It probably came as no surprise to my wife a few days ago when I made the offhand comment to her that I had resigned myself to the fact I would never be a contestant on the TV show “Survivor.”
After 37-plus years, she is accustomed to statements from me that seemingly come out of nowhere.
But after she cut her eyes toward me (a trademark body-language statement that tells me she’s fine to listen to more, but also fine to let it end), I reminded her how, 20-ish years ago, I half-way seriously entertained it.
I was convinced I had the perfect strategy to advance, if not to the finals, at least to the tribal merger that comes about half-way through the game. My plan was to exude self-confidence (more than I had), keep my mouth shut as much as possible and be cordial.
Fortunately, the season one winner, Richard Hatch, had already used the walking-around-nude ploy -- a one-and-done. I could not exude that much self-confidence.
As it turned out, Hatch might have been self-confident enough to walk around int the buff and outwit, outplay and outlast, but he had his shortcomings in the smarts department. Seems he did not understand his winnings were taxable.
When the IRS demanded he pay up and he declined to do so, he was escorted to the government’s own type of reality, where there is no voting off the island, where one stays until one has served one’s time.
But back to the show. It always seemed to me the ones who started out as loudmouths, or acted pitiful and unsure of themselves, made early exits. I thought I could avoid that. Unfortunately, before I even reached the point of making my application video, I realized I had one insurmountable obstacle.
In what would have been my prime "Survivor" years, I was not independently wealthy (as I still am not.) Surprisingly, my employer at the time was not interested in either (a) sponsoring me while I went on a reality TV junket or (b) granting me a paid leave of absence.
So there was no "Survivor" for me, and now, as the saying goes, that ship has sailed. Even the younger, fitter version of me would have been questionable out in the wilderness foraging for food; today’s version of me would be, well, let’s just say it would not be pretty.
What I thought looked fun, as much as winning the million dollars (although that certainly would have been loads of fun), was the experience of getting to know a dozen or so other folks.
Although an introvert by nature, I enjoy getting to know people in small groups. Years ago I went through the Leadership Brentwood program in which about 15 of us who had never known each other had the opportunity, while learning loads about the area where we live, to make new friends.
Unlike Survivor, we were not in competition with each other, which made it easier to be sociable. We started with an overnight retreat, after which, over an eight-month period, we met once a month for an entire day. I looked forward to each month’s meeting and was sad when the program concluded.
I thought Survivor would be a magnified version of that. According to my research, eliminated contestants get to stay at a place called “The Ponderosa” where, unlike the remaining contestants who keep battling with each other as well as the elements, they are re-introduced to creature comforts (like food) and enjoy a vacation until filming of the game wraps up.
What could be more fun than that?
They even get to do some sightseeing in the area. And if you’re a follower of the show, you know some of them return to the set as jurors.
All these years later, the fun continues, with "Survivor" set to begin its 42nd season soon, with Jeff Probst still at the helm. (Could you imagine it without him?)
Full disclosure: I have not watched "Survivor" in years. Somehow it became a bit redundant after the first few, and I lost interest. But I still think it’s a cool concept and it obviously still has a strong following.
The only reality show I now follow, and perhaps the only “appointment television” I watch, is “The Amazing Race,” where pairs of folks – some who are married couples, some who are friends or siblings, and some who have other connections – engage in an excursion around the globe, competing with other teams of two for a grand prize of, you guessed it, one million bucks.
Teams are gradually eliminated as they come in last place during a particular episode, although grace is sometime extended during a non-elimination installment. Interestingly, this season began a couple of months before the pandemic started, at which time it was suspended until 16 months later.
Because some of the teams were unable to return for various reasons, a couple of the previously eliminated teams were invited back for a second chance.
I know it’s edited, but the fast pace and the tasks the teams are required to perform, as well as the beautiful scenery, is great entertainment.
It is also fascinating to see how the pairs interact with each other. There are some tense moments as seeming under performers test the patience of their teammates. I think it would be hard on any relationship.
Along those lines, when I suggested to my wife maybe she and I l should look into competing, the cut of her eyes was more emphatic than usual, along with the deadpan comment that she, quite simply, would not have the patience to deal with me during such an endeavor.
Bob McKinney is a longtime Brentwood resident, happy husband and proud father, father-in-law and grandfather. Email him at [email protected].