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Wanda's Words of Wisdom – Survivor: Guatemala, Episode 1


by Wanda Shirk

A number of people have asked for my thoughts on S-11, Episode One. Rather than type everything out a dozen times or more, here’s my commentary for everyone:

What’s your overall impression?

There are a lot of great things about the start of Survivor 11!

First of all, Guatemala is probably my favorite setting in all of Survivor history. I love those Mayan ruins, envy the Nakum tribe for getting to live there, and find the tribal council setting to be gorgeously impressive. Climbing pyramid steps to vote is unique!

Second, I like seeing that the tribes are so evenly balanced. After having Koror devastate Ulong in Palau, it is great to see evenly balanced tribes here, with Nakum winning the reward challenge, Yaxha taking the immunity challenge, and both challenges nearly neck-and-neck at the finish. Here’s hoping there’s no downhill slide from the injuries and weakness that have struck Nakum hard at the outset.

Third, the opening challenges were great! I especially liked the eleven mile jungle hike. As a backpacker who has often hiked more than eleven miles in a day, carrying a 35 pound backpack and ascending and descending Pennsylvania’s rugged mountains on 85 degree July days, I was amused at Brandon’s comment, “The last time I walked eleven miles was — never!” Brook lists backpacking, camping and hiking as her favorite sports. There’s a woman after my own heart!

The new touch of a family member’s comment after the tribal council ouster is a wonderful touch! We missed it in our livingroom, because we thought it was time for commercials and we were talking about the show — suddenly realizing, too late, that Jim’s wife was speaking. Next week we’ll be watching for that feature!

Probably having Stephenie and Bobby Jon back is what I like least about S-11. It is always interesting to get to know the new characters each season, and we are gypped by having so much focus on people we watched last season. I love both Stephenie and Bobby Jon, but they got a lot of camera time this week that should have gone to this season’s tribesmen. At this time, two days after the premiere, CBS polls show Stephenie as the most popular person on the show, with 52% of the vote. Next closest are nurse Margaret at 12% (I put my vote there!) and Bobby Jon third at 10%. Wonder how the vote would come out if it weren’t skewed by including last season’s favorites? The new people are cheated of screen time, and viewers are robbed of the chance to get to know them.

I’m not categorically opposed to having people return to the Survivor game. People who never got voted off, like Mike Skupin (who fell into the fire in Season Two) and Jonathan and myself from Palau, or people who got voted off prematurely because of shut-out alliances (such as the one that took the young men out of Vanuatu at the beginning) or because they were threats, people of real strength and character such as Hunter and Gina in season 4, could deserve another chance. But viewers got to see plenty of Bobby Jon and Stephenie last season. Since they are on again, I at least wish that the editors wouldn’t focus quite so much on them. Let’s see the new tribespeople! There are some great characters still hidden from us!

What did you think of Jim being the first voted off?

Jim was a great guy at the outset. He seemed as if he’d have a lot to offer, and I have a bias toward wanting the older people in the game, if they are physically fit, to do well against the far-more-numerous younger people. Unfortunately, Jim had the most serious injury and physical problem at the time of the first tribal council, so as my husband said, and as we saw with the unanimous vote against him, the choice was “a no-brainer.”

The shocker was that Jim voted for Margaret! What was that all about? Margaret is the leading favorite among new castmembers this season. Why did Jim vote for her? Either there’s something about Margaret that we didn’t see (perhaps she had trouble keeping up on the hike? but I doubt it.), or else Jim prefers young blood and just voted for a person on the tribe next oldest after himself! YUK! I like to see the much-outnumbered older people have a chance to play against the dominant young-crowd on any season. Has Jim no respect at all for age? No loyalty to the OAW (Older and Wiser) gang of which he is demographically a member? Come on, Jim! When I saw that he voted for Margaret, I found peace with his having been voted off, and my sympathy for him quickly abated. Hope I can read an interview with a good explanation for his vote!

Do you wish you had been able to play the game in Guatemala?

Oh my yes! The setting, the hiking, getting to wear their game clothes, everyone getting to be on a tribe from the beginning — yeah, this would have been my Survivor game to play!

If in Palau, two Vanuatu people such as Sarge and Ami had been brought back, how do you think you’d have reacted? Would they have been early targets, or would their expertise have been valued?

The smart thing to do would be to value their strength and expertise until the merge, be thankful for the opportunity to get to know them and learn from them, but then say, “This is our season. Post merge, you’re outta here!”

Any early picks?

Stephenie seems to have a cult following. It certainly appears that she’ll go far. As for the rest, it’s much too soon to tell. We didn’t get to see enough of most of the new people. I like Margaret, Gary, and Rafe. I’m sure I’ll develop more favorites when I get to see more and can distinguish their personalities and skills better.

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