The life lesson: Mandela makes a point of adding hold-over security from the white regime to his trusted security lieutenants, which is the source of some tension. When Matt Damon's rugby captain is invited to tea by Mandela, one of the white bodyguards is escorting him in, and Damon asks what he thinks of Mandela. The guard's response is along the lines of "with DeKlerk, I was invisible. With Mandela, he learned that I like toffee, and when he went to England he came back with a box of english toffe for me."
This line resonated with me. I try to be the person who would remember to bring back the box of toffee. I won't claim to do it perfectly, I can't claim to keep track of the lives of people like my mother, who manages to send more greeting cards to more people for more occasions than anyone else I know, but I try. And I think it's a trait worth having. Be a little curious about the people you work with, try and find out who likes the toffee. It's a social grace that I don't find near as much as I should.
On Sunday night it was time for the finale of Survivor: Samoa, the 19th edition of the pioneering reality show.
I had been a Survivor snob for its first three or four years, proud of ignoring it. And then one year I watched an episode on Thanksgiving night (sadly in recent years this episode has more often been an enh-y clip show than an actual newbie) with my younger brother and his family and found myself hooked. And have watched pretty regularly for the past six years or so. There've been good seasons and bad seasons and some boring episodes along the way, but overall it gives me pleasure.
This was a really good season, which helped to revise the show's gentle ratings decline. Sunday's finale was seen by a few more people than last December's, and even a bigger improvement over Season 18 in May.
And the finale was one of the more interesting, because I, at least, found it hard to root for the best man to win. An oil company executive named Russell clearly played the best game this season, perhaps one of the best in any season. He had a plan from the beginning, he executed it impeccably, he held to a core alliance, formed shorter alliances to be sure he could always vote out the people he wanted to vote out, when he wanted to do it.
And he lost the vote to become sole survivor and winner of the million dollar prize. Not even close. 7-2 in favor of another player who advanced that far prettty much entirely by hanging to Russell's coattails.
Well, Russell never stopped playing the game.
After the votes, the show has a few seconds where the departing player talks on his elimination. The next-to-last player to be voted off said in his remarks "the least I deserved was to be told that I was going home." And this departing player was right. There are times in the game when it's too dangerous to stop playing the game. Often not at the beginning, when there are too many votes to sway when nobody knows anyone else yet. Certainly not at the end, when alliances are so well cemented that there aren't votes to sway. So there's no harm in telling someone "sorry, but tonight's your night."
Boy, did that never happen in Survivor: Samoa. Week after week, the person being voted off was blindsided with no idea what was coming. Russell never told anyone tonight was their night. He was always telling person B that person C was being voted that night, person C that it was person B.
Life lesson: there's some truth to the adage about being nice to the people you meet on the way up because you might cross their paths on the way down. You can't always be playing the game.
I don't know how close that scene in Invictus is to anything that happened in real life. Survivor isn't real life. But nonetheless I think both of these things are teachable moments.