The complete season of Survivor: All-Stars. Billed as "the greatest Survivor
ever" when it launched following the Super Bowl in January 2004, Survivor All-Stars
broke new ground for the hit reality series by bringing back 18 of its most famous (and infamous) characters from the previous seven installments to battle it out in a quest for affirmation or redemption (and, of course, the million-dollar prize). Half the fun was seeing who was picked to return, and there were many tasty selections: original winner Richard (natch) from Borneo; Colby, Jerri, and Tina from the Australian Outback; Ethan, Lex, and Big Tom from Africa; and the newest alumnus, Rupert from the just-completed Pearl Islands. (There were, of course, many omissions, such as Mike Skupin, who deserved a second chance after falling into the fire in Australia.)
Right from the beginning, it was clear that this Survivor was going to be different. Because people now knew each other (from sharing a previous game, watching on TV, or mixing at Survivor-related functions), some of the schemers were quickly sniffed out and snuffed out, and players were more aggressive about creating alliances (which sometimes overlapped, but hey, it's only a problem if you get caught). In addition, because no one wanted to see someone win a second million dollars, previous champions found that they had targets on their backs. As a result, there was an entirely new wave of power players. Along the way there were some surprising and very emotional developments (which had the unfortunate side effect of killing some of the show's action) and the first on-screen Survivor romance. In the end, Survivor All-Stars didn't live up to its billing as the best ever (that title would remain with season 2 in the Australian Outback), but it did bring a new twist and some genuinely memorable moments to a long-running series.
The DVD set adds significant value to the season, including some welcome behind-the-scenes info on the series as a whole. The bonus footage consists of much longer versions of each member's "confessional" after being voted out, and 57 minutes of scenes that are edited and scored like the regular episodes. Among those scenes are a tribal council that was never seen on TV and Rob Cesternino's dead-on impression of host Jeff Probst at a mock tribal council, which was seen during the season as new footage in the midseason "recap" episode. That episode is the only one not included in the set, but with the above-mentioned moment preserved, only the most hardcore fan would object to the loss of this dead spot in every season. Three different quartets of cast members recorded commentary tracks on a total of 10 episodes, including the final four on the last episode and the first reunion (the second is also included). They provide a lot of insight and fun stories, though there's a bit too much yelling over each other. There are also featurettes that should appeal to all fans of the show: how the challenges are created and tested, the casting process, behind the scenes at the final show, and TV promos for the previous seven seasons. The individual profiles of all 16 All-Stars consist of footage of their original appearances, which may help remind you why they were picked to return, and interviews before the the season started. --David Horiuchi