"Oh boy! Tonight that pageant queen Taylor gets what's coming to her!" I thought as I sat down to watch tonight's episode. And then it hit me. The nauseating aspect of Kid Nation isn't that forty kids are left alone to fend and feud for themselves in a ghost town. It's that their parents have signed them up to be television personalities -- and whatever the kids' storylines turns out to be, that's how they'll be known forevermore. Johnny Fairplay made his own reality show bed, and now he gets to lie in it for the rest of his fifteen minutes of fame, but he's an adult who signed his own waivers. Taylor may have acted like a lazy, entitled princess on the show, but she's also ten years old. Does she really deserve to have this image stick to her for years, because her guardians decided on her behalf that this reality show would be her big showbiz break?
The producers give her a little bit of a break by finding some kids to complain about Anjay, our token Hindu pioneer and Taylor's fellow councillor. But they put the whole council up for re-election, leading to this week's kids-do-the-darnedest-things montage. Last week it was "awww ... kids pray!" This week: "awww ... Zach is practicing his stump speech!"
The worst thing about political campaigns, it turns out? Hurt feelings. Little Mike, who's arguably taken his leadership responsibilities more seriously than any of his councilmates, has to stand by while homeschooled Guylan, in what to my memory is almost his first appearance onscreen, calls his reign a "dictatorship." That's hard cheese for a fifth-grader.
Because nothing says "U.S. presidential politics" like "red white and blue pinatas," the showdown features a lot of flailing away at party favors in order to collect trading cards that the council members had to put in historical order. (Taylor admits that she has no idea who was president before George W. Bush -- don't they have an interview portion in these kiddie pageants?)
Former bad boy Greg cleans up and gets the gold star, putting his dream of college within reach. Then comes the election, raising all kind of behind-the-scenes questions. Did the producers mandate that there only be one challenger for each spot? Has any election ever kicked off with the words "Ready ... set ... vote!" Where can I get some of those rustic Wild West pencils they used to mark their choices?
Poor Mike, who cried when his attempt to give the town barbecue was foiled, gets ejected in a landslide -- the only vote for him was the one he cast. But in the show's biggest surprise so far, Zach breaks Taylor's impenetrable voting bloc of girls to end her reign of terror. Who was the gender traitor? While the trumped-up conflict and protracted Jeff Probst-style vote-counting represented the heavy hand of the producers in this episode, the real excitement of the kids at the prospect of political change made for compelling television. Next week: Nothing changes, just like when the Democrats took over Congress!
- The show's tradition of moralistic dualism in the reward choices continues; toothbrushes predictably win out over barbecue. Has the council ever gone for pure pleasure over Victorian vitues of hygiene and thrift? Maybe the show should be set a Dickensian workhouse rather than the Wild West. Enough with the ants -- Bonanza City needs some grasshoppers.
- Yellow, with Zach's historical knowledge, manages to win the showdown after Green mixes up Taft and Teddy Roosevelt. Whitney sneers at Zach's demonstration of competence, pointing out that George W. Bush proves that smart people don't always make the best leaders. I'm not exactly sure what her point was.
- What is the real world about, viewers? The real world is about people ripping down other people's posters!
- Olivia admits to being a little perturbed about losing to "the worst leader ever," then she refuses to accept Anjay's peace offering after she loses. Somebody get a PSA about sportsmanship up in here.
- There was no call for defections this week. Edited out for time, or ... ?