Something to read while we wait ..3 hrs and counting ****
Sunday, December 12, 2004
Vanuatu Vice: A 'Survivor' addict comes clean
By MEREDITH GOAD, Portland Press Herald Writer
I don't smoke. I drink only occasionally. Up until the time producer Mark Burnett came along, my biggest vice was probably chocolate.
Now it's "Survivor."
Whew. There, I said it.
I am not a geek, I promise. I thought it was beyond corny the first time Jeff Probst snuffed a contestant's torch and solemnly spoke that goofball line: "The tribe has spoken."
I'd no more wear one of those "Survivor" buffs, the colorful fabric kerchiefs they're always advertising, than sport a Hawaiian shirt on a vacation to Paris.
I get a little chill whenever that tribal yell and rhythmic drumbeat comes thumping through my TV set.
My friends and family know better than to call me between 8 and 9 Thursday nights.
And, I am embarrassed to admit, I have actually checked e-Bay to see how much "Survivor" memorabilia are going for in the after-the-show charity auction, dreaming that some day an immunity idol might be within my grasp.
(It never is: Some other fan, more pathetic and wealthier than I am, always shells out thousands of dollars for the coveted totems.)
I got hooked on the show the first season, in 2000, when Rudy, the retired military man, made me howl as he wandered the jungle in a crucial trivia challenge, answering almost every question, "I don't know."
Sue the truck driver reeled me in with her unexpected and relentless tirade against the survivor she felt betrayed her. When she said she wouldn't give her friend a drink of water even if she were dying of thirst, I still remember how my mouth fell open; I had never seen a TV show quite like this before.
Through subsequent seasons, when friends and co-workers have discovered my guilty pleasure, I've defended it by pointing out that when you have an intense, stressful job like mine, you don't feel much like watching PBS when you get home.
But I no longer make excuses. For one thing, I've discovered that most people who scoff disdainfully at reality television shows have never actually watched one.
To me, they're no better than the uptight busybodies who ask people to boycott a movie that hasn't even been released yet because they heard there might be something offensive in it.
Of all the reality shows, "Survivor" is the original, the alpha, the primal source from which all other shows sprang forth. Fire represents life, Probst says at every tribal council. So does this show. The buffest and brightest aren't always the ones who get ahead.
People lie and scheme to achieve their goals. Watching the final episode is often like going to a high school reunion, where the prom queen has grown fat and the guy you had a crush on in third period is on trial for being a stalker.
When I first heard there was going to be a Mainer on "Survivor," it gave me a little thrill.
But Zoe, the lobster fisher featured on "Survivor Marquesas" in 2002, turned out to be a big disappointment in almost every way. (Sorry, Zoe.)
This season I cast my lot with Gorham's Julie Berry - despite her cheesy audition tape. With every episode she seemed smarter. She pulled strings behind the scenes, got along with almost everyone, and kept her mouth shut.
Too bad it didn't last. After coming "this close" to winning immunity Thursday night, she was betrayed by Chris (whom I suspect may have just thrown away a million dollars) and voted off.
This season I took a step further into "Survivor" fandom by joining the fantasy league on CBS' "Survivor" Web site. I admit I felt a little loser-ish, but hey, first place is a new Pontiac G6.
In addition to Julie, my initial team was made up of hunky FBI agent Brady; Chad, the California teacher who lost a leg to cancer; and Ami, the barista who played the game brilliantly until she started wearing her thoughts and emotions on her sleeve.
In the fantasy league, you win points every time one of your survivors cries, chops a coconut, wins a reward or immunity, goes into the ocean, or gets naked (a category Julie has helped me out in a lot).
You lose points whenever someone sits out a challenge or gets voted off.
With only half the points of the leader, I'm not close to winning that new car.
This entire season has been something of a letdown. Sure there have been a couple of twists toward the end of the game, but no one has lied about their grandmother dying to gain sympathy points, as one survivor did a couple of seasons ago. And the Vanuatu survivors are too well fed. Give me the rat-eating skeletors of the first season.
Still, I know I'll be coming back for more next year. Probst's dimples alone are worth the trip.
Staff Writer Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at: http://pressherald.mainetoday.com/audience/stories/041212survivor.shtml