Brain Spill: Happy Father's Day

Welcome back to the Spill. As the title of the column indicates: Happy Fathers Day if you celebrate that. Do you Canadian fans celebrate this too? Hailing from America, I’m only aware of my own country’s observances, and I try not to … worry (I want to say ‘care’ here, but that’s too mean) about what’s happening elsewhere.

Before I begin the meat and potatoes of my column, I just want to remind all of you that Big Brother All Stars begins this week. From what I gathered, they will be revealing the top 20 past contestants this Wednesday, and will let the public decide who actually goes into the house. Then the top vote getters will enter seclusion and be part of (I’m forecasting here) the best season of Big Brother ever. Last season was amazing, and this one promises to be even better.

For those of you unfamiliar with the program known as Big Brother, I will now educate you. Big Brother is quite possibly the cattiest, most childish show under the sun. The characters are all cheap and downright mean to each other. But you see, that is where the beauty of this show lies. The cast makes this reality show into soap-opera-grade entertainment. So if you love the drama of soaps, and the thrill of reality TV competition, this is just for you. I will advertise this further in upcoming weeks to remind you of your civic duty to watch this modern day marvel. In the mean time, if you are a fan (or if not, and know how to use a computer), make sure you vote vote vote. Let the madness begin! BRING BACK JANELLE AND HOWIE!!!!

It is now time for the aforementioned meat and potatoes of this column. Normally, Brain Spill dissects the regular episodes of Survivor. That puts us in a predicament for the off-season (what most normal people would call ‘summer’), so I invented Dora’s Insidepulse Controversy about Survivor. This is another such column, only I had to change that dreadful name. Instead of DICS, these controversial columns will now be called Dora’s Domain. Same great taste, half the calories. By the way, bonus points if you can name what I ripped off the get name of this.

So for the first ever column in Dora’s Domain, I figured I would lighten it down a notch. Last one was a little racy, and got some tempers flaring. But surprisingly, I got only about a third of the emails as I had expected. That either means that most of you agreed with me (which would be good for my ego), or I mistakenly think my audience is three times bigger than it actually is (which would be bad for my ego). As I said, this week is a little bit more friendly (I had a weak moment), and takes into account the title of the column this week. So without further ado, I give you this week’s topic.

“Who is the coolest Survivor dad ever?”

It was only fair to tackle the dads this week. A few weeks ago, my column Happy Mother’s Day featured a look at some past moms and their influence on the game. This one looks at the roles that being dads played on past seasons of Survivor.

Last time for the title of Best Never, I had a pool of 24 contestants to pick from. This time, I have 37 fathers in the history of Survivor (and 37 pieces of flair), but a lot of them can be easily scratched from the list. In order to be Coolest Dad, you have to be cool. You have to do something in the show such that your kids watching at home proudly say “That’s my dad!” And most importantly, you have to make sure your kids/family are a primary part of your game. You have to miss them, and cry when you get the family video/letter. Those are just the bare minimum requirements. What else you do is up to you.

Like I said, we have 37 candidates. So that means we can make lots of eliminations. First we have to get rid of people who act more like awesome grandfathers than actual fathers (sorry to both Paschal and Rudy). Then you knock out the people who didn’t do too well on their seasons (it’s a lot easier to be proud of your cool dad if he makes it past the merge). Then eliminate people who did well but hid the fact that they had kids. Make a few adjustments, and you have your top six dads ever (five runners-up, and one champion).

Before I begin, I want to ruin some of the surprise. I am eliminating the following people, although they were all cool and did well on their seasons: Gervase Peterson, Ted Rogers, and Richard Hatch. Richard is gone, because although his son was his family video, while dear old dad was on Pulau Tiga, sonny boy was filing a lawsuit against his father. While I think it was dropped (someone clarify please), something isn’t quite right here. Gervase and Ted are both off the list because their daughters were born while the show was taping (Gervase’s second child, and Ted’s first). While it’s admirable that they followed their dreams, etc, you can’t be the Coolest Dad if you weren’t even around when they popped out.

