The Funny 115

#106. James Miller, The Oracle of Ulong
Palau - Multiple Episodes

James Miller. You aint lyin'.

This is one of the moments on my list that not many people would have caught, because it takes place over several episodes and is only funny if you go back and look at it in retrospect. It's also a good example of why I say that the second viewing of a season is way better than the first, because the second time around you can catch many of the subtle things you missed while the season was going on.

Or in this case, you can catch what the editors were trying to do with Redneck James.

James Miller was one of my very favorite characters ever on the show. The guy was a steel worker from Alabama, he talked with a very distinctive twangy Southern drawl, he looked a little bit like Gilligan from Gilligan's Island, and he was one of the cockiest little mofos you've ever seen on the show. James had an opinion about everything, he loved to talk about what the other players were doing wrong, and in interviews he talked a very, very, very big game. He talked so much, in fact, that the producers had a lot of fun with his editing along the way.

Why do I say so?

Well because everything that James predicted during the course of Palau ended up being wrong. And I'm not kidding. Nearly every single time he says something will happen during the season, it ends up not happening. He's wrong nearly every single fricking time. And like I said, it's not something you really notice until you go back and watch the season a second time. James is a know-it-all, James talks quite confidently about how the game is going to develop, and James is wrong nearly every single time.

In other words, James Miller ends up being the single worst Oracle in the history of western society.

James making a prediction in episode one.

In anticipation of writing this column, I actually went through Palau and wrote down every single James declaration, just to illustrate my point. And you'll be stunned at how often his predictions failed to come true. So here we go, it's time to play the James Miller prediction game. Just sit back and enjoy the ride.

1. SETUP: After Ulong loses the first immunity challenge, James is speaking to the rest of the tribe.
STATEMENT: "We gonna win some matches (challenges). We just didn't do it today."
OUTCOME: Wrong. Ulong never won a single immunity challenge.

2. SETUP: In an interview, James comments on how Ulong doesn't need a leader; they'll do just fine working as a team.
STATEMENT: "We're Americans. And we're gonna do democracy."
OUTCOME: Wrong. Ulong's lack of a leader doomed them time and time again.

"We're gonna do democracy."

3. SETUP: Before Tribal Council #2, James confidently states in an interview that he knows who will be going home.
STATEMENT: "So I'll tell you how it's gonna happen. Kim is gone. Oh yeah. For sure."
OUTCOME: Wrong. Ashlee ended up going home. Kim lasted six more days.

4. SETUP: Ulong is crushed that they lost their third straight immunity challenge, so James tries to bolster their morale with a rousing Colby-esque pep talk.
STATEMENT: "We're not going to Tribal again. You guys understand me?"
OUTCOME: Wrong. Ulong went to Tribal every single week.

5. SETUP: Ulong and Koror compete in a reward challenge to build the best bathroom. The winning tribe will know they've won when they get a visit and a homemade shelter from the Survivor construction crew. So the Ulongs are waiting for the construction crew to arrive in a boat, and James confidently predicts to his team that it's going to happen.
STATEMENT: "I think we won. No doubt. Look at it, it's perfect! They'll be back in about... I estimate two/three hours."
OUTCOME: Wrong. The construction crew never came back. Koror won the challenge.

6. SETUP: James is upset that he lost the construction challenge, and he vows in an interview that Ulong will get revenge against the other tribe.
STATEMENT: "But that's alright. It just makes us more angry that we lost. We're ticked off, so we're goin' after them and we're gonna run right through 'em like a dang bulldozer."
OUTCOME: Wrong. Ulong continued to lose. No revenge was ever had.

"We're gonna run right through 'em like a dang bulldozer."

7. SETUP: James tries to rally his tribe before the fourth immunity challenge.
STATEMENT: "They won the first three times. It was their time. It's our time now."
OUTCOME: Wrong. It continued to be Koror's time.

8. SETUP: The sixth immunity challenge involved tying knots, and James confidently proclaimed that Ulong would win. James was going to see to it himself, because he was once in the Navy and could create a special "unbeatable" knot that nobody on Koror would ever be able to untie.
STATEMENT: "I know a few things about knots."
OUTCOME: Wrong. Jenn and Janu had no trouble with James' uber-knot and Koror easily won the challenge.

9. SETUP: James knew he was in no danger at the sixth Tribal Council because he had very solid allies on Ulong.
STATEMENT: "Bobby won't vote for me. I'm sure."
OUTCOME: Wrong. Bobby Jon voted for James at Tribal Council.

10. SETUP: Muslim contestant Ibrehem was spared at the fifth Tribal Council, but James stated in an interview it wasn't going to happen again at the sixth.
STATEMENT: "Ibrehem's overstayed his welcome. He was meant to go last time, and by the grace of Allah he didn't go. Now my God says he is today."
OUTCOME: James and his God were wrong. James was voted out at the sixth Tribal Council.

James' inability to predict the future was one of the funniest running subplots during Palau. It happened time and time again, and was made even funnier because James was just so darn confident. Okay, I'll say it, he was downright cocky. In fact, I've never seen a player so confident and so sure of himself, yet so consistently wrong, and the combination of the two was something the editors must have been loving. They turned to James time and time again during Palau because they knew he would always deliver the goods. James Miller confessionals were always Survivor gold.

And even though I'm making fun of the guy, I do have to hand it to James at the same time. He was one of my favorite characters of the season, and it was because the guy was absolutely resilient. He never gave up, he never surrendered. Because even when he was wrong (and he was always wrong!) it never really seemed to faze him. James would just mutter a quick "Hell yea" and then it was right on the next day's predictions. He never got down or got mad at himself in the slightest.

It was just another day's work for James Miller... the reliably unreliable Oracle of Palau.

"Mario's gonna put my ass in the top 10. No way he drops me all the way down to no 106. Hayullll no, come on."

(Special note: For the nitpickers, yes there was actually one prediction that James made in Palau that ended up coming true. He predicted that Kim would go home at Tribal Council number four, and astonishingly he turned out to be correct. I guess the editors wanted to throw him a bone that week, because it's the only time in Palau he was ever actually shown to be correct. Hell yea!)

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