LAST EDITED ON 11-03-07 AT 10:56 PM (EST)(Is that politics or money? Or power? I forget.)
Kid Nation, episode 107. Yes, that’s the real number they’ve assigned. That’s some hubris thinking the producers might get something approaching a thousand of these in the can. Well, 9*15 or so at least.
The Root of All Evil
Wasn’t there some old children’s story about a witch who collected and indoctrinated all the kids of the village? Was that
Hillary Hansel and Gretal’s gingerbread house witch, or the Pie- eyedd Piper of Hamlin? Old Mother Hubbard? The Teachers Unions?
Previously on Kid Nation
Once upon a time, there were forty kids aged 8 to 15 years, who, in the spirit of diversification and social engineering, were bussed into a ghost town in New Mexico with only a production crew and an adult camp
commandant counselor to call their own. (Who will be our Colonel Hogan?) The point? A more mature version of Romper Room or Ranger Hal? When they were asked to live in this new old west town, would it be possible for them to escape the adults' current model of cutthroat competition, class divisions and unrelenting consumerism and criminal activity? Throw in some friend making, game playing, and civic and social altruism for the good feelings. Do they remember what they learned in kindergarten? Somebody, I think it was Robert Fulghum, wrote a book or a poster about how that was all he really needed to know for the rest of his life. Will kids left to their own devices create a democratic idyll or a savage anarchy ala William Golding's Lord of the Flies?
The new Town Council struggles to lead Bonanza City. A former council member just struggles. That must be Taylor. The
socially defined groups districts got sorted out by an affirmative color code (via competition) and were assigned various job distributions. In a last ditch effort to get Taylor to help in the kitchen, Zach threatened to invoke price controls withhold her wages. At the town hall meeting, the town let Taylor have it. It was all too much drama and negativity for DK. He wanted to go home, but was talked out of it by new council member Guylan. Good thing, since he was awarded the gold star. He'd be kicking his butt up a long ol' dusty trail into the sunset for that booboo if he had left.
CBS' thumbnail description for this episode is Kids become entrepreneurs by selling products on the street while a treasure chest discovered in a gold mine presents the latest dilemma for the Town Council. The quest for the Gold Star reaches a whole new level as one Kid is accused of bribing Kids for their support. This capitalization reminds me of an old Mad Magazine cartoon in which a new kid in town was asked by an elder "What's your name, kid?" He responds, "Don't call me 'kid.'" "So what's your name, then, son?" "Kidd." "You got it, Kidd."
--- commercial break (more about that later) ---
Divad (isn't she one of the elitists?) decides she doesn’t have enough money already and endeavors to open a boardwalk/sidewalk Snack Bar and employ some people. With stuff stolen from the kitchen. Laurel, 12, is perturbed. She calls Divad on her unapproved by the Council initiative. "Why would I buy some apples from you when I can go in the kitchen and get a can myself?" "But mine are single servings on skewers," she responds. Don't you love how the Council members have learned how to start preaching and remonstrating to the general populace? All kids are equal, but some are more equal than others.
Jared is upset and talks to Divad about it, "Why buy from you when I can go to the kitchen and get it for free?" That’s parroting of the Dear Council Leader for ya. I'd say it's for the "convenience and personal service" -- capitalism and politics at its best: steal from the people's common pool (read our money), and resell to others, benefiting contributors (who ponied up the startup chalk, I guess), friends and family and cronies, and profit out the bejeebers. Can you say earmark? Divad should be a Council member; it'd complete the circle. Jared gets perturbed because the leaders aren't doing anything about this trickle-down takeover.
So this episode is going to be about political and economic graft? Our government in action as usual. Don't you wonder where all that wood came from, when there's only scrub brush for miles and miles around?
Jared is really upset, so he has to toss the applecart to demonstrate his frustration. She's not giving enough protection money, I guess. She waxes philosophically as she grabs a broom and cleans up after the class riot. “People that are jealous, they try to get at you, but to me, it just makes me want to work harder.”
The Council collects for the ritual morning read of the journal: Shots of the general store shelves: something about musical instruments and dolls on the shelf. This may be a foreshadow moment; let us bow our heads in prayer. Malorry and Sophia commiserate about the low laborer wages. "It's kind of hard to buy things when you're a laborer, because you don't have any ... money." Sophia responds, "We were laborers three times. I feel your pain. But this is a little town called Hope. If we build a library, the money will come."