Also, before I begin, I have one honorable mention, and it goes to Coby Archa from Palau. It’s odd that he gets an honorable mention, because he wasn’t even a dad in Palau. In case you forgot the tear-inducing story (it really was, so that’s not sarcasm), Coby adopted a daughter after returning from Palau. And to make it even sweeter, he named her Janu, after his fellow teammate. Now I know my nickname for her is That Bitch Janu, but anyone can admit that that is a very touching tale. Now I’m not going to spark a whole debate on gay adoption, but I do think that it’s cool that a gay man can adopt a child if he loves her, and it’s the case here. So good job Coby.

But now, we go to the real winners:

5th runner-up: Terry Deitz
4th runner-up: Tom Buchanan
3rd runner-up: Shane Powers
2nd runner-up: Lex van den Berghe
1st runner-up: Rupert Boneham

As I did last time, I’m saving the best for last. So you’re just gonna have to wait. Of course, if you’re antsy, you can always scroll down. If that doesn’t work (and I’ve had times where that was the case), you could just figure it out. Either way, there’s enough in front of you to solve the mystery.

Terry Deitz (Exile Island). Last time, it took a lot of strength to exclude Terry from the Best Never list. You didn’t really think I’d make it two in a row, did you? Of course not.

My Official Dora Malone Nickname (TM) for Terry Deitz is ‘Mr. Cool Dad Himself’ (for a copy of the current list of Official Nicknames, email me). And that’s what he was. Terry’s occupation of fighter pilot in itself made him a candidate for Coolest Dad. He dominated everything, as every young buck out there wants his dad to kick ass. But even more than that, he sent a message to kids, and it’s the oh-so-cliched “you can do anything you set your mind to.” Terry ruled most of the Exile Island with his stranglehold on the challenges, and he did so because one loss would mean his eventual demise. The only way he was going to get far in the game was to win challenges. He set his heart out, and did pretty damn well for himself, all things considered. But as with every Danny Tanner dad, there’s another take home message. By losing, he told people that it is okay to lose. He took that a step further by not being a sore loser, and voted for Aras. Ruling challenges, and setting a good message sounds like a positive patriarch to me.

Tom Buchanan (Africa). I want you to stop, and think of your own dad right now. Now if you wanted to make him cooler, how would you do that? I want you to have that picture in your head. I’d be willing to bet that none of you pictured a fat, balding, old drunk guy who needs to be translated so you can understand him, yet he’s speaking in English anyways. Yet amazingly, Tom Buchanan personifies what a Cool Dad is all about. He’s likeable, and just plain fun. And even though he might not be the sharpest knife in the drawer, he still is not stupid. Also, Tom did very well both times he went on Survivor, and that’s an accomplishment to be proud of. If that’s not enough, just watch how he lit up when his son Bucky Bo came on the show. What’s not to love about Tom? Obviously there’s not a lot to dislike, because he was one of the top vote getters in the post-All Stars second chance giveaway – the only ever Survivor popularity contest. So there, Tom rules, end of story.

Shane Powers (Exile Island). I’m not sure how I’d react if my dad almost quit Survivor because he missed me so much. I’m not sure how I’d react if my dad tattooed my name into his chest. I’m not sure how I’d react if my dad was a crazy psychopath, yet so genuine and awesome. That’s Shane’s relationship with his son Boston.

Throughout the past season, we all knew that the most important thing to Shane Powers is his son (his “kid”). It was one of the main storylines of the season. And for a lot of it, I thought Shane was full of it. His Survivor bio says he lives “under the watchful eye of his son Boston.” I’ve never heard of a man whipped by his own son, but somehow it happened, and it was real. But the two of them weren’t father/son, they were best buddies. As I said above with Tom, look at how Shane melted when his son came to visit. That sort of friendship relationship, and not the parent/offspring relationship, is something that makes the rest of us envious. It’s the way it should be, and props to Shane for making it real. Shane, you are an awesome person, and I would love my dad if he were slightly more like you.

Lex van den Berghe (Africa). This is the second week in a row that Lex made the list, so good for Lex. Also worth noting is that I started this column on Sunday, which was Fathers Day. Doing my research like a good girl, I also noticed that Sunday was not only Fathers Day, but it was also Lex’s 43rd birthday. Happy Birthday, Lex!

I said a lot about Lex last week, so I don’t want to repeat myself. But I will say that a dad who can control a game, and be totally respected at the same time is pretty kickass. Add to the mix the fact that he’s covered in tattoos (a rarity, considering how many parents hate ink), and he just let the water works fly when he got the family video mean he’s a cool dad and a cool guy in general. All of those in combination mean that you’d want to look up to someone like Lex, and perhaps even make him a role model.

