Location: Cincinnati, Ohio, United States

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Reality Show Finale Week

Reality Show Finale Week

Ah, the middle of November, which seems to mean its time to wrap up this falls reality TV game shows. I think Survivor, Amazing Race, Apprentice, and Apprentice: Martha all ended this week. I only watch Survivor and Amazing Race, and in a rare turn of events, both games were won by a likeable contestant.

It started on Sunday night with the Survivor finale. This was Survivor season 11, which took place amongst the Mayan ruins of Guatemala. The show was won by Danni, who won in a 6-1 vote over Stephanie. One of the twists in the edition was bringing back Bobbi Jon and Stephanie who earned a spot in Survivor infamy when they were the last two tribe mates left from the suckiest tribe in Survivor history. It seemed like a cheap gimmick and also a way for CBS to say "Guys, sorry about that sorry tribe you wound up with, here you can have a do over" This was reason enough to root against Stephanie, I mean sorry this is Survivor her former two tribes had spoken but she was allowed an unprecedented second appearance. (For a non all-stars game) Also in Palau she played the friendly outgoing person who poured her heart into the game and just couldn't win anything, leading the audience to sort of feel bad for her.

Well in this Survivor she decided to adopt a totally different personality, one that was a bit harsher and not as endearing as in Palau. For someone who didn't manage to win a lot of stuff on her own merits, she seemed to be invited along to partake in more rewards than was fair, while get this, acting like she 'deserved' those rewards, openly telling those who weren't invited to just shut it and thus drove a nice wedge between herself and the other tribe members. This is probably why she made it so far in this edition of the games, was that she managed to alienate herself from so many tribemembers that the remaining players were eager to use her as a final 2 running mate. Danni, on the other hand chose a style of play almost unheard of in Survivor, Danni was never really in a power position in the game until the final immunity challenge, and in fact her head was on the chopping block several times, and yes she used the immunity necklace a couple times to escape sure death, but most of the time she adopted the strategy of making sure there was always someone else in camp that was a bigger annoyance. Its almost like an Amazing Race strategy, forget about winning the popularity contest, jut make sure someone else looses the popularity contest, fly under the radar and let your more flamboyant opponents knock each other out, then come up to claim the prize. In this case it worked like a charm.

The final episode had all the usual Survivor finale components: 4 contestants, 3 tribal councils, 2 immunity challenges (including the final endurance competition), and 1 winner. It also had the "Tribute to Fallen Tribemembers" moment where the finalists (and audience) got one last remembrance of the other 14 players. It also had the "Rite of Passage" that has become popular, whereby the finalists participate in a local traditional ceremony as a blessing. It was here that Stephanie's new personality really came out and provided one last bit of controversy. It seems the shows producers had arranged for some Mayans (who knew the culture was still alive and well, see you CAN learn from reality TV) to lead the finalists in a blessing and sacrifice to the Mayan gods. While the other three finalists were more or less, taking in this ancient Mayan custom and soaking in the local cultureal experience, Stephanie was the one moaning that the honey and sugar and other items used to prepare the spiritual circle and sacrifice could have been better used as nourishment for the tribe. Never mind the fact that Stephanie almost always seems to be in on the food rewards, and that the Mayan's did in fact prepare a feast of tamales to go with the blessing ceremony. So the Mayan's managed to feed Steph and still she was crying over a little spilt food. This cme to a climax when it was a live chicken that was to be offered up in sacrifice. (I was sure PETA would have been all over this) Steph, totally oblivious to the cultural history playing out around her had her one track mind on one thing. Obtaining and eating the chicken.

It was one of those cases where you sort of know you are wrong because she had to convince Lydia to ask the Mayan's if they could eat the chicken, instead of having the guts to ask herself. The Mayan's distinctly said "No" and that should have been the end of it. I mean this is a case where Steph would have better off not to ask at all, and then rescue the chicken from sacrifice as soon as the Mayan's left. At least if they hadn't expressly had the Mayan's deny then the chicken, they would have had the ability to play dumb like "You mean we weren't supposed to eat it" But eat it they did, all except for Rafe. Rafe would have been my favorite to win, as he was doing well in all the challenges and in tribe life. Rafe's fault was when he experienced an Ian moment and decided at the last possible moment to suddenly become all moralistic and release Danni from the secret partnership the two had forged to go to the finals together. Had Rafe not released Danni from that promise, I'm sure we would have had a more interesting final tribal council and vote.

