Survivor on HBO’s In Treatment: cast is “practically naked, without dignity”

On one of Monday’s episodes of In Treatment, the HBO series featuring half-hour therapy sessions with a psychologist played by Gabriel Byrne, a patient discussed watching Survivor, and it became a metaphor throughout his session.

Sunil, played by Slumdog Millionaire’s Irrfan Khan, is this season’s best character, and is struggling with adapting to life in the U.S. after moving from India. (If you haven’t seen the first two seasons, they’re on DVD–a must-watch and better than this season.)

Sunil stats his session by telling his therapist, Paul, about watching “Survivors.” Besides pluralizing the title, he also gets its day and time wrong: “Thursdays at 9.” Because this was written and filmed before CBS announced it was moving the series to Wednesdays, the Thursday makes sense, but 9 p.m.? The character lives in New York, too, so it’s not a time zone issue. Perhaps it’s an error by the character that was intentional on the part of the writers, or perhaps they just screwed up.

Anyway, here’s Sunil’s description and critique, which is somehow perfect despite being a response to cultural differences:

“Two teams of American citizens are stranded in an island and they compete in most unpleasant conditions. There’s no food, they have to struggle for water, they have to battle for water, and there are women walking and jumping around naked, almost naked, practically naked, without dignity. And during competitions they fight each other in the mud and run like crazed animals. And they do all this willingly, Paul. I could not help imagining what their husbands and wives and children must think. They are willing to compromise any principle they might possess for $1 million. I suppose this is the cost of one’s dignity in America, $1 million. I better go back to India before I start building an obstacle course in my bedroom.”

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.