They read about striking it rich in a gold mine, and letting the poor struggle on. The Council discusses a plan of action. Zach is reasonable, opining, “After we see what it is, then we should discuss it.” A bit later, he gets humorously macabre: "I just hope we don't end up like the Donner Party.”
Divad gets a minion to fetch Jared so he can apologize for his rant on the industrious little shopgirl. They make up and hug. This reeks of shades of Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, except Jared doesn't run a big national chain in competition with her.
♪♫ Working in a coal mine, going down down…. Canary in a coal mine. ♪♫
The council takes a long hike to a mine entrance. I could make references to The Holy Grail and the rabbit killing fields, but that might get too political. (There’s some lovely filth here, Dennis.) "This is so freaky!" says Zach, as they enter into the dark. “It stinks!” Where did that lantern come from? "Eeeeeeekkkkk!" screams Laurel, I think, scared by a bat.
Ah, now the editor's playing with rapid scene cuts. We're at the kitchen. Sophia is making some unsavory concoction in a big pot. She cackles. Round about the cauldron go;
In the poison'd entrails throw.
Toad, that under cold stone
Days and nights has thirty-one
Swelter'd venom sleeping got,
Boil thou first i' the charmed pot.
Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.
All that’s missing is a broom. Oh, Divad and her employees still have that for mopping up from hoi polloi’s apple spill. Sophia danced for street coinage from passersby before, now it's time to give it back in an almost a Halloween-esqe bobbing for coins time she's invented. She gleefully names her ingredients. "It's smelly, disgusting, ... perfect," she proclaims, describing the stew. She's such the entertainer.
One of the spelunkers says "Is it just me or is the lamp dieing?" Oops. Blackout.
The little kids in town dig into Sophia’s cauldron a treasure hunt themselves. This is a bit like bobbing for apples or that swimming pool game of diving to the bottom to pick up goodies. Oh joy, the little ones rejoice in the beneficient coinage distributed to them. Sophia is philosophical about it: “People never fail to entertain me. Kids do the darndest things.” In episode one she said she was 14 going on 30. Now she’s going on Art Linkletter. He’s dead already, isn’t he?
The council explores the
cave mine and finds Tom, Huck, and Becky. No, wait, they find a treasure chest. There’s $18.50 or 370 Buffalo nickels in native currency. "I'm rich!" "Money is the root of all evil," says Anjay, giving us our title tag line. This requires a full en banc executive committee meeting of the Council. They decide to spend the money on things to benefit the town instead of for themselves or a socialist equal distribution. Wow, maybe because they don't have a refrigerator like Louisiana Democratic Congressman Jefferson to stash it in.
They decide that the common folk can’t be trusted to spend this wisely, so they’ll spend it instead. It’s for the common good, of course. "I think democracy is important, but it's still important for the smarter people to make the right choice," says Zach. Did he learn that from
Hillary a classic elitist liberal politician on the stump or what? Zach’s learned something in government and politics class.
Cheers and joy from the townfolk as the Council announces their decision. Give them baseball bats! And clean laundry! Who needs bread and circuses?
Let's have some fun. Clang the buckets. "You're a nerd," says someone. Let the ribbing begin. ♪♫Are you ready for some baseball.♪♫ Well, stickball, it looks like. Urbanization has found Bonanza City. And an airing of dirty laundry fashion show. Guess who's the self-appointed judge? That's right, I think it's Sophia.
Nathan complains that there's still work to do; he's a regular scrubbing bubble® at the laundry. Laurel is concerned about the wellbeing of the town as a whole, she being the ever-hovering Council member, so she and Nathan have a heart to heart talk. “You need to be more laid back.” He's an outsider but not an outsider. Wasn't there a cool novel titled The Outsiders? Laurel explains for us denser folk: "Nathan, he's home schooled, he needs to not grow up so fast." Hmm, maybe Nathan's working for the gold star, ya think? The kids get the idea now it seems.
Greg is upset that Nathan is encroaching on his dishwashing territory and messing up his two-peat attempt for the prize by asking him to help carry his water. He does the irritating chalk on the blackboard/bowl routine. The little kids are causing chaos in the dishwashers union. Greg's back to bossy big guy again. Tears from the little one. "Always telling me what to do. I just can't stand it," he sniffles in his sleeping bag.
The male laborers lament toiling over the washtub and washboard. Hey, they get to touch girly panties, so what’s the problem? "I don't really trust the laundry," says Mike. "I don't want my clothes to get lost," worries some girl. "See, I have just one sock."
Greg says he'll nominate Pharaoh, 12, for the gold star. "To be honest, I work the most," Pharoah says. Uh-huh.
