#RTVF330: The Final Tribal Council

This past Thursday I taught the final class of #RTVF330, my Northwestern University class on Survivor and reality TV. Thursday also happened to be my last class as a college professor for the foreseeable future, as in the coming weeks I’ll be joining the staff of the Los Angeles office of Frank N. Magid Associates, a research and consulting firm that services media and entertainment industry clients. I’ll have more to say about my transition from academia to industry in a future post. For the time being, I’d like to share a few moments and memories from my class’s final tribal council. Read more of this post


Fans Versus Favorites…Versus Favorites (#RTVF330 Survivor Trivia Challenge)

When the student-castaways of #RTVF330 aren’t busy learning about television’s Financial Interest and Syndication Rules, the effects of changing audience metrics on programming and advertising, and FOX reality czar Mike Darnell’s unique fashion sense they spend their time studying Survivor. (Technically they spend most of their free time watching Catfish, but I like to imagine that when they’re not watching Nev and Max explain the dangers of cybersex to midwesterners they’re committing to memory such important facts as the depth of Jeff Probst’s dimples (11 mm) or which Survivor winner took the most episodes before going to tribal council in back-to-back episodes.) On Tuesday, February 5, the castaways had a chance to show off their knowledge of Survivor history in #RTVF330’s second-annual Survivor Trivia Reward Challenge. Read more of this post

Survivor Math (RTVF330 Hidden Immunity Idol)

The Rooster breaks down Survivor Math for some of his prized pupils.

The Rooster breaks down Survivor Math for some of his prized pupils.

Note: this post contains material that originally appeared on the RTVF330 Tumblr. Now that the puzzle has been solved and this week’s hidden immunity idol is out of play I’m making it public.

Grab your calculators, because it’s time for the Survivor Math test. RTVF330 All Star Jonathan Forman (@jofo322) has put together a word problem that will test your math and research skills. Solve all three puzzles and then enter the answers in the marked spaces below. Combined these ten digits will lead you to the location of our hidden immunity idol and a perfect score on this week’s quiz.

Part I

  • Start with number of different locations where seasons of Survivor have been filmed: ___
  • Multiply by the number of different players who have returned to the game from Redemption Island: ___
  • Add the number of the season that was the first to feature a cast comprised of both new and returning players: ___
  • Multiply by the number of the season that saw one tribe decimated to the point where only one tribe member remained going into the merge: ___

Answer A _ _ _

Part II

  • Start with the total number of days that members of the Mariano family have played Survivor: ___
  • Add the number of days played in the only Survivor season that lasted more than 39 days: ___
  • Add the number of players who have played Survivor three or more times: ___
  • Subtract the number of the first season in which the castaways picked their own tribes: ___
  • Multiply by the number of seasons in which three players received votes to win at the Final Tribal Council: ___
  • Add the number of National League Most Valuable Player Awards won bySurvivor players: ___

Answer B: _ _ _

Part III

  • Start with the placement of the Survivor: Caramoan (Fans versus Favorites 2) returning player who placed the worst in his/her original season: ___
  • Multiply by the number of former pageant queens in the cast of Survivor: Philippines: ___
  • Add the number of distinct seasons in which Survivor: Caramoan’s returning castaways originally played: ___
  • Add the number of seasons of Survivor which have started with an odd number of players: ___
  • Multiply by the number of the season in which two players were sent home on the second day after not being selected in a schoolyard pick: ___
  • Add the number of the season in which tribes were divided by gender for the first time: ___
  • Multiply by the total number of letters in the first and last name of the castaway who first destroyed and later slept in the commode in Survivor: Exile Island: ___
  • Add the number of times James Clement won the $100,000 fan favorite award: ___
  • Add the number of votes cast to eliminate Yau-Man Chan from Survivor: Fiji: ___

Answer C: _ _ _ _


  Answer A    Answer B     Answer C 

         _ _ _   –    _ _ _       –    _ _ _ _

Postscript: Only about six of the sixty students in my class successfully solved this puzzle, and even after that they failed to locate the hidden immunity idol. You’ll know when you’ve solved it – drop me a line at @fymaxwell when you’ve figured it out.

RTVF330 Tribe Spirit Day Photo Gallery


Previously on RTVF330…

This week the four tribes of RTVF330, my Northwestern University class on Survivor and reality TV, squared off in a tribe spirit reward challenge. Our sixty student-castaways attended class bearing tribe flags and decked out in the colors of their namesakes, Tandang, Kalabaw, Matsing, and Dangrayne. Each tribe was interviewed about its teamwork strategies, and specifically about how its members are using social media to pool resources and prepare themselves for our quizzes and midterm exam. Finally, the students were tested on their knowledge of Survivor history with a series of questions about how their tribes fared in the show’s recently-concluded twenty-fifth season.

Judging the challenge was someone who knows first hand the importance of tribal harmony: R.C. Saint-Amour of Survivor: Philippines. R.C. skyped in to evaluate the tribes’ efforts and stuck around afterwards to answer a few questions about her time on Survivor. Later on that night R.C. announced her decision via Twitter, crowning Kalabaw the winner. Kalabaw’s reward is a powerful (and controversial) prize: the Medallion of Power. Kalabaw will receive a five point advantage on this week’s immunity challenge. However, in keeping with the spirit of the original Medallion of Power twist, after using it they will be required to grant one of their three opposing tribes an advantage in the next reward challenge. Will Kalabaw use the Medallion of Power to repair the rift between itself and the villainous Dangrayne tribe? Will they use it to form a new cross-tribe alliance with Tandang or Matsing? Or, will they grant the advantage to the tribe they feel they stand the best chance of defeating in the next reward challenge? You’ll have to tune in next time to find out….

