The season finale of Survivor: China is tonight. Survivor is in its 15th season and Tom and I have watched each and every episode of each and every season. We even stuck it out during the seasons in Africa and Australia, which were woefully lacking in what proved to be the ratings-dependent combination of beautiful people in a beautiful location. It hasn’t always been easy catching each and every episode, particularly during the days before we had a DVR. We had to go to great lengths – such as putting a blank tape into a VCR — to make sure we didn’t miss an episode lest we’d have to inadvertently find out secondhand who was voted out at the last tribal council. A case in point was the very first season finale, which aired the same week as our annual family vacation at Bruin Woods. Although we could have loaded up the VCR, the chances that we’d inadvertently read it in the newspaper or that some well-meaning (read: big-mouthed) fellow Bruin would mention the name of the winning survivor before we’d gotten home to watch it for ourselves was too great a risk for us to take.

It was down to the final four: Richard Hatch, Kelly Wiglesworth, Rudy Boesch, and Sue Hawk. Then Sue went to the jury, from which in the final episode she delivered her now infamous “Rats and Snakes” speech. Rudy was the next to go and despite his self-admitted homophobia, it was a shame to see him lose the immunity challenge that might have won him the game because this tough old dude was, if nothing else, someone who shot from the hip – refreshing in an atmosphere of rats and snakes. Also, if I’m remembering correctly, no one in Rudy’s age bracket has ever survived long enough to make the final three since. Then it was down to Kelly and Richard. Richard was also known as Fat Naked Guy because, you guessed it, he preferred traipsing around in the buff and surely this may have been a factor in his win because who could concentrate on the game when distracted by persistent thoughts of “Eeeeewwww?” In the end, Richard was voted Sole Survivor by a narrow margin. The jury of his peers thought he had played a cunning game, and barely a majority of them rewarded him for it. Richard was in fact quite the bullshit artist and he also pioneered the concept of the voting alliance in this game, which was not revealed until the end, although now alliances are disclosed to viewers as part of the show’s intrigue. Richard “allegedly” also got devious with the income taxes owed on his $1,000,000 prize and is now more-than-allegedly serving a 51-month sentence in federal prison for tax evasion, but that’s neither here nor there, except that Rudy would have paid the taxes and I liked him better.

There are no televisions in the cabins (or “condolets” as they are called) at Bruin Woods, so I had to hatch a plot of my own in order for Tom and me to watch Survivor on the night it aired, thus avoiding an inadvertent spoiler. As the seed of an idea began to germinate in my gray matter, I learned that our long-time Bruin Woods pals Keith and Jane were also hooked on Survivor, as were our other long-time Bruin Woods pals Jeff and Andrea. At dinner one evening early in the week, I revealed my secret plan – that I wanted to rent a room at the nearby Lake Arrowhead Resort for a couple of hours during the time that the final episode would be aired. No one laughed at me. In fact, everyone liked my idea and agreed to go in on the cost of the room. We had an alliance! Now imagine being the person working in hotel reservations on the day that I called. “Yes, I’d like to rent a room for six adults, but we only need it for about two hours starting at 8 PM.” Uh huh. Realizing how that might have sounded, I hastily added, “We won’t even mess up the linens. Well, we might be on the beds, but we won’t be in the beds. How much would the room cost for two hours?” Yeah, that was convincing of our innocent intentions, not.

Whatever the reservations person might have been thinking, we nonetheless had our room at the AAA rate for the night, even though we’d only be there for the duration of the final episode. On the night of the show, the six of us gathered supplies for our Survivor Season Finale Soiree, wine, beer, soda, Doritos, nuts, popcorn, and candy, and headed over to the Lake Arrowhead Resort. Now imagine the sight we six must have been when we checked in at the front desk, six adults, for two hours, with no luggage. “Hi, we’re here to check in. Yes, all six of us. We have a reservation. No, we won’t need extra towels. We’ll only be here for a couple of hours.” Oy vey. I felt compelled to explain why we were there – back then I worried about other people’s opinions of me, something therapy has helped me with in the years since. But when I did explain, the front-desk clerk broke out in a broad smile and said she understood completely and was recording Survivor to watch when she got home. So the six of us checked into our hotel room, broke out the Doritos and beverages, and settled ourselves in to watch that season finale in the comfort of our hotel room. And two hours later, when we all came tumbling out of the room, fully clothed in the same outfits we wore in, and with the bed linens fully intact, that darling front-desk clerk refunded the entire cost of the room saying it was the least that a fellow Survivor fan could do.

This weekend we are out of town celebrating our wedding anniversary, and the DVR at home is all set to record tonight’s finale. Although we will be bummed if we find out who won before we get home to watch it, tonight is our actual anniversary and we have dinner reservations at a pretty awesome restaurant. So, in an effort not to encounter a potential spoiler before we get home tomorrow, after dinner tonight I will not be checking my emails, looking at a newspaper, watching television, or surfing the Internet, until we get home. We have opted not to hole up in our hotel room just to watch the season finale, even though we have a rather nice, large plasma television set in here. Hmmmm. On second thought, there’s always room service . . .

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