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Survivor: Redemption Island – Why Russell Lostby David Bloomberg -- 03/09/2011
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Russell knew he was in the minority, but he wasn’t worried. He’d been in the minority before and never failed. He knew a large percentage of his tribe didn’t like him, but he didn’t care. He’d been in that situation as well. Russell had two loyal followers and thought he’d picked up a third. He was wrong. But where else was he wrong? Why did Russell lose?
Although this is Russell’s third time playing Survivor and this is the third time I’ve had to discuss why he lost, this is the first time I’ve had to do so before the finale! Still, we will address our questions the same way as we always do – by looking back at What Redemption Island Survivors Should Have Learned to see where Russell went wrong. This should be interesting!
Do we even really need to spend any time on the first rule, which tells players they need to scheme and plot? This is Russell we’re talking about! He might have told his tribemates that he was there to play differently, but he really only meant he wasn’t going to try to weaken his tribe (yet). He still knew he needed to get solid allies to help make it through the game.
And he did just that – with two of the young ladies on his tribe. He found the perfect partners in Stephanie and Krista, women who were dedicated to him and felt they could make it to the end as his allies. The problem was that this was definitely a “if you’re not with me, you’re against me” situation, where everybody else on Zapatera was anti-Russell. That left him in a minority situation, but Russell had been in the minority before. He knew exactly what to do – he found what appeared to be the weakest link in the opposing alliance, Julie, and focused on her. She seemed to go along with it, meaning everything was set.
Except that this time, things didn’t go Russell’s way. We don’t know why yet, but Julie pulled the wool over Russell’s eyes. She pretended to side with him, but when it came time to vote, she stood by the majority. The look on her face at Tribal Council told me that she never intended to vote with Russell and the whole thing was a scam. Russell was outmaneuvered!
So I guess we did need to spend some time on the first rule after all! Yes, Russell knows how to scheme and plot, but he focused too much on running the same play he’s run twice before. He needed to mix things up a bit and not expect the minority alliance to succeed once again. He should have approached others long before it was necessary, in order to prepare for this sort of situation. (Indeed, if he’d had more people on his side, maybe Zapatera wouldn’t have thrown the challenge to begin with!)
But Russell was known for breaking the second rule – scheming and plotting too much. At least, I should say, he was known for it among his tribemates. In previous editions of this article for Russell, I’ve noted that he really didn’t scheme and plot too much for those particular situations. Indeed, this rule now even quote the second Why Russell Lost in noting, “The fact that each ally believed him no matter how many other people he backstabbed echoed his behavior last time – and also explains why he is not being criticized as having violated the second rule, scheming and plotting too much. It can’t be scheming and plotting too much if it worked!”
He hadn’t really started this sort of behavior this time around, mostly because he hadn’t needed to do so yet. But as Russell found out, when you return to the game and people have already seen you play (as opposed to Heroes vs. Villains, where the other players were unfamiliar with him), your reputation definitely follows you.
Russell had a reputation not only for making deals with a few true allies, but also for stringing along the temporary allies and then cutting them loose. While things would work out well for those who were his true allies, it’s hard to know with somebody like Russell if you are one of those. (Though I would say if you’re not young, female, and pretty, odds are stacked against you.) What’s the best way to deal with a player like that? Align with a group against him and remove the uncertainty!
Another aspect of the second rule involves keeping your scheming secret. One item to point out here is that the original plan was for Russell and Stephanie to not make it obvious that they were allies. That plan obviously didn’t last very long. Then Russell was faced with the corollary that say if any alliances do get out in the open, do not let it be known that you are the decision-maker. When it comes to Russell in this particular situation, it was pretty darned obvious!
The third rule tells players they need to be flexible. In general, I think Russell understood this, as we’ve seen him make multiple alliances in the past just so he could burn one and still have a solid position. But this time, Russell needed even more flexibility – he needed to move outside his comfort zone and play the game in a different way. He chose not to do that.
By making that decision, his flexibility was restricted because the other players knew what he was likely trying to do. He had his two followers, but he was forced to dig for additional help. The others knew he would need to do this, which might have allowed them to prepare Julie for the task (I’m only speculating on this point because we don’t have the full story yet). The core alliance had backed Russell into a corner.1 2 Next-->
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