Forty Kids Try to Conquer the Desert
Like many people I was a bit apprehensive about a show that sets loose forty kids into an abandoned ghost town, but I must admit some of this apprehension comes from being a mom. I worry about rusty nails, broken glass, bigger kids picking on the little ones, someone starting a fire accidentally, all the nightmares a parent worries about. In the end, these seem like really capable children, even the little ones, and contrary to what people are saying, Jimmy is not a puzzy for wanting to go home and Sophia is not thirty years old.
One thing I decided before writing this was that I would keep in mind these are children, this is not BB and I will not bash these kids at all. I cannot imagine the horror of any of these kids coming online and seeing people they do not know bashing them for whatever flaws they might have, it would just not be cool at all. I am hopeful the forum for Kid Nation will avoid the bashing in general, please.
The Episode begins with a short history of the ghost town, Bonanza City, New Mexico. The town failed due to lack of leadership and lack of will. The oldest child is Gregg, who just turned 15 and the youngest is Jimmy who is 8 years old. The children seem pretty excited but are somewhat pessimistic about their chances for success. The children arrive by school bus to a spot a couple miles from town. The host of the show, Jonathon, greets the children and tells them they will be living in Bonanza City and that they have each other, and four leaders who have been chosen to be their town council. A copter lands and four kids step out, Mike a boy scout, Taylor a pageant queen, Anjay a genius spelling bee champ, Laurel a student leader. The kids are told these four are in charge, at least for now, things can change.
The kids are told they need to take wagons filled with forty days worth of supplies they must get to town. The kids start dragging, pushing and pulling the wagons, leading goats and chasing chicken toward Bonanza City. The town council is kept behind to learn there is an old book in the town hall that will help them get things organized. They are also told that at the town meeting they will present a gold start to the top kid and that it is worth 20k and then he swears them to secrecy. The kids are then left to get the supplies and themselves to town. They have a wagon train going and only lost a few eggs on the trip. Jimmy seems pretty shaky even though they have not yet reached town. Mike complains about being hot and sweaty but he is simply walking and telling everyone to come on, so this causes a bit of dissension. One of the boys, DK, got a bad leg cramp or sprain in his leg muscle, so the others lifted him into the wagon and let him ride the last bit into town.
The arrive in town and realize it is desolate and there is nothing there. Some of the kids admit they thought there would be some adults, but nope, no adults. The bunk houses are just simple rooms with trunks and inside the trunks are thin mattresses for them to lay out on the floor. They are stunned there are no beds. They are trying to decide how to sort the bunk houses and Anjay says boys over here, girls over there. Sounds simple enough. They ask for volunteers to unload the food and start trying to figure out how to make some dinner. The first attempt at dinner is pouring a lot of macaroni into a pot of cold water, they fill the pot with macaroni to where it would never cook. Sophia dumped it out and suggested they follow a recipe since no one knows how to cook. Sophia assures the kids they are not going to starve out there.
They decide on macaroni and meat. The pasta is cooking slowly and the natives are getting restless when finally Sophia and the other kids bring the pasta and meat sauce in, such as it is. Taylor is crying after dinner because she misses home, she misses protein, she misses her bed. Taylor says she is considering leaving and Laurel assures her she thinks it will be better tomorrow. Mike really wants to hold a town meeting after dinner but most of the kids are just to tired. Mike is very disappointed that they don't want to do the meeting. He begins to cry but Laurel and Taylor are there to let him know it will all be fine. They wonder where Anjay is and we see he is sound asleep, it has been a long day and a lot to digest. They finally all head off to bed and so ends day one.
The next morning the children wake slowly, walking around town wrapped in blankets. Sophia makes pancakes for breakfast which turn out quite good. They tell the children to only take one pancake each but some take more and by the time the last of the kids gets to breakfast, they are out of pancakes and some get no food at all. The kids are milking the goats and collecting eggs. The blaming starts about who took more than one pancake and who ate all the peaches. Mike yells to get them to stop talking over each other. They decide to hold their meeting. The kids are all talking over each other and Gregg comes up on stage and does push Mike's buttons a bit as he tries to force order. Anjay tries to get Mike to realize that Gregg is just pushing his buttons. Gregg leaves the meeting, Jimmy says Gregg is not very nice and just thinks he is cool.
