We start this week
with one of the most emotional moments in recent Survivor history.
Last week, Russell
Swan was taken out of the game after passing out multiple times
during a reward challenge for pizza. Medical teams at the scene
examined Russell's heart rate and it had dropped to dangerously low
levels. Both teams were suffering from cold and exhaustion from
torrential rains over consecutive days. Host Jeff Probst had said
that both teams would vote someone out at Tribal Council that night,
but he pulled an audible and said that no one would be voted out.
Probst commented on the episode at his Entertainment Weekly Blog:
"When a Survivor appears to be in trouble, our first rule is
to give them the chance to save themselves or see if one of their
tribemates can help them before we make any decision about sending
in medical, safety, or our water rescue team. We do this because it
is their game, their adventure and whenever possible we want them to
make the decisions about their fate. Let me be clear, we are
watching them the entire time, they are never out of our sight, and
our medical, safety and rescue teams are always on alert Ė but we
would rather give the contestants every chance to handle it
themselves before we move in to take over.
"Once medical informed me that Russell was going to require
some major time-consuming attention I called off the challenge
because it seemed the only decision that made sense. There was no
way we were going to continue ó it was clear Russell was going to
require too much time and because both tribes were going to tribal
council either way, it didnít seem to matter enough to consider an
alternative. So we sent the tribes back to their camp and told them
to await word. For the next 45 minutes we monitored Russellís vital
signs. We gave him water from his canteen. We gave him oxygen. We
propped him up and gave him time to try to relax and get calm.
During that time Russell and I talked about a lot of things. He was
very worried that he would be pulled from the game. He was worried
how he would be portrayed and what his family would think. He did
not want to be seen as a quitter. "
"Nobody wanted Russell to go home. When Russell passed out for
the third time, I got very worried. Then his heart rate dropped 30
beats in less than a second. I was watching the heart rate monitor
and when I saw it move from 97 to 68, I was honestly concerned that
we were losing him. Forever. Even writing this brings back the same
emotion. Our doctors were not exaggerating or play acting when they
started pounding on Russellís chest and repeating his name, asking
him ďRussell, are you with us?Ē It seemed to go on forever, his eyes
not moving, not responding to anything. I have never been more
proud of our medical team than I was in that moment. Heroic.
Incredibly calm. Well practiced. They knew exactly what they needed
to do and they didnít waste a moment. Telling Russell he was being
pulled from the game was difficult. I understood that he didnít want
to quit. He was in a great position in the game and there was such a
fire in his belly. Many people have been pulled from the game that
didnít want to go, for some reason this one really got to me. What
you didnít see was that after Russell pulled off his oxygen mask in
frustration, he experienced a lot of different emotions, all of them
completely understandable. He was extremely frustrated at me, at
medical, and at production in general for pulling him from the game.
He yelled. Then, he got quiet. Then, he cried. Finally, he prayed.
It was extremely emotional and simultaneously beautiful. He was in a
very vulnerable state and to be a witness as he processed the
situation and made peace with it was an honor. "
Now I watched this and I felt Russell's desire not to quit. Jeff
Probst and the producers made the right call. This is the 2nd person
to go out for medical reasons this year, following Mike Borassi's
removal after injury during a reward/immunity challenge . I will
call a little bit of shenanigans on Probst because this wasn't the
most horrific medical incident in Survivor history. That has to go
to Michael Skupin, who was the very first person to leave Survivor
due to injury. During the "Australian Outback" Season he attempted
to start a fire, breathed in smoke causing him to momentarily faint
and fall into the fire. That caused him to suffer severe burns to
his hands. After being cared for by medical personnel, a helicopter
was brought in and Skupin was evacuated.
Even with that, this
is what makes Survivor compelling television. If executed
correctly, reality TV can make you feel as deeply as scripted
television. Last week's episode of Survivor did just that.
The legal fallout from the "Megan Wants A Millionaire"
murder/suicide has just started. This may get a bit complicated.