Divad is working hard, too. She’s netted $1.25 from her stand. "I got splattered in the face by oil, but that won't stop me." She was boiling or frying potato slices. “I help out all around, but some people just don’t notice I do.” She'll tough it out. What a trooper of a pioneer girl. That's the spirit. "Anyway, I don't want to be just the Potato Girl, I want be the kind Miss Bonanza City Potato Girl." Taylor's got some competition. Speaking of which, where is she hiding?
Run for Another Wild and Crazy Time
The kids have another screaming run to somewhere to gather for the next showdown competition to determine the social order. “It’s about collecting gold. Golden eggs,” exclaims the Adult. There's a slingshot style elastic launcher and a sort of fireman's safety net on the other side of a fence too tall to see over separating them. The districts have to launch and catch the eggs, as much golden eggs as possible. They differentiate duties for launching, catching, and putting the eggs in a weird log treasure chest.
"Four dozen total wins reward for the whole town," informs Adult. Perhaps because of the threat of class action suits from the ACLU, everyone is wearing safety
glasses goggles. Council leaders are on a coaching stand above the fence. "You have to control your district," Adult shouts to them. Are we going to see this as a challenge in Survivor episode soon? Speaking of Council leaders, at least former leaders, where the heck is Taylor? Did she get whacked?
Adult gives us play by play even better than Jeffy does.
"One egg for Blue. Blue has a system." Anjay explains, "We have a strategy, and system. We use hand signals for too short, too far."
"This is something that we do at the airport on the tarmac," Mike demonstrates with more hand signals.
"Incoming!" warns one of kids of the ballistic attack going on.
"Yellow with another egg."
"Red having trouble." Guylan laments, "We didn't have a strategy. You go this way, you catch." He giggles at his poor field generalship. Oh, there’s Taylor; she’s still alive.
Anjay reminds us again, "We're using hand signals."
Splat. Bounce and splat.
"Red still struggling. Green breaks another egg."
"Eight minutes left," says Adult (I can’t be bothered to research his name; he’s like the NotJeffy of Pirate Master). "Blue with ANOTHER egg."
Yellow and Blue catching eggs one after the other," says Adult approvingly. "Malorry's running a marathon over here," as she stumbles over the bales to deposit the egg in the Al Gore sponsored LockBox. If she cracked it, would it still count if she still got it into the LockBox?
"Green finally gets an egg. Another for Blue."
“Red gets another.”
"10-9-8...-1" countdown from Adult. “It's over!" Thank God.
"Bring it in, let's count some eggs before they hatch. Red district: 5." "Oh, my God, we got just 5 eggs," moans DK, "that's amazingly ... terrible."
"Green: 6 total."
"Yellow -- a lot, but is it enough?" Adult excitedly asks. They all count together. 18 eggs! Yea!
"Need 19 more to win the reward," says Adult, doing the math. "Here we go."
They all count together again. 38 eggs! Wild joy. Blue district wins. They certainly did have a system. They'll be the artillery brigade when when go to war. It’s all about working together.
So the new class mobility shuffle is: Blue elites, Yellow merchants, Green cooks, Red laborers.
Tell us, Bob, er, Drew, what did they win? Well, the choices for this win are all about laundry. Behind curtain #1 ... is a brand new coin operated laundromat. (I still don't understand where they're getting the electricity for the microwave and this kind of stuff.) But it’s twenty cents a load. Oh, my! “Freaky,” says Mike. The economic implications of this choice are profound. I sense a dilemma coming.
Choice #2: yellow, blue, ... clothes! There’s new outfits for everyone. Welcome to The Gap. And pioneer laundry machines. "It may be lame, but at least they're free." Yea! Council members, you decide. Dilemma solved.
The rabble of townfolk commence a discussion of the choices, debating the pros and cons. The cost seems to be high for many. Council jabbers. Anjay as usual is wrong (or merely in the minority) in his conclusion, but at least he’s a good middle-of-the-fence mediator. They return. "The free laundry," is their choice, says Laurel.
Zach is happy that "Everyone looks pretty sharp now." Everyone is so glad we got new clothes." Fist bang. Is that the new high-five?
They get to work with the new pioneer laundry equipment, which "is way more fun." What's next, a butter churn? ♪♫ “Workout, uh-huh uh-huh, I like it,” ♪♫ sings Mike. Five more, four more, where’s the smores?
