Full Show Index
Advertise With Us
Write For Us
Survivor: Redemption Island, A Diplomatic View of Episode 3 – A Man and His Reputationby Christian Williams & Shane Revelle -- 03/04/2011
View Printable version of this article
The French diplomat and oft times traitor, Charles Maurice De Talleyrand, is quoted as saying, “The reputation of a man is like his shadow, gigantic when it precedes him, and pygmy in its proportions when it follows.” De Talleyrand was a pivotal player in many moments of French history, sometimes working for French interests and at other times working only for his own. Very few people can be said to have both supported and publicly betrayed Napoleon and lived to tell the tale, let alone profit by it to the extent Talleyrand did. Talleyrand was a master of the diplomatic game, playing a key role in larger events but rarely touched by them when events unravelled.
The quote is true of any interactions people might have, in games, business, or any other aspect of life. Everything that is said about a person, or that their actions might demonstrate, weighs heavily in the minds of those who haven’t yet met them. Whether it’s the first impressions someone gets from a resume or the office gossip about who’s dating who, in today’s age of social media, a person’s reputation proceeds them and often we are carefully judged against it.
In a game like Survivor, snap judgements are generally all a tribe has to go on at the beginning, except for the rare occasions when castaways are allowed to return for a second chance at the game. There have been five seasons where Survivor has brought back previous competitors to play the game. Of all the competitors who have received a second chance, no one has had a reputation that looms as large as that of Russell Hantz. Parvati Shallow and Rob Mariano also have larger-than-life reputations, but there aren’t quite as many negative impressions clinging to them. So Russell entered this game with the deck stacked against him and was left with only two options. He could either deal honestly with his new tribe or he could start dealing from the bottom of the deck and hope he didn’t get caught.
Were any of us surprised by the route he took?
Ralph forgets the game is about more than Russell: We have a lot of respect for Ralph, as he was one of the members of Zapatera who saw through Russell’s disguise early on. The problem is that from that moment on, much of Ralph’s game has been about goading Russell, especially once Ralph found the immunity idol. It’s easy to understand from Ralph’s perspective, the older members of Zapatera had realized Russell was lying to them and planned to get rid of him. In Ralph’s eyes, Russell was a dead man walking, who also happened to be actively lying to Ralph about things like the immunity idol clue. But of all the members of the tribe, Ralph should know the saying, "When you fight with a pig you both get dirty – but the pig likes it." Confronting Russell was never going to change Russell’s behavior, but it did make Ralph part of the drama – and now that Russell’s gone, the drama is what people will remember.
There was also a key mistake strategically by Ralph that diplomatically was actually a good play – not sharing with at least one member of his alliance that he had the immunity idol. From a strategic point of view, letting them know he had the idol would have eliminated any chance Russell had for a “Hail Mary” play, and since Ralph would have been the target of that play, it would have been embarrassing. Additionally, if Ralph had shared that he had the idol, Zapatera might not have felt the need to throw the competition.
From a diplomatic point of view, however, there’s no reason for Ralph to reveal that key piece of information yet. Zapatera may have gotten rid of Russell, but they still have some dead weight to get rid of before the game really begins. Playing things close to the pelt with the immunity idol is probably a good idea at this point; revealing it later can cement a sub-alliance if he needs one.
Steven steps forward as the leader of Zapatera: It’s not our place in this article to talk about the strategic merits of throwing an immunity challenge early to get rid of Russell. If it were our place, we would point out that it’s an incredibly bad strategic move when a tribe only has a two person advantage. We might even find ourselves agreeing with Russell that giving a Rob-led team a morale boost would be a critical error.
But from a diplomatic perspective, what Steven did this week was quietly step into a central position in the anti-Russell alliance. Unlike Ralph, he did this without making himself part of the drama. Was it petty of Steve to misdirect Russell into thinking Francesca won the Duel? Certainly. But it gave the Zapatera six a small secret to carry around, and that helped bond them together. The two alpha males on the Zapatera beach appear to be Steven and Mike, who have bonded over their dislike of Russell, with Steven positioned as the senior of the pair. We haven’t been able to see much of his moves, but Steven has clearly started to position himself as a quiet focal point on the tribe, just like J.T. did on his season.
Andrea plays it cool: There is always a temptation, when something unexpected happens that puts a player in a bad position, for that player to confront the people that blind-sided them head-on. The problem with that strategy is that it most often results in a second swift kick to the curb. What we don’t know about Andrea is how much of her passivity was strategy and how much of it was shock, but the net result was the same either way. When Rob approached her to see if she would still be of use to his alliance, she said all of the right things, allowing Rob to “comfort” her about the elimination of Matt. That should put her below Kristina on the target list, and Andrea made it plain to the audience at home that she doesn’t really trust Rob anymore. Andrea doesn’t seem like the type to lead a revolt against Rob, but she wouldn’t be able to lead anything at all if she were on top of his target list.1 2 Next-->
View Printable version of this article