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What Cook Island Survivors Should Have LearnedPage 2
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Truly, the mental game is what allows a player to make it to the end. As Rob Cesternino said in the interview mentioned earlier, “I think the strategic part of the game is the most important. Even though the physical part of the game is important, these are not X-games. This is the most amazing strategic game ever created and that's where the fun in the game lies.”
What should the Survivor: Cook Islands contestants have learned? Let's take a look at these updated rules for survival. Each week, we will look back at this article and compare how each losing player did or did not accomplish these goals.
1) Make Machiavelli Proud: Scheme and Plot
Yes, this is still the primary rule, and unless Mark Burnett really changes the game, it will be for as long as Survivor is airing. As noted above, hunting and fishing are likely not very big issues; instead, the real survival skills necessary here are more along the lines of something you might learn from Renaissance schemer Niccolo Machiavelli than anything you can get out of a survival book.
From the very beginning, you have to start making alliances and cementing relationships. Under normal circumstances, it can be difficult to know whom you can trust after just a couple days (witness what happened to Kel and Mad Dog way back in Survivor 2, or more recently to Morgan and Brianna in Guatemala), but either you do it or you’re gone. Later in the game you can rework alliances according to what is necessary to stick around, but early on you should make use of whatever relationships present themselves – if you don’t, you might not have to worry about what happens later in the game because you won't be around.
If there was any doubt about how important the early alliance is, it was erased by Survivor: Vanuatu. The younger men all fell quickly because they failed to consider it important. Meanwhile, the older men joined together immediately and stayed solid, allowing them to progress much further in the game. And if anybody still had doubts, looking at Guatemala should erase them forever more – Lydia wasn’t in the main alliance on her tribe at first, but she managed to convince just a couple people to champion her, which ended up letting her make it all the way to the final four. And as mentioned earlier, Cirie showed that making alliances immediately is more important than anything when her tribe chose to keep her and her fear of leaves over somebody who could help them build shelter, start fire, get food, etc.
In their original series, Richard said he started planning even before he got to the island (too bad he didn’t plan to pay his taxes!). Although he obviously couldn't have known specifically who he would ally with, he knew what kind of people he'd be looking for. Similarly, Rob C. did his homework ahead of time, studying up on not only Survivor but some tactics from Big Brother as well. If you have a game plan and know who you’re looking for, you are in a great position from the very beginning.
As all of the contestants by now know, people who would do well in "real" survival situations have almost no advantage over those who would die of starvation or exposure to the elements. Even Sandra, the winner of from Survivor: Pearl Islands, admitted in final jury questions that she probably would not have lasted too long in a "real" survival situation. And think about the likelihood of Jan from Survivor: Thailand or, again, Cirie from Exile Island making it! But they, and others, managed to make it past the point where their weakness was, well, a weakness. They did it through making alliances – and were also somewhat lucky there were other scapegoats around. Similarly, laziness would not be rewarded in a real island survival situation, but Rob, Sean, Sarah, and Vee had that in common on Survivor: Marquesas, and used that bond to form an alliance that ousted the hard workers. The alliance supersedes work ethic or pretty much any other factor when it comes to surviving this game.
The most important attribute of an alliance is that the people in it won't vote for you to leave. The second most important attribute is that they will vote the same way as you will for somebody else to take the long hike. As the original Tagi alliance showed, if you get a group together, you have a much better chance of surviving against the rest of the unorganized clods wandering around, shooting their votes this way and that. Since then, the alliance based on original tribe has been a starting point in almost every series – though the producers have done everything they can to shake that up, and have largely succeeded in preventing Pagongings lately – though Vanuatu came close and Palau gave us an “Ulonging.” Contestants have to be prepared for anything.
Mind you, it isn't always the best idea to stay in a tribal alliance. Survivor 2's Amber, for instance, should not have continued voting with her tribe after Jerri was booted. She should have approached the remaining Kuchans and formed an alliance that would at least have carried her a bit further. She probably would still not have made it to the finals, but she could at least have had a better chance. Obviously, Amber made up for this misstep in All-Stars.
On the flip-side, Shii Ann in Thailand did the right thing by jumping alliances if there had not been a twist. She faced other problems in All-Stars, but despite her best efforts, she couldn’t get anybody to see what was going on, and nobody would flip to her side as they approached the end. In Vanuatu, Twila and Scout knew that they were not part of the core group of women, so they switched sides, resulting in Twila getting second place and Scout getting third, rather than the likely fourth or worse they would have gotten otherwise. Ian thought about jumping ship in Palau, as well he should have, but he only got berated into giving up the game for his troubles. We’ll discuss that particular move later. And there was all sorts of backstabbing going on in Guatemala, which helped Stephenie make it to the final two.
So players need to appear to be part of the overall tribal alliance, but they should also keep their options open. This is precisely what Alex, Rob, and Matthew did in Amazon, pretending to still be part of the all-male tribal alliance, but actually being out to get rid of Roger and Dave. Rafe did something similar in Guatemala, convincing his tribemates he was their ally while apparently planning to go far with Danni instead. Players need to be opportunistic – convince the others in their original alliance that everybody should be loyal, but then take whatever opportunities they have to form other alliances to keep them safe. They need to be flexible enough to jump alliances if the need arises, as we’ll discuss in the third rule.
One item of note to mention occurred in Thailand – Brian's variation on this theme. He created a tribal alliance, but also a number of sub-alliances that the others weren't aware of. He had a pact with Clay, one with Ted, and one with Helen. (Jan was along for the ride in each of them). Everybody was happy and secure – until the axe fell. This gave Brian the ability to figure out which opponent he would rather face in the final two – eventually leading to his picking, and beating, Clay. But if the others had taken a great dislike to Helen, for example, he could have simply changed his plan.
This was a risky maneuver because if, for example, Ted and Helen had talked about Brian on the reward they earned, he might have been found out. Indeed, that’s exactly what happened to Deena in Amazon. Boston Rob used a similar strategy in All-Stars, but because that show involved pre-existing friendships, it would have been difficult, if not impossible, for Rob to win no matter whom he took to the Final 2; of course, he chose future wife Amber, so in a way he won anyway. Chris used a similar maneuver at the end of Vanuatu, having alliances with two duos – Twila & Scout and Julie & Eliza. He made them both feel secure and then voted out Julie & Eliza.
Cirie showed how to play a strategy like this perfectly when she voted off Courtney in her Triple Play. As described in her Reality TV Hall of Fame Moment, Cirie had three different groups voting three different ways, thus putting her three-person alliance in control. She convinced each of the three groups that she was really with them, while telling the other groups that she was faking out the other contestants. In doing so, she convinced Terry and Courtney to target Aras while Shane went after Danielle. Then she, Danielle, and Aras took out the real target, Courtney. Under normal circumstances, you need a majority alliance to ensure you take out your choice target, but Cirie worked things so she didn’t need the numbers – she had the brains instead.
Part of plotting and scheming can also be making good use of sneakiness – witness Sandra hiding behind the bushes in Pearl Islands and overhearing Burton and Jon talking. She was able to use that information to talk to Rupert (who mostly ignored it) and Tijuana (who changed her strategy based on it but then caused Sandra to turn against her anyway). A corollary is that if you are going to plot and scheme, make sure nobody else is listening – as occurred in All-Stars when Rupert and Jenna L. were talking about booting Rob… and Rob walked up!<--Previous 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Next-->
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