|by Wanda Shirk
SURVIVOR GUATEMALA is now history! How are Survivor-historians likely to rank it? I’m placing it easily in the top half. First, the location was one of the best: those Mayan ruins are without equal in cultural majesty, the jungle background was rich with sounds and wildlife, and the climate was among the most challenging ever. Second, the cast had some truly memorable people, and memorable people are what make memorable seasons. Third, the boot order was pretty much unpredictable — quite unlike Palau, where a dominant alliance took hold early and wiped out first Ulong and then its intratribal opponents, and unlike Vanuatu, where the demise of the men’s tribe became fairly predictable early on.
Judd will be among the most memorable of all Survivors, a funny villain because unlike Johnny Foulplay, who set himself up in an “I’m-planning-to-be-notorious” role, Judd to the end had no idea how ridiculous he was. He continued to protest that he was honest, and whatever anybody else, including Probst, said to the effect of, “Judd, you did lie! You are a liar!” — just went in one ear and out the other without registering. Judd was so much more real than Johnny F! With his comical protestations of innocence, I had to love him as a character at the same time that I deplored his behaviors!
Steph will also make this a memorable Survivor season. Love her or hate her, she dominated, created a matriarchal tribe such as we have never seen before. She was tops in the CBS cast poll, with over 35% of voters ranking her as their favorite. She did have a point with her argument that she and Rafe played the same game and thus should be evaluated equally — why hate her and love Rafe? On the other hand, it was she who received all the favors Judd had to share from reward challenges, so she was the Brutus when the “Et tu, Brute” knife was plunged. “And you, Stephenie? Then die, Judd!” Great drama, that!
Bobby Jon merits mention as well. Jeff called him “authentic and endearing,” and so he is. Bobby Jon is as sincere and innocent at heart as a summer butterfly, and his growls in challenge-play were just the growls of a kitten playing the lion. I totally love Bobby Jon. His “How proud are you of yourself?” question to the Final Two is part of the character that is really the heart of Bobby Jon. He always will be able to look in the mirror and be proud of the man he sees.
Rafe was too good-hearted to win; his heart ran over with sympathy when Steph struggled in the final immunity challenge, so he gave away his spot in the Final Two by freeing Danni from her promise to him. He didn’t even realize that he had become too loved to take to the F-2 spot.
The Final Two could just as easily have included Cindy or Rafe as Steph and Danni if after the car challenge Cindy had been willing to give what she had, to gain what was of more value. Let it be a lesson … Wonder if anyone else will ever be given the opportunity to make that choice? I still rather pity Cindy’s sense of desperation for the car, and I was left wondering, after the reunion show, if she has a job now. There are no “Help Wanted: Zookeeper” ads in my papers. A surprising number of people apparently quit their jobs every season to go on Survivor. From my season, Ian never went back to the dolphins, nor James to the steel mill, just as two examples. (My buddy Redneck James got employment this fall driving demolition loads and debris out of New Orleans for FEMA.)
Lydia looked great at the reunion show. Throughout the season she exemplified the smile, the positive attitude, the motivational energy and fun somebody should always bring to the game. I had to chuckle at her comment that the game “brought me out of my shell!” I can’t imagine Lydia ever having been in a shell!
My early favorites are still favorites. Margaret was wonderful, and it was clear that her tribemates loved her. I was delighted to see that she and my other favorite, Brian, are going back to Guatemala on a relief mission. That’s the spirit! Take what you get and give it away — pour yourselves out for others! That’s the way I want to live and give! Way to set an example! I love to see BIG winners who live that way, but if the “small” players take the lead, more power to them! Hooray and Hooray!
Production once again needs some praise. The maze-challenge was super — very physically taxing at that point in the game, but the players ran around that course and up the stairs, with even Lydia racing really well. The nature photography throughout the show was marvelous, as CBS morphs into Discovery Channel. The seventh-grade geography teacher at my school said she loves how Survivor educates and adds interest to what she wants kids to envision. And then there’s the music. I do love the Survivor music! That pulsing drumbeat when Jeff walked off to the helicopter with the final jury votes — YEAH! I could listen to that for a long, long time. Moving. I can hardly sit still!
And now, on to next season. EXILE ISLAND! What an exciting, neat twist we have to look forward to! Sounds like great times, great fun, great adventure!
Did you notice that Jeff said, “16 NEW SURVIVORS”? Give that some thought. The last four shows have all had 18 Survivors (or 20, if you count the tribeless two of Palau). Does anyone think “16 NEW SURVIVORS” is the total count? Did he neglect, intentionally, to add “And two more Second-Chance Castaways”? I rather think so! I know of a couple who were contacted pre-Guatemala and then didn’t go when the final decision went to Steph and BJ. One fellow in particular didn’t answer my email in November, and I can’t imagine him not responding if he had been home. Now you know that I haven’t been in Panama, because I’ve been writing this column every week all fall – but if you know any former Survivors who’ve dropped off your screen for the past six or seven months – well, maybe they’ll be back on everybody’s screen in February! Go ahead and speculate! I am! Ah, can’t wait for Survivor 12, EXILE ISLAND! This show gets better all the time!
Visit Wanda on the World Wide Web at WackyWanda.com.