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Survivor: Thailand – The Trip to See the Live Finaleby David Bloomberg -- 12/31/2002
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It was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up – having a chance to attend the live Survivor: Thailand finale and reunion show. Sure, it meant spending almost as much time traveling to and from L.A. as I was actually in L.A., but the time was well-spent.
I arrived on Wednesday, the 18th, with some time to spare. That evening I met RealityNewsOnline writer Dana Walker, who had been a contestants on Cannonball Run 2001, wrote the column Reality From La-La Land for us for a while, and then covered American Idol for the site. But with as much e-mail as we’ve exchanged, this was my first opportunity to meet her.
Since we’re both reality TV type people, where else could we go but Belly, the bar owned by Big Brother 2 alum, Mike Boogie, where other reality TV participants are said to hang out. Well, ‘twas not to be on this night. There weren’t many people there at all, which was just fine, as Dana and I were able to sit and talk.
The next day was the big one – finale day! But the finale wouldn’t begin until late afternoon; we were to be at the studio by 3:45. In the morning I went to pick up my audience pass and shop at the CBS store for Survivor stuff. While I was there, four others came in. I was wearing my RealityNewsOnline t-shirt and one of them noticed it. The four of them were from various websites as well, and we introduced ourselves. There was Wezzie from SurvivorMaps (that’s pronounced with a long “e” incidentally), Mister Slippery/Owen from SurvivorSucks and the Acme Brain Trust, and Katey and Thumper also from ABT (and probably elsewhere as well). I joined up with the four of them for the rest of the day (which they probably regretted when I started looking for t-shirts to buy my kids – you wouldn’t believe how difficult that was; hell, I had finally picked out a good one when I realized it had “Hollywood” misspelled with two “d”s at the end!). I must admit that I don’t follow the message boards too carefully, but because we all shared a common interest in Survivor (obviously), we had plenty to talk about!
After stocking up with some items at the CBS store – and helping the people operating it dig into still-unopened boxes – we moved on. Eventually we ended up at Hollywood Boulevard, walking around a bit and looking at the stars in the sidewalk. At Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, we saw the handprints and footprints, and also found out that if you’re in Hollywood with some time to kill, that is the place to be to get free tickets to various shows. They were giving away tickets to Jay Leno, Cedric the Entertainer, The Parkers, and others. Alas, all of them were taping at roughly the same time as Survivor, so none of us were trading!
Soon enough our time was up and we had to head over to the CBS studio. This is where the fun truly began.
As we walked to the studio from the front gate, we saw people for whom the Survivor fan only needs a first name: Rodger, Peter, Big Tom, and more were there for photos and media opportunities. Indeed, Big Tom seemed to be at the center of attention as we were going in. Just ahead of us, a bearded Clay walked in – aha, he was to look as he did during his time in Thailand. We had our first clue to how the finale would go down.
We had to keep going to our entrance, where we were taken into individual rooms and strip-searched by Colleen, who was wearing leather and holding a whip in case anybody acted up. Oh, wait – sorry, confusing fantasy and reality. Never mind that last part.
Actually, we did have to go through security and leave any cameras, cell phones, beepers, and the like behind (we’d been told not to bring ‘em beforehand). Then… we waited for the doors to open.
While there, we met other Survivor website folks, such as Reduntantly Redundant, Party Flavor, Gopher, Beth Brigham, Delilah39, and Murtz Jaffer from sites including Survivor Phoenix, Voted Off, SurvivorNews, realiiity, Survivor Chatter, and Survivor-Central (I know there were others, and I’m sorry if I left you off the list!). And we scouted for former contestants, seeing Jeff Varner and others.
Once inside the studio, we were treated to a replica of the Tribal Council set. The front rows seemed to be designated for Survivor relatives and others close to the show. The right side of the audience (facing the stage) was filled with former contestants. The left side held others, including those of us from websites. The studio only held 480 people, so every seat was a great one, and there was a bank of monitors (put together to form one large screen) on each side, plus monitors hanging from the ceiling.
As we all got settled, Teresa came by to say hello to Murtz Jaffer of Survivor-Central. Before she left, I introduced myself and got a hug in response! Well, the rest of the show could have been lousy – I had been hugged by Teresa! But, of course, the rest of the time was great anyway.
As we waited for the show to begin (or somewhere in the middle – I admit I’m a bit hazy on this memory), everybody was given a buff from this season. We were told, for the first of many times, about how the live portion of the finale would be cut in without any break or commercial, and asked to be completely silent at this time. Having recently been hit by a minor infection that had caused my asthma to act up – often in the form of a cough – this part worried me a bit.
Indeed, Mark Burnett himself addressed the crowd and said this would be the “greatest twist in television history.” OK, perhaps that was a bit of exaggeration on his part, but the point was not lost on the audience. Burnett also welcomed all of the previous contestants, “even Jerri.” Ouch.1 2 Next-->
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