Reality High Test Results, February 26, 2003: The New Survivor Classby Brian James -- 02/26/2003
Ah, yes. Another new semester!
Time to make one final check of my supplies.
New lesson planner? Check.
New attendance book? Check.
100 economy-sized bottles of extra strength Excedrin?
This semester was going to be a little different. Normally my class has 40 students - 16 from Survivor and 24 from The Amazing Race. However, CBS, in its infinite wisdom, decided that viewers would rather watch some reheated version of Star Search than The Amazing Race. To which I said, channeling one of the more memorable moments from this season's American Idol, "I beg to DIF-FUH!" CBS immediately changed their minds because I have so much clout over there and The Amazing Race will be back on starting next week!
Yeah, right. It was more like, "So DIF-FUH!" There's still no official word on when the fourth season of The Amazing Race starts, so I'll just deal with it when and if it happens. Until then, my class consists solely of the 16 Survivor: The Amazon contestants.
Incidentally, many of you wondered last semester why my class doesn't expand to cover all reality shows. Fair enough question. First of all, there are only so many hours in the day. Secondly, the quiz format really only works with shows with a game or strategy element. Not that people on dating-oriented shows don't make just as big of asses out of themselves on a regular basis, but as far as any pre-show teaching, what is there really to say beyond, "be yourself and use common sense?" And even then, most contestants throw one or both of those parts completely out the window. I've found that The Mole - the regular edition at least - while interesting, tends to have lower-key contestants who make less spectacular mistakes and thus isn't a great source of material for this format. And as far as I'm a Celebrity - Get Me Out Of Here!, if you can rouse yourself to have even a modicum of interest in a catfight between Alana Stewart and "Downtown" Julie Brown, hey, more power to you and I'm sure you can use it as credit for penance sometime down the road. I and most of America, however, can think of better uses for my time. Thus, the only shows I feel really work for this format are Survivor, The Amazing Race, and Big Brother, although we'll see what my coverage duties are at that point before I promise the latter will be covered here.
Anyway, I was looking forward to the change of a smaller student roster. More intimate setting, more focused lesson plans... I thought it would work well. I looked over the list of names. Hmm...we had our third Rob(b) in a row. An older guy named Roger who doesn't spell his name the same as the previous older guy named Rodger. Another Jenna, spelled exactly the same as the previous Jenna. Jenna would be joined by Jeanne, JoAnna, and Janet. Oh, that was going to be easy to keep track of. Thanks, Mark Burnett. Why not just have ALL "J" women in Jaburu? Were Jennifer, Joan, Jeannette, and Janna busy?
So it was with high hopes that I watched the new students shuffle in the first day of class. I introduced myself and expressed my hopes that this would be an informative yet relaxing, fun semester.
Well, THAT was completely shot to hell after only the first question:
1. True or False: Women can perform just as well as men on this show.
By 2003, I had just assumed it was a harmless no-brainer, but it wound up polarizing the men and the women to such an extent that they moved their desks to opposite sides of the room and screamed at each other across the divide. Before I could say anything, Jenna seized the masking tape off my desk and taped a line down the middle of the classroom. "This is No MAN's Land!" she declared.
"I'm surprised you didn't call your boyfriend on your cellphone to do that for you!" shouted Rob.
"Shut up, you Magic 8-Ball-toting freak!" shouted Shawna.
"Oh yeah? Let's see you untie a simple knot, you useless eye candy!" yelled Ryan.
Ah yes. The first Excedrin of the semester is always the sweetest. I swear, it was like watching a Brady Bunch episode written by David Mamet. At any moment I thought they were going to start marching around with picket signs reading "Boys' Clubhouse" and "Girls' Clubhouse." Or argue over whether the classroom needed a rowboat or a sewing machine. Because everything counts when you're building a house of cards. Then I pictured Heidi dressed as a Frontier Scout and Rob dressed as a Sunflower Girl solemnly saying, "I am a little sunflower..." and had to cover my mouth as I laughed.
I heard Ryan exclaim, "Oh my God, it's turned into a sausagefest!" I snapped out of my visions to notice that the guys were now arguing among themselves over... well, let's just say it's the first and hopefully last time I've had to seize all rulers and declare them contraband. Meanwhile, the women had let the class rabbits, Mason and Julia, out of their pens and they were hopping toward the men's side with "I HATE MEN" signs on their backs and "help me" expressions on their faces. It was complete and utter chaos.
