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Why are Survivors so dumb?

Plus: ‘Ivana Young Man’; Ruben Studdard; ‘Gauntlet’ theme song
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Coming this Wednesday: FOX's new reality show "Unan1mous."  Don't know why they thought it would be a great idea to throw a number in the middle of the world. I mean, "Survivor" is all about getting down to one person too, but it's not called "Surv1vor." Ugh.

You've probably been unable to escape the ads hawking "Unan1mous." Nine people are locked in a bunker where they have to vote unanimously for one person to receive $1.5 million. You can lie, cheat, confess, whatever you feel you have to do to try and get the others to vote your way. It's an interesting concept, but it also feels fairly cheesy. Still, it's got a plum time slot after "American Idol," so you know at least the first few weeks will do well.

Q: Why is it no one on Survivor ever seems to have a clue about basic survival techniques like starting a fire, or finding edible plants? Can they not practice this stuff before going on the show?    —Crystal, Ohio

Why on Survivor every season the contestants are so ticked off when they get backstabbed and lied to? Make you think they never watched the show before ever going on. Outwit outlast! Hello!    —Andrew, Georgia

A: Andy says: “Survivor” is in its twelfth season, but the castaways do appear to be making the same mistakes that people made during the first season. This was even true of the cast of “Survivor All-Stars,” who should know better. The answer may have something to do with human nature: People are people, and we act and behave in the same ways, even despite knowledge that we’re not being smart. As to specific survival skills, the cast may assume that they don’t really need to know how to start a fire; some people still don’t believe that the show and its conditions are very real. Other cast members might just assume that someone else on their tribe will have those skills.

But I think our perception of their behavior mostly has to do with our perspective as viewers. It’s much easier to be smart watching from our couches, eating Cheetos instead of minnows. For one, we have an omniscient perspective, so we know when someone’s making a stupid move. That’s not always as clear to the contestants themselves.

But they’re also not operating under normal circumstances, which is why the show works so well. Physically, they’re hungry and tired from sleeping on the ground, often in wet or cold conditions. Mentally, they’re trying to play a game that involves unpredictable opponents and game rules, all while being hounded by camera crews and producers. Making fun of the contestants as we watch all of this certainly is part of the fun. But I’m not sure I wouldn’t be doing the same stupid things if I was in their place.    —A.D.

Gael says: One question I've had: Why don't more eyeglass-wearing "Survivor" contestants use their glasses to try and start fires? It was done on some early shows, but we haven't seen it attempted on recent seasons.

I asked CBS if it was forbidden, and their response was "no, it's not forbidden, it just hasn't worked!" They also suggested that this form of fire-starting may work better with bifocals, as demonstrated by BB from the first-ever season, and the recent glasses-wearing types have been younger folks, without bifocals.

So there you go, future "Survivors" — my tip for you. Once you're cast, see if you can get a doctor to prescribe you some bifocals. Then go out in your backyard and start practicing torching some underbrush.  —G.F.C.

Q: Rumor has it that “Ivana Young Man” hosted by Ivana Trump will not be airing on FOX anymore. The Oxygen channel now owns the rights and will be airing it in March/April of 2006. Please confirm this rumor. I saw a lot of press on the show in 2005, I cant wait to see it!    —Nikki, Florida

A: The rumor is confirmed. "Ivana Young Man," a two-hour special where Ivana Trump helps middle-aged women search for younger lovers, was filmed in the fall of 2004 and was supposed to air on FOX. Modeling itself after “The Apprentice,” Ivana selected and then dismisses possible suitors for 40-year-old millionaire divorcee Kathy.

For no clear reason, FOX decided that it wasn’t going to air the special. That was last summer. But now, a year and a half after it was filmed, the special has found a new home: the cable network Oxygen. “Ivana Young Man” will air there on April 29 at 8 p.m. ET.    —A.D.

Q: What happened to American Idol winner Ruben [Studdard]?    —Anonymous

A: We recently ran "where are they now" features on the winners and other major competitors from each of the four completed seasons of "American Idol." , and you can navigate to the others via the links in the right margin. Essentially, Studdard has found some musical success, but he's been out of the spotlight more than other "Idol" winners, and certainly doesn't get the media attention of his competitor, Clay Aiken.   —G.F.C.

Q: What is the theme song for "The Gauntlet 2"? Lyrics go something like "We are a fire inside, we are an army asleep."    —Anonymous

A: "Anthem," by Christian rockers Superchick. .    —G.F.C.

Gael Fashingbauer Cooper is's Television Editor. is a writer and teacher who publishes , a daily summary of reality TV news.