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Get Up On: Survivor

By Margaret Hicks in Arts & Entertainment on Apr 26, 2007 2:17PM

In this age of obnoxious reality television, people are comfortable eating bull balls and making asses out of themselves. Yet there is still one show that is what reality TV should be, and that show is "Survivor".

Yaoman.jpgThis season gives us Mookie, a Chicagoan who keeps pissing where he eats and screws up the game. We also have our favorite survivor ever, Yaoman, a wiry, older Asian fellow who is going to quietly steal all the immunity challenges. There is power hungry Alex, whose face at last weeks tribal council will go down in history. This has also been a season of firsts; like Yaoman planting a fake immunity idol we’re all waiting breathlessly to be found, or the new hilarious need to name alliances (The Syndicate? The Four Horsemen?). Alliances are not stable this time around because Mookie and his cohort Dreamz flit from group to group, telling every secret under the sun.

What started out as an overindulgent season for Mark Burnett (seriously, a bed on "Survivor"? NEVER!) has turned out to be one of the best. But we hold true that pretty much every season of "Survivor" is the best, and here’s why:

Like "The Amazing Race", "Survivor" is the kind of show we want to be on. We wouldn't go to "Paradise Hotel", but we'd definitely go to Survivor Island. "Survivor" isn’t about boobs and humiliation in front of a camera. It's a game, a fail-safe game with strategies, humor, revenge and plenty of drama. Put 16-20 people on an island and they will vote each other out to win a million dollars; no “America votes" and no judges to impress. It is democracy at its finest.

The game is never played the same way twice. We assumed that once people learned how to play, every season would turn out alike, but in 13 seasons each win has been remarkably different from the one before. Arrays of personalities win, from the quiet, under-the-radar Tina, to the subtly manipulative used car salesman Brian, to the hotly contested battle between Ozzy and Yul. The contestants themselves are less intrusive than other reality show stars. Granted, some Survivors have received moderate fame, but generally it seems the survivors are not out for their fifteen, but out to win the game.

The reward and immunity challenges get more and more creative. Somehow the producers manage to find ways to keep the challenges fresh by putting the contestants on the spot, holding themselves up by their elbows, or making them wind through a massive maze with expanding poles.

No game show on television has the quality host that is Jeff Probst. Probst knows the game inside and out and won't let the contestants get away with anything. How about this season when he forced Alex to show his hand in tribal? Or the way he railed on Osten when he asked to be voted out of the game? Probst is such a sure, guiding hand, we love watching him ask the tough questions, even at the reunion shows.

We love that "Survivor" has remained (mostly) true to its roots. The players get on the island, battle it out in front of Probst, and whatever happens in the game is up to them.

The word on the street is that the next season of "Survivor" is going to be in China. Cool for sure, but we’re still holding out for "Survivor: Antarctica".