Friday, April 08, 2005

A Tribe of One

The world never stops, and neither does television. So the viewer's best friend is some kind of video recorder, whether it's an old VCR or a newer DVR or whatever other magic technology has around.
At 3 a.m. Friday, I was still asleep but had my DVR running on a couple of channels to pick up coverage of Pope John Paul II's funeral, so I could at least take a look at some point. And Thursday night, while I was at a local meeting, I hoped with nervousness and anticipation that my DVR was picking up "Survivor: Palau.''
Nervousness because there's a local contestant on the show, and if she was eliminated I was going to have file a short item for today's paper. Anticipation because I wanted to see if Ulong was going to continue to be The Worst Tribe Ever on "Survivor.''
Fortunately, I got home in time to see the end of the show, plus the DVR worked, so I've skimmed through the events leading up to Ulong: TWTE's latest disaster. I'll linger over them later, but did stop to watch Bobby Jon Drinkard -- a repeated liability for Ulong -- foul up again; the guy doesn't even know how to eat well. And I was relieved to see that Stephenie LaGrossa managed to last one more week. She reminds me of baseball legend Steve Carlton, an excellent pitcher often stuck on a bad team; if anyone deserved a trade from Ulong, it was Stephenie.
But she hasn't gotten that trade. Indeed, however fascinating it has been to watch Ulong fail itself down to a tribe of one, it's almost as interesting to think about how serenely "Survivor" let the people fail. The show has been known to shake up tribes in the past, and more than once there was a sense that "Survivor'' did it to keep one tribe from becoming too dominant; this time around, there was no clemency to be had. And you can't say that Ulong deserved a break anyway, since they were endlessly inventive in finding ways to fail. (Think of Bobby Jon chosen to manage the solution of the water puzzle.)
The decline of Ulong also demonstrates "Survivor's" knack for coming up with new twists on a pretty familiar game. I'd be watching the show anyway because I'm a fan. But I'm watching it with greater interest because of Ulong.


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