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What Tocantins Survivors Should Have Learnedby David Bloomberg -- 02/12/2009
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This is the 17th edition of an article looking ahead to what Survivor contestants should have known before they set foot on the airplane that would take them away from the life they knew and to the life given to them by Mark Burnett. Each time, players have more history to draw on as far as how they should play the game – and how they shouldn't – and thus this article gets modified appropriately.
In any case, it's time to bring us all up to date and take a look at what the contestants on Survivor: Tocantins should have learned by the time they got there.
Since this is the 17th time around, players should definitely know by now what they can expect and how they need to play the game. Of course, as the seasons go by, we see more and more contestants who have been recruited and thus were not necessarily fans, meaning perhaps they haven’t been paying attention. That’s their loss – if they’re going to play the game, they should know the strategy. One key item everybody should have known since way back in the second edition, for example, is that this is a game, not a search for friendship. That much should have been clear even when Colby decided that his friendship with Tina was worth more than a million dollars (a decision that earned him a Reality TV Hall of Shame Moment). But as we saw several seasons ago in Palau – this time with a Hall of Shame Moment for Ian – some people still just don’t get it. This game is about winning a million dollars, period. People should certainly know that by now.
Before we get to the list of rules every player should know, let’s take a few moments to look back at previous series and winners. In the first season, the best player ended up with the prize (and was our first inductee into the Reality TV Hall of Fame). Outside the game, he turned out not to be nearly as clever as he thought he was, as he was convicted of tax evasion, and then became the first person inducted into both the Hall of Fame and the Reality TV Hall of Shame, but that doesn’t take away from his game play.
It could be argued that Tina was the best player of Survivor 2, though she attributed much of it to luck, and there is some cause to do so, though there is also plenty of reason to attribute it to her skills at dealing with people (which is why she was also inducted into the Hall of Fame). Luck has shown its face in other series as well, and even Sandra, winner of Pearl Islands, said it played a huge role for her. But the effects of luck can be minimized, and that's what this article is all about.
Survivor: Africa saw some people revert to the cluelessness of the first series, owing mostly to those who admitted they had not paid much attention to the first two seasons. Ethan, the winner, said that he watched the two previous series; Silas, who lost, said he hadn't. There is a big hint in that – but is it a hint everybody knows? Apparently not, as Jessica, Cao Boi, and Brad all admitted to a lack of Survivor knowledge after they were voted off of Cook Islands. But by now, frankly, there is no excuse for coming on Survivor if you haven’t seen previous editions. Yes, that includes people who were recruited, because many seasons are available on DVD or for download from Amazon.com (see the link in the right column) now.
Survivor: Marquesas showed us how to lose: By showing your hand and practically daring anybody to go against you, and by being obnoxiously lazy. Much of the reasoning behind Vecepia's win stems from the irrational anger of several members in the Rotu 4 alliance who were tossed out by Neleh and never forgave her for daring to want to win the game herself. We did see that you can win by making whatever alliances are necessary – even if you need to switch them at a moment's notice. But in the end, it went back to the Rotu 4.
Survivor: Thailand showed us that even people who read these rules and try to follow them, like Shii Ann did (and she even quoted them in her final words!), have to also remember to expect the unexpected. Shii Ann did exactly what she should have if the situation had been as everybody thought it was. But the producers pulled a fast one on them. Shii Ann was toast. It also showed that a master of strategy like Brian can still win (which is why, you guessed it, he is in the Hall of Fame) – though it sometimes takes a creative way of looking at the game to do so. By making several individual alliances, Brian set himself up to either succeed wonderfully or fail horribly (if the other players had talked amongst themselves and realized what he was doing). His skill allowed him to do the former. In All-Stars, Boston Rob tried to be the next Brian and almost pulled it off. But he was dealing with (former) friends, which made it somewhat more difficult.
Survivor: The Amazon reminded us that the best player doesn’t always win. Rob Cesternino was one of the best Survivor strategists ever, and I’m not just saying that because he read these rules and played accordingly. But in the end, he was foiled because he was too much of a threat to Jenna. He lost because he couldn’t stay on the beam longer in the final immunity challenge. While most of the game is mental, there is definitely still a physical aspect, and Jenna beat him using it. In fact, we’ve seen that happen several times in various seasons. Amazon also showed us what can happen when you try Brian’s strategy of promising different things to different people and they talk to each other, as Deena did just that, according to Rob in an interview with RNO, and she ended up getting the boot for it.
