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Survivor: Outwitted, Outplayed, Outlasted

In order to not get voted off the island on the Survivor reality series, contestants have to outwit, outplay and outlast the other tribe members. Maybe it’s time someone sent the producers a memo: This particular reality show has outwitted itself by becoming way too predictable. Put out the fire, boys, the party’s over.


I didn’t start out watching the original Survivor series, the first real reality show created for a wide audience in 2000. It sounded kind of lame when I read about it in TV Guide: 16 Americans were dropped off on a remote island only to find themselves warring with the elements and each other. But a good friend of mine was watching the show religiously and invited us over for the finale party at the end of the season. That’s the night when Richard Hatch won the $1 million, much to the surprise of all gathered there and across the country. How could the bad guy win? It was an omen of things to come.


Last season’s version of the show, Survivor: Panama, was just a compilation of all the worst elements that we have seen time and time again on this show and it’s getting tiresome.


To begin, tribes always splinter along age lines. Older members are usually the first ones voted off, no matter what. They are seen as less physically capable and, therefore, liabilities. Forget that they have lived long enough to be as wily as coyotes. Doesn’t matter. Old people go first.


It has also become fairly routine during the early days on the island that tribe members will always vote off anybody who can actually do something: Make fire to warm the others? You’re gone. Fish till you drop to provide much needed protein for the tribe? You’re gone. Be smart or athletic or a leader and guess what? You are gone.


Even though the show starts out with different tribes competing as a group for rewards and a continued chance at the money, every series eventually comes down to the Big Merge when the game changes and individuals are forced to compete against each other. Hatch’s legacy was showing players how to form alliances, which gives individuals the numbers they need to escape being voted out at Tribal Council at least for awhile.


If one tribe has more members than the other when The Merge happens, the first tribe members voted off are always the members of the smaller tribe. Always. The producers try to build drama through strategic editing of conversations meant to convince viewers there might be an upset in the works; that contestants might be considering breaking ranks and voting for someone other than the already designated person from the smaller tribe. This almost never happens. Faithful viewers have been wise to this manipulation for years now and don’t even harbor a stray thought that things will not go as expected.


And the only real mystery left about Survivor? Why can’t women ever join ranks when they are in the majority and form a successful alliance to oust the men? Even though several women have won the series, it has never been because a women’s alliance stayed intact. This was never clearer than at the end of one series when the only tribe members left were women (who had vowed to make sure a woman won the money) and a single man. That man won the $1 million. Doesn’t make sense, but again, it happens every time.


So there are no more surprises about this show which began the headlong rush to air reality shows 24/7 on TV.  Even the scandalous attempt this season to divide tribe members along ethnic lines only shows how desperate the producers are for an audience. Survivor long ago outlasted my interest.


By Teresa K. Flatley



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