Here is my confession. My name is Aimee and I love Survivor. Still.
Yes, after 31 seasons I am more obsessed than ever with the granddaddy of reality television shows. Long after giants like Idol have fallen, Jeff Probst is still out on a deserted beach somewhere, standing around painstakingly rustic looking props, filming a group of people competing to win a million dollars.
The concept is old and, in this current age where reality television is an actual lifestyle choice for many a Kardashian, a little twee. A group of strangers plonked in an isolated location, starved, without shelter, forced to participate in ridiculously difficult physical challenges until one wins the title of Sole Survivor (and the cash). It seems like it would be slow. After all, The Bachelor can now respond to his own live show on Twitter in real time, so how is a month's worth of footage of people wandering in the jungle going to stay relevant?
And yet, it does.
In the beginning the novelty of the concept kept the show interesting for several series. It was all about location. First, a tropical island. Then the Australian outback. Then Africa.
To avoid the locations and format becoming repetitive, each season the producers throw in new gimmicks to try to keep the format alive. And some of those were fun. Men versus women. Blue collar versus freethinkers versus corporate elite. Bringing in return players. Making family members play against each other. All interesting ideas that added a new twist to the game.
But as fantastic as these constant tweaks are in keeping the true Survivor fan engaged and returning every season, this is not what keeps me watching.
While I absolutely adore the latest incarnation in Cambodia (where past competitors -- overlooked to return in previous seasons and not savvy enough to actually win the original season they were in -- come back to the game desperate for redemption and the chance to prove their Survivor cred), what's so unique and great about Survivor is actually the universality of it all. If you are a human and you have to interact with other people, it is about you and those around you.
Watching Survivor is like watching life long lessons in human social behaviour in one tightly edited hour of television. You start the series in high school where people are easily categorised into the jocks, the pretty girls, the outcast nerds. It initially seems so simple and so obvious. And by the end you are at the 20 year reunion where the jocks have proven they didn't actually have the stamina they were expected to and the only millionaire is the social pariah that no one thought could succeed.
Except for the seasons when that's not what happened and the frontrunner did win.
As in life, in Survivor people are not easily categorised, stereotypes are not a measure of success and winners cannot be easily predicted.
As in life, in Survivor hubris is a downfall. The more confident and superior feeling the player, the more likely they will be blindsided and voted out. Insecurity breeds more insecurity. Those who spend their time judging or worrying about others will inevitably suffer the consequences for not concentrating on their own game. And those who look weak, small and easily controlled often reveal themselves to be the most independent and successful as they mature throughout the series.
And, as in life, in Survivor sometimes it is just luck that will decide who wins in the end. Because it doesn't matter how much effort the producers put into casting, how much the contestants scheme, manipulate and plan, if it's time for your torch to be snuffed out, then it's time.
The tribe has spoken. It's time for you to go.