Rupert Boneham (Pearl Islands). Okay, it might not make you too proud to proclaim “that’s my dad!” when he’s wearing a flowery skirt. But it would make you proud to know you’re dad’s one of the most popular Survivors ever.

A couple years ago – right after Pearl Islands and All Stars – Rupert came to my town. His 1:00 pm appearance meant that I had to arrive at 9:30 am. In a line of a couple thousand, I was twentieth. It was amazing to see how many people just came to worship the gentle giant. And that’s pretty much how the whole country feels about Rupert – everyone loves him. Rupert won the second chance popularity contest, and I’d be willing to bet it wasn’t even close. It’s hard to dislike a dad who’s beloved by the masses.

Add to it the fact that he showed up in tie-dye and stole shoes the first episode. Then he was critical to the success of his tribe, and respected by all. You’d probably be afraid of him in an alley, but once you met him on TV for a few seconds, you knew he was harmless. We probably all remember the makeout session between him and his wife Laura on All Stars. Despite the gross nature, it shows that his family is a priority for him. Anything else I say about Rupert would just be redundant, so I’m just going to let Rupert’s good nature speak for itself.

Before I tell you who is at #1, I’ll clue you in that it’s not Brian Heidik. While Brian was a cool guy, and arguably one of the best (if not THE best) Survivor players ever, he really wasn’t much of a “dad” out there in Thailand. He barely even missed his son while playing the game. So that takes him out of the running. Not even being a porn star can help you here Brian (because if I was a guy, I would think my dad was the man if he did porn). So that leaves only one person left. The coolest Survivor dad is:

(pause for suspense)

Tom Westman!

To me, this is a no-brainer. Tom was the first (and currently only) person ever to win Survivor by controlling everything about the game. He not only whipped everyone into shape, he also annihilated everyone else in the challenges. Tom currently holds the record for most immunity wins, tied at five with Colby Donaldson, and Mr. Cool Dad Himself, Terry Deitz. The season of Palau will forever be known as Tom’s season. As I said last time, Katie Gallagher is who I consider to be the best never to win. It says a lot in favor of Tom that while he was up against a great player, he still creamed her in the vote. A lot of that is because Tom was who he was, and he was the icon for every Survivor of the season.

Remember way back in elementary school, and you would compare the occupations of your fathers? What occupation always trumped anything else? The heroic fireman! Surprise, surprise, this is yet another example of how much better he is than everyone else. And if that’s not enough, he’s a firefighter from NYC, which has new meaning in the post-9-11 world we live in.

At the auction in Palau, Tom passed up food and other amenities, because he knew if he saved his money, there would be something from home. Sure enough, there was a letter from his family. And did the tears ever flow when he read that one. I just want to point out his kids’ names: Meghan, Declan, and Conor. Does it get any more Irish? I can just picture this obedient, Catholic family: Tom and the wife hopping into the SUV with the kids, going to church, just as they do every Sunday morning. The same minivan also makes appearances at school plays and soccer games. And his kids are stellar at school and athletics too. And this makes all the bitchy soccer moms just groan and grumble: “Oh great, here come the Westmans. They can’t do anything wrong!” And the worst part about it is that Tom isn’t a drill sergeant-type; his kids are just obedient. That’s how I picture it, anyway.

So that’s all well and good. And I’m sure many other Survivor dads lead the same picture-perfect family life. But the kicker is that Tom Westman won his season. You’re dad can have many positive attributes (any of the above would qualify). But it’s so much easier to think your dad is the man when he brings home a million smackers. If I had to replace my own dad with any Survivor dad (and odd request, but stay with me), it would be Tom Westman. The money certainly did not detract me from him. Nor did the fact that Tom Westman kicked ass in every criteria of the game of Survivor. So Tom, Happy Fathers Day. You rock.

I think the title of Coolest Dad Ever is a much better gift than a necktie.

Well that wraps up this latest column. It was nice to take a lighter tone, because everyone wins this week. I like pleasing people (don’t look into that too deep, you sickos out there) – sometimes, anyways. As always, I need some ideas for future columns, so send me one-liners, and I may field them this summer. And WATCH BIG BROTHER THIS SEASON.

So until next time, when we discuss the significant theatrical contributions of Bob Saget, stay cool.