Amid the chaos, Michael jumps on stage and says this is about more than just them and they need to listen to their leaders and if they work together they can do this and become a working machine. This seemed to calm things down enough so they could actually get some decisions made. After the meeting Mike went to talk with Gregg to make sure they were ok with each other. Gregg tells us he was not upset, we haven't seen him upset. The council goes to check out the journal in the town hall and they find a book that talks about the town failing and suggests they organize the town into four equal districts, red, blue, green and yellow. These districts will work and lives together. Taylor is yellow, Laurel is green, Mike is red and Anjay is blue. They then sit down and decide which kids they want to have on their teams. They make an effort to try to keep friends together. Taylor ends up with most of the kids that are close to her age. Anjay ends up with the older boys on his team. Laurel and Mike split the rest.
Mike 11 leads the Red Team
DK, Jared, Guylan, Markelle, Madison, Divad, Jasmine, Emilie, Maggie.
Taylor 10 leads the Yellow Team
Cody, Kelsey, Sophie, Zach, Leila, Randi, Colton, Brett.
Anjay 12 leads the Blue Team
Gregg, Blaine, Mallory, Gianna, Alex, Nathan.
Laurel 12 leads the Green Team
Campbell, Sophia, Michael, Morgan, Jimmy, Kennedy.
After they choose the kids they want in their district, they let the rest of the kids know about the teams and pass out the colored bandanas. The council members meet with each of their groups and try to get to know them a little, names and ages at least. As Laurel is wrangling her group, she notices she is missing one, Jimmy. So she goes looking for Jimmy and finds him huddled against a building, crying. Jimmy is only eight years old and misses his home, his parents and he is scared. He doesn't think he is old enough for this. Laurel tries to cheer him up, she tells him he has a lot to offer and that Taylor is scared too and might go home. Laurel says she will do her best to substitute for his folks in trying to make him feel safe and ok with staying. He says he will try to give her a chance.
On the second night, Gregg and Blaine decide to write "Go Blue" and "Blue" all over the town with chalk. Alex told one of the other boys that Gregg and Blaine did it. Mike investigates and figures out it was the older boys. Guylan then tells us that "if anyone every says it is easy to live in Bonanza City, slap them across the face because they are a smack down liar." This in reference to the fact they have one outhouse. Jonathon calls them to the center of town for a meeting. He asks if they feel things have been chaotic, most agree yes, it has been. He makes a point of checking on Jimmy, probably because he is the youngest. Jimmy says he misses home, Gregg, in an effort to help Jimmy asks Jimmy if he wants to be his new wingman. Jimmy asks who it is asking and when he hears it is Gregg, he answers a very definite "No!". Everyone laughs.
They are told they will be organizing into groups. Laborers, who make 10 cents and clean toilets and haul water. Cooks make 25 cents for cooking, cleaning the kitchen and collecting milk and eggs. Merchants get 50 cents for running the various shops and stores. Upper class get $1.00 and have no assigned chores, they can help where and if they want. The kids will participate in a district against district showdown to see who gets what jobs and what pay. The first team finished gets to be Upper class, the second will be Merchants, the third will be the Cooks and the fourth will be the Laborers.
They get uniforms for the competition, T-Shirts that denote their team color and says Bonanza City on them. The teams all get hyped up for the competition. The showdown is about team work and leadership. Each team has a pumping station they must move around to pipes in the ground. The council members are given maps which show where they color water pipes are, they must pump out colored water and fill buckets which they use to fill bottles, once all the bottles are filled, they must carry the pump across the finish line. If all teams finish within one hour, they all win a prize for the town. Blue takes an early lead and after twenty minutes all teams are making progress. At one point the blue team makes a mistake and starts pumping red water instead of blue. The red team fills it's bottles first and heads to the finish line with their pump. The blue is soon close behind.
