The pioneers who founded Bonanza City, New Mexico in the 1800’s abandoned it. Lack of leadership and determination left behind a lonesome and desolate ghost town. All of that is about to change! Ty and the design team from Extreme Makeover: Home Edition will move in and completely renovate the town. Oh wait…..wrong show, wrong network. It is a good idea though. That Ty is a hoot and Ed Sanders is a cutie but unfortunately, they won’t be anywhere near Bonanza City. Instead, forty kids ranging in age from 8 and a half to 15 will become pioneers for forty days in an attempt to create a working town, a Kid Nation.
The Kids On The Bus Go "Wah, Wah, Wah!
Since the kids are pioneers in an old Western ghost town, we can expect them to arrive by wagon train, stagecoach, or maybe even on horseback, right? Wrong. They arrive on a school bus that looks oddly out of place in the middle of the desert. The youngest in the bunch is Jimmy, a sweet looking little guy who’s worried that he might die out there with no parents and no adults. The bus drops them all off to meet Jonathan, the show’s host, who really gets into his role by dressing in a red plaid Western shirt. Jonathan has them say good-bye to the big, yellow dog and tells them to “say hello to the middle of nowhere.” He introduces them to their town council. These four leaders were chosen because their ages and geography are representative of the group. Since the town council has a little clout, they arrive via helicopter. They are Mike, the boy scout (age 11), who thinks he’s a leader because he has respect for others; Taylor, the beauty pageant queen(age 10) who wants to bring world peace to all of the orphans in Africa and Iraq. Sounds like she’s got the standard pageant question, “What would you do to make the world a better place?” down. My guess is that she gets extra points from the judges for mentioning the orphans; Anjay, the genius spelling bee champ(age 12) who thinks adults have done a horrible job running the world. In his opinion, the only three who’ve done a decent job are George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and Mahatma Ghandi. I’m disappointed that Michael Jackson didn’t make the list.; and Laurel, a respected student leader(age 12) who believes in her beliefs and won’t let anyone make her believe otherwise. Believe that! These four are in charge and some of the kids grumble about those chosen for this position. Jonathan informs them that they are only in charge for the time being and that could change. So, they shouldn’t get too comfortable. It will be rough and tough, Jonathan warns. There will be weekly town council meetings and if anyone wants to go home, he or she may do so at that time.
Now, Bonanza City is a few miles away from where the bus and helicopter dropped them off. It’s a long hike and they must pull wagons loaded down with 40 days worth of supplies. No pack mules for these young pioneers! They do, however, have goats. The goats get out and the kids have to rope them and get them corralled. Jonathan lets the town council know two thing they need to remember. First, when they get to town, they’ll find an old book in the chapel that will give them more information about what to do. Next, Jonathan wows them with a 2 pound gold star that‘s worth it’s weight in gold. Twenty thousand smackeroos to be exact. That’s a heck of a lot of milk money! Jonathan encourages them to get to know their fellow pioneers because that gold star is a trophy that will be awarded regularly to the top kid in town.
No President Bush
The kids hit the trail pulling their wagons. It’s tough work and little Jimmy looks like he wants to cry as he says it’s not too much fun “living in the old days.” I’m not sure why Jimmy’s mom thought this was a good idea. Before too long, tensions are running high as Mike runs along shouting orders while others do the back-breaking task of pushing/pulling the wagon. Sophia think he looks like those guys at the airport waving their arms to direct the planes. Greg challenges Mike to do his job of pulling the wagon for five minutes. Just as Mike gets it rolling, Greg steps in and takes over. I would have liked to see if Mike would’ve lasted the entire five minutes. I’m guessing not. Working the wagon trail is a tough. Wagons are turned over dumping the supplies and the kids are exhausted. Suddenly DK falls to the ground in pain. He has seemingly pulled a muscle so tough guy Greg lifts him up on to the wagon and they pull him the rest of the way. Sophia comments that while the hard work is discouraging, it’s also encouraging because it can’t get any worse. She may rethink that before too long.
