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Surviving the Jury on Survivorby Betsy Wasser -- 12/09/2005
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On Survivor, surviving the elements, winning challenges, and staying in the game after tribal councils isn’t enough to win the game. Once a player has made it to the coveted final two position, he or she has to face what might be the toughest obstacle yet: the jury. As Jeff Probst has pointed out many times, players in the final two face a unique challenge. The players must convince the jurors—those same people that they had a part in voting out—that they deserve the million dollar prize and the title of sole Survivor. Some of the jurors are gracious in their defeat, respecting the way the final two played the game. Others are bitter or angry at what those two players did to get so far in the game. Jeff often comments that for the first time, those final two players are not in control—the outcome of the game is in the jury’s hands. He’s right in a way, but I believe that in those last few moments of the game, a player still has a chance to improve his chances of winning. Some jurors wait until that final tribal council to make a decision. Still others have actually changed their votes based on an answer a player gave. A Survivor player cannot stop playing when he or she reaches the final two. The game is not over until the last juror has cast his vote.
I am always surprised at how little preparation some players seem to put into their appearance at that final tribal council. Their opening and closing statements are either extemporaneous, or are simply statements of, “You saw how I played the game, so I put the decision in your hands.” They are taken aback by some of the questions asked. Even Rob and Amber, the final two players on Survivor: All-Stars, who had played the game before and should have known what to expect, both commented when that the game was in the jury’s hands. In contrast, two seasons ago, Chris gave one of the best performances at final tribal council ever. He prepared ahead of time and told the jurors exactly what they wanted to hear. Chris even tried to improve his chances before he and his opponent Twila left for tribal council. He told Twila that she shouldn’t put up with any crap from the jury. Then in an interview, he admitted that he said that on purpose in the hopes that he’d get her riled up and she’d say something that would offend the jurors! With preparation like that, Twila didn’t stand a chance. Most recently, Survivor: Palau winner Tom didn’t have nearly the uphill battle. Nevertheless, he gave a superior performance in front of the jury, beating Katie and becoming a million dollar richer.
If I were ever a contestant on Survivor, I would never take a fatalistic “it’s up to the jury now” approach to my last chance to win the game. I would spend that last day at camp preparing my opening and closing statements and doing the best I could to anticipate what kinds of questions I might expect from the jury. Think of it this way: before a job interview, isn’t it smart to practice so that you have an answer ready when the interviewer asks you what your best and worst traits are? After so many final tribal councils, we find that there are certain kinds of questions that often come up. Let’s look at what those sorts of questions are and examine the best way a player can answer them to improve their chances of winning. Then, I’ll spend a little time thinking about what the final four contestants on Survivor: Guatemala might expect from the jury at tribal council.
Questions about character: We have seen several instances of jurors asking players what personality traits got them where they are. Colleen asked it in the first season, Amber did in the second, and Frank asked it again in season three. In Vanuatu, Ami asked a variation on the question – what character traits do they final two have that she doesn’t? Then in Palau, Janu asked Katie for three positive and three negative adjectives that describe her and the way she played the game. Since this sort of question has come up several times already, a smart player should have some character traits in mind.
In season one, Kelly said that her faith got her through the game, whereas Richard said that it was “self-awareness, observation, and ethics.” Richard’s answer reflected his general argument, which was that he played the smartest strategic game. It was a better and more thoughtful answer, and as we all know, he won the game.
In season two, Colby said that he owed his success to staying in the game mentally at all times, drinking lots of water, and taking the time to enjoy the game. Tina said that she was there because of Colby, her strategy, and “heart/God.” At the time, I thought Tina was crazy for mentioning how important her opponent was in getting her so far, but since she won the game, I can guess that perhaps people respected her honesty. Amber voted for Colby, saying that his answer was more straightforward.
In Africa, Ethan said that he got to the final two because of his power, strength, integrity, intelligence, and good luck. Kim said it was her respect, thoughtfulness, flexibility, love, and understanding. I think Ethan gave a much better answer, showing the control and strategy he showed in playing the game, whereas Kim’s answer suggested that she was a really nice person.
Chris told Ami in Vanuatu that he beat her because she has a soft heart, put personal feelings ahead of strategy, and let her guard down. Twila answered that she is a colder, harder player than Ami. The two answers were similar, though Chris’s slanted a little more towards flattery of Ami than Twila’s did. In the end, Twila’s honesty was the better approach with Ami. Ami voted for Twila because she felt her answer was more sincere.
Katie made a bold move by refusing to answer Janu’s question. She said she didn’t expect her vote, so if it was all the same, she’d prefer not to answer. At the reunion, Jeff asked Janu if Katie could have said anything to make her vote for her, and Janu admitted that she couldn’t have. That’s fine, but Janu wouldn’t have been the only juror to hear Katie’s answer. Perhaps she could have said something that would have swayed someone else sitting in the jury box. Players would do well to remember that everyone is listening at all times.1 2 3 4 5 6 Next-->
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