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Victims of Survivor, Unite!

Maybe you read this Web site fairly regularly and have formed an impression or two about the folks who do all the writing and handle the production and swing the lucrative cross-promotional deals. Maybe working for TeeVee seems like it's more fun than Friday night at the Clinton pad when Hillary's back in Washington for a committee hearing and Bill's having the interns bused in. Maybe you log on to us each day thinking, "My, those Vidiots seem like a charming bunch of guys and gal. With the banter that must go on at TeeVee headquarters, I bet it's a regular Algonquin Roundtable there, only without the rampant alcoholism."

Well, you're wrong. Wrong about how fun it is and how chummy we are and all that banter that's supposedly taking places. And wrong about the rampant alcoholism. Especially wrong about that.

Personally speaking, the past four-plus years of writing for TeeVee have been like hell for me. Not a day goes by that I don't suffer some slight at the hands of my colleagues. If it's not Rywalt leaving a mess in the break room, it's Pete Ko snagging all the blueberry scones on Free Muffin Thursday. Indignity after in-damn-dignity gets heaped upon me. And I'm not going to take it any more.

Later this afternoon, I'm filing suit against TeeVee Inc., seeking unspecified damages to compensate me for years of abuse and mental cruelty. This isn't about the money -- though, obviously, the money is substantial and awfully, awfully important. No, this is about respect. This is about standing up for yourself. This is about righting egregious wrongs.

And I have Stacey Stillman to thank for showing me that I don't have to suffer in silence any more.

Stillman, you may recall, is one of the cast members of the original Survivor -- the group that ate rats off the coast of Borneo last summer as opposed to the folks currently choking down insects in the wilds of Australia. If you don't remember Stillman, that's perfectly understandable -- the San Francisco attorney wasn't on Survivor for all that long. In fact, the tribe booted her off the island after only three episodes. And so Stacey Stillman faded from memory, while America got up close and personal with Rudy and Susan and Richard, the devious, fat, naked guy.

Most people would have figured they lost fair and square. Not clever Stacey Stillman. She smelled a rat -- and not just the rat that Gervase was frying up on the other side of the island.

So Stacey Stillman, attorney-at-law, did some digging. And she was able to uncover a conspiracy so nefarious, it made the Kennedy assassination look like a fraternity hazing prank. She discovered that her banishment may have been a result of skulduggery and chicanery on the part of producer Mark Burnett. Before the fateful vote that sent Stillman packing, Burnett reportedly paid a visit to Survivor contestants Dirk Been and Sean Kenniff, urging them not to vote to banish Rudy Boesch. Stillman reasons that Burnett had Rudy's back because the cranky ex-Navy Seal gave a good sound bite and fit CBS's desired demographic profile to boot. So it was out with the cute-as-a-button, sure-to-be-a-finalist Stillman and in with that crabby, good-for-nothing Rudy.

So shocked by Burnett's villainy that she waited six months to do anything about it, Stillman filed suit against CBS this week. She wants restitution for the prize money she didn't win, punitive damages and $75,000 for out-of-pocket expenses.

That must have been one hell of a hotel bar tab.

"Burnett improperly abused his relationships with the contestants," Stillman alleges, "and exerted unfair and unlawful pressure and persuasion on Been and Kenniff to cast specific votes, thereby rigging the contest."

Imagine -- a TV producer using manipulations, deceit and tricky editing to smear the good name of reality programming!

It must have been particularly galling to Stillman that her fate was sealed by the likes of Been and Kenniff, whom faithful Survivor viewers will remember as not exactly the brightest torches on the island. Bad enough that an international cabal of producers and network executives is conspiring to hold you back. But to be felled by a couple of simpletons -- that's the greatest humiliation of all.

Believe me, that's a burden I have to shoulder every day.

Like poor Stacey Stillman, I am the victim of the fiendish machinations of powerful men. Or, in my case, the machinations of the bozos who run this site. For instance, I'm always getting passed over for plum assignments in favor of clearly inferior writers who appeal to certain segments of our readership. How else do you explain the fact that we still employ Boychuk, if not to sew up the valuable moron demographic?

Stacey and I have other things in common as well, and no, I'm not talking about our ravishing good looks, though thank you for making that assumption. Stillman complained that when Survivor aired, the producers had doctored the footage to make her look whiny and unlikable. Or, as she told the San Francisco Chronicle last year, "They're representing me as the sort of Heather Locklear-Melrose Place bitch"... a heartache I know all too well.

The TeeVee editors are always going through my articles and rewriting them to make me come across as some sort of grouch -- an Oscar Madison-Odd Couple grouch, if you will. I think most of the TV programs on the air today are top-notch -- I'm particularly fond of NBC's sitcoms -- but to read my articles after they've been edited to ribbons, you would get the impression I can barely stomach anything outside of The Prisoner reruns. A simple phrase like "I get such a gas out of watching Tony Danza" becomes "Tony Danza gives me gas" after Jason Snell gets his paws on my prose.

So I'm with you, Stacey. The others may laugh. But not me.

Now cynics will wonder why Stacey Stillman is just getting around to suing CBS now. They'll drudge up CBS's allegation that Stillman tried to coerce the network into putting her on another reality show and, when that suggestion didn't fly, offered to drop any legal action in exchange for a generous cash settlement. And then they'll point out that while other Survivor alumni have landed commercials and guest star appearances -- that sinister septuagenarian Rudy even hosts a cable show -- Stacey Stillman hasn't seen much in the way of filthy lucre. Which is nonsense, since everybody knows that the CBS affiliate in San Francisco made her a special Survivor correspondent for a while and she's also done... um... uh...

Well, I'm sure she's had offers.

And for anyone who doubts her commitment to justice, remember that Stillman plans on arguing the case herself. And you know how that old saying goes about lawyers who represent themselves: Man, there goes one clever lawyer!

So let others jeer Stacey Stillman. Let CBS and Burnett try to hide their guilt the way my fellow Vidiots try to feebly claim they're not out to get me. Let Been and Kenniff issue their tepid denials of a conspiracy. Let everyone have a good laugh at Stacey Stillman's expense. Because only people who've been victimized by a system that's been rigged against them can understand what's she's going through.

And from one victim to another, Stacey, I hope you get everything you deserve.


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