BY RAINBOW ROWELL
Watching "Survivor" with Shane Powers is kind of like watching "Dallas" with J.R.
The Omaha native is the closest thing the reality show has to a villain this year. Though even when Shane is the villain, he isn't really evil. He's more crazy and twitchy and over the top.
(So I guess it was more like watching "Taxi" with Rev. Jim.)
Shane is the guy who famously begged to go home because he missed his son - and his cigarettes. He's the guy who established this season's most powerful alliance, but who constantly fights with his allies.
He's also the guy most likely to do or say the one thing that everybody who watches "Survivor" is talking about the next day.
I went to Thursday night's "Survivor" viewing party at the Manhattan Club because I knew Shane would be making a rare appearance. I wanted to see if he was as crazy in person as he looks on TV. I was dying to meet his mom.
Shane's mother, who lives in Omaha, actually organized the weekly "Survivor" parties at the west Omaha bar. She's old friends with the club's owner, Steve Kneip. About 50 of Shane's family and friends watch the show here each week.
There was a big problem with my plan to meet Shane and his mom. As soon as I got to the club, Steve told me that I couldn't even approach Shane or anyone in his immediate family.
Steve said they all signed agreements with CBS to keep the show's ending a surprise.
But I was allowed to watch the show with Shane's supporters, to listen in on their conversations and to stare at Shane throughout the show to see if he gave anything away.
Shane, 35, was born and raised in Omaha but now lives in Los Angeles, where he owns an entertainment marketing business. He has a teenaged son, Boston, whom he often talks about on the show. Boston was there Thursday night, too.
Shane looked just like he does on the show. He's still thin. His hair still sticks up.
Once the show started, he and Boston hunkered down in the back with a Godfather's pizza. Shane seemed just as riveted to the show as everyone else.
It was a fun episode to watch with his family because there were so many classic Shane moments. When the contestants watched video greetings from their families, a weeping Shane called Boston "my other half."
"He is my brother, he is my best friend, he is my son, he is my life." That got a huge "Awww" from the crowd. Even watching it made Shane cry.
A few scenes later, Shane asked another contestant, Cirie, a nurse, if she'd examine his private parts because he was in pain. When Cirie told him he was chafed from wearing wet clothes, he got naked.
The crowd at the Manhattan Club laughed themselves silly.
It was hard to watch earlier episodes, one family member said, when Shane came off as such a bad guy.
His friends found themselves defending Shane to other "Survivor" fans. "Some of the things he says," said Michele Wise, "I guess if I didn't know him, I wouldn't like him either."
But if you know Shane, she said, you like him.
I didn't get to meet Shane, so I can't say. But hanging out with his fan club was a blast. I would think about coming to next week's viewing party, too, if I thought I could restrain myself from yelling at the TV when Shane inevitably does something crazy.