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Survivor: China – Why Courtney Lostby David Bloomberg -- 12/17/2007
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Just as I was convinced that Denise would lose, I also knew there was no way Courtney could win Survivor: China, and thus again wrote the bulk of this article before the finale even aired. Also like Denise, while I obviously couldn’t know the exact details before the show aired (I expected her to come in third, not second, though there was essentially no difference in the reasoning), I did know how her play led to it – and that is where we can find most of the answer to the question of why Courtney lost.
Of course, we find those answers by looking back atWhat China Survivors Should Have Learned and running her behavior through the filter of the rules listed therein. Let’s begin.
Courtney seemed to think the first rule of surviving was to bitch and moan. However, the real first rule says players need to scheme and plot. At some point in the game, Courtney seemed to grasp this concept, as she ended up one of the core members of the Fei Long alliance. I suspect it was her friendship with Todd that led her down this path, with him directing her, because she certainly did not show any strategic brilliance along the way. Indeed, this was supported by Todd saying, at the reunion, that he saw he needed her around and therefore kept her. It was not a conscious decision that she made.
Indeed, at several points along the way, Courtney voted counter to the way in which her allies wanted her to (we’ll get to the “why” of that later) – threatening her very place in that alliance and the game itself. She was lucky her allies didn’t abandon her and she was able to restrain herself later on, when it mattered most.
Even beyond that, Courtney was very much like Denise in terms of strategy – she allowed herself to be carried along by her compatriots. At least once we saw her flat-out tell her allies that she didn’t care who was voted off, it was whatever they wanted to do. Mind you, she said this while holding immunity, so it wasn’t just that she was going along to ensure she didn’t get voted off (otherwise known as the Sandra method). She had the ability to provide input without risk to herself, and she blew it off. Indeed, in the final episode, she admitted she had just “slipped through the cracks” to get to the final four and she called herself “the tagalong.” And she capped it all off by noting that she was not a lifelong Survivor fan and had no strategy or any idea what she was doing. Yes, we saw.
Also like Denise, Courtney needed to make a move quite a while ago if she had any hope of winning. She was not well-liked by many of those on the jury, plus she had no game. It was somewhat shocking that she received two votes in the finale, until we realize that one came from her Survivor boyfriend and the other came from an angry Denise who gave it from one tagalong to another. Courtney would have lost against any of at least the final six. But since she was being carried along, she didn’t make any moves, and just rode it out.
As such, we can safely say that Courtney didn’t scheme and plot too much. However, another part of the second rule says contestants need to keep their scheming secret. It was obvious to one and all that Courtney was little more than Todd’s pet – especially after she chose to vote out her boy toy, Frosti. That meant people generally didn’t bother to approach her as part of a coup against Todd (Amanda did come to her at the end and Courtney said she would vote out Todd, but that was never put to the test because Amanda wimped out). Earlier, she probably would have stuck by Todd, but it’s not clear that she even had the opportunity to join in a move against him – thus the reason Peih-Gee, Erik, and Amanda were left to only plot with Denise as the game drew near its ending.
As mentioned above, it’s unlikely any such move would have worked anyway. But her attachment to Todd hurt her in another way. She faced him in the final three, and there was simply no way she could beat him in a vote. Todd may have annoyed some people with the moves he made, but from what other booted contestants told me in interviews and what we saw in the finale, he kept much of his snide personality hidden. Indeed, Amanda talked to Courtney specifically about how many people liked Todd and how he had made connections with a number of the jurors! Courtney, not so much. And on top of it, people knew Todd was the player while Courtney was the coattail-rider. She didn’t have a chance.1 2 Next-->
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