Jarad, taking his cue from Divad, starts up his own business. Looks like he’s marketing old Bob Dylan used harmonicas, but he calls them necklaces. Well, really he's using his arts and crafts skills doing wood burnings with a magnifying glass and has opened up the Bonanza City Gift Shop. "Holy banana bread!" he exalts, "I've made $2.90." He doesn't get the "it's burning a hole in my pocket" saying right, though.
Jarad is shopping, and enjoying living the life with his new outfit. "I love this city, don't you?" he says to some
ho girl. He looks like a pioneer pimp.
Just How Long Is the Campaign Season?
Segway to a gold star discussion between Zach and Pharoah. Pharoah is campaigning based on his "I just need that gold star" platform. That's not really very persuasive, Pharoah.
"Nathan, can't that wait till morning?" asks Guylan as he's working at the laundry late into the night. "Go to bed," he instructs. Boy, those Council members can get officious.
Greg talks to Nathan as they get in their bags for sleep. He apologizes for being overbearing, says Nathan's working hard. "You're a good kid and a good man." What? Which is it? "Good night, bro," he says. It seems that Greg really lives in the moment, but afterwards, upon reflection, he makes amends. Good night John-boy.
Divad confessionals "I don't want to seem selfish, but I want that gold star." She takes a cue from the last campaign season and makes posters for herself.
Let the Gold Star campaigning begin. Oooohhh, chips and salsa! This is pioneer-style campaigning. How do you buy the votes? Feed ‘em, bribe ‘em, get ‘em drunk. Where's the
whisky beer? OK, we'll settle for root beer!
The Council conduct a straw poll amongst themselves: Pharoah, Nathan, any Divad discussion gets tabled. Then they take nominations from the individual interviews with the townfolk. Form a line.
I think Divad nominates herself.
Greg comes in and nominates Nathan, singing his praises. "Gregg hates Nathan normally," Zach says in surprise.
Anjay rates the nominees on a numerical scale: "Pharoah 100, Nathan, 1." I need to backtrack and check out how many times Anjay has been wrong on every decision. "Pharoah just started working when he found out the gold star was worth 20,000 dollars," says someone.
Town Hall Meeting
The Liberty Bell rings. "Pioneers, welcome to another town hall meeting. And it's time to give away another gold star." Yea! "By a show of hands, how many of you approve of the job your town council is doing?" Many hands. We get some testimonials from the pews. Halleluja.
Divad lists her curriculum vitae. “I don’t just fry potatoes, I also scrub toilets.” Laurel is not impressed. She says, "We don't want you to tell us about your work, we just want to see you do it." Smackdown!
"Anybody want to go home?" No takers. Self-congratulatory applause. "Now we're at the best part of the meeting. Time to award the gold star. Council members, time for you to vote."
Zach enjoys stringing out the announcment of their choice. "The entire council thinks this person is a heck of a good worker, has a great attitude, and is just an all around good person.... The gold star goes to Nathan!" Divad looks sad. There are no “thank yous” from Nathan, though. This gold star competition is getting cutthroat.
Zach justifies the decision by saying, "Giving gold stars away has to do with hard working, and Nathan just works his butt off every day." Nathan concludes "This means I can use it for school." Well, that's the obvious answer to "what are you gonna do with it?" isn't it?
Nathan goes to the pioneer phonebooth and calls home. He gives us some history. Mom gives him gold stars at home, he says. After opening chitchat, he teasingly asks Mom what he should get for working hard for three weeks at Bonanza City. She doesn't answer. "I’ll tell you: a gold star, and it's worth $20,000! I can use it for college, boarding school, other good stuff." They chitchat a bit more. “Nathan is an independent, and he always wants to do the right thing,” she praises. And then Mom passes the phone to his little sister, so she can bask in the reflected glory of the latest Gold Star winner.
Divad is bitching. "Just because nobody sees me work doesn't mean I'm not working." Nathan's not gonna stop working just because he won a gold star. Pharoah got caught up in a plague or something; I didn't catch his concession speech.
Dancing or some game, maybe it’s a fashion show with the new duds, as the kids entertain themselves on Main Street at the end.
On the next episode of Kid Nation
Some boy: "In this town I'm bored to death." Six or so kids make one of those dead body laydown protests in Main Street in the shape of a many-sided star. Or is that a Ziegfeld production rehearsal? DK complains that "What's going on right now is that we're not doing anything." "But they might if there's a talent show, and a gold star is on the line," Adult finishes with the hook for our next episode.
At least I don’t have any cow poop on my clothes anymore.
I was gonna comment on the commercials, about old geezer stuff on daytime game shows and network news, kid oriented for this show, but I'll save it for later.