So I went to the Survivor finale and a Lifetime special broke out.
While it was sorta interesting that four women made it to the end, the final two-hour episode of Survivor delivered all the ersatz female bonding and phony drama of run-of-the-mill night of Lifetime programming.
Four gals variously shrieking in delight, giggling, hugging, telling each other how wonderful they all were, spatting, expressing hurt feelings, hugging some more, giggling, affirming again how smart and fabulous they were, etc made for less-than-compelling television.
And coming on the heels of the season's few interesting episodes, the contrast was even more pronounced. Though in truth, I almost couldn't stick it out watching Erik get wiped out by the Bikini Brigade last week. At tribal council when Erik began mouthing the words that the puppet-master Cirie had put in his mouth, it was truly painful to watch. "Life lesson," Probst said, but I've been on this earth long enough to know that those sort of guys simply fall for that again and again and again.
Anyhooooo ... the dull final episode was salvaged somewhat by an odd jury session that felt rushed and perfunctory. Still, what to make of Natalie's bizarre questions to Parvati about bedroom behavior? Or Eliza still milking every last minute like a two-bit serial queen?
Or the second Lifetime special that broke out when Ozzy poured out his love for Amanda? This series has proved such a weird hook-up city -- we learned in the wrap-up of still more Survivor-on-Survivor love fests, plus Ozzy got a dig in about Probst running away with one of the contestants himself.
But, I tune in to watch people not get along, and there were just a few crumbs at the wrap-up party. Johnny Fairplay and Probst continued their D-list feud, and the gigantic Joel was clearly ill-humored about having the pageant-planner wispy Chet mock him. Joel dragging Chet through that obstacle course like a bag of dirty laundry is way up there in classic Survivor moments.
Every season I whine that the show has run its course, lost its edge ... and then of course I watch it all over again. And as much as I respect the producers for trying to mix it up, I remain unconvinced that the fans vs. favorites was a good idea.
The premise that fans would be seasoned by fandom proved utterly incorrect -- the self-declared "biggest fan" Erik made a mistake a second-grader won't, and too many fans were either weak players or uninteresting personalities. "Favorites" are a cop-out, the reality show equivalent of an unnecessary sequel.
It seems a million year ago that we watched that first season and in many ways it remains the best simply because the fundamentals of the game had yet to be so cemented as to become uninteresting.
A while back I watched some reruns of the first season, and was stunned to recall that nobody besides Richard Hatch was actually playing -- the others were just hanging out on the beach, or making wacky decisions like the guy with the nipple ring voting people out in alphabetical order. What that delivered to viewers was the game's first -- and best -- blindside, when players realized Hatch was actually thinking about how to win and -- ta da! -- that's how to win!. Since then, every contestant has stepped off the boat in game-on mode (though, of course, many still fumble badly).
Back to this season -- I'm not quite sure why Parvati won so many votes. She likely falls into that win-category of "she behaved badly but her low-road strategy worked." But I also found Amanda annoying and laughed in total agreement when Natalie accused her of perpetuating a "zombie" personality.
I'd have voted for Ciire who was the real mastermind behind some of this season's best moves, and was -- as she said in the final episode -- doomed from the start by the giggly bonding of the two flirty babes. Another "life lesson."