Are you a fan of Survivor, the television reality show? According to TV Guide, this show which predates the smartphone, has run for 20 years (with 40 Seasonal Series episodes), and has outlived 4 presidencies. Now the question is: will the series “survive” the COVID-19 calamity which prevents the return of Jeff Probst and a cast of people clawing their way toward $1,000,000.00 as the “Sole Survivor’?
I had never watched the show until a few years ago. On May 31, 2000, this reality show was not even on my radar. Maybe my kids watched it. I don’t know. Yet, recently, I became hooked by the very premise of the script. Take 18-20 people of all races, backgrounds, education, and social standing… and dump them on a remote location, like an island in the middle of the Pacific ocean. Give them a pot for boiling water, a machete for cutting wood and coconuts, and see if they have the skills to survive, first as a tribe, then as a sole survivor.
Traveling all the way back to the beginning of the show, I started with Season 1, Episode 1, and have now journeyed through 14 seasons. I’m not even half way to Season 40 yet, and I am still fascinated with this social experiment that has such vast results. The cast of players is almost invariably made up of people who all want or need the money, that’s why they play. And it is a game, or so everyone wants you to believe. Especially since the motto of the game is “Outwit, Outplay, Outlast.”
In every season I’ve watched, there are those who enter the game with an absolute commitment to leave all social mores behind. This means they go in knowing they will lie, deceive, trade alliances, or do whatever is necessary in the moment to become the sole survivor. By contrast, there are those coming in to play the game committed to be true to themselves and the norms of social conduct. They try on purpose not to lie, deceive, jump ship, stab people in the back, or blind side anyone. Most of the time, these people lose, and the shadier people win. But the winner always says. “it’s a game.”
As a social study, whether game or grand experiment, the show stirs up in me a wide range of emotions and provoking thought processes. Most recently, in Season 14, one particular cast player caught my heart, making an indelible impression with one thought he shared around the middle of the game. Yau-Man Chan when asked about his approach to the game said it was the same as in real life. He said, “Love many. Trust few. Do wrong to none.” This man, 54 years old at the time, and the oldest player in the game, kept true to this philosophy for his whole time on the show. At one point he gave away a $60,000 truck to another player, in a “handshake” deal that ultimately cost him the game. On day 38, Yau-Man became the 9th member of the jury, and the 15th person voted out of the game. The only reason… he trusted few… but in this case, the wrong one.
What can be gained by watching this show?
What have we learned over the 40 seasons and 20 years of watching people play a game where the reward is $1,000,000.00?
My first observation would be – greed causes even good people to do things they might not otherwise do, because after all “it’s just a game.”
My second observation – Yau-Man’s philosophy is a summation of the life of Jesus.
“Love many. Trust few. Do wrong to none.” Jesus loved many, the whole world in fact. He trusted few, and especially not those who were driven by worldly desires and lining their own pockets out of greed. And Jesus did wrong to none. You might say He did right by all. And what happened to Him?
The cross says it all. They voted Jesus out of the tribe. They sent Him to His death.
But Jesus did not become part of the jury!
When He returns, Jesus returns as Judge. Sole Creator and Sovereign LORD of ALL.
If you want to model your life after values that are eternal, Yau-Man did a pretty good job.
“Love many. Trust few. Do wrong to none.”