The 17th edition of "Survivor," the CBS series that jump-started TV’s reality craze in the summer of 2000, ended last night with a two-hour edition and, as usual, a live one-hour reunion show in which the winner was announced. The winner of "Survivor: Gabon" was Bob, the 58-year-old high-school physics teacher. He deserved to win – but, eight years later, in the ratings, does "Survivor"?
Unlike so many competition reality series that wear thin after an edition or two (if not before), "Survivor "remains an enjoyable viewing experience. Enjoyable, and maybe even instructive and, at times, emotionally uplifting.
The series always has been as much social experiment as summer-camp competition, and over the course of filming each edition, good and bad behavior is flushed out and laid bare. And at the live reunion shows, the studio audience reacts as if watching a Punch and Judy puppet show: booing the villains, applauding the good guys, and delighting when evil gets its comeuppance.
On Sunday’s finale, the clear villain was Corinne, whose comment about Sugar’s recently deceased father was so repugnant, even host Jeff Probst recoiled in disgust – whle the audience booed her like a designated villain at a WWE match. She out-venomed season one’s Susan, and most likely will try to extend her TV exposure as a result. Call it the Omarosa Approach.
The hero of the night was equally clear: It was Bob. Even though young Kenny was the self-professed “professional gamer,” Bob was the one who had the foresight to think several moves ahead, chess-like, and sneak off to practice making fire in case the final tribal council came down to a tie vote, with making fire as the golden ticket to the final three. Which it did – and Bob’s practiced expertise ultimately paid off, to the tune of $1 million.
If that’s not a lesson to his students that homework and preparation pays off, I don’t know what is.
That goes for Probst as well. His post-vote debriefing of all 18 contestants, on one hour of live TV, is a feat more than worthy of the Emmy he won recently. Whenever "Survivor" ends, there’s a talk show in Probst’s future – or ought to be.
But that probably won’t be any time soon, because this televised game isn’t likely to go anywhere soon. About to start its ninth year and 18th cycle, "Survivor" is a good bet to do to its competition what it takes as its game motto: Outwit, Outplay, Outlast.
Next stop, as announced last night: The Brazilian Highlands and "Survivor: Tocantins."
Get ready to watch. And cheer. And, on occasion, boo.
VIDEO: The Winner of ‘Survivor: Gabon’