Riding Coattails: Life Lessons


While watching the latest episode of Survivor: Palau last Thursday, I found myself nodding my head a lot, entranced by the profound revelations that were taking place in my tiny brain. I’ve always maintained that Survivor is chock full of valuable life lessons and feel that my own life has been greatly enhanced and improved by the teachings of the show. For example, when I find myself in need of a snack, I just walk to the nearest convenience store, remove all of my clothes, and am immediately handed a package of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups from a smiling clerk. Or if someone is mean to one of my friends, I know that the most effective way to deal with the situation is to stealthily overturn the offending party’s bucket of fish and bury their shovels. And these days when I get stung by a sea urchin, I grab the nearest person and ask them to urinate on my hand. It’s both surprising and heartening to see that most people are very obliging in this situation. Some even give me their business cards in case I need their assistance again in the future.

I was at a party this weekend and struck up a conversation with a very opinionated young man. When he found out that I write about Survivor and other reality shows, he sadly shook his head and launched into a long-winded diatribe about the evils of TV and those that choose to waste their lives watching it. I was initially defensive and told him that I didn’t appreciate his judgmental comments, especially since I don’t feel that the things people do for entertainment and relaxation are a waste of time if they’re enjoying themselves and getting pleasure out of it. OK, I don’t approve of activities that are destructive to oneself and others, such as gasoline huffing or cow tipping, but for the most part, anything goes. I felt equally melancholy knowing that this guy was shutting a show like Survivor out of his life because there are so many valuable things to be gleaned from watching a group of strangers scratch out an existence in the wilderness.

Within the space of a single episode, here is what I learned:

1. Coconuts are dangerous.
As tasty as they are, coconuts can cause a whole host of nasty problems. For one thing, they work as a natural laxative, so anyone attempting to subsist on them is going to be making a lot of trips into the jungle. Coconuts also fall out of trees, which creates the possibility of a fatal whack to the noggin. Or, in poor Jeff’s case, they land on the beach where people can trip on them and mess up their ankles. Jeff can chalk up his demise to a single tropical fruit. No wonder he was so aggressively chopping the damn things in half before tribal council.

2. Never stand between a tribe and its sewing kit.
That reward challenge was the most vicious competition the show has ever had. The Ulong tribe deftly defeated Koror and walked away with a box full of fabric, thread, needles, scissors, buttons, and twine, which clearly pleased them. But at what cost? Janu hobbled back to camp an injured woman. Angie and Bobby Jon both displayed their penchant for acting like rabid chimpanzees during the challenge and scared the bejesus out of Koror. But they got that jar of buttons and no one can take that away from them.

3. Real men wear diapers.
Kim’s assessment of Bobby Jon as Ulong’s resident Tarzan referred to his insane work ethic and intensity at the challenges. But it’s obvious that his fashion choices pay homage to the King of the Jungle as well. Either that or B.J. is exploring some weird fetish that Dan Savage would label as “not normal.” It’s really hard to tell with that boy sometimes.

4. Cuddling can give people the wrong idea.
At the beginning of the show, Jeff and Kim were annoyed that Probst had asked them about the nature of their relationship at the previous tribal council. Kim even expressed that she didn’t want people to see her and Jeff as having an alliance. Um, Earth to Kim? Go cozy up to a palm frond or something then because all of that lovey dovey behavior was leading Ulong to a natural conclusion.

5. Nothing beats lopping off a snake’s head.
It wasn’t clear to me at first why Tom, Gregg, and Ian were chopping off the heads of poisonous snakes and hanging the carcasses from a tree. They tried to use the snakes as bait to lure the sharks, but their only method of killing the sharks were to throw sticks at them. I know that Koror would love to chow down on some juicy shark steaks, but what are the chances of that happening? Personally, I think the boys were just in the mood to decapitate things. I mean, when I don’t have access to books or TV, the first thing I like to do is behead stuff. Doesn’t everybody?

6. Aggressive confrontation pisses people off.
Hey, I can’t say that I’m good at keeping my mouth shut when someone is giving me grief. But I have to wonder if Caryn’s anger toward Katie is more imagined than real, since I didn’t really see any examples of her “tart” behavior and “snotty remarks” that Caryn so bitterly described. Whatever the case, I have a feeling that Caryn will be one of the first to go if Koror ever finds itself at tribal council (unless Janu fails to recover from her reward challenge injuries or completely wastes away). Katie strikes me as a smarter player and a person who could easily get the numbers to shut out Caryn.

7. It’s important to raise awareness about the hardships of mail carriers everywhere.
The immunity challenge did just that, although most postal employees I know don’t slog through waist-high water all day. Still, that was absolutely brutal.

8. String bikinis look great on men and women.
Work it, Coby and Angie.

9. Boys can get PMS, too.
Probst was especially bitchy at tribal council this week. As Jeff Wilson explained why he felt that his team should vote him out, the host interrupted with a curt, “What’s your point?” Geez, Probst, we’re a little touchy, aren’t we? Maybe he’s sick of his job or Julie Berry wasn’t waiting back at his hut to make out with him or something. Whatever J.P.’s problem is, there’s no excuse for taking out his frustrations on the survivors. And really, any guy who has access to such fine booty hardly has a reason to be sour about much of anything. I’m sure Sarge would concur.