Hi. It's my Politics-Free issue of Tendown 21 - and I'm bursting, just bursting to tell you what's First this week - like I'm taking Tendown hot out of the oven and delivering a greasy slice to your waiting fingers, Last Week, we discussed Barthes, David Frum, the health care bill, and Russell beginning his move against Boston Rob on Survivor - a move he completed this week, in what was just a tremendously booked angle. If you watch graps but not Survivor, it's just error, as you got a chance to see some clean, old school booking this season. The end of that feud, with Rob getting taken out this week, is the best thing from the past seven days.
First: RIP: Boston Rob
Boston Rob is a legendary heel; he has as deep a heel resume as is possible on reality television, having done two previous shots of Survivor, and Amazing Race, and his own series where he took up professional poker - in each incarnation, he was young, punky upstart scoundrel heel. He ran the first All-Star season back in '04, including a terrific maneuver where he doublecrossed Lex by using their "real life" friendship to request that Lex protect Amber (the heretofore innocent ingenue who wound up, as Rob's valet, winning All-Stars and then marrying Rob, in what was reality tvs best booked relationship to that date). Rob's doublecross of Lex should be studied (and probably is) by academics who analyze the unofficial structural boundaries set up in reality competition shows. Rob's argument was "I lied - I'm Rob, that's what I do. It's a game." But Lex's argument was that by invoking their "outside the game" relationship - that Rob had violated an unwritten rule, sort of like bunting to break up a no-hitter. It is a debate so clearly burned in my mind that although I have not seen the clip even one additional time since its original airing 6 years ago, I can easily recall internalizing at the time that Rob and Lex were defining the parameters of reality competition - is there a line between the show and the real world? That Rob would then marry his partner Amber (thereby making the jury decision between them meaningless, as they were the final 2 in that initial All-Stars season; Rob was enough of a heel at that point that the speculation that he had worked his way into a marriage with Amber just for the money was not entirely a joke) would further blur the lines, perhaps destroy the line, between show and life would be an amplification of that theme. The element of the scripted reality show, as best understood by the Hills, that most interests me is not that "it's fake", that's almost as silly a criticism as calling wrestling fake - it's that real life, in a near Truman Show way, is being scripted. Rob and Amber weren't told to align, weren't prompted to marry - but the conditions into which they were placed, the incentives that they were given (they got married on television) moved them to places their real lives otherwise would not have gone - and then when Spencer and Heidi get married years later as part of a storyline - sure, it's scripted - there's LC leaving as Kristin arrives - it's a storyline - but it was a wedding; Spencer and Heidi are actually married - their real lives and their lives on a script have no distinction, to the point that Heidi's crazy multiple plastic surgeries can be viewed as her attempt to always be in makeup. Human Giant did a sketch where Paul Scheer was an actor on a Star Trek-like television series; he was an alien and had to go through hours of makeup each day - so he decided to have plastic surgery to always be in costume (the joke coming when the show was then quickly canceled so he was stuck in that face trying to get additional jobs). That's Heidi Montag; she's more plastic than person now and her show is going off the air.
Rob and Amber then became probably the most aggressively heel team to that date in the Amazing Race; a game which had different unofficial rules than Survivor, was seen by its players as more noble, less cutthroat - but they formed and broke alliances, and memorably stood apart from the rest of the competitors in not stopping to aid Greg and Brian upon seeing their traffic accident. Rob here again was saying "everything is part of the game" in his definition of the parameters of competition - but the rest of the race teams disagreed, that a car accident was beyond the game and shouldn't be a determining factor. There's probably a book somewhere about unofficial rules (The Unofficial Rulebook...or the Official/Unofficial Rulebook or the Official Book of Unofficial Rules) they really only come to the public consciousness whenever there's a baseball dispute or a golfer calls a penalty against himself, and sports talk radio gets a few days of apoplexy that such ideas exist - a caller will scream that "only the offiical rules should apply" as he's driving 50 mph in a 45 mph zone, certain (and correctly so) that he won't get pulled over, because, despite his breaking the letter of the law - he knows that unofficially, that's not how the law is really enforced. The caller will not make the connection between those two concepts.
But a few years have passed since the Amazing Race and Rob's subsequent attempt to be a poker playing heel; on this all star Survivor season he was paired against a new school heel, Russell, a man who poured out the water from camp - coined the phrase "dumbass girl alliance" and even, in this All Star season, took the dastardly step of attempting to hide Rob's Red Sox cap (sort of the equivalent of taking a luchadore's mask) and a very clear generational difference was set up this season that served to turn Rob babyface. Whereas the newer players were inclined to jake the "survival" portion of the game in favor of strategizing, Rob was the pillar of camp; Rob was the leader at challenges; Rob carried the tribe on his back - all the while being drawn closer to a confrontation with Russell.
Last week, as I wrote about in Tendown 20; Russell deftly outmaneuvered Rob, protecting his ally Parvati (I can't see a scenario where she'd ever get a jury vote after having won the Fans v. Favorites season, but if Parvati Shallow, who joins the Rhode Island Senator Sheldon Whitehouse in the "come on, that's not a real name; these are professional wrestling names like Jack Swagger or Jay Lethal" club wins again - she steps into the reality competition Pantheon with Evil Dr. Will) at the expense of Rob's ally Tyson - and this week, Russell leveraged the "loyalty" demonstrated by his move to get another old school heel Jeri Manthey (and there could be another discussion about the Jeri/Parvati dynamic as a shadow of the Rob/Russell dynamic, except with sex as the additional element; and Colby/James may have been booked to complete the old school/new school triology had James not blown out his knee) to flip, joining Russell's alliance and sending Rob home.
It was a supersmart episode in what has been a really good season of Survivor; in a week of well booked wrestling angles (to be discussed later in the Tendown) the best of them featured no wrestling at all.
After the jump, the rest of the Tendown.