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In Defense of Sandra: Why She Deserves the Million Dollarsby Nathan Barnes -- 12/17/2003
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Since Sandra’s big win on Sunday night I’ve heard numerous reactions stating that she did NOT deserve to win. Frankly, this bothers me, and I intend to make a case for why Sandra was in fact the most deserving player on the island.
From day one Sandra was a vital part of the team. She was not the strongest tribe member physically, so she realized that she needed to demonstrate other skills. Sandra’s ability to speak Spanish and barter in the village was one of the most helpful things that a Survivor has ever done to help their tribe. Had she not been there, the Drake tribe would not have fared as well in the village as they did. This season showed us how important it is for a tribe to start the game on a good note, and Sandra’s help in the village played a huge part in Drake’s success at the beginning of the game.
However this game is not just about surviving the elements, it is about surviving the people you are with. When it came time for Sandra to start building alliances, she felt alone, and realized she might be in trouble. She did the right thing by working with other members of the tribe who felt alienated (Rupert & Christa). She realized that Rupert was a valuable and loyal alliance member who would not turn on her, and she helped to save him from being a pre-merge boot by alerting him to the attempt. Instead she was instrumental in booting Trish, someone who would have been more likely to turn on her in the future.
One of the most common traits of anyone who does well in this game is to roll with the punches and learn to adapt to whatever might happen. After the Outcast twist and the merge, Sandra had the right idea: She was in a majority alliance that was successful in getting Lillian on their side to take down Morgan’s two biggest threats. Even though Sandra was a key member of this alliance, she made sure to let Rupert remain the leader, ensuring that she would not be the first target within the alliance. She even thought ahead about how she and Christa could get rid of Rupert before the final two.
Getting rid of Rupert, however, was not something Sandra had to plan. Jon did it for her. One could make an argument that Sandra should have seen Rupert’s boot coming, but you cannot blame players for getting blindsided. That is what the game of Survivor does. You can however blame a player for not working their hardest to turn the situation back in their favor. Not an easy thing to do. Sandra took the initiative to try and form a counter-alliance, and it worked. Her decision to side with Jon to vote out Tijuana might not have been the best decision in the long run, but it did give herself and Christa three more days that they would not have had otherwise.
Sandra made a slight mistake in siding with Jon, and she quickly realized it. She tried to get Darrah to join their group, but she was unsuccessful. When it seemed certain that the core alliance would soon take Sandra and Christa out of the game, she did what she could to make sure that Christa was still before her on the chopping block, even going so far as to let Christa take the blame for the missing fish.
Once she reached the final five, Sandra’s game play really started to come through. She was clearly the next target, and she needed to change that. She recognized that Jon was untrustworthy, and she was successful in convincing the other ladies that Burton & Jon’s relationship was a threat to each and every one of them. Finally, to ensure that the men would not have a chance to form a counter-alliance against her, she convincingly lied to Jon about being on their side.
After Burton was booted, the ladies had the majority. They could have easily agreed to boot Jon and make it one step closer. But Sandra was always thinking ahead to the final two. She knew that her chances of beating Darrah in a challenge were slim, and her chances of beating Darrah in a jury vote were even less likely. She and Lill made the right decision to boot Darrah, keeping the less physical and less popular Jon around.
The last great strategic move that Sandra made in this game was convincing Lill to take her to the final two. Lill obviously had a better chance at the million dollars if she had been sitting next to Jon, but for some reason she decided to keep Sandra. That might have been Sandra’s greatest accomplishment in the game up to that point, and because of it, she came out on top. Once she was in front of the jury, her win was set.
I’ve heard people say that Sandra didn’t deserve to win because she didn’t strategize enough. However, Sandra had a perfect combination of being a strategic thinker, without appearing to be. The fact that people didn’t think she was the most strategic person on the island is what made her the most strategic person on the island.
Some may say that Jon was the best player on Pearl Islands, and while I agree that he did play an excellent game, his strategy came back to bite him in the ass. There is a reason that often the best strategic players finish third, and perhaps future players need to look at Lex, Rob C., and Jon as examples of exactly how not to play the game. These strategies may help someone get farther, but if it’s not going to get you to the end, it’s simply not the best way to play. More often, too much out-in-the-open strategizing has proven a way to lose the game, rather than to win.
All in all, there is only one goal in the game of Survivor: Beat 15 other people. To judge a winner as undeserving is to say that there is only one way to play the game. We have seen seven different winners with seven different strategies. Only one thing makes a player a “good player”: beating others. Whether one does it by lying low and staying under the radar or by plotting elaborate schemes, the only way to tell who is the best player is to look at who beat everyone else.
The best player of this season, and every season, is clear. It is the person who can avoid being voted off, no matter what their tactics. Amazon Rob was a great strategist, but Jenna was better a better Survivor player because she avoided being voted off. She did what Rob couldn’t do. Jon Dalton was a great player, but Sandra was better because she avoided being voted off. Sandra played a smart game from day one. Everyone makes mistakes in this game, but when Sandra made them, she quickly fixed them. She worked hard, knew when to be under the radar and when to be out in the open, and most importantly, never assumed that she was safe. Whenever her head was on the chopping block, she found a way to put someone else ahead of her without winning a single immunity challenge. She was the only person there who was able to beat the 15 other players (two of them she beat twice). And that is why Sandra deserves the million dollars and the title of Sole Survivor.
Nathan Barnes is a 22-year-old non-profit developer from Salt Lake City, Utah. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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