That was a great analysis, Moley. The show grew on me too, and I looked forward to it each week (Jared and Sophia were my favorites and I was always interested to see which side of Greg would come out).
As much as I liked the show, I agree that too much was staged, and that is what would keep me from embracing a second season. (Although if it's on again and the strike is still on, I'd probably tune in.) I found the dynamics interesting between the kids, but it didn't have me hanging on the edge of my seat like some reality shows do.
I was very disturbed to see the kids looting. I wonder who started it - that was pack mentality in action. Or did the producers "suggest" it so they could "clean up" after, proving that they'd learned something. The final reward was good: no teams, they all worked together. The host mentioned something about the rewards for the cooking and building tasks - the microwave helped them out and the book that would tell them how to build a picnic table was in the library they didn't get. It would've been fun to see more challenges with that mindset.
The finale was kind of anti-climatic. Too much sentiment and too much emphasis placed on the four gold stars, although I'll admit that the 'end of camp' sentimentality pulled at my heart.