The Ominous Parallels ... to Kid Nation

Was last night’s episode of Kid Nation the best episode yet? Damn right it was!

The town was already at wit’s end with the unelected town council, mostly because it was seen as unresponsive and even at times contemptuous towards the reg’lar folks. Dissent began that first night, when Sophia blasted the council for failing to provide stern leadership the town badly needed. And it continued unabated in each town meeting that followed.

The season thus far has centered on a few key arcs: would wild-man Greg, the biggest, oldest, and strongest kid settle down and emerge as a leader, if only to win that $20,000 gold star? And would Taylor be strung from a lamppost for being an imperious shot-drinking princess?

In the Yellow District, Taylor, a 10-year-old pageant queen from the South who loves President Bush, set the tone as leader: she was tremendously lazy, yet she was quick to condemn others for questioning her “authori-tay,” turning, “Deal With It!” into the most memorable catchphrase of this TV season. This kid has star quality. As an irresponsible and sometimes nasty drunkard who feigns contrition and asks for forgiveness and understanding whenever she “strays” (always) and who takes great pride in her ignorance and laziness, Taylor closely resembles the president she admires so much. Zach, her hard-working opponent, resembles Al Gore in his self-regarding puffery and teacher’s pet smarminess, and also (to be fair) his willingness to do the hard work no one else is willing to do. Clearly Zach deserved to win the election. For one thing, he had major campaign chops, to the point where it looked a little suspicious. Was Robert Shrum secretly throwing back root beers in the salon, consulting on the side? Yet Taylor taunted Zach throughout, confident that her rock-solid block of five girls would stay strong, guaranteeing her a win.

The moment I thought Zach was a goner was when crazy Markelle pogo-ed all over Taylor’s poster. Taylor shrewdly portrayed this as an attack not on her but on her friend Leila, who made the poster. As one of the youngest kids in Bonanza City, Leila, who has always followed Taylor’s lead, was far more sympathetic. I was convinced that a rally-round-the-flag effect would guarantee Taylor a win. Markelle’s act of nutso violence represented a kind of “October Surprise.”

I don’t want to give anything a way, but I would like to note that Kelsey, in arguing that Taylor should win, noted that while Zach might be the smarter candidate, George W. Bush demonstrated in two elections that intelligence doesn’t really matter in determining who should lead.

It’s often said that Bill Clinton provided a not-so-hot role model for America’s children. One wonders if President Bush has warped the minds of Red America’s youth. Let’s hope not.

The most satisfying moment came when put-upon, ever-responsible Anjay triumphed over surprisingly bratty Olivia, who has evidently been tormenting him for some time. Now, Anjay is clearly not the most charismatic kid in the world,but he’s also thoughtful and bright. I was sure Olivia would crush him like a bug. In the end, Anjay won an overwhelming majority. And even then, Olivia couldn’t behave magnanimously in defeat. She taunted him even as she went down in flames, still bitter and resentful that she had been bested by someone who allegedly had no leadership skills. So what does that tell us about Olivia, who lobbied hard for the job?

Guylan, in contrast, went for the soft sell, in the process bringing down a good kid and good leader, Mike (the capable boy scout).

The Green District, home to leaders-in-waiting Michael and Sophia, was united behind Laurel, a testament to her tremendous leadership skills.

Overall, an exciting episode and a wonderful laboratory of democracy.

PS- I’ll also note that Gossip Girl was pretty good last night. I spoke too soon.