But where was I, yes the chicken It seems that Steph, Lydia (who claimed to be very in tune with the ritual they had just witnessed) and Danni all decided to go against the Mayan's direct orders and went ahead and ate the chicken. As fate would have it eating the chicken was followed up by the worst thundersorm of the season, and further followed up by Lydia being the first to suffer from a need to clear her conscience as she came clean bout the chicken at Tribal Council. Sure it was just superstition, coincidence and a leading question by Jeff, but Lydia spilled the beans about the chicken, and Jeff acted like he was appalled at the tribes actions. This has left viewers to take up the debate on whether the chicken should have been eaten. On one side you have those who will state they are in a survival situation and any food they can source is fair game, and besides they aren't Mayan so no harm no foul in upsetting a god you don't believe in. On the other side are those that profess that Survivor has always tried to impart a feel for the local culture, and that for the context of this game, he specifically said "They are to live like the Mayans did" Sure we may not subscribe to the Mayan culture but it’s a "When in Rome, do as the Romans do" concept, where they are a visitor in the Mayan's land, and as such they should at least respect and observe the Mayan way of life, just out of courtesy. I myself fall into the "Im a guest in their land, so I should at the very least be respectful of the local traditions, even if I don't believe in them"

It also reminds me of a word of advice Jeff gave in the audio commentary on Episode 1 of the Survivor Australia DVD box set. Jeff said that as host players are always coming up to him and others to ask for rules clarifications, especially right after a challenge is explained to them. Its usually players who are smart enough to think outside the box and come up with an alternate strategy, they then want to have a show official bless their idea. Jeff's advice is that if you have an alternative idea, DON'T ask for a rules clarification, because if you do, the show official has to give you the official rules as the challenge was intended to be played, whereas if you don't ask, as long as your tactic wasn't forbidden by the rules, it is fair game. I think asking the Mayan if it was permissible to eat the chicken falls into the same bin, They asked, and got an answer, they should of at least had the decency to respect that answer.

Moving onto Tuesday, on The Amazing Race. This was season 8 of the Amazing Race, a special family edition that way played mostly within the borders of the United States. I am more than happy to report that hometown team, the Linz's took home the first place 1 million dollar prize. The episode didn't start out well for the Linzs with them walking right past a hidden clue box in the Montreal underground (And hey, I've been to Montreal and I have been in that Underground, it’s a FANTASTIC place), then they got lost finding the ice rink for the Curling competition. "Sweep Sweep Sweep Harder Harder!" Count me in the group that became fascinated with Curling during the 2002 Olympic games. (At least it looked more interesting than rolling logs along a roller coaster like course) The least liked team, the Weavers were well ahead of both the Linzs and Bransens upon arrival at the Stade Olympique, which was Montreal's Olympic Stadium (hey I saw the outside of that too!) Teams were sent on an EVIL needs in a heystack to find on of three sets of plane tickets hidden somewhere in the stadium. (Attached to the back of one of the seats, the stadium has over 56,000 seats, that is over 18,000 seats per set of tickets to be searched, then the sets of tickets were so close together it didn't really matter which set they received. The Weavers totally melted down here, claiming the game unfair, practically quitting, and showing once again they had no idea how the game was played when they kept moaning "But we were here FIRST" Being anyplace first only counts for the leg prizes at the pit stop, and the final finish mat. They then flew to Toronto where the Linz's and Bransens really pulled it together, and the Weavers just kept losing more time. I did note a little Easter egg here, one one of the detour options, a team member had to climb aboard a old fashioned style sailing ship (after sailing to the old time sailing ship in a more modern sailboat), once at the old ship, the chosen team member had to climb up 100' on the ships rigging (yes they had a climbing harness), at the 100' point there was nautical flag flying that the team member had to retrieve and turn into the captain to get their next clue. I noted the nautical flag happened to be the flag symbol for "R" Appropriate for a Race, isn’t it. In the respecting others property category, it was noted when the Linz's did this task that the climbing harness was outfitted with a caribeaner to hold the flag for the person while they climbed back down. The Linz's used the caribeaner the proper way, the Weavers just dropped the flag 100' to the deck. I know its not a national flag or anything like that, but have some respect for others property. Had a breeze started and that flag flew overboard, they should have been thrown overboard after it.

Anyway, when all was said and done, it all game down to a geography test. A giant jigsaw with a piece for each US State, Canadian Province and Central American nation. 71 pieces total, one person from each team had to put it together while the others were powerless and just had to watch, while they stodd mere yards from the finish mat.

But, as I said earlier the Linz's won the one million dollar prize, and the remaining two finalists were allowed to compete in one more challenge for a new car. The Bransens won the challenge of taking 12 magnets representing landmarks or challenges during the race, and attach them to the big map they just created in the final Roadblock. I like the "What have you learned" type of challenged.

And thus ends another reality show season, and starting next February the spring reality show season starts with Amazing Race returning to its more traditional format, and Survivor returning to Panama for the third time. The Exile Island concept has me intrigued though adding the possibility of getting banished alone away from your tribe on Exile Island.


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