I haven’t watched “Survivor” since the Boston Rob season (Marquesas, for those of you who keep track of such things) and that’s saying something for the girl who made a rat-shaped meatloaf for the season one finale. But nothing drew me back to the televised Tribal Council; not even last season’s race vs. race gimmick. However, when I saw ads for the latest season featuring a Christian radio host, my curiosity was piqued. The contest was taking place not on some tropical island, but in Mainland China, a first for any American television show. Perhaps Bejing is practicing prior to the Olympics, or simply working on building some good will.
When I tuned in last week for the premiere of “Survivor: China,” I was excited to see that they had cast not only radio show host Leslie, but “Gay Mormon Flight Attendant” Todd.
Wow! What wonderful conversations (read: screaming matches) would we be privy to this season, I thought. But it was about to get even better.
Taking full advantage of the local culture, the producers decided to start the show at a local Buddhist temple having the contestants take part in a traditional “welcoming” ceremony. Host Jeff Probst assured the group that they were not partaking in a worship service before they joined the monks in bowing, kneeling and burning incense. While lunch lady Denise found the experience very spiritually significant, the waitress from New York City, Courtney, thought it was a waste of time.
Leslie exited the proceedings, early explaining to Jeff that if she’s going putting her face on the floor for anyone, it will be for Jesus Christ. Welcoming ceremony, my patootie! Sure, it may very well be traditional, but the producers had to have known that Leslie (a conservative Christian) would most likely object, thus providing our first bit of drama for the season.
Buddhism also offered up the second bit of drama. After the ceremony, Jeff explained that one of the important tenets of Buddhism is the giving up of worldly goods. It was a very simplified version of one of the four Noble Truths of Buddhism, but this is “Survivor” after all. Therefore, he continued, following this teaching, the contestants must leave everything they have brought with them at the temple and go forth only with the clothes on their backs. When one girl complained that she wasn’t even wearing a bra, Probst joked that that may be a bad thing for her, but a good thing for everyone else. Oh Jeff, you rascal!
While the contestants were not allowed to bring any of their belongings, each tribe was given a copy of Sun Tzu’s classic “The Art of War” to help them during the game. How terribly cliché, yet so delightful. Perhaps professional wrestler Ashley consulted the book for tonight’s episode, as the previews show her tackling Leslie in a most artful way.
Needless to say, there’s lots of potential for spiritual sparring during this season of “Survivor.” I’m looking forward to it.
“Survivor: China” airs tonight on CBS at 8:00 p.m.