SURVIVOR BLOGGING….I’m temporarily in a nonpolitical mood, so let’s blog about Survivor instead. Everyone loves Survivor, right?

First observation: these guys still can’t make fire? How many seasons does this show have to be on the air before the contestants figure out that they should track down a boy scout or something and learn how to do this before the taping starts? Sheesh.

But that’s just a quibble. The real problem is that Survivor is stale. It needs some real surprises, not the flim flammery on display last night. Their idea of a “surprise” on Thursday’s opening episode was the fact that (a) they started with 20 contestants instead of 18, and (b) those 20 contestants were all thrown together into a single tribe for the first day. What a shocker that was. I could hardly stay on my seat.

The primary appeal of Survivor is not the physical surroundings or the number of people on the show or the ethnic or gender makeup of the contestants. The appeal of the show is in the human interaction. How do you keep from being voted off? How do you make and break alliances? Who gets betrayed this week?

That’s where they need to throw in a few curveballs. The contestants need to learn that the standard way of forming alliances and screwing competitors is subject to change.

Here’s an example. After the tribes were formed last night there were 18 people left. Suppose it then worked like this: one person wins immunity in a personal immunity challenge and the remaining 17 are then given the rest of the day to break themselves into four groups of four. Those groups are revealed at tribal council with a suitable set of rules that builds suspense and allows for lots of enjoyable last minute backstabbing. At the end, one person is left out and has to go home.

See what happens? Suddenly there’s a new and unexpected way in which alliances have to be formed. All you have to do is find three reliable buddies and you’re safe for the week. Next week, who knows? Maybe it’s three groups of five. Maybe it’s something completely different. Whatever it is, though, the way in which you interact with other tribe members is now entirely different than it has been in past seasons. If you think you have a strategy all worked out, think again.

I’m not suggesting things should have worked exactly that way, just that the contestants ought to be surprised with a new twist on the old alliance game. Backstabbing and betrayal are the key to the show, and the producers need to find new ways to make the knife twisting ever bloodier and more traumatizing. The masses are getting restless.