Sole Focus

News, Views, Rantings & Ramblings by Carey Parrish

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Location: Georgia, United States

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Tribe Has Spoken

“The winner of Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains…”

The audience erupted into wild applause so loud that you couldn’t hear Jeff Probst name Sandra Diaz – Twine as the winner of Survivor’s twentieth edition. Of course this wasn’t left to chance. Sandra had four votes to Parvati Shallow’s three and Probst’s announcement was the fifth vote for Sandra, with only one left. And that grin that came over Twine’s face before she bolted off the stage to hug her family said it all. No, the applause disguised nothing.

Sandra Diaz – Twine is the hit reality show’s only two-time winner to date. She won the show’s highly rated 12th edition as well. She roundly defeated Parvati, and super villain Russell Hantz didn’t even get a jury vote, coming in third, but winning "America’s Choice" and receiving a $100,000 consolation prize in the process. (Hantz came in second in the 19th edition, Survivor: Samoa, last fall.)

Sitting out in the audience, I had a feeling of surrealism as I watched the finale. For someone who has watched Survivor since its inception back in 2000, I really never thought I’d be attending a finale in person, let alone being there as a guest of CBS. It was all so exciting and I couldn’t get over the fact that I was a part of this wonderful event. It is an honor that I shall never forget.

Since beginning the e-magazine Web Digest Weekly back in December of 2006, I have interview many Survivor contestants, winners and runners- up alike. I have become friends with a lot of the cast over the years and this is really what led to my being invited to the finale on May 16th at the Ed Sullivan Theater in New York. There was a tenth anniversary party for the show back in January out in Los Angeles but I couldn’t make that one. Then I was contacted by CBS and invited to this event. No way was I going to miss it.

Survivor is an American icon now. It’s an institution unto itself. This is the show that kicked off the reality television craze here in the US and I find it difficult to believe that it’s been almost a decade since it premiered. There have now been twenty editions, over five hundred challenges, more than three hundred contestants, and twenty winners named. Of them, eleven have been men and nine have been women. For Diaz – Twine to be the only two-time winner of the game, she has to be the most celebrated player in its history. And she’s in a high caliber class of television stars to boot.

Of all the past winners, the most notorious has to be original winner Richard Hatch. Hatch was invited to be a contestant on Heroes vs. Villains but at the time he was asked to join the cast he was in a halfway house, finishing out a four year prison term for tax evasion. The IRS said Hatch never paid taxes on his million dollar haul from Survivor: Borneo and even though he mounted a vigorous defense the government prevailed. He asked for permission from the court to travel to Samoa for the latest edition but his request was denied. Hatch has already played the game twice, his second time being on Survivor: All Stars back in 2004.

One of the most interesting aspects about the Survivor franchise is that after ten years on the air it retains an audience of millions with each successive season. Like most long running shows, it no longer enjoys the ratings of its hey day back in the first half of the decade but it always ranks among the top twenty shows on television, with at least one of two yearly editions finishing in the top ten every time. Only American Idol outpoints Survivor in viewers and that series has slipped considerably this season.

For me, having been such a fan of the series for so long, I credit it with being what really launched my career as a professional writer. I watched the contestants on Survivor over the years and I began to realize that these were people just like me; ordinary citizens who had a dream and who were willing to go to any length to make it come true. I decided if they could do it, so could I. So I launched Web Digest Weekly and with the participation of many talented contributors, a lot of them Survivor castaways, I began to slowly but surely reach my goal. Now, three and half years later, I have published articles in numerous magazines, I have written four books, I’ve done television and radio myself, I have friends who are celebrities who inspire me by their own examples, and I can now count myself among those who’ve been to a Survivor finale and seen all the excitement firsthand.

Not bad for a boy from Northern Georgia, huh?

Attending the festivities for the evening, I was blown away by all the buzz surrounding it. Every major news affiliate was there. Cameras were everywhere. Contestants milled around being interviewed all over the place. Jeff Probst disappeared into the crowd early on. Parvati Shallow left almost immediately to spend time with her family. Sandra Diaz – Twine began losing her voice from talking so long. Russell Hantz was so stunned that he’d lost again that his ego was in overdrive as he made the rounds trying to convince people that he should have been the winner, even though it was obvious to everybody who watched the show that Sandra and Parvati took him along with them and he was ultimately their puppet instead of the opposite being the case.

Rupert Boneham and Colby Donaldson, the last two "heroes" standing in the game, coming in sixth and fifth respectively, were as popular as ever. Both of them have now played the game three times and both have gone far into with each edition they’ve played; Donaldson was the first runner-up in the show’s second season, Survivor: The Australian Outback and he made it halfway through All Stars three years later, while Boneham came in sixth on Survivor: Pearl Islands and fourth on All Stars, being the only player aside from Hantz to appear in back to back seasons. Parvati Shallow has now played the game three times as well and she holds the distinction of the playing the game the most days of any contestant, with 114 as her grand total, (Amanda Kimmel is second to Parvati, having played three times too.)

Many records were set by a lot of the returning contestants for Heroes vs. Villains but none can claim the title Sandra now holds. This was a ground breaking season in every aspect. It is also now one of the series’ most popular editions. When Survivor returns this fall it will take place in Nicaragua. The show will film this summer for a September premiere. For a series that is now a decade old it has no symptoms of losing steam any time soon.

And this is something that fans all over the country are celebrating. Their favorite show looks to be around for a long time to come. Myself included in that number. Even if I never attend another live finale I will always be honored that through my hard work and devotion to this series and its cast, I was included in the wrap-up of one of its biggest blowouts ever. That is something I will always hold close to my heart.


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