Survivor: Pearl Islands showed us once again that you can have the best plan in the world, but if you can’t survive the final immunity challenge, it just doesn’t matter – it happened to Jon just as it happened to Rob in the previous series. As mentioned earlier, Sandra herself admitted, in her interview with RNO, that luck played a major role. But she did have some strategy in her willingness to sell her vote as long as it wasn’t her. It wasn’t terribly satisfying to most fans of strategy, but it won her a million dollars. Still, there was nothing to prevent anybody else from doing the same thing to her.
All-Stars showed us a few things, though much of what went on there has to be taken with a grain of salt because it was a special edition and almost everybody knew everybody else. But, as mentioned earlier, it showed that the Brian Heidik strategy of promising different things to different people can still work – or at least get you to the final two – you just have to play it right.
Vanuatu showed us to never give up, no matter how much the odds seem stacked against you. It also showed that if you continue to follow these rules while others around you fail to do so, you can still pull off the win. Chris did everything he should have done in following these rules, and he was helped when the women – especially Leann and Ami – messed up when they had the change to get rid of him, earning a Hall of Shame Moment for their troubles.
Palau showed us a few things. First, the biggest threat can still win under the right circumstances. One of those circumstances has to be that he is not simply a physical player, but also one with a brain. And as already mentioned earlier, Palau also showed us that some people still view Survivor as an opportunity to make new friends rather than a way to make a million dollars – and if you want to win, it’s a really bad idea.
Guatemala, like Vanuatu, showed us never to give up. Danni was a dead duck – the lone member of a losing alliance. But she never gave up. She jumped at a chance to save herself (earning her a Reality TV Hall of Fame Moment) and took it day by day from there. She turned the game completely around, sending home the powerful and climbing up from the depths to the win. More importantly, Danni also showed that she knew the game was key, voting off friend Rafe to take the more vulnerable Stephenie to the final two for a better chance at the win.
Exile Island showed us how to survive when you’re not the best schemer and not the best at physical challenges, but you are the best at combining the two into a single person. Aras won by having bigger threats around him and knowing what to do with his position, while at the same time being a good enough player for the jury to recognize his abilities.
Cook Islands reminded us that while scheming and plotting might not win every edition, it still remains the most important aspect of the game. Winning challenges, as Ozzy did, is certainly another important aspect that can get a person to the finals, but Yul played the puppetmaster and won. It also showed that nice guys can finish first, as long as they’re also smart and willing to realize they can’t be nice the whole time because Survivor is a game.
The latter was also true in Survivor: Fiji, where Earl managed to be a nice guy and make friends while still understanding that it is a game and friends may need to be cut loose – as he did with Yau-Man. He also showed how to direct people into doing what he wanted them to do without them even quite realizing that was what was happening.
China once again emphasized the value of having and enacting a plan, as Todd was a known schemer who still managed to pull a fairly easy win at the end. I think the Micronesia jurors will end up much like those in China – respecting good game play. After all, these are former contestants and fans, so they shouldn’t harbor the kind of ill will that led to Vecepia’s win, for example, as discussed earlier.
Micronesia reaffirmed the importance of both strategy and the social game, as Parvati emphasized both while eliminating emotion on her own part when it came to making decisions (which came as quite a surprise to Ozzy!). She had multiple alliances that gave her a great amount of flexibility to go forward no matter which side came out ahead, and managed to do so without pissing people off so many of those who had been on an alliance with her even voted for her to win! Once again, Ozzy found that winning challenges wasn’t nearly enough to win the game.
Unfortunately, Gabon didn’t show us much when it came to strategy. Don’t get me wrong, I really like Bob and was happy to see such a nice guy win. But as I said in Why Bob Won, “Bob was not among the best strategists, schemers, and plotters.” He was a really nice guy, which is why Sugar handed the game to him, so that does emphasize that it’s better to be nice than to be nasty. So I guess it did at least support one rule from this guide.
All players should understand that anybody who wants to be on the show needs to know a few things to survive. In previous cases, hunting, fishing, and making fire were downplayed – though still important at times. Even in earlier seasons (Marquesas, Vanuatu) when no food was provided, the social and strategic game still held sway over true survival skills.
If there was any doubt about this, the results of Amazon should have laid them to rest lo those many seasons ago – Matthew was definitely a more physical “survivor,” but the jury voted for the better player. If you still needed more proof, the very first vote of Survivor: Exile Island certainly should have convinced you, when the tribe voted out hard-working survivor Tina and kept Cirie, who was afraid of leaves but knew she had to make allies fast. And if you still didn’t believe it, the final vote of Cook Islands should had laid any doubt to rest, as Yul’s brains won out over Ozzy’s brawn.
Yes, Tom somewhat broke the mold in Palau, as he was a strong provider of food. But that was still not the main reason he won. Even in the extreme case of Guatemala, once again survival skills were not nearly as important as people skills once the first few Tribal Councils passed.1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Next-->
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