We watch... so you don't have to.

And the Survivor Is...

(NOTE: the hyperlinks below -- but not the article itself -- contain probable spoilers. Do not follow them unless you want to find out who might win. More importantly, do not follow them, then write me and complain about how I ruined the show for you.)

Continuing to hate Survivor on principle clearly isn't enough. It's not that I'm disheartened by the observation that most of America apparently doesn't share my belief that this show is evil on a stick. It's not that I'm disheartened by reading this theory:

At tribal council the grim Tagi alliance -- Richard, Kelly, Sue and Rudy -- vote together. They knock out... Gretchen, a shocker. In retrospect it's easy to see why: They identified her as the smartest and toughest of their new teammates and hence the biggest threat. In a way, Gretchen is responsible for her own demise.

Which, if true, is sending America's impressionable youth the message that smarts and competence don't pay, provided your goal in life is to annoy the hell out of a tiny minority of television viewers week after week.

No, I'm disheartened because CBS has blown the surprise.

The only reason to watch that show -- or its banal and something-out-of-Stephen-King-like cousin, Big Brother -- is to find out who ultimately wins. Watercooler conversation centers around strategies each of the folks is likely to take in order to ensure another week on the island; it's analogous to determining who's going to go to the Final Four in March.

But some web developer at CBS had to screw up. On July 13, someone trawling the voting history page on the CBS site noticed that the images directory for the website was open. They went hopping through, trying to see how many of the Survivor contestants would have a picture with an X next to their name; they found only one contestant without an X on her/his face. A replicated copy of the directory on Akamai, a company that mirrors websites so that geographically diverse users can access the site quickly, also produced similar results. For an hour, people were hitting the CBS site, downloading the images, and spreading the result across the Web.

Of course, within an hour and twenty minutes of posting the first notice on a bulletin board, other 'Netheads had claimed to find counterevidence, put forth the theory that the images directory was deliberately left unprotected in an effort to mislead viewers, or claimed that the images were simply produced by a graphic artist working ahead.

All of these points may or may not be true. The biggest point of all, however, is that CBS was stupid and arrogant enough to assume that Survivor fanatics wouldn't be trying to hack around the website to look for clues. Think about it: you're broadcasting a suspense-filled show, you're battling spoilers from other media outlets claiming to know who the winner is, so do you put any of your production materials in a publicly available directory on the World Wide Web? Why weren't the same people who were in charge of the Survivor media juggernaut paying attention to the promotional website?

Stick those folks on an island with Jeff Probst instead; since the show rewards stupidity, the people who slipped up on the CBS website should do just fine.


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