Survivor: South Pacific – Why Semhar Lostby David Bloomberg -- 09/21/2011
Somebody has to be voted off first on every season of Survivor, so the goal of many players is to at least make it past that ignominious spot. Semhar didn’t make it – at least in terms of voting. Sure, she still has a chance on Redemption Island, but if her performance in the first immunity challenge is any indication, she won’t be following Matt’s footsteps from last season in performance terms. But like last season, we won’t be waiting for somebody to actually burn their buff after losing a Redemption Island duel before tackling this column about them. We’ll address it right away when the information is still fresh. And so we begin as we answer the question: Why did Semhar lose?
New readers may be asking: “How do we figure it out?” Or they may be wondering: “Isn’t it kind of obvious?” The answer to the first question is that we look back to What South Pacific Survivors Should Have Learned and go through, rule by rule, to see what each player did wrong or right. As far as the second question, occasionally it does turn out to be obvious. But quite often, it turns out that there were more complex factors at work.
Which is the case for Semhar? The most obvious reason for voting her out was that she screwed up the first immunity challenge. But does that explain it all? I’m going to say “no” – let’s find out why.
The first rule tells players they need to scheme and plot. The Savaii tribe didn’t seem to do a whole lot of this until after they lost the immunity challenge – and then a bunch of them scrambled around wildly. Prior to that point, they seemed so convinced of their own challenge infallibility that they weren’t worried about having to vote anybody out. Sure, there were thoughts about alliances, such as Ozzy identifying Semhar as somebody he’d like to take to the end (whoops!), but mostly it was about socializing.
Semhar herself didn’t seem to have made any specific alliances or set any plans in motion until Ozzy warned her that she was a target and she needed to fight to stick around. (The fact that she even needed to be warned after everything that had done down indicates a certain amount of strategic blindness on her part.) All the scheming she did came after she caused Savaii to lose the challenge and after she had been told she needed to scramble. At that point, it was mostly begging and pleading and claiming not to be the weakest even though the evidence showed the contrary. As we saw, it was too little, too late.
With it being too little, does that at least get her off the hook for the second rule, which says not to scheme and plot too much? In a word, yes. So we’ll quickly move on.
Third is the rule that tells players to be flexible. Semhar didn’t really have much time for flexibility, though. Heck, she barely had a chance to meet her tribemates, let alone judging how to best get along with them. And she barely made an alliance, so she certainly didn’t have to worry about tying herself down to it too much.
So we’ll keep swiftly following along and head to the fourth rule, which says not to allow your emotions to control you. Here, Semhar had a bit of a problem. She knew she had failed in the challenge. Worse yet, she knew that her tribemates knew she had failed in the challenge. But rather than address this in an apologetic and “I’ll do better next time” manner, Semhar first took on the attitude of a sullen teenager, telling host Jeff Probst that she was kind of upset about having lost. Then she made things worse by causing a bigger conflict with Jim when the tribe returned to camp. At first, her tribemates might have just thought she was a weak competitor. After this behavior, they saw she could be a cause of camp discord as well.
That leads us nicely into the fifth rule, which tells players they need to pretend to be nice and play the social game. Indeed, the portion about the social game specifically says, “while players should follow this rule over the course of the entire game, the most important times are right at the beginning (when everybody is just looking for a reason to vote somebody out) and nearer to the end (when you’re going to be begging for votes).” The Savaii were looking for a reason to vote out one of their newfound friends. Causing the tribe to lose a challenge? That was a biggie. But doing so and then not getting along with people in the tribe? That only served to multiply the offense.
Both of these issues made Semhar a threat, in violation of the sixth rule. She was a threat to the tribe’s ability to win future challenges because she had proven herself to be weak. Sure, she said Cochran was weaker, but that was just an accusation – the tribe had proof that she was problematic in this area. Even more, as I’ve discussed above, Semhar was a threat to tribal unity. She had already caused an argument, then re-opened it. The debate about keeping her or Cochran had the potential to cause a rift in the tribe while Ozzy was trying to keep everybody happy. Indeed, I suspect that was the main reason Ozzy defected – he saw the way the wind was blowing and wanted it to seem like they were all one big happy family, even though they were going against his wishes.
Speaking of Ozzy’s wishes, Jim quickly noticed how hard Ozzy was fighting to keep Semhar. This raised alarm bells for Jim – why would Ozzy worry so much about the woman who caused them to lose the challenge? Jim was absolutely correct to note that the more Ozzy wanted her to stay, that should mean others needed her to go. Basically, this was a third way that keeping Semhar posed a threat to the others – she could have been a solid ally for Ozzy.
We arrive at the seventh rule, which tells players that at this point in the game, it is usually best to vote off the weakest tribe member. As I’ve said, Semhar demonstrated herself to be a serious contender for this position. I mean, it was throwing coconuts, not lifting huge blocks of concrete! She was so tired, but Mikayla on the opposing tribe had no problems with it (and was, indeed, a significant contributor to their success). This was a serious mark against Semhar.
The other option for the weakest was Cochran, because he just looked like he would be weak. He said it himself in Tribal Council, but added that his tribemates shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. As I noted in my recap, it’s highly likely that they had already made up their minds beforehand, but that may have still played a role as he probably discussed it ahead of time as well.
So the tribe had a decision: Vote out the person who had been accused of weakness or the person who had demonstrated weakness. They went with the one who had shown it.
But as I said, things are rarely so simple. If Semhar had forged some better tribal bonds prior to the challenge, or even if she had behaved better after the challenge, she might have been able to convince her tribe to keep her around. Cochran, meanwhile, had been socially active and the kind of person you wanted to be with. That certainly worked in his favor.
It doesn’t usually take much to be the first person voted out. Make one wrong move and you’re toast because your tribemates barely know you and are looking for a reason to point the finger anywhere but at themselves. Make two wrong moves and you’re burnt toast. Semhar made those two wrong moves – she failed at a challenge (made only worse because she’d assured everyone she could do it) and then copped an attitude. Her game might have been salvageable if she’d done one or the other, but she did both, and that’s why Semhar lost.
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