Never heard of it - Shawn Loughlin editorial
Most organizations in this world are meant to be meritocracies. At least that’s how they’re designed. It doesn’t always turn out that way, but at least that’s what we’re going for. When someone is hired, voted into office, crowned a champion, it’s because they were the best person, team, candidate on that given day.
If you’re watching this year’s season of Survivor and you’re not quite caught up, you should probably stop reading now.
I am not a big fan of the show, but Jess is, so I usually end up tagging along and watching with her. The long-running survival show, for those who don’t know, crowns a winner by a vote at the end of the competition. Sure, there are physical competitions along the way and people can win immunity, preventing them from being voted off the island, but much of the show is focused on the first pillar of the show’s mantra of outwit, outplay, outlast.
What I mean by that is that once whatever immunity competition has taken place for that episode, everyone returns to their respective camp and begins scheming as to who they will vote off that evening. More often than not, that person is not the team member who’s dragging down the rest with their poor performance, but rather the person who serves as the biggest threat to them. So, one of the stronger players.
Now, you can make the case - as Jess often has - that navigating these waters is just as important as winning a physical competition and proving your worth to the team. If a player isn’t intelligent enough to keep themselves from being voted out, they deserve as much as anyone else to be voted off, she would say.
I suppose there’s some truth to that, but as I ranted the other night trying to connect the scheming necessary to win Survivor to the rise of Trumpism, it seems like the show is filled with weasels until just the weasel to end all weasels - King Weasel - is left standing.
Here is the spoiler bit, so turn away if you’re needing to catch up. The other night was, in real time, heralded as one of the more inspiring moments in the show’s history.
Noelle Lambert, a young paralympian who lost her leg above the knee in an accident, won a reward challenge that was particularly difficult for someone like her who uses a prosthetic blade leg (similar to the ones used by Paralympic sprinter - and now convicted murderer - Oscar Pistorius). It involved crawling along a long bit of netting and then traversing a very narrow and crooked balance beam, among other things. She fell numerous times, bringing herself to tears, but never giving up. She eventually caught up with everyone and completed the final leg of the challenge first, earning her the victory.
It was very emotional and inspiring, not just for the viewers but for her fellow players, who tearfully congratulated her perseverance... before voting her out on the same episode.
If and when she made it to the finals, they made the case, she would have an open-and-shut case to win it all, so she had to go.
Surely Lambert had earned the right to continue the competition and was easily a frontrunner to win, but now she’s at home watching the show like the rest of us.
It’s frustrating, for me, to watch something and watch people advance by lying, scheming and picking off players who are better than them one by one. It clashes with my sports-trained mind that assures me that somehow, someway, the best team will always win.
So, is that the way of the world now? Are people rewarded for being the best, or for being weasels? I can be convinced of the latter.