Burnett see Survivor potential in any of the castaways? "Honestly, no. I wouldn't bet on them to find their way to their cars in the parking lot. But I will tell you who my favorite was...Grace Bennett. She sent me a lovely thank you note saying despite what happened, she had a wonderful time and wished me the best of luck in the future. It came in a package with one of her homemade tomato soup cakes. It was completely inedible, but it was a nice gesture."
In any event, both Burnett and Probst think they made the right decision and are pleased with how the Marquesas edition is turning out.
I wrote this back when Survivor was still white-hot and was in the middle of the fourth season, Survivor: Marquesas. (It’s the one where Vecepia was the winner, but the best-remembered contestants are probably Boston Rob and Kathy.) I started imagining what on earth it would be like if the loons from Passions did the show, and this spoof is the result…most of the things the characters say are takeoffs on their typical dialogue du jour around that time. St. Lisa’s was that island near Bermuda where amnesiac Sheridan/"Diana" lived at the time with Brian/Antonio, Liz, and Doc.
This was during the period where Julian was presumed dead and Ivy, Rebecca, and Theresa all claimed to be his real widow. And Ivy had recently spent about a solid month telling herself, "Oh, you think you’re so smug NOW, Grace, but WHEN I OPEN THIS ENVELOPE…", although I forget exactly what was in the envelope; I don’t think it was John’s DNA test results. I just remember cracking up thinking about her making the Oscars take about two months ("Oh, you think you’re so smug NOW, Meryl Streep, but WHEN I OPEN THIS ENVELOPE…"), or applying it to other situations ("Oh, sure I’m crossing my legs NOW, but WHEN I GO TO THE BATHROOM…"). And a friend suggested that "Ivy & The Envelopes" would have been a great name for a 60s girl group.
This was also around the time where it seemed like all anyone ever wanted to drink on the show was hot chocolate. I also seem to remember nearly an entire episode revolving around Miguel wanting to take Zombie Charity for hot chocolate, but she insisted he take Kay, or something like that.
Mitchell and Diane were two particularly inept Survivor contestants from the Outback and Africa seasons, respectively.