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Survivor: Thailand - A Tale of Two Thailands, Revisitedby O'Sean Aieghlans -- 11/13/2002
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Here we are at the half-way point of Survivor: Thailand, and we can revisit the "Two Thailands" theory of team interaction set up in the original article published after week two. With this bit of perspective we can continue to make a critical - and perhaps even philosophical - analysis of the two Thailands now on display on CBS. Which two Thailands are these? Survivor: Thailand as approached by Sook Jai and Chuay Gahn - widely divergent approaches to the task of winning at Survivor. And we can see whose team picking strategy got the upper hand.
Viewers know that two teams always open the season and then eventually the teams merge. While the teams have yet to formally merge, they are currently sharing the same beach and cave home, to the consternation of some.
This year the teams are markedly different in outlook and philosophy, and for that we have to thank the people who chose those teams, the two oldest members: Jan, a 53-year-old first-grade teacher from Tampa, Florida, and Jake, the 61-year-old land broker from McKinney, Texas.
Who would have thought that Jan would still be in the game after week seven? She's flying under the radar - or something. But all the Chuay Gahn members have been charmed for weeks now. They have won three immunity challenges in a row. Who would have thought this would happen in week one, when Jake chose all the young folks for his team?
Now Sook Jai has only three team members left: Jake, Ken, and the diabolical Penny, whose popularity rating plunged 33% in one week as viewers got hip to her scheming ways. She is, it's been revealed, rather manipulative, and with that Morgan Fairchild smirk, she's like one of those mean sorority girls in a run-of-the-mill college flic. At the same time, Shii Ann's popularity has soared, even after being voted out. We know who won that cat fight. It was, on the face of it, daringly refreshing that Shii Ann spoke her mind when the Jeff squeeze got her in the false-merge fiasco. Shii Ann knows a lot, and she knows how to play the game, but - just like the rarefied air in the Big Brother house - once you're there, anything can happen. She wasn't able to pull out of her downward spiral and couldn't keep her mouth shut and lost the Penny Shii-Ann Smirkdown.
Chuay Gahn, the erstwhile forlorn team whose average age was, at the beginning, 39, is looking pretty good. Not only are they way ahead, but they're still friendly. How did they do it? Well for one thing, they were not obsessed with youth when the team was formed in the first place.
In America, where commercially-marketed culture seems to have discovered that young people do the most spending (of their parent's money), youth is held up high. Somehow this idea crossed over to other areas as well, and now youth is held up as some kind of ultimate ideal. And it is an ideal. It's just not an ideal for competitiveness. Close sports observers will know that many aerobic-capacity based sports such as marathon running and basketball are not dominated by twenty-year-olds. The sports with the greatest premium on youth appears to be gymnastics. It's only the fourteen-year-old gymnasts who can compete without feeling the pain, whose bones are less brittle, and who have time to overcome their broken bones and torn ligaments since they are so young. This and the fact that they don't have any perspective on life, which allows them to spend every waking hour at the gym and not complain or give up.
I have to admit that, even in my prior article, I did not believe that Chuay Gahn would be able to be dominant in the immunity competitions. It's a common bias to think that young people can win it all, but that's no excuse for my ignorance. Perhaps we've seen youth win too often on television; and this winning might be a subjective effect. After all, there are few, if any, ugly people on television, young or old. And few criminals get away with the crime, either. After years of this, you somehow get the impression that beautiful people always solve the crime and law cases are resolved in 45 minutes.
"He was acting like a whiney baby!" whined Robb on a show a few weeks back after he choked Clay. (A moment that made it into the Reality TV Hall of Shame.) This one incident sums it all up. Sometimes we accuse others of what we suspect we are guilty of ourselves, don't we, Robb. All the while Sook Jai was feeling superior because of some illusion that they were 'cool' or 'young' (or just what bug did they have up their chimney about themselves anyway?) - Chuay Gahn stole the rug right out from under them.
But just how did Chuay Gahn do it, and how did Sook Jai flub it up so badly? From the very start, Sook Jai was not cohesive. The hatred was there, and the competitiveness caused much stress. I can only liken this stress and competitiveness to a competition for affection and for love from the parental figure. Whether this parental figure is the 'parent' Jake, or 'authority' Jeff, or the imagined pressuring 'peer group,' or - what is more likely - the television audience, the competitiveness was there in Sook Jai and many of them succumbed. All of them wanted to please and be accepted. This kind of acceptance is more important for younger people - because it is closer to their experience. Having only come out of the family arena a few years previously, it is still foremost in their minds as a dynamic structure, and their response to it, a clamoring for attention and a putting down of their 'siblings' in the parent's eyes is still primary in their minds as a solution to this psychological drama.1 2 Next-->
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