Friday, December 20, 2002

And Then There Was One

** Do you have Survivor taped and haven't watched it yet? Warning: crazy-huge spoilers ahead! **

Brian is the sole Survivor, and all is somewhat well in the world of Reality TV. I have to admit, had Clay taken home the million, I would not have been able to sit through another episode of Survivor ever again. But the shocking truth was, it was so...damn...close. One vote separated the outcome that I felt was just...and an absolute, messy catastrophe of epic proportions. *cough* Epic in TV Land, that is.

Let's face it. Survivor has taken a sort of ho-hum, been there, done that, "nothing can shock me anymore" feel to it lately. The challenges have become repetitive, the prizes have been similar, and even the rules of the game have varied very little (save for a vicious little twist is this past season, where the tribes were duped by an assumed, yet false, merge). But if anything is tangible and true about how the game works and how the human players should interact, Brian was the clear winner.

Let's face it. Like a master manipulator, unlike any player we've seen since Richard Hatch, Brian played his tribe mates and his opponents like a pack of marked cards. He had a game plan from day one, he had done his homework and studied how people interact and how to use that to his advantage, and he found the peace within himself to outperform his co-survivors when the chips were down.

Which is not to say that he played entirely fairly. But let's face it: life isn't always fair. It's a game and it follows certain rules, but there are equal opportunities presented to all of the players. The winners are often the people who choose to take these opportunities, regardless of what price they may have. Sometimes it works in their favour, like with Brian. And sometimes it doesn't. The key is to keep emotion out of it and maintain a cool composure throughout. Someone should have told that to Ghandia and Ted and three quarters of the rest of the cast, and maybe they could have gotten further ahead.

Brian played with class, but a sinister brand of class. He was a friend, but also a manipulator. An ambassador, yet a competitor. A charming guy, yet an outright liar and back-stabber. He controlled the game with a single-minded purpose. It was his to lose, and everything fell into place according to his designs in the end. Barely.

What has struck me when watching this is how it could have been so close. I admit, Survivor can be tough, and the hardest thing is to understand, as a player, is that many of the decisions that determine your fate in the last few rounds of the game aren't personal, they're part of the game. If I was a player, there would be no question in my mind that I would respect and appreciate the way that Brian played the game. Or so I claim while sitting in my comfortable easy chair.

But as my friend Mike said, and I agree with him, there was a huge "me, me, me" outcry from the jury that was sickening. Bruised egos, accusations based on hearsay, criticisms of integrity, and self-centeredness formed the questions of almost every jury member. I've seen that sort of thing before, but possibly not to this kind of advanced degree. Each of the jury members should have made a personal realization. Brian duped them. He beat them in a game. Suck it up, and let him have the prize that he deserved. Fortunately, four out of the seven made the right decision, although probably not for this reason or one like it. More likely, because they felt that as a person, Brian was a nicer than Clay.

Which is certainly true. Clay, as a person and a player, appalled me. He showed how sexist, stupid, rude, lazy, and argumentative he was on a daily basis. He was a simple opportunist who didn't have the intelligence to realize Brian was using him all along. I mean honestly, when you're a slickster, alcoholic, ex-porn actor who has alienated just about everyone on the jury in your manipulations, who would you want to be compared to when you're side by side?

The big, dumb, loudmouth ex-football player? Too much of a physical threat if Brian wanted to win immunity. The grandma who cries every time a poor, defenseless leaf falls from a tree? No way, juries have already proved to be suckers for the nice people, regardless of how they actually played the game. A Navy diving instructor, who throughout the game proved to be a mental and physical threat and wanted to win almost as bad as she wanted to keep breathing? I think Brian would have rather "grinded" with Ghandia than chosen her for the Final Two.

I think Brian made the right choice with Clay. And yet, it still almost cost him the game. Wacky. But now that he has the cheque in the bank, Brian can focus on re-kindling his porn career, finalizing his possible divorce from his wife (against whom he has recently filed a restraining order), and rolling around in a big sweaty mountain of dollar bills.

Well, the least exciting and possibly most perplexing Survivor yet has drawn to a close. Next up: Survivor 6 in the Amazon. Maybe this time, someone will be crushed and eaten by an anaconda. That would be sweet.


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