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Survivor Tie-Breakers: How the Purple Rock Has Changed Players' StrategyPage 2
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In an almost exact repeat of what happened in Pulau Tiga, Vecepia was minutes away from being voted off when she won immunity and forced a 2-2 tie between Kathy and Neleh. But unlike Kelly, she was not willing to change her vote. Jeff told everybody that they had two minutes to decide who to vote off, or else the boot would be determined by lot. Vecepia had no motivation to change her vote because she was safe. Kathy and Neleh were not going to change their votes because that would entail voting for themselves. Paschal had to make the decision between playing the game and having integrity. He took the integrity path and drew the purple rock, becoming the only person ever voted off without receiving a single vote. The response to this tie-breaker ranged from cheers to complaints. But now, two seasons after Paschal's demise, the echo of the purple rock can still be heard.
As I said before, part of the appeal of Survivor is unpredictability. And this unpredictability is fueled by seeing people stab each other in the back. The people who use the I-word can be nice people, but I think we can all agree that we do not want to see clueless people like Kim Johnson decide to screw over themselves and two or three others just because they are not willing to play the game. They have the right to do it, but it just makes the show boring. And even though Mark Burnett does not have the right to influence the outcome of the game because he favors a certain contestant, I don't see anything wrong with changing the rules after each season for the sake of making the show interesting.
As a person, Paschal was probably the nicest one next to Kathy of everyone present at the final Tribal Council. But he was also one the least deserving of the win. He certainly wasn't as bad as some of the others such as Robert, whose strategy consisted of rolling over and playing dead; but Paschal was not willing to play the game to win. Yes, he switched alliances along with everyone else when the Rotu 4 broadcast their strategy, but when it came right down to it, he would have voted against himself if Neleh told him to.
So back to when the tie between Neleh and Kathy came up. At this point, we had seen three ways of resolving a tie: the Q&A round, which was pretty anticlimactic and went against the political nature of the game; the previous votes, which were "too mathematical;" and someone switching votes. Kelly's vote switch in the first series was obviously the most interesting, so Mark Burnett was looking for a way to duplicate it. There was only one way of providing people incentive to do this. Instead of putting pressure on the people receiving votes, the pressure has to be put on the people who can swing the vote, even if it means jamming a knife into your ally's back. Paschal ended up getting his torch snuffed because he was not willing to suck it up and play the game. I can't think of a better way for Mark Burnett to send the message, "If you want to play with integrity, you can play with integrity from the jury box."
The purple rock may have seemed a little anticlimatic at the time, but it worked perfectly. There are echoes throughout S5 and now into S6. We saw Jan say on the finale that she did not vote with Helen because she did not want to draw rocks. After the Ghandia incident, fear of a tie was what prompted Helen to vote with the men. Shii Ann's defection may also have been spurred in part by fear of the purple rock. The only problem was that Mark Burnett flushed most of the season's potential down the toilet with his fake merge. Instead of seeing some intertribal alliances, we got to watch the Sook Jais get picked off one by one. But I digress. Once the Sook Jais were gone, Brian, Clay, Helen, and Ted were all playing to win. And if you only caught the last two episodes of S5, you would not have had any idea that the first 11 were so inane. The reason being that Mark Burnett finally found a way to scare people into playing to win instead of playing to have the winner come from their alliance.
Now just this week, we saw Heidi sell out Jeanne. Yes, I know the jury is still out on how smart of a move Heidi's vote was. Actually, I think that in this case, Heidi would have been better off sticking with her tribe and taking her chances. It would have definitely been smart for Christy or Jeanne to defect, but I'm not sure about Heidi. We'll just have to see. But whether it was a smart move or not doesn't matter. The point is that it was an interesting move. Even if Heidi falls flat on her face, we'll keep watching.
Case in point, after Kelly Goldsmith was taken out by Brandon, everybody wanted to know what would happen next. Nobody knew who had allegiance to whom. There was a huge debate over whether or not Brandon made a smart move. In fact, that debate is still going on today. But after Brandon lost, not a single interesting thing happened for the rest of the series. Survivor: Africa is often called the worst season, I think at least in part because of Brandon's absence. Love them or hate them, the Brandons and the Shii Anns are what the show needs to stay interesting. The Ethans and Paschals are not. And the purple rock has forced people to be at least a little bit more conniving.
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