I regained charge of the classroom and channeled their energy into an "Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better" sing-off. The women won easily as JoAnna had the "anything you can sing, I can sing louder" part all sewn up. Funny, though - I didn't recall it ever having any "glory"s or "hallelujah"s before.
The men were just as flabbergasted at losing here as they were on the show, where they showed up to the first immunity challenge waving their long, thick machetes only to lose when Daniel had trouble straddling the big, thick log. I swear, sometimes the slash fanfic just writes itself. For slash fanfic authors, I mean. I'm sure there's bound to be stories like "Amazon Amour" showing up on the Web before long, but not written by me. Speaking of Daniel, is he capable of doing anything besides making grandiose statements, blinking, and looking for the nearest camera? And is Matthew even on this show? He's making Amy and Maurice from High School Reunion look like camera hogs.
Anyway, JoAnna's singing brings us neatly to question 2:
2. What's the best way to conduct yourself when fishing?
A. Be as quiet as possible so as not to disturb the fish
JoAnna and Jeanne answered "B." This might have surprised me more had I not seen their answer to the next question:
3. Out of the following, which is the most important element of rowing a boat?
Once again, they opted for "B" when the correct answer was "A." Shut up, Leona Helmsley. Now, I can understand a lot of things, but why on earth would you leave the oars sticking up in the middle of a river in the first place? Especially one chock full of dangerous wildlife? Not that they were the only ones with slightly out-of-whack priorities:
4. Upon reaching the site, what should be your tribe's immediate highest priority?
Jenna chose "C." I don't know - maybe her mother was overzealous with the "Always wear clean underwear in case you get hit by a bus" advice growing up. Not that I can imagine anyone wanting to wear dirty underwear if they didn't have to, but when you have clean underwear and no shelter, there's a problem.
Perhaps some skilled, focused leadership could solve the problem. Don't hold your breath waiting for Jeanne to step up to the plate, though, based on her response to the next question:
5. What's the most efficient way to guarantee your tribe has a good sense of direction and focus?
A. Become its leader
Jeanne opted for "C." We've seen her grumble in confessionals a few times now about the lack of organization and leadership in the tribe, and each time I find myself screaming the same thing: "Gee, sorry someone bound and gagged you so YOU can't do it!" It would be one thing if she added that she was reluctant to take charge for fear of being voted off, but it just seems like general griping that isn't solving anything or serving any productive purpose. If everyone sits around waiting for someone else to make the first move, nothing's going to get done. And clearly, something needs to be done, because after six days, they STILL have no shelter. They have something that resembles a raft. And for all we know, they may need to use it as a raft soon if they keep leaving their boat right side up during storms so it fills with water. Not to mention that somehow they've lost their flint(!). Clearly, something needs to change, and fast, because right now it's like watching the tribal equivalent of Charlie Brown's All-Stars.
However, Christy's solution isn't exactly going to solve the problem either:
6. You're fed up with feeling like your tribemates aren't pulling their weight. What's the best way to handle it?
A. Shut up and deal
Christy chose "C," and it went over about as well as you'd imagine. Regardless of whether the other people were slacking or not, people don't like to feel like they're being attacked or having accusations flung at them; it puts them immediately on the defensive. And the whole "I'm the only one..." routine smacks of martyrdom, which turns people off as well. I could understand why Deena felt frustrated with Christy. Of course, she didn't help the situation any by passive-aggressively throwing some palms down in front of Christy, but then Christy escalated it further by declaring that now she wanted to go fishing instead but needed someone to go with her. Who's going to be champing at the bit to join her with that behavior? The whole thing was just one of those situations where no one was really right, no one came out ahead, and it just wound up being a completely unproductive waste of time and energy.
I understand that Christy feels frustrated because she feels isolated and ignored, and I can see where she would feel that way. I've also seen a lot written on message boards and the like about how the others have to be nicer to her and more accommodating of her, but unfortunately, they don't have to. Let's face it: we do not live in a nice, caring, nurturing society anymore. We just don't. With some rare and wonderful exceptions, most people today are completely focused on their own wants and needs and don't go out of their way to help others, and that's just how things are. Should it be that way? Ideally, no. But that's the reality, and if you're going to survive in life you have to look at reality rather than idealism.