Red district is the Upper Class
Blue district is the Merchant Class
Yellow district is the Cooks Class
Green district is the Labor Class
After the yellow team crossed the line, they start all cheering for Green because they want them to finish within the hour time limit so they can get the reward for the town. With only seconds to spare, Green makes it across the finish line within the hour and so wins the reward. The money for each district is given to the leaders. The reward is a choice, either seven more outhouses or a television they can watch anytime. The council has to make the final decision on which reward will be chosen. So they talk for a few minutes and debate which to take. The discuss it for a short time and decide the town gets the seven extra outhouses. With forty kids this will make life a bit more comfortable.
Day four begins with the council members deciding which members of their teams will do specific jobs, such as which cooks will collect eggs and milk and which merchants will run the dry goods store or the saloon. The yellow district is making breakfast and Sophia, who was doing the cooking prior to the district assignment checks in on them. She tells us they don't really believe in the cookbook which she doesn't think is great and she feels she is surrounded by dumb people. They all wonder what breakfast will be like. Apparently it is quite good, oatmeal, biscuits, etc. Sophia feels displaced because she is no longer the special cook. She gets annoyed that the yellow team does not jump right on the dishes and tells them they should do the dishes as they go to keep the mess down. Taylor then informs them, she is a beauty queen and does not DO dishes. [lol]
The merchants checks out the shops, there is a candy shop, a dry goods shop and the saloon that serve nickel root beer. They are all very excited to have a few of the comforts of home. Their salaries are spent quickly... at least some of them. I was tickled to see one of the boys spent part of his salary on a book. Sophia comments on how hard she has worked that morning, cleaning toilets and hauling water and after all that she cannot afford a game of jacks. She spots a bicycle in the dry goods store and decides she wants that bike, no matter what. Being an industrious girl, Sophia decides to do a little dancing on the street to raise money, and sure enough it works, others come by and give a nickel here and there and some pay her to dance elsewhere, but she raises the three dollars for the bike and immediately rides it around town. As the sun sets, Mike and Anjay start talking about who they should give the gold star to at the next days town meeting. They think Sophia and when Laurel joins them, she suggests Michael for giving his speech. They hope Taylor won't leave tomorrow and even Taylor is unsure if she is going to stay.
The next morning begins with Jimmy, Campbell and Cody out hunting jack rabbits with sticks. Jimmy tells them he might be leaving. They wonder why he would want to leave and try to talk him out of leaving. They tell him he should be proud of himself and off they run into the desert in hunt of prey. Next is the town hall meeting. The council is seated on a platform. Jonathon asks if they are happy with the council, the only one that is unhappy is Sophia. She starts in about the dishes and if this is the councils job to ensure the dishes get done, she is not happy, if it is not the councils job then she is fine with them. Michael says they should try to get to know everyone so when they want to speak with someone they will be able to use their names and people will respond better. Jonathan says he will ask at every town meeting, "Does anyone want to go home?". He asks Taylor if she wants to go home, Taylor says she wants to stay for the rest of the thirty six days. Jimmy raises his hand when the question is asked again. He says he is homesick and he is way to young for this and it is scary. The kids try to talk him out of it but he wants to go home. Jonathan tells him he is extraordinarily brave for doing this and they will get him home to his parents.
Jonathan shows them all the golden star trophy and tells them one will be awarded at each town meeting. He asks the council, who is going to be rewarded the gold star, who did an excellent job. The council huddles and decides to give the trophy to Sophia. She thanks the council, apologizes for being bossy and will try to improve. Jonathan now informs her it is worth it's weight in gold, it is worth $20,000.00 and after the show she and her parents can decide how to use the money for her future. Jonathan asks what her mom and dad would say and offers her the key to the only building in Bonanza City that has a phone. She runs off to call her folks. Jonathan tells them he hopes Sophia has inspired them because any one of them could win a gold star and each one is worth 20k. Sophia calls her mom and says she has won $20,000.00 and her mom is very excited for her, and for the fact she is happy. Gregg thinks that people will work harder to try to get a gold star, he is going to work harder and get a gold star.
The show ends with them toasting with shots of root beer in the saloon while two of the boys smack each other with their bandanas outside. It will be interesting to see how this show unfolds. The color districts above are incomplete, but I will try to fill in the blanks as I figure out which kids are on which districts. One thing that struck me is how mature these kids seem, over all and how opinionated they are. It will be fun to see how this plays out.