Tonight, tens of millions are expected to watch the final episode of the second installment of "Survivor." Tomorrow, tens of millions will gab about the ending, second-guessing how it all came down to Colby and Keith and Tina, and how they knew all along that Colby (or Keith or Tina) would be the final winner.
The rest of us - those we'll call the Conavida Tribe (roughly translated as "Tribe With-a-Life") - have two choices. We can draw ourselves up haughtily and sneer, "Oh, I don't own a television machine." Or we can fake it, which has the advantages of a) not alienating people and b) being just the kind of duplicitous, sneaky behavior that Richard Hatch would endorse.
You don't know who Richard Hatch is? Then you are the targeted demographic for the "Survivor Survival Kit," a guide that will enable you to fake your way through this pop culture phenomenon. All you need are a computer, a television set and one magazine subscription.
Luxury item No. 1: Entertainment Weekly. Simply the bible for the pop culture con. EW, as its aficionados know to call it, provided a complete overview of the two tribes this season, a kind of "Survivor" Cliff Notes. It also has kept pace with the "seminal" moments - scheming Jerri's ouster, the outcry over the "pig-sticker," Elisabeth's engagement.
By contrast, Us magazine's seeming coup, a regular column by Hatch, the first "Survivor" winner, is a skippable snore, with Hatch's weekly recaps and his list of odds for the remaining players. Put him down as a 20-1 shot to keep cashing in on his dubious honor of being the most famous naked man since Rodin's "Thinker."
Come the morrow, however, EW will be about as efficient as the Pony Express when it comes to getting the word out on the winner. To be up to speed once the show has aired you will need -
Luxury item No. 2: A television set. Don't panic. No one's gong to suggest you actually watch the damn show. But, given the way local television stations hype their network lineups, WJZ, the CBS affiliate, can be expected to "cover" this breaking story on its 11 o'clock broadcast.
Can't stay up that late? Try CBS' "The Morning Show," which has found that "Survivor" coverage is the only thing that can get people to wake up to Bryant Gumbel. "Survivor" is such a bona fide phenomenon that shows on competing networks, such as "Today," end up chatting about it. Ditto many of the chat-happy radio stations in town.
But what if you want details, a blow-by-blow description of what really happened? What if someone tops Susan's famous rat-and-snake diatribe from last year's "Survivor." That brings us to ...
Luxury item No. 3: A computer. Several Internet sites post episode summaries. SurvivorSucks.com can feel a bit like an inside joke, but its "Cannibalism" link is quick and efficient, with visual aids showing how the votes went down. (If mug shots with large red X's can be called visual aids.) Salon.com also has done a nice job of episode summaries, although its staff seemed to find greater inspiration from "Temptation Island" and "Big Brother." Curious to learn about ratings and/or book deals for this year's "Survivors"? Check out Inside.com.
In fact, Inside.com has some possibly good news for those who wish the whole "Survivor" thing would go away: Ratings were down 12 percent in the 18-49 age group demographic for last week's show, when compared to the penultimate episode of the first "Survivor." And if you think about any of the popular culture phenomena of recent years - Jerry Springer, wrestling, Pokemon - they do seem to have an expiration date on a par with Half-and-Half. They don't necessarily go away, but - well, you can probably finish the Half-and-Half metaphor on your own.
Until that happy day, consider this Survival Kit your personal immunity idol. As to the larger question of why people would want to fake knowledge they don't have - darlings, what do you think the New York Times Book Review was created for?
When: 8 tonight
Where: WJZ (Channel 13)
In brief: Outcome in the Outback.