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Survivor: Guatemala – Why Rafe Lostby David Bloomberg -- 12/13/2005
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Rafe was the brains behind almost this entire season of Survivor. He made an early alliance and stuck with it all the way through, making and abandoning other allies along the way. But his plan went awry after the final immunity challenge, when Danni chose to go against Stephenie in the final two rather than him. Was that his own fault for what he told Danni, or is there more to the story? Why did Rafe lose?
No matter what the reason, we can figure it out by looking through What Guatemala Survivors Should Have Learned. In addition, we have some help from interviews I conducted with Lydia, Stephenie, and Rafe himself.
The first rule, as everybody should know by now, is to scheme and plot. Rafe did this well – possibly better than anybody else this season. He made most of the strategic decisions and had Stephenie to help him enact them. What was even better from Rafe’s point of view is that because Stephenie was the “face” of the plans, she received more blame for them than he did!
Rafe and others pulled together in a six-person alliance that was supposed to steamroll its way to victory. But Rafe didn’t stop there. He knew in Survivor that alliances could be fluid, and he was always on the lookout for somebody targeting him. When he found that person, he swooped in and got to them first. As he described in my interview with him, he knew Jamie, Judd, and Cindy were planning to turn on him. So he turned on them first. In the meantime, he made a deal within his alliance (Stephenie) and another outside his alliance (Danni). He seemed set to go to the end.
I mentioned a couple sentences ago that Rafe backstabbed his allies before they could do the same to him. Does that indicate that he did it too early, in violation of the second rule, or that he did it at the right time? I would say the latter – he knew when to strike and did so quickly.
Some might say he did it too soon because he could have allowed the voting off outsider Danni first, and then gone with only members of his alliance to the end. But this ignores the fact that he was certain Danni would take him to the final two (and, from what he said, she was certain of it as well until that final day). Why would he try to go to the end with somebody like Judd, who was more loyal to Stephenie? He made the right call.
While Rafe played with his heart, he generally didn’t let his emotions get in the way – thus he followed the third rule. He was friendly with Gary, but knew when it was Gary’s time to go. He liked Lydia but knew he couldn’t bring her to the final three. Etc.
In the finale, we saw Rafe saying strategically it would make more sense to take Lydia to the final three, but he promised Danni he’d take her. At first, this seems to be a violation of this rule, but I have to wonder just how out of context this quote was. There were plenty of good reasons for Rafe to take Danni, many of which he himself explained at various times during and after the game. First, he had a deal with Danni for her to take him to the final two – and he expected her to uphold her end of things (more on this in a minute). Second, he felt that Stephenie might have believed she could beat Lydia in the final Tribal Council and thus might choose to take Lydia to the final two if she had won that last immunity challenge. So it seemed to be much less of a risk to take Danni.
Getting back to his deal with Danni, wasn’t it emotional for Rafe to release her from her promise to take him to the final two? Well, yes, somewhat. He did it so she could feel free to make “the right decision.” That was an emotional move on his part. However, he fully expected that “right decision” to be taking him to the end! Furthermore, there was a definite strategic component to it, as Rafe described to me in his interview. It turned out, he said, to make that decision harder for her. According to Stephenie, Danni has said that she fully planned to break the promise anyway. But by releasing her from it, it put her in an even more difficult situation because of that apparently selfless act on Rafe’s part. So all in all, I would not consider this to be a problem with the third rule – and even if it had been, it would have been a moot point anyway.
The fourth rule tells players to pretend to be nice. That certainly wasn’t a problem for Rafe! Despite the fact that he was backstabbing people, it seemed that almost everybody liked him. He just didn’t seem like a bad guy, even as he was making plans to send people out of the game. In fact, Rafe is a perfect example of the importance this rule can play. If he would have been a jerk, people would have treated him in a completely different way and he might not have been able to get away with his plans. Being nice threw everybody off a bit.
It also contributed to him not being viewed as a threat. Mind you, he won four individual immunity challenges, but he just didn’t look like a Colby or a Rupert, and so nobody ever said, “Hey, that Rafe guy is too strong – he needs to go.” Rafe specifically planned to downplay his abilities, and it worked.1 2 Next-->
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