To look at things another way - from my own personal experience - until I feel comfortable in a situation, I'm extremely shy and introverted - to the point where sometimes parties and bars and clubs and things can be almost terrifying for me. Now, sometimes I'll luck out and there'll be one of those truly great people there who run around making sure everyone's introduced and included, but more often than not, if I don't make the effort to mingle, I'm going to wind up alone in the corner absolutely miserable. No one's going to come hold my hand or ask me what's wrong. It's up to me to get out there. And there's still times when I feel like that's unfair and people should be approaching me and why do I always have to make the effort, yadda yadda, and maybe it isn't always fair. But it's no one else's responsibility but my own.
I like Christy overall and hope she does well, but I'm starting to see similar "in the corner" behavior from her and it's not going to get her anywhere but Loser Lodge in the long run. For example, instead of sitting behind and stewing at everyone leaving without her, she could have called after them, because maybe it was completely unintentional - it seemed like they almost forgot Heidi too because she was in the "bathroom." Instead, she winds up sitting there dwelling on it being intentional, which will cause her to lash out at the others, which will cause them to lash out in return, and again, it's just a mess. If people aren't including her in things, ultimately, it's no one else's responsibility but Christy's to make sure they do.
Janet's another one who seemed to have a case of the "Poor Poor Pitiful Me"s at times as she exclaimed on numerous occasions that this was much harder than she expected. On the one hand, there's something to be said for knowing your own limits and knowing when you're in over your head, which is what she seemed to do. On the other hand, I'm picturing women who didn't make the final cut across America screaming, "I got rejected for HER?!"
Of course, poor communication wasn't exclusive to Jaburu:
6. You're the "caller" for a challenge in which your tribemates are blindfolded. Which of the following should be the least important to you?
A. Good eyesight
Butch answered "C." Oh dear. He meant well, but by the end of the challenge he was practically reduced to calling out, "Hey you!" Of course, maybe he was just rattled by JoAnna, who was apparently under the mistaken impression she was auditioning for NYPD Blue: "DROP THAT PIECE!!! DROP IT!!!" Yikes.
"Yikes" and JoAnna also go hand-in-hand with the next question:
7. True or False: You want to make a good impression on your tribe. Now's the perfect time to go spouting off about controversial beliefs!
Roger and JoAnna both answered "True." Hoo boy. Have we learned nothing from Kimmi, Frank, and Peter? First up, on the men's side, faster than you can say, "Boy, the way Glenn Miller played," Roger and Alex launched into their own personal All in the Family rerun as they debated homosexuality, except they didn't have Asa from One Life to Live pop up as Archie/Roger's old war buddy who turned out to be gay. Rob stood there the whole time grinning like the Cheshire Cat as he plotted to use this to Roger's disadvantage, so would that make him Gloria? Oh dear. Now I'm picturing Butch in drag running in shouting, "ROOOOOOOGER!!! Here's your beer!"
(Speaking of '70s sitcom characters, picture Jeanne with her buff around her head. Now picture her saying, "Mare." I swear - Rhoda Morgenstern lives!)
Meanwhile, over in Jaburu, JoAnna decided that the immunity idol brought EVIL into the tribe and is causing all the rain! When exactly did she morph into a Passions character? Maybe she was set off by Jeff Probst referring to the immunity idol as something they'd "covet." I have to wonder if he did that deliberately to set her off. Or maybe the immunity idol made him say it! Because it's EVIL!
The hangup was that it's referred to as an immunity IDOL, and despite there being absolutely no worshipping of it involved, Joanna's being ludicrously literal about the interpretation of the word. When Jeanne told her to maybe think of it as a symbol (I've personally just always viewed it as a trophy of sorts), she snitted, "It's called 'idol' for a REASON!" Oh good grief. So every time she sees American Idol Kelly Clarkson, does she scream, "HEATHEN! HEATHEN!"? Because it would make about as much sense as blaming the idol for rain. In a RAINFOREST. Where it's raining on the men's tribe too sans idol. Furthermore, it's not like this is some new twist. The show has had an immunity idol for FIVE SEASONS. What - did she think Mark Burnett was going to go, "Oh, gee, JoAnna might be offended so I'd better change its name!"? And if this is such a huge issue to her, WHAT IS SHE DOING ON THIS SHOW?
