Volcanos! Lesbians! Starvation! This season of Survivor -“ like all the seasons of Survivor past -“ has something for everyone. Actually, for those of us with, shall we say, special interests, this series has two even better reasons for us to watch.

One is Scout, an older rancher, country singer and breast cancer survivor. The other is Ami, a 31-year-old barrister slash model with a naked Playboy spread in her past. Both have women partners at home, which is a first for Survivor (although there was a closeted lesbian way back in one of the early series). While the most famous of all Survivor contestants, season one’s fat naked guy Richard Hatch was openly gay, the reality show to beat them all has never had a self-confessed lezzo on it before.

After five episodes both are going strong, having aligned themselves with the other older sensible women. The Vanuatu series started with tribes divided on gender lines, and both groups did similar things -“ the older members banded together and voted off the younger, stupider people.

Ami and Scout are very different women. While Scout is a classic Michigan Women’s Folk Festival lesbian, Ami is more like something off The L Word. She’s unashamed about her femme-ness, going so far as lecturing the true series tomboy Twila (who is a straight highway construction worker) on French braiding and how to act more like a girl.

Sadly, they both seem unlikely to win. They’ve earned the respect of their tribe-mates, sure, but that’s probably not enough to break through the men’s alliance of the old, slow and cranky.

While audience-participation reality programs -“ with the exception of the mega-hit Australian Idol -“ are universally suffering (mostly due to bad casting) Survivor, well, survives. It’s probably due to the good character choices and the lack of involvement the audience feels. As Survivor’s insurance salespeople and youth mentors starve and backstab and turn on their alliances, we can sit in our comfortable lounges and just watch it all happen. And unlike shows where the audience decides the winner, Survivor and The Apprentice seem to keep something up their sleeves. Despite being a rabid Survivor viewer, I’ve never picked the winner.

Survivor Vanuatu screens at 7:30pm Mondays on Channel 9.

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