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Survivor: Pearl Islands – Why Jon Lostby David Bloomberg -- 12/15/2003
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Jon had managed to use his ability to lie without conscience to get himself into a great position as of just a week ago. Unfortunately, he fell prey to the same problem that explained why Burton lost again – his ego outgrew his plans. However, that alone does not explain why Jon lost, especially since he managed to pull himself together and make it through another vote. As always, we’ll take a look at What Pearl Island Survivors Should Have Learned to see the full story.
Frankly, as dislikeable as Jon is, he did a lot of things right in his effort to win the game. One of those things was scheming and plotting enough to make Machiavelli proud. Early in the game, he straddled the two Drake alliances and picked the right one to stick with at their first Tribal Council. This would be a pattern for his play throughout, although he didn’t always pick the right side. When he chose to help Trish vote out Rupert, he bet on the losing horse and ended up on the receiving end of a major bitch-out from Rupert. At the time, he seemed sufficiently intimidated that he would stay the course. That was likely Rupert’s intent, and it was also likely Jon’s plan to make it look like he would no longer be a problem child. But all the time, he still considered himself to be the “puppetmaster” that he claimed to be, and eventually he showed it.
By teaming up with Burton and making numerous promises to others that he had no intention of keeping, the two of them managed several surprise votes in a row. They schemed and plotted together to figure out who they should tell what to and which promise to break each time.
But then it fell apart for reasons already outlined in detail in my article on Why Burton Lost… Again. They both got cocky. Burton paid the price initially, but Jon was soon to follow – although he did put it off for one vote by another great bit of scheming that pitted the women against each other. However, his original planned ending with Burton was ruined because the two of them schemed and plotted too much, making too many promises that would have to be broken. Eventually, all of their victims-to-be compared notes and realized that none of them would ever get higher than third place if they stayed with Burton and Jon. They also realized that three votes is greater than two. Poof, there went Burton. And with Burton, there went Jon’s hopes of winning.
But it goes deeper than that. Jon had lost allies before and managed to turn things around. Why was this finally the end of the line for him? One reason is that he failed so miserably in the third rule, pretending to be nice. Jon wasn’t nice. Jon didn’t even attempt to pretend to be nice. In fact, he went out of his way to be a jerk – to play a “heel” role as is done in professional wrestling. There have been players on games like this who have gotten to the Final 2 in this way. Big Brother has had several, most notably Dr. Will and, more recently, both Jun and Alison. Jon may have thought that playing up his jerk side would help him get to the Final 2. Once there, he could then make his case that he outplayed whoever he was against.
But playing the heel is a risky strategy. It is possible that you will make so many enemies that emotion will override strategy. In this series alone, it contributed to the downfall of Christa, who was apparently annoying enough that people just wanted her gone. It caused Jerri to lose in Survivor 2, even though she might have been somebody good to go against at the end. There are numerous other examples throughout Survivor history. And it contributed to Jon’s loss as well. Maybe it would have been better for Lill to take him to the Final 2 – when Jeff Probst asked how the jury would have voted at the live reunion, there were enough hands to give Lill the win. But as I said in that article, it’s hard to say how they would have actually voted at the time. Even if they would have, as we see so often, people don’t always play in a purely rational manner – they just want you gone. In Lill’s case, she was certain that she would lose no matter what. So if she was going to lose in any case, she might as well lose to the person who wasn’t a jerk. That meant Jon had to say goodbye.
Even if everybody is playing rationally, acting like a jerk and being obviously untrustworthy still pose risks. Jon knew that people didn’t trust him, but convinced himself that they would still ally with him. When he and Burton were on their reward in the Panama ruins, they figured that even if the women did form an alliance, they could get somebody to break it. Jon said that Sandra wouldn’t trust them, but she’d still align herself with them. He was wrong. Fool her once, shame on you. Fool her twice, shame on her. Fool her a few times and eventually she figures it out and gets tired of it.
Jon did extremely well in the fourth rule, not letting his emotions control him. He didn’t care who he screwed over, as long as it served his purposes. In fact, he even turned this rule on its head and used the big “dead grandma” lie in an effort to control the emotions of others. While Jon’s big lie received recognition as a Reality TV Hall of Shame Moment for the despicable nature of this lie, it was an interesting strategic move that could have paid dividends for him – or could have seriously hurt him if anybody else found out it was a lie. It turned out that neither was the case. He didn’t gain much from the reward challenge that everybody let him win, and he only got away with swearing on his grandmother for one vote before people realized what a crock it was.1 2 Next-->
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