The last person to bring up the notion of idols and spirits on the show was "Mother Africa" herself, Linda, and personally, I think having the two of them on the same tribe would prove to be highly entertaining:
Linda: The immunity idol goddess won't stay in a house of conflict - JoAnna: BLASPHEMER!!! My hand's going in your face!
I won't even get into my own personal views on Roger's notions of homosexuality being "unnatural" - I mean, by this time, most of you know I'm gay and pretty outspoken so you can pretty much guess what I'd have to say anyway. But what both Roger and JoAnna are failing to realize is that spouting opinions and beliefs such as these is only asking for controversy and divisiveness. Sure, none of the men may be gay themselves, but for all Roger knows one of them might have a brother who is, or good friends who are, as Alex seems to. How does JoAnna know that none of her tribemates are Jewish or Buddhist or any number of things? Heck, I could see even devout Christians responding to her declaring she's going to stay up all night praising the Lord by snapping, "Well, I'm trying to sleep so cram it!" One of the biggest parts of this game is getting allies, so why alienate people unnecessarily? Especially in Roger's case, where he just narrowly escaped being the first person voted out. Sure, he was instrumental in building the shelter, but it's built now. He's expendable.
Maybe it wasn't the wisest idea for Alex to challenge Roger, but on a personal level, I'm glad he did. And speaking of alienating people, if the message boards I visit are any indication, Roger and JoAnna's popularity has completely nosedived, while Alex's has shot up. In fact, between the idol thing and the incident involved in the final question, people's reaction to JoAnna can best be described by what Augusta on Santa Barbara said right after she told her mother she was canceling her visit home: "Mother, I didn't know you knew that word!"
9. You overhear another tribemate referring to something you did as "stupid." How should you handle it?
A. Ignore it and file it away for possible future use in voting
JoAnna emphatically circled "C." Now I could see how JoAnna might not have been thrilled with Christy calling her idol beliefs "stupid" (even though I personally agree), but the way she went about handling it was completely over-the-top and unbelievable. She accused Christy of "interjecting into her conversation negatively" when SHE was the one who charged up and interrupted Christy's conversation! When Christy tried to settle the matter by saying they'd both made mistakes, JoAnna snapped that Christy made her mistake first! She put her hand in Christy's face repeatedly, which for a deaf person is like covering their ears, then when Christy protested, snapped that she thought Christy wanted to settle the situation! "You won't be hurt anymore if you don't GET UP IN MY FACE!" she threatened, then roared, "LEAVE ME ALONE AND GET OUT OF MY FACE!" and stomped off. EXCUSE ME?! Who got up into whose face here?! This is quite possibly the most inexcusable behavior I've seen out of any reality show contestant anywhere - I'm still completely upset about it even just typing this. Flames. Flames heaving...
"If you are a 'vessel of Christ,' don't you think you need to be a little nicer?" exclaimed Christy in amazement after the ordeal. I'm just amazed that this woman's a GUIDANCE COUNSELOR!! I swear, if I had children at her school I'd be petitioning for her removal. Hopefully the parents there are doing the same. This was just inexcusable.
Only two weeks into the semester and I'm already reminded of why Kathy in Vanities said she quit being a P.E. teacher: "It was the students. I loathed my students." Oh well. Maybe things are just off to a rocky start and the semester will get better as it progresses. Right? Right?
Just breathe. Just believe. I'm used to it by now.
In the meantime, I'll just cheer myself up by having one last TV fantasy. I've figured out the perfect person to straighten out Jaburu: Judge Judy!
Judge Judy: Six days and no shelter! OUTRAGEOUS! What's the problem?
Brian James is an actor/writer in New York City. An avid reality show, Passions, retro music, and Internet discussion board junkie, he can be found holding up "Will Snark For Food" signs in subway stations as he continues to search for that elusive "day job." Brian would like to stress that this column is based solely on the "TV characters" he witnesses once a week, not on how contestants behave in real life. Comments and cybertomatoes accepted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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