The “pioneers” finally arrive in Bonanza City to discover there’s nothing there. Alex feels a little weird with no adults around and I wonder if they explained to him just how this was going to be. Taylor remarks that in a kid’s world, there’s no President Bush, there’s nothing. She shouldn’t be too worried. I’m certain one of the kids will step up and lead their “nation.” The kids chase a fugitive chicken, unload their supplies, and try to figure out where they’ll sleep. They find thin, dirty mattresses in trunks and then decide to make dinner first. If they get everyone together there, they can talk about what needs to be done. They discover an old stove and cookbook left behind by
the production crewan old pioneer woman but instead a few of the girls attempt to make macaroni and cheese. They manage to light the stove and dump a ton of macaroni into a pot of water. Sophia steps up and tells them they put way too much pasta in and they should have waited until the water was boiling. It’s a little too late though. There’s so much pasta in the pot they can barely stir it so Sophia dumps it out into the street. Let me tell you, I’ve wanted to do that a few times with my dinners. Someone complains about the food being wasted but she points out that it wasn’t going to cook that way. “We have a cookbook,” she tells them. “Why don’t we follow a recipe seeing as no one here knows how to cook.” Looking through he cookbook, they settle on meat and macaroni. Sophia takes over and while she appears to be a good leader, things don’t go as smoothly as they’d hoped. It’s taking forever for the water to boil and the kids are hungry and tired of waiting. Guylan is chanting “pasta, pasta, pasta” and counting down. Sophia handles it like a champ and apologizes that it’s taking so long. Good for her! Me, I’d be tempted to smack the smart aleck. The pasta is finally finished and it’s not Olive Garden. It’s mushy and clumpy but it’s food. Sophia is happy with what they’ve got.
Laurel finds Taylor in tears and tries to comfort her. She misses her own bed and getting to eat protein and healthy meals. She says that if things don’t get better, she’s going home. After dinner, Mike’s big plan for a town meeting flops. Jared says it’s been the worst day for him in like, three years and he just wants to go to bed. The others agree and Mike is disappointed. The tears start to flow as he realizes just how big the task is before them. I hate seeing these kids cry. Laurel and Taylor come along and Laurel encourages him. Tomorrow will be better, she says. They share a group hug and turn in for the night.
Sophia is up bright and early the next morning making pancakes. Some of the kids gather eggs, others milk the goats. Breakfast is looking much better than last night’s dinner. Each kid is supposed to take only one pancake each so that there’s enough for everyone. Little Jared shows up and there’s no food left because some of the kids took more than one. An argument ensues and Mike tries to hold a town meeting. Things are chaotic and quickly get out of control. Greg approaches Mike and tells him to take some control and Mike yells in his face. They square off and Greg pushes the scrawny little Mike. Mike doesn’t back down and stands back up to him so the tough guy leaves the meeting. Mike is still shaken and in tears so Michael steps up and takes control. He gives the group a pep talk about listening to their leaders and becoming a working machine and gets a standing ovation. I vote Michael for president. Who needs George W? The town meeting is a success and Mike seeks out Greg to smooth things over. They make their peace and everyone is cool.
The town council goes to chapel to read the book that Jonathan told them about. It’s a leather bound journal entitled “A Pioneer Journey,” another token that was left behind by
the production crewthe founders of Bonanza City. In it, are photoshoppedold pictures of the original pioneers and the town. The journal also contains advice for the town council. They should organize the town by dividing the kids into four districts, red, blue, green, and yellow. Each member of the council should lead a group. Laurel chooses green because she’s 100% Irish. Taylor has yellow, Anjay gets blue, and Mike will lead the red district. The efficient town founders even left behind colored bandannas to differentiate each district. The council members each select kids for their districts and gather the kids to give them the news. They divide up and meet with their respective teams. This is when the green team realizes that Jimmy is missing. Laurel finds him crying because he misses his family. My heart goes out to the poor little guy. Laurel does a great job at trying to comfort him but he thinks he’s too young to be there. I think he’s right.
Overnight, Greg and Blaine use chalk to graffiti the town. Oh, the scandal! They tagged various buildings with “Go Blue” and the like in support of their district. I guess Mike forgot about the earlier shove that Mike gave him and vows to show the big, bad Greg that he can’t just do whatever he wants.
Now, there are forty kids and one outhouse. Cody thinks there should be a caution sign posted because it smells so badly. Little Jared just hopes he doesn’t need to “take a poop” because he refuses to use the outhouse. Something tells me that he won’t be able to wait forty days. I just hope we don’t have to hear the details when he eventually goes.
Pump It Up
Jonathan reappears and rings the town bell to gather the pioneers. He addresses Jimmy and how tough it’s been for him. Greg makes a nice gesture by asking if he wants to be his new wingman. Jimmy doesn’t turn around but asks who said that. When he learns it’s Greg, he promptly says no and gets a good laugh from everyone. They all know what an ass Greg has been the entire time.
