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Survivor: Pearl Islands – Why Michelle Lostby David Bloomberg -- 10/17/2003
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Well, Drake has extended its losing streak to three challenges – even if the first one was done on purpose – and the person who most people thought was most vulnerable did indeed walk the plank. If you were busy watching the Yankees beat the Red Sox and missed the show, you should probably catch up on the recap before going any further.
OK, now that you’re back, let’s take a look at what happened to Michelle. As always, we will use my article, What Pearl Island Survivors Should Have Learned, as a guide.
The first, and most important, question is if Michelle schemed and plotted. Unfortunately, it’s not a question that is easily answered based on the information we have at hand. Michelle was practically a ghost throughout most of her time on the series, in part because the focus was on Morgan as they lost and lost and lost, in part because there were more colorful people on her own tribe to focus on when Drake received airtime. Pretty much the first thing we really knew about her, in terms of strategy, was when we found out last week that she was allied with Shawn, Burton, and Jon. We don’t know how that alliance came to be, though – was it based on strategy, friendship, a dislike for rice? Who knows. But in any case, she did indeed become part of an alliance – and one that in theory should have been a pretty decent one.
Let’s look at who her allies were. Shawn and Burton were the big strong guys who could certainly win challenges and help keep the alliance safe. Jon was the ultra-annoying guy who could take the focus off of her. She could stay in the background and quietly plot her moves. So if the alliance was based on strategy, it looked like a good idea – until Burton blew it and Jon (and also Shawn) turned on them, that is.
She also made a valiant attempt to plot with Rupert in an attempt to turn the tables on Shawn. Indeed, Professor Sadow has already made the point that it was a mistake for Drake to vote off Michelle rather than Shawn in his look at strategy for this episode, and I agree. However, I think the reason behind it lies with Jon. Rupert might have been convinced by Michelle that getting rid of Shawn might be a smart thing to do, but Jon is still part of that alliance and he also has a secret alliance with Shawn that I’m sure he didn’t want to jeopardize. So it’s likely that he outschemed her and convinced the rest of the alliance to just go along with the original plan.
Moving on to the second rule, did she scheme and plot too much? Quite simply, no. Unfortunately for her, her alliance-mates did, and she paid the price. But she was more of an innocent bystander in that regard. However, she failed to keep her scheming secret because two of her supposed alliance-mates switched sides, thus exposing her. Again, not really a problem of her own making, but she definitely suffered because of it.
She was fine in the area of pretending to be nice and keeping her emotions in check. However, she faltered somewhat in a rather strange area – being too much of a threat. I admit it’s a stretch, but the Drake plan was to go into the gross food challenge with her pretending to be a weak-stomached designated victim. Instead, she played it up for about a minute and then gulped down the gross concoction quickly, showing that she was, indeed, a threat for that challenge. So instead of the Morgan tribe picking her for the tiebreaker, they picked Sandra, who couldn’t quite do it fast enough. This certainly is not the type of situation that I envisioned when I wrote the fifth rule, but I think it fits here better than anywhere else. Michelle had a chance to save herself by winning the challenge and being the hero. Instead, she blew it by being a threat.
As for the sixth rule, Michelle did indeed seem to do more work than, say, Shawn. It looks like this topic will come up again next week – rather loudly. And Michelle did try to point it out to Rupert, who agreed. However, it wasn’t enough of an issue to overcome Jon’s plotting and the fact that she had voted against Christa. I suspect that it would have been more of an issue if Rupert weren’t doing so much. If their bellies were empty and their camp looked like Morgan’s, Shawn’s lack of work ethic might have bothered them. But as it stood in Drake at this point, it really wasn’t a big deal.
The seventh rule is to be flexible. I’m not sure there was a whole lot Michelle could have done for this one, other than to make backup alliances in case her foursome with Burton, Shawn, and Jon fell apart – which is exactly what happened. In her defense, she had no reason to expect that to occur, but then that’s what Survivor is all about – the unexpected. I suspect that she may have gotten a bit too comfortable since the tribe was all about kicking butt and it seemed that her alliance was in control, so she didn’t really have a backup plan.
Finally, we look at whether the tribe voted off the right person. I kind of got ahead of myself a bit earlier when I mentioned that I agree with Professor Sadow that Shawn should have gotten the boot. Let me explain a bit more.
For Jon, this was absolutely the right move. He has a secret alliance with Shawn and so of course doesn’t want Shawn to go. The others, however, need to be looking beyond the next challenge and ahead to the merge. They also need to remember that just because Shawn is physically strong, that doesn’t mean he is automatically an asset. The weak can also be those who “cause divisions in the tribe that will overall weaken the group dynamic,” I pointed out in the eighth rule, about who to vote off when. If he is just sitting around to the point that people are becoming annoyed – as we saw in the previews for next episode – then that might very well be occurring here. We already knew that several other players were annoyed with Shawn from the days when he and Burton hung out together, and nobody really believed him when he said after the vote that Burton had annoyed him too. So he definitely has the potential to weaken the tribal dynamic, in addition to the possibility that he could jump to a Morgan alliance later.
But when it came down to it, Michelle’s fate was already sealed. She had shown herself to be an outsider by being the only person other than the dearly departed Burton to vote against Christa (even if Shawn did only change his vote at the last minute because of a heads-up from Jon). And she had the chance to redeem herself at the immunity challenge but blew it to the point that the tribe blamed her more than the contrite Sandra. Add these two together and throw in the likelihood that Jon was counter-scheming against her to keep his secret pal Shawn around, and you come up with the answer to why Michelle lost.
David Bloomberg is the Editor of RealityNewsOnline and can be reached at RNO@pobox.com.
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