May 23, 2002
Surviving *Survivor*

[warning to people in new zealand and kansas! may contain *survivor: marquesas* spoiler! proceed with caution!]

David wants to toss out the 'Survivor: Marquesas' cast list already.

"We don't need to keep this anymore, do we?" he asks, as he pulls the tattered newspaper clipping down from its spot on the refrigerator door. For the past several weeks it has shared prime eye-level *real estate* with an outdated immunization schedule, a Christmas thank-you card from Jaymi, our bike-riding tally sheet for the year (1,526.43 miles left to go!) and a couple of expired Papa Murphy's pizza coupons. Once a week, for the past two and a half months, David and I have ceremoniously crossed another name off the list of 'Survivor: Marquesas' contestants.

"Let's leave it up for a little while, OK?" I reply. I find that I'm not quite ready to say goodbye.

Not just yet.

I've been feeling weirdly bereft for the past four days ... ever since Sunday night's big 'Survivor' finale. (Actually, since we only watched the first two hours of the show on Sunday night -- taping the one-hour 'reunion special' to watch the following night -- I've only been feeling bereft for three days. But it feels like four.) It reminds me of coming home from summer camp. You spend a brief but intense period of time with a group of strangers ... you come to know them almost as intimately as you know your own family: in some cases, more so (you've probably never witnessed your mother peeing on anybody, for instance) ... and now, except for the occasional Christmas newsletter or obligatory reunion lunch, you're probably never going to see any of these people again.

It takes a while to recover from something like that, OK?

'Marquesas' wasn't the best of the four 'Survivor' installments, in my opinion. It wasn't the most interesting or the most exciting or the most emotionally-engaging. It didn't have the good-natured malice of the original, nor did it have the heart and humor of 'Survivor: Australia' or 'Africa.' I never really found myself connecting with any of the Marquesan contestants, either, the way I did with Ethan or Tina or Rodger-and-Elisabeth. (And whenever I did find myself marginally interested in a player, this time around -- Hunter, Gina, Gabe, Kathy -- they were almost immediately voted off. Having Secra root for you, apparently, is the quickest way to get your tiki doused.) Mostly it was a matter of trying to decide who annoyed me the least, from week to week. Plus I wasn't crazy about the final outcome this time. I thought that what Vee did to Kathy in the final immunity challenge was beyond despicable. (Canny 'Survivor' strategizing, maybe. But what would Jesus do?)

In spite of these minor complaints, however -- and they are minor complaints -- this was the 'Survivor' I had the most fun watching.

I loved the location shots. I loved Jeff Probst in khaki and stubble. I loved Boston Rob's wiseass commentary. I loved watching the downfall of The *Suck Up To Us & We Might Allow You To Be On The Jury* Bad-Ass Alliance. I loved John's on-camera *Boo Hoo Moment,* after he got booted off. I loved the Lilith Fair ambience of the last couple of days ... and the fact that all four of the final contestants were women. (Even that weird grizzled little 'Pappy' chick.)

But mostly I loved "Marquesas" the best of all the 'Survivors,' so far, because David was into it as much as *I* was.

Some things are just more fun when you watch them with a partner. 'Survivor' is definitely one of them. We didn't miss a single episode this time ... although most weeks we ended up watching it on tape, a day or so after the fact. Thursday nights are traditionally big computer nights for me -- and a family obligation nights for David -- so we got into the habit of taping the show on Thursday and watching it on Friday night ... usually in bed, over pastrami, as we unwound from a long week of soil density reports (her) and pre-print insert orders (him). Then we would spend the next five or six days analyzing every moment of the last episode. Which ill-advised, malfunctioning alliance was in peril this week? Who was scheming? Who was vulnerable? Who was dangerous? Who was clearly auditioning for a part in the next Rob Schneider epic? As a matter of fact, I think I enjoyed our morning-after discussions -- and the ritual crossing-the-latest-name-off-the-refrigerator-cast-list -- almost as much as I enjoyed watching the show itself.

I'm going to miss that.

Now I guess David and I will have to go back to our old, boring, pre-'Survivor' conversations. (Does Gould & Eldredge's theory of punctuated equilibrium refute or support classical Darwinism? Could The Pez Band have been bigger than Cheap Trick if they'd had better material? Can Upstairs Neighbor Guy hear us when we ... ?). And I guess we'll have to find something new to watch on Thursday nights. (Have we missed anything interesting on any of the *other* networks?) Plus we'll probably have to turn to some of the lesser summer-replacement reality shows in order to satisfy our craving for unsympathetic characters, manipulative plot points, shameless product placement and shrewdly-edited pseudo-reality.

(Or else we could just read the *FootNotes* archives. Same thing.)

In the meantime, I think that until 'Survivor: Thailand' debuts in the fall,  we'll keep the old cast list magneted to the refrigerator.

David can throw away the expired pizza coupons instead.



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hi puss! hope you're feeling better!
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