Survivor: Tocantins, Episode 5 Aftergasm: The Kids Are Alright
He was born in the 90s. Titanic? Not old enough to get in. Pulp Fiction? He thought it was about orange juice. He was four. He couldn't angst over Dawson's Creek because he was learning to add and subtract. When Britney Spears said “Oops! I did it again!“ he thought she was talking about spilling the Cheerios. Technically Smallville idol Tom Welling is old enough to be the guy's father.

When I found out a teenager was playing Survivor this season I was concerned the show was making a big mistake. A lot of people agreed, as the Survivor Sucks message board lit up with dismissive fans declaring that this season was going to suck. Hey, it's what they do, right?

Maybe it just made me feel old. I'm in my 20s. Everyone is supposed to be old enough to get my references. Right? Surely it's not time for my Metamucil just yet. But I was also worried. Sure, there have been a lot of good contestants my age - Colby Donaldson, Jerri Manthey - but there have also been a lot who didn't seem like they were quite finished baking yet, like they could have brought more emotional strength, patience, work ethic and perspective if they'd already done a little more surviving at home first.

Would someone who was just out of high school get out there and realize that it's more fun to watch people starve than to starve, or to watch people sleep under a downpour of icy cold rain than to sleep under it? Would that just mess with their chemical and biological hardwiring? Would they get put in a social situation that was absolutely terrifying and have no idea what to say or do? If someone really took advantage of them and lied to them would they be absolutely ripped up inside?

After seeing Spencer play - and the Reunion Show not withstanding I am assuming I've now seen the beginning, middle and end of his story - I'm not necessarily convinced I was wrong. I still think - in general - there's not much to be gained by skewing that young. I also think that Spencer handled himself just fine.
Spencer survived the elements, he made alliances and okay, he came up short. But he lasted longer than Carolina, Candace, Jerry and Sandy and they're all older than him. Some people just have to go before the merge. That's sort of the way it goes. Some people get unlucky. Some people don't play perfect games. It happens to seven people out of every sixteen.

Honestly, from what we saw I thought he should have stayed longer. The tribe made a mistake in voting him off. He sort of fumbled the challenge but it's not like he isn't athletic enough to bounce back and win the next three. He certainly didn't seem to slow them down any when they were winning. And I know Carolina complained that Spencer had a tendency to mention how much he missed having his iPod but who doesn't remember Jerri Manthey screaming orgasmically about chocolate or Helen Glover rambling endlessly about her cooking in Thailand. Sure, if he were ten years older maybe he would have cut such ramblings in half but maybe he wouldn't have.

Spencer often seemed old for his age out there, which is a little different than actually being the same age as everyone else, as anyone who's been a precocious 19 year old and been patronized by well-meaning adults can attest to. In some ways there really is no substitute for experience. If Spencer had tackled more people he might have been less hesitant to tackle someone in the challenge. If he'd talked his way out of more situations he might have been better at talking his way out of this one. If he'd known more Southerners he might have been more confident in talking with J.T. and Joe directly, not necessarily about the sexual orientation issue specifically but about why the tribe needed to keep him.

Ultimately I do think players in their 20s have the advantage of beauty, people in their 40s have the advantage of emotional security and perspective, and players in their 30s can go back and forth well; but players in their teens, through no real fault of their own, don't have any special advantage. Ultimately I do think 19 year olds - even if they can play the game well - could play the game better a couple of years down the road.

When I was 19 Survivor was brand new but it was on. As a Survivor fan ten years ago I didn't try out because I didn't feel ready. For the most part I still don't, though now at least I believe I could put up a really good fight. I'd rather do it in ten years, if at all. On the other hand if I had played - and I'd played well - I'd expect some credit for it. I give you credit, Spencer. You should feel good about how you finished as well as how you played because Carolina, Candace, Jerry and Sandy would still gladly have traded places with you. You did not embarrass yourself. And you should feel free to show the episodes to other boys with pride rather than apologies and explanations. Come on. You're telling me that wouldn't be in the back of your mind if you were going on Survivor?

-Henry Jenkins, BuddyTV Staff Writer
(Image courtesy of CBS)