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Survivor: Brian Heidik vs. Rich Hatchby David Bloomberg -- 12/16/2002
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The most common question I have been asked in the past week or so is, "How do you think Brian Heidik compares to Rich Hatch (winner of the first Survivor)?" The answer is not so simple - for one thing, we can't really get a full answer 'til Thursday night, when we see how Brian's multiple alliances untangle. But even without the final answer, we can at least look at how each has played and what other things they both have in common.
Let's start with the non-strategy (and somewhat less than serious) items. First, Rich liked to get naked for fun. Brian made a living by getting naked. Rich had police problems when he returned from the island as he was accused of hitting his son (the charges were later dropped). Brian had police problems when he returned from the island as his wife has been accused of hitting him (charges still pending).
On a more serious note, both of them have been extremely strategic players who pulled together a group, eliminated the other tribe, and directed the entire flow of the game. Rich came into the first Survivor with a plan on how to control the game. He formed an early alliance with fellow tribe members and created the blueprints for many tribal alliances to come. His Tagi alliance eliminated Pagong (thus originating the term, "Pagonging," for when one tribe gets rid of another one by one) and then Rich rode his alliance straight into the final two and the winner's circle. The game had never been played before by Americans and several people came up with the idea of an alliance - Stacey and Kelly had the first, Susan and Kelly had a sub-alliance for a while, and even Pagong members considered forming an alliance, but rejected the idea. Thus, it's not so much simply the idea of forming an alliance that made Rich such a good player, it was how he pulled together different people, kept them together, used other factors (such as Sean's alphabet strategy), and led the alliance without necessarily seeming to lead. He talked about how he would let the others choose whom to get rid of, even though usually he was the one making the decisions. He thought far ahead and saw how different tactics would affect the outcome. For example, in the final immunity challenge, he knew that if he won, he would end up losing the game. But if he lost the challenge, he also knew he could rely on either Kelly or Rudy to bring him into the finals, though for very different reasons. So he simply dropped out. Many players would never have thought that far ahead, but Rich did, and he brought home the big bucks.
Brian has been at least as strategic as Rich, though in a different way. Everybody knows, of course, that you should start by trying a tribal alliance. Brian knew that and stuck together with his fellow Chuay Gahns to Pagong the Sook Jai. But he planned far ahead. Early in the game, he plotted with Ted and Clay. Without Clay's knowledge, he made a one-on-one alliance with Ted. Later, without Ted's knowledge, he made a one-on-one alliance with Clay. Somewhere along the way, he made a one-on-one alliance with Helen. These three sub-alliances have set Brian apart from previous Survivor strategists because it has proven very difficult for outsiders to break into the alliance. Others have tried to emulate Rich, but nobody has really come close to it until now - and he did it by using the same idea of a tribal alliance, but by adding the sub-alliances.
Other comparisons are worth making as well. Both of them have said things in "confessional" to the camera that they would definitely offend other players. Both of them confidently (some might even call it "cocky") predicted how the game would go as they outlined the fate of their cohorts. Both understood that they were playing a game and would not let personal issues get in the way (which we saw last week when Brian voted off Ted).
I expect the game to progress as follows in the final episode: Brian must know that it would be easier to beat Clay in the finals than it would be against Helen. So first he will vote out Jan (presuming she doesn't win immunity). Then Helen will follow, leading to a Brian/Clay final. If Helen could see that Brian is not really as dedicated to her as she thinks, perhaps she could do something to at least force a tie next vote. But then, if she saw that, she wouldn't have joined with him to vote off Ted last week.
And that is the genius of Brian's plan. He took Rich's alliance strategy and improved on it by adding sub-alliances that are all dedicated to him. While Rich had a wheel of allies revolving around him, Brian has added spokes, all connecting back to the center.
So, how do I think Brian compares to Rich? I think both of them deserve special mention as the best strategists to play the game. Of course, this ranking depends on Brian's ability to finish what he started. But even if something unforeseen (such as Jan winning an immunity challenge) derails his plan and he fails to win, I would still recommend him as one of the top players of the game. In my mind, Rich still occupies the #1 spot, but indeed I do see Brian in very similar terms. Rich took a basic idea (alliances) and built a winning strategy around it. Brian took that winning strategy and added his own wrinkle to it. If it ends up giving him a win, I would call it well-deserved, and Brian would join Rich in the pantheon of Survivor winners.
David Bloomberg is the Editor of RealityNewsOnline, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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