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Surviving the Jury on Survivorby Betsy Wasser -- 12/10/2004
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On Survivor, surviving the elements, winning challenges, and staying in the game after tribal councils isn’t enough to win the game. Once a player has made it to the coveted final two position, he or she has to face what might be the toughest obstacle yet: the jury. As Jeff Probst has pointed out many times, players in the final two face a unique challenge. The players must convince the jurors—those same people that they had a part in voting out—that they deserve the million dollar prize and the title of sole Survivor. Some of the jurors are gracious in their defeat, respecting the way the final two played the game. Others are bitter or angry at what those two players did to get so far in the game. Jeff often comments that for the first time, those final two players are not in control—the outcome of the game is in the jury’s hands. He’s right in a way, but I believe that in those last few moments of the game, a player still has a chance to improve his chances of winning. Some jurors wait until that final tribal council to make a decision. Still others have actually changed their votes based on an answer a player gave. A Survivor player cannot stop playing when he or she reaches the final two. The game is not over until the last juror has cast his vote.
I am always surprised at how little preparation some players seem to put into their appearance at that final tribal council. Their opening and closing statements are either extemporaneous, or are simply statements of, “You saw how I played the game, so I put the decision in your hands.” They are taken aback by some of the questions asked. Even Rob and Amber, the final two players on Survivor: All-Stars, who had played the game before and should have known what to expect, both commented when that the game was in the jury’s hands. Amber even commented that she hoped no one would ask her why she should win over Rob. Both of them should have known better. They knew the jurors and should have been able to better ascertain what their moods might be like. And Amber should have known full well that someone would ask her that question, since it’s always a popular one with Survivor juries.
If I were ever a contestant on Survivor, I would never take such a fatalistic approach to my last chance to win the game. I would spend that last day at camp preparing my opening and closing statements and doing the best I could to anticipate what kinds of questions I might expect from the jury. Think of it this way: before a job interview, isn’t it smart to practice so that you have an answer ready when the interviewer asks you what your best and worst traits are? After eight final tribal councils, there are certain kinds of questions that often come up. Let’s look at what those sorts of questions are and examine the best way a player can answer them to improve their chances of winning. Then, I’ll spend a little time thinking about what the final four contestants on Survivor: Vanuatu might expect from the jury at tribal council.
Questions about character: We have seen several instances of jurors asking players what personality traits got them where they are. Colleen asked it in the first season, Amber did in the second, and finally, Frank asked it again in season three. Since this sort of question has come up three times already, a smart player should have some character traits in mind.
In season one, Kelly said that her faith got her through the game, whereas Richard said that it was “self-awareness, observation, and ethics.” Richard’s answer reflected his general argument, which was that he played the smartest strategic game. It was a better and more thoughtful answer, and as we all know, he won the game.
In season two, Colby said that he owed his success to staying in the game mentally at all times, drinking lots of water, and taking the time to enjoy the game. Tina said that she was there because of Colby, her strategy, and “heart/God.” At the time, I thought Tina was crazy for mentioning how important her opponent was in getting her so far, but since she won the game, I can guess that perhaps people respected her honesty. Amber voted for Colby, saying that his answer was more straightforward.
Finally, in Africa, Ethan said that he got to the final two because of his power, strength, integrity, intelligence, and good luck. Kim said it was her respect, thoughtfulness, flexibility, love, and understanding. I think Ethan gave a much better answer, showing the control and strategy he showed in playing the game, whereas Kim’s answer suggested that she was a really nice person.
Questions about your opponent: One of the most interesting questions, in my opinion, that we’ve seen asked at final tribal council is why your opponent does not deserve to win. We’ve heard that question from Erin in Survivor: Thailand, from Rob in Survivor: Amazon, and from Tijuana in Survivor: Pearl Islands. For All-Stars, Shii Ann gave a slight variation on that question, asking Rob and Amber for three reasons their opponent should win.
Brian told Erin in Thailand that Clay did not deserve to win because he was lazy and did not do his fair share of work in camp. That was an easy answer for Brian, as he knew very well that most of the jurors considered Clay to be lazy, so he had another opportunity to remind them of that fact. Clay’s answer was a lot less clear. He said that Brian was a weak leader because he constantly needed to be validated and soothed by the others in his alliance about how the voting would go. I don’t think that’s a weakness—I think that is being a smart player and not taking anyone for granted.
In the Amazon, I think both Jenna and Matthew offered good reasons why the other player should lose. Matthew said that Jenna didn’t work as hard as he did around camp, and reminded everyone that just a few days prior, she had wanted to quit the game entirely. Jenna said that Matthew didn’t play the game from the start, opting instead to tag on to an alliance. Both answers certainly showed the other player’s weaknesses. Ultimately, Jenna showed that hard work at camp was not as important to the other players as strategy and game play were.
In the Pearl Islands, Lill told Tijuana that Sandra was disrespectful to the other players, rode Rupert’s coattails, and was constantly asking other players how to vote. That answer struck me as funny, because other than the part about being disrespectful, I think that those same accusations could have been made against Lill. Still, Sandra’s answer wasn’t nearly as good. She told the jurors that Lill voted every single one of them out. I think Sandra was still afraid that she would lose the game because Lill was considered such a nice person and she wanted to show them that Lill wasn’t so nice after all. I think she would have fared a lot better if she had pointed out that Lill was voted out of the game once already, and therefore did not survive the entire game like Sandra did. Instead, by pointing out the hand that Lill played in eliminating all of the other players, Sandra convinced Tijuana that Lill was actually a better tactician than she’d thought. Sandra’s answer cost her Tijuana’s vote.
Rob and Amber didn’t have much trouble saying nice things about each other, since the two of them were in the midst of a romance. Rob said that Amber was a true partner, never quit, and played a “straight-up” game. Amber said that Rob was stronger in challenges, was true to her, and was someone she could rely on. Amber’s argument for Rob was much weaker, which of course gave her the edge. The group of jurors convinced that Rob had screwed them over probably weren’t too impressed to hear that he was true to her! Shii Ann ended up voting for Amber, though I suspect she would have anyway, since she had earlier called Amber the mastermind of the game.1 2 3 4 5 Next-->
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