Jonathan unveils a board that breaks down the four jobs of Bonanza City. He tells them there will be a general store where they can buy cool stuff and a saloon where root beer costs a nickel. They learn that they’ll earn their money by doing their assigned jobs. Laborers will get 10 cents for hauling water and cleaning the smelly outhouses. Cooks get 25 cents, merchants get 50 cents, and the upper class gets $1.00. The upper class will have no assigned chores but can pitch in where needed. To determine which district gets which job, they’ll have a showdown. The kids get suited up in district t-shirts and Greg runs around writing “Blue” on everything and annoying everyone else.
They convene for their first showdown which is all about teamwork and leadership. Teams must drag a huge pump across the field to a pipe coming up from the ground and pump water to fill their buckets. Water is colored so they must find the right pump to find their district’s color. Once their buckets are filled, they need to fill 3 glass bottles. The first district to fill all 3 bottles is the upper class. The second team will be the merchants, third will be the cooks, and the last team to finish becomes the laborers. Jonathan hands out maps of the field and pipes and the showdown begins. He’s set his stopwatch for one hour. If every team finishes before time expires, they all win a huge reward.
It’s hard to catch the water as it squirts from the top of the pumps and the kids are covered in colored water. It’s a close contest that comes down to the wire between the red and blue teams. Mike steps up to lead his team to a win. Blue finishes a close second. Yellow comes in third place and they all cheer on green to finish in the allotted time to win the reward. Green cuts it close but crosses the finish line with 14 seconds to spare. Jonathan hands out the money, Buffalo nickels, so district leaders can pay their workers. On to the reward…..Jonathan opens a crate to reveal an outhouse that represents seven more for the town. A second crate reveals a TV. The kids have to choose either the outhouses or the TV. The town council confers and decides to take the outhouses.
Jobs are assigned by district and the kids get to work. Sophia is upset with the yellow team who is doing the cooking because they won’t follow the cookbook. She feels as if she’s just surrounded by dumb people. However, she underestimated them and their first breakfast is delicious. She was still annoyed by the fact that after cooking, the yellow team doesn’t want to do dishes. Taylor refuses saying, “I’m a beauty queen. I don’t do dishes.” If that line works for her, I’m going to give it a try. I’d rather not do dishes either.
The general store opens and kids go nuts blowing their earnings on candy and toys. Sophia wants an old-fashioned bicycle but doesn’t have the $3 to purchase it. She’s a laborer and jokes that she can’t buy a “game of jacks.” So, she resourcefully finds a way to get the money. She dances for it. Hey, why not? It works for a lot of women in Vegas. She dances and kids toss out coins. Before long, she collects enough to buy the bicycle.
The town council meets to determine who will get the first gold star. They discuss either Michael or Sophia but are unsure of how they’ll decide if Taylor chooses to leave. She’s undecided. Jimmy is also considering leaving so some of the boys take him out to catch a jackrabbit in hopes that it’ll convince him to stay. They give him a good pep talk until some girls show up and break up their manly “Man’s Day” talk.
At the town council meeting, Sophia speaks out about those unwilling to do the dirty work. I don’t blame Sophia. She’s busting her butt doing a lot of hard work. Michael speaks up and suggests the town council try to get to know everyone a little better. Laurel speaks for the council and announces that they will try to get to know everyone and also tell the slackers to get off their butts and get to work. As the next order of business, Jonathan asks Taylor if she wants to go home. She’s decided that even though she misses her family, they’re all her family now and she’ll stick it out. Jimmy, however, wants to go home. He’s really homesick and thinks he’s too young to be there. It’s not the fun adventure he thought it’d be and he misses his family.
The council must now award the gold star. It goes to…..Sophia. They feel she’s worked the hardest and is most deserving. Jonathan gives her a moment to thank them and announces that the star is worth 20 grand. The kids applaud and Sophia is shocked. She’s even more thrilled when Jonathan hands her a key to the only building in town with a phone and lets her go call her mom. Her mother is proud and feels good because Sophia is so happy. The other kids plan to work harder now to get their own gold star. Everyone is happier and encouraged as they toast Bonanza City and chug root beer shooters.
Tune in next week to see tempers flare as Sophia intensifies her campaign against the council and Greg sets out to win a gold star.
How many root beers can you chug? PM me.