I hate to admit it, but I'm a long-time Survivor fan. I was hooked in during the first series of Survivor
when Gervase convinced Ramona to eat a rat and remarked that it "tastes
like chicken." After that, I watched the show faithfully for several
years, and am even the proud owner of a Survivor: Marquesas
buff. For those of you non-fans, a "buff" is a stretchy-spandex
headband/tube top/do-rag that the Survivors wear to indicate which
tribe they're in by the color of the buff. Yes, I'm that uncool. I
own a Survivor buff.
Despite my former obsession with all-things Survivor, my
interest started to wane in the last few seasons. The people on the
show were just not that interesting to me. They all seemed remarkably
the same--the same as each other and as Survivors past.
The show has been long enough to develop its own stereotypes--The
Villain, The Ingenue, The Couple, The Old Guy, The Beefcake with Two
Survivor has always been touted a "social experiment" to see how people of different backgrounds would react to harsh conditions. More than anything, it has convinced me that Sartre was right and "Hell is other people." Right now, my personal vision of hell is being stuck on an island watching the toothsome Parvati work her "assets."
I read about the controversy surrounding the new series and thought that people who were upset about it had clearly never watched the show. It didn't upset me because it is not meant to be taken seriously, be any kind of social commentary, or reflect any ersatz "reality" other than the fact that in life, some people are lying, conniving jerks who will do anything to get ahead or in this case, win a million dollars. That is sadly a trans-racial, trans-cultural affliction.
Over the years, it has not usually been the most deserving or the
most conniving person who wins--it's the lesser of two evils. The good
news is that when the biggest jerk wins Survivor, you can
pretty much count on seeing him in the news later, usually in the form of a
mugshot accompanied by a complete listing of the charges on his felony
I don't recall that many Asian-Americans being on this show before, so the novelty and draw for me to watch this time around was that Asians were represented at all. As a longtime Survivor watcher, I can only think of a couple of Asian-Americans of any nationality who were on this show over the years. I really didn't care if they were on the same team or different teams, just as long as they were in some way represented as being part of the social fabric.
Even with the race gimmick, it has become clear that for me, Survivor has run its course. The last two shows have literally put me to sleep, and it has taken at least two viewings to get through them. It's the same old editing cliches (show people conspiring, cut to rat or snake in the jungle); the same old challenges (running with bags of sand, obstacle courses--we've seen these before); the same old editing tricks (make it look like one person is getting voted off, then shed doubt on it). No surprises here.
Last week, it was apparent from the beginning that metal-dude Billy was on his way out. The whole appeal of this show is building suspense toward "who will be voted out this time?" So, when they tell you that it is Billy within the first ten minutes, show you why Billy should be the one to be voted out and the tribe throws a challenge just to vote him out, what exactly is the point of watching the rest of the show? The highlight of last week's show was Billy's assertion that, "I may be Hispanic, but metal is my culture." So, does that mean he has no loyalty to his tribe if they don't dig Metallica? Billy, at least, brought the funny to this otherwise boring, boring show. I was a little bit sorry to see him go so early. It would have been great fun to watch "Survivor: Stalker Edition" as he tried to make a love connection with Candace. It would be fun for us, but not so much for her.
I did enjoy seeing the Asian team, and started to root for Team Yobo (TM Stefania) of Becky and Yul. I'd like to think I would root for Becky and Yul if they were not Korean, but the truth is, I probably paid way more attention to them because they are both Korean. Both of them seem like very nice, normal people, which makes me wonder how they got on this show in the first place. This must be a type of affirmative action for nice people, although they generally don't last long on this show. I'm all set to order a Team Yobo buff. Maybe we can get a group discount.
This week's episode was a little more interesting, although I was a bit puzzled as to why the teams merged after only two weeks of the "social experiment." What's up with that? The show is filmed well in advance of the publicity, so I don't think they were reacting to the negative press they were getting. Mark Burnett, the evil genius behind Survivor, most likely said, "Let's publicize this as a racial-thing, then we'll get people to watch and pull the rug out from under them and go back to the old formula. Better safe and rich than sorry and canceled."
This week's show featured a challenge that they have done before, and the only "drama" was in whether our homegirl Becky was going home or not. I thought the much more annoying and useless Flicka or Cao Boi should have gotten their torch snuffed out, but evidently, they have formed some kind of "vibe alliance" that lets them be the swing votes. I find it hilarious that a guy who calls himself "Cowboy" has instantly bonded with a girl who asks to be called "Flicka."
Cao Boi inexplicably said to Flicka, "You're not Asian, but I love you." What the hell did that mean? He didn't seem to love his Asian teammates one whit, since he was the one advocating that Becky should be voted off for being too much of a "princess". I didn't see any evidence of that, but Ozzy seemed to think she should be voted off because she didn't throw herself at him. Because that's what smart, cute girls do, you know. Throw themselves at Ozzy at every opportunity because he's a young dude who can shimmy up a tree.
Aside from the repetition of challenges, editing, and scenery and the somewhat boring cast, the other thing that puts me to sleep is Jonathan's voice. Jonathan sounds exactly like Alan Alda to me, and Alan Alda's voice is like a narcotic to me. Everytime he opens his mouth, I nod off. That can't be good.
One surprising tidbit...I was under the impression that Cao Boi was
a much older guy, but according to the CBS website, he is only 42.
That's three years younger than me, so either he is lying or I
seriously need to keep dying my hair.
Overall, as a long-time Survivor fan, I am disappointed with this season. When Yul and Becky are gone, I'll be watching Ugly Betty.
PS: If you want to see some other Korean reality show contestants kicking ass and making their mama proud, check out the Cho Brothers on The Amazing Race.
Photo of Yul from CBS website. For a full live-blogging recap, see Reappropriate .