According to Courthouse News, Collective Intelligence an
investigative background agency based in California is suing
Straight Line International for "breach of contract, unjust
enrichment, negligence, fraud, and tortious interference."
Here's what happened. Collective Intelligence was doing
background checks on all the contestants on "Megan Wants A
Millionaire" That included Ryan Jenkins who murdered Jasmine Fiore
and then killed himself. CI claims that they couldn't check
Jenkins's background in Canada. They hired Straight Line
International to do it. According to Collective, Straight Line said
Jenkins had no criminal record. In the complaint filed in Cook
County Illinois, Jenkins did have a conviction for domestic assault
on a girlfriend.
CI claims in the complaint that a) its relationship with Viacom
has been ended, because of the error on Straight Line's part, b)
Straight Line did not request a background check on Jenkins from the
Royal Canadian Mounted Police, as expected, but instead got its
erroneous information from a court clerk in Alberta, c) Straight
Line will not answer or return phone calls and will not provide it
with more information about the background check it did on Jenkins,
and d) Collective claims it has more than 90 clients in the
entertainment industry and now its reputation is tarnished. It says
that Viacom, ABC and NBC have since rejected it as a screener for
From a legal
perspective this is a very smart tactic. Viacom was totally
correct and within its right to distance itself from the agency.
But will CI's charges be proven in court? CI has to prove that a)
they did EVERYTHING with their power to legally check the
contestant's background, b) Straight Line did not put in a "good
faith" effort on their end in Canada and c) because of a) and b)
the company's reputation was permanently tarnished and irreparably
damaged. This is going to be interesting to watch because the
potential ripple effect on all of these types of shows could be
We continue with how the economic downturn has affected game shows
in a positive manner. In a recent AP article, they reported on a 5
city Family Feud audition tour. Executive Producer Gaby Johnston
reported that people were very open about how the economy has
candid about their need for help with mortgages, college and
Christmas expenses and more, even in front of a crowd of other
would-be contestants, she said.
"They weren't afraid to tell me. And everybody starting clapping
when they said that," Johnston recalled, adding that the rooms were
filled. In Phoenix, for example, more than 1,500 people were on
This is not the
first time where we have seen game shows getting a boost. It was
recently reported that Wheel of Fortune's overall applications have
gone up 20%. People are willing to do anything to win free cash and
prizes to help their economic situation. And this wonít be the last.
With the initial success of Let's Make A Deal, 10% unemployment and
no immediate short term economic growth there is a potential for
even more shows down the pike in 2010.
Finally a little bit of self-promotion. If you are a fan of game
shows, you cannot miss Game Show Congress 7, which happens on
November 14-15 at the Beverly Garland Holiday Inn in Hollywood.
Honorees at the November 15th Luncheon will be Allen Ludden who will
receive the Bill Cullen Career Achievement award. Betty White will
accept the award in his memory. Geoff Edwards will be honored with
the Ralph Edwards Career Community Service award.
Block Party Quick
--SUN TV and
Endemol partner to produce a game show for Southern India.
continues to add to his animal rights legacy by donating $1M to
Drury University to establish the Dorothy Jo Barker Endowed
Professorship of Animal Rights.
--Cash Cab is being
offered into syndication for a Fall 2010 release.
weeks on "5th Grader" include NASCAR week and WWE Week. On the week
of November 9th, we will have a Sesame Street Co-Host to celebrate
the 40th Anniversary of Sesame Street.
--Top Chef gets
it's 3rd Spinoff in Top Chef: Just Desserts. The series will consist
of pastry chefs competing against one another in a series of
--Ivanka Trump is
--In yet another
Millionaire boneheaded move, celebrities will ask questions to the
contestants. This happens starting November 9th. Wait, this
coincides with the Tournament of 10 and November Sweeps!
Jason Block keeps it real... Does anyone even use that phrase
anymore? E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.