RTVF330 Critics’ Round Table (Podcast) / Immunity Challenge #1

RTVF330 Critics' Round Table. From left: Max Dawson, Myles McNutt, Mo Ryan, Erik Adams.

RTVF330 Critics’ Round Table. From left: Max Dawson, Myles McNutt, Mo Ryan, Erik Adams.

On Thursday, January 17 my class on Survivor and reality TV hosted television critics Myles McNutt (Onion AV Club), Mo Ryan (Huffington Post), and Erik Adams (Onion AV Club) for the 2013 RTVF330 Critics’ Round Table. Our ninety-minute discussion touched on topics ranging from the special appeal of Pawn Stars to Netflix’s Arrested Development revival to how television showrunners are using social media to connect with (and, in some instances, antagonize) members of their own audiences. Myles, Mo, and Erik were kind enough to allow me to record our discussion, which is presented here for your enjoyment. Please download/stream/share:

Thursday also marked the first immunity challenge, or pop quiz, of the class. Following Tuesday’s hard-fought Survivor 101 reward challenge the victorious Dangrayne tribe opted to send Kalabaw member Charlie Gingold to Exile Island, thereby costing his tribe 5 points in the ongoing fight for immunity from the midterm exam. Did Dangrayne’s strategy pay off, hobbling Kalabaw in the immunity challenge standings? Or did its choice make an instant enemy out of a formidable foe? You’ll have to stay tuned to find out. In the meantime, why not see how you would have fared on this challenge. I’ve embedded the multiple choice quiz below. Tweet your answers to me at @fymaxwell and I’ll let you know how you did.

RTVF330 Reward Challenge #1: Survivor 101

As I explained in my last post, I’m currently teaching a course on reality TV that is modelled in part on the series Survivor. Yesterday, the class’s four tribes (Matsing, Kalabaw, Tandang, and Dangrayne) squared off in the first “reward chalenge” of the quarter. In the context of the course “reward challenges” are brief, ungraded in-class exercises that test the students’ teamwork skills or knowledge of reality TV trivia. This particular challenge, “Survivor 101,” tested students on Survivor-related terms and facts included in the course packet distributed on the first day of classes. After a close competition the Dangrayne tribe emerged victorious, claiming the “Exile Island Reward.” On the date of our next pop quiz Dangrayne will send one member of a competing tribe to Exile Island. The banished student will automatically receive a perfect score on the quiz. However, that score will not be counted toward his or her tribe’s total. Instead, the total will tabulated as if the student skipped class and received zero points. This is an opportunity for Dangrayne to hamstring the tribe that they consider their toughest competition in the contest over immunity from the midterm exam. Expect fierce tribe rivalries to erupt in the weeks to come…

At the request of the people who are “auditing” the class via Twitter, I’m including the “Survivor 101″ challenge below. If the questions seem exceedingly easy, that’s not a mistake. A significant number of my students were unfamiliar with Survivor prior to enrolling in the course, and the intention of this exercise was to bring them up to speed on some of the basic terminology that they will encounter over the next ten weeks. I’ll also reiterate that this quiz was a part of team-building exercise, and not a graded assignment. Contrary to popular belief, RTVF330 is about more than just Survivor trivia and Twitter. Sure, the course doesn’t educate students about “the 8th planet of the sun…The 4th number in pi… [or] Abraham Lincoln’s Secretary of State.” Instead, we examine the political economy of global media in the twenty-first century and the socio-cultural factors that have contributed to the transformation of the American television industry over the last two decades. Or, as Northwestern undergrad and Dangrayne tribe member Kevin O’Toole so aptly put it, ”the goal of #rtvf330 is to use that historical context to analyze why [Rupert Boneham] stealing the shoes is such a lasting TV memory.”

The Tribe Has Spoken: Surviving TV’s New Reality Season 2


Last week marked the return of “The Tribe Has Spoken: Surviving TV’s New Reality,” my class on Survivor and reality TV at Northwestern University. The class has evolved quite a bit since I first described it on the blog last January. Many of these changes are responses to the feedback I received while teaching it for the first time last year. When word got out in January 2012 that I was teaching a class on Survivor I received messages from fans of the show, journalists, and former contestants. While a few of my correspondents were skeptical about the idea of a college class on a reality TV show, many offered their encouragement, and a few volunteered to participate in one form or another. Over the course of the quarter the class was visited by critics and bloggers, producers and writers, and a number of former Survivor castaways. For our Survivor Summit event on February 9, 2012 we were joined by Stephen Fishbach and Erinn Lobdell (both of Survivor: Tocantins), John Cochran (Survivor: South Pacific; Survivor Caramoan), Mookie Lee (Survivor: Fiji), Jenny Guzon-Bae (Survivor: Cook Islands), and Kelly Goldsmith (Survivor: Africa). In addition, we hosted Skype q&a sessions with Survivor’s first winner, Richard Hatch, and two-time castaway (and perennial fan favorite) Yau-Man Chan.

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