sometimes you’re sitting on your couch, wondering all about the dynamics of the universe, loving your life one second and hating it the next, then back again, when you decide to turn on the 27th season of Survivor on CBS, and you’re like: wha??
or at least, i am.
but seriously, does anyone actually remember how exciting Survivor was when it first aired back in 2000? i mean holy crap, that shit was riveting. 2000 was the start of “I’ll go tally the votes” and “the tribe has spoken” and reward challenges, immunity changes, and that son of a bitch tribal council. people were mean. people were outwitting, outplaying, outlasting, or whatever. and America sat back and watched for the next 13 years.
or at least, i did.
so you can imagine the feelingy feelings that Survivor: Blood and Water evoked the other night, when i realized that Time Warner cable had actually restored our On Demand service. for yet another season, Jeff Probst appeared on my TV with time lapsed videos of close-up wildlife, accompanied by only the very best of sounds from the didgeridoo. castaways appeared on boats, jeeps, heading to play the game, waiting to hear what this year’s twist would be. Blood and Water sets up the scenario as show alumni, some even winners, playing against a tribe of their loved ones — nieces, daughters, fiances, spouses. how fitting, then, that Tina, the winner of season 2 The Australian Outback play against her daughter, who just like me was 9 years old when the show first aired.
Survivor eventually just became something that happened in my house. my family watched the first few seasons if not more, at least until things got crazy and they introduced things like immunity idols, or tribes separated by race (wtf??), etc. then sometime my family picked it up again when i was in high school, and at least my mom has been watching steadily ever since. once even, after finding out that a high school friend also enjoyed the stylings of Survivor, i orchestrated an entire day marathon of season 2, forcing our friend group to make bets on the winner. to those friends now — i am so very sorry.
the college life has never allowed me to watch an entire season, but somehow i still found myself putting on the first episode of Blood and Water yesterday. and as usual, it was followed by an extreme need to watch more. but alas i’ve resisted.
i mean, what does it matter really, whether Colton, a southern gay mama’s boy you love to hate for his sharp tongue, redeems his bad mouthing from last season? what does it matter if all time fan favorite Rupert conquers Redemption Island to get back to his loving wife? or if the newbie loved ones defeat the veterans in the next immunity challenge? it doesn’t, actually. matter. we all know that.
it’s not like Survivor is the only pointless show to do this to me. it was just the first. there’s been American Idol. The Bachelor. The Celebrity Apprentice. then came the less serialized reality soaps, like Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, or Shark Tank, Storage Wars, Pawn Stars. and my personal favorite, Catfish: The TV Show.
oh, how i could write for days on Catfish. it’s not so different than the competitive mind fuckery that drew me to reality TV with Survivor, but in some ways is ten times more delicious because of just how dark and deep it goes. in the span of one hour viewers are well acquainted with two very sad individuals — the first, a lovesick puppy hit by cupid’s arrow through Facebook, or an online message board, or whatever it may be, who thinks it’s totally acceptable that their significant other is actually the person behind a perfect photo, some even after not meeting them in person for multiple years. the second, of course, is the catfisher, who is usually either too emotionally damaged to express their real identity, or in some cases a vindictive person who needs mental help. it’s like Forrest said though, you never really know what you’re gonna get. and that’s the best part.
it’s similar to Survivor, when a big unexpected vote happens, or you suddenly realize that a contestant who told everyone his grandmother died to gain sympathy alliances was lying the entire time. people on Catfish lie about pretty much everything. except sometimes their feelings, of course. oh yes, their feelings were real the entire time. almost like it’s, you guessed it, reality.
it makes me wonder if Survivor et al. is just another part of that hilariously idea of the “comfort zone,” the one i’ve tried so very hard to leave for the past 22 years, and somehow keep finding my way back, even if for a little while to watch the premiere of the 27th season. it feels like home in a weird way, whatever crazy island they’ve shipped these people off to this time. they get to scheme and plot and outwit, outplay, outlast while i sit on my couch and try to convince myself i haven’t outgrown such a stupid show.
maybe someday i will, outgrow it. maybe it’ll be in another 13 years. yeah, that sounds about right.