Survivor
Burnett's Book of Love

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Burnett's Book of Love

While Greg's culture jamming is funny to...well, me, and probably to a considerable potential audience at home, Jeff "Anal" Probst had a different view: "Greg's clever manipulation had gotten under Jeff's skin. 'I don't ever -- EVER -- want that to happen again,' he said....Greg, in other words, was winning" (51). And Burnett simply couldn't have that; Jeff, the golden boy, was not to be upstaged. In fact, so much of the book is devoted to Burnett's slavish praise of Jeff Probst -- a man who, it is now generally agreed, stank up every minute of his Pulau Tiga screen time -- that I can't help wondering whether Jeff went...uh...the extra mile to land this sweet gig, if you know what I'm saying, and I think you do. Burnett respectfully touches on Jeff's extensive experience as "an on-air personality" (as if that were a real job requiring real skills other than the ability to move and speak) while also acknowledging his comparative obscurity: "A known persona brought baggage in the shape of public expectations. Whoever hosted 'Survivor' would need to spring fully-formed into the public consciousness" (56). In other words, he or she had to be a nobody, and Jeff fit the bill. When Access Hollywood, by which Jeff used to be employed, comes to do a report on the show, Burnett devotes several pages to Jeff's feelings on the visit, as if anyone cares (155-7). An anecdote about Jeff's taunting the castaways by telling them about sitting in his camp eating M&Ms, drinking a Diet Coke, and talking to a friend on the telephone is annotated in the margin of my book with "Jeff SUCKS" (73). Jeff does suck, and yet whenever Burnett mentions him, he can't resist praising Jeff's flexibility, professionalism, good looks, "likeability," and so on. Does Burnett owe Jeff money? Are they frat brothers? What, WHAT does Burnett see in Jeff that the rest of the world doesn't?

While Burnett is under no obligation to mute his obvious affection for Jeff, he does take pains to insist, "At no time did the production treat one castaway differently than any other" (158). That may have been so on the set, but it definitely is not in the book, and in fact, I can give you a quick rundown of Burnett's opinions of each castaway. He likes Sonja, but who didn't? There was barely time to form a poor opinion of her. He likes B.B. too, and seems to feel sorry to have put him among the "MTV Beach House" (passim) that was Pagong, who, save Gretchen, were too whiny to appreciate him: "Instead of empowering themselves by working harder, like Tagi, the Pagongs victimized themselves....Their beach, for lack of a better word, was a slum" (89). He seems to like Stacey, on the whole, and to agree with her post-show claims that she didn't get a chance to show her tribemates her best side, but he also demonstrates her inability to ingratiate herself in a group and pegs that as her downfall. He likes Ramona, but again, she's like Sonja; what did she ever do but vomit? Burnett is quite cruel in his description of Dirk: "He had a coating on his face resembling a beard. His face was sharp from hunger, accentuating his receding hairline" (97). Now, Dirk is fugly -- no one denies that -- but geez, Burnett, you cast him! Cut a brother some slack! Burnett doesn't like Joel, and devotes long passages to describing his struggles to be the "alpha male" of Pagong, in defiance of Gretchen.

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