Thursday, May 30, 2013

Doesn't anyone watch this show?

Survivor - Classic Blunders
I avoided Survivor with a vengeance when it first came out.  I clearly remember it because I quite enjoyed Mark Burnett's EcoChallenge series, but I completely didn't see the point of Survivor and as a rule, I detest reality game shows.  So while everyone was going on about Survivor and it swept the world as a cultural phenomenon, I steadfastly refused to watch it.  Then a funny thing happened in season 15:  They went to China.  Well, I just happened to have adopted my daughter from China two years prior, had an amazingly powerful and enriching experience, and thought I'd give the show a try just to see China again.  I came for China, but I stayed for the show.  I've subsequently watched every season as it aired and become completely hooked.  To the point that I recently went back and watched the first 14 seasons.  "Hi, my name's John and I have a problem..."

Having now slogged my way through all 26 Survivor seasons, I'd like to point out a few classic blunders of past Survivor players (the most famous of which is, of course, to never get involved in a land war in Asia) for any castaway wannabes out there.  Rather than do a writeup on each season (Or each individual episode!!  Writing material for the next 2 years!), this will save an awful lot of redundant commentary as I'm amazed how often history repeats itself on this show.

Learn how to make a fire.  How much planning does this one take?  Really?  It's been 30 years since I last used flint to make a fire, but you can be damned sure I'm going to practice once or twice before I hop on the plane.  You're going to be abandoned in the wilderness somewhere.  Perhaps you may want to do something crazy like drink water?  It continues to amaze how time and time again how most castaways can't make a fire.  With a flint.  Or hell, even with matches.  Sundra and Becky spent 90 minutes failing utterly to make a fire with flint.  So they give them both two books of matches and Sundra ran out of matches

And you know that big block of metal that the flint stick is attached to?  It's magnesium.  It burns really well when a spark hits it.  Scrape some off and save yourself a lot of time and effort.  That's what it's there for.  I'm also not sure I've seen anyone scrape the flint instead of just hacking at it with their machete.  I figured that out reasonably quickly.  When I was 9 years old.  For bonus points, figure out how to reliably make a fire without flint.  You know, the sort of thing humans figured out how to do 40,000+ years ago.

Spend five minutes researching your destination.  Yes, I know the castaways don't always know exactly where they're headed, but while you're waiting to board the plane, glance at the destination.  That'll narrow it down quite a bit.  Then do something crazy like Google "edible plants of Guatemala" and figure out what you can eat.  Instead of being silently laughed at by the production crew every time you walk by the goldmine of food growing nearby, you'll endear yourself to your tribemates forever if you can spot the tubers and sugar cane on day 2.

Get off your lazy ass.  It's remarkable how "duh" this one is, but oddly enough, your fellow castaways will not react well to working their asses off while you sit back and eat the food they make for you in the shelter you watched them build.  Sure, it's important to conserve your energy and not exert yourself too much, but that conservation won't mean much when you're booted on day 3 for being completely worthless around camp.

Hidden immunity idols make poor parting gifts.  If you have one and there's even the slightest remote chance that you think even a single person might vote for you, play it.  Lately they seem to recycle them immediately back in camp, so maybe you can be Russell and just constantly find them.  But for heaven's sake, don't be James and go home with two of them in your pocket.  Poor James.  I liked James.  He was nice.  He was cool.  My wife liked James for other reasons of course, but she more or less gave up on the season when James went out like that.

Keep.  Your.  Idol.  Secret.  Sure, there have been a handful of times when having an ally know you have an idol makes excellent strategic sense, but ultimately a single idol can't save the whole alliance.  One person is holding it and if someone else knows, they're going to want to benefit as well, or they're going to let someone know you have it and try to flush it out.  Which will either work and you get to hang around till next week when they vote your ass out again, or you go home with a lovely souvenir if you don't play it.  The idol doesn't make you invincible in the greater scope of the game and it doesn't get you automatically to the final 2 or 3.  It's a tool.  Keep it secret.  Keep it safe.  Use it.

Watch.  The.  Damn.  Show.  This might be the biggest "duh" of them all.  If you're getting on a show that's been running for thirteen years, you can probably pick up a couple of pointers by doing something crazy like watching an episode or three.  The social game is brutal and often really counter intuitive.  Well done Brenda for sacrificing time with your dad so everyone else can have time with their loved ones instead and finding Dawn's dentures so she isn't reduced to a quivering blob of jelly.  But guess what?  Now you're way too nice to people and a serious threat if you make it to the final.  Bye-bye.

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