Survivor: One World, Episode 7 Missing Intelligence Award – Me Tarzan, You Smarter Than Meby Chris Harris -- 04/04/2011
Usually in a season, there are multiple candidates for a Missing Intelligence Award in any given week, but it hasn’t been that way quite so much for One World. Instead, we’ve had one primary example of missing intelligence each week who proves too obvious to even pretend it’s someone else. Typically it’s been Colton or Alicia.
This time? Welcome to the club, Tarzan.
Frankly, I should probably give it to him just for allowing other people to call him “Tarzan.” Let’s not continue the theme of jungle-related literary nicknames, okay? We don’t need to see a “Mr. Kurtz” or “Rikki-Tikki-Tavi” in future seasons. But no, there are many more game-relevant reasons for giving dear Greg Smith the MIA this week.
A couple of seasons ago, we bore witness to the spectacle that was Phillip Sheppard, former federal agent, bearer of an entire zoo’s worth of animal tattoos, and the most interesting man in the world. (“I don’t always wear underwear, but when I do, I prefer dirty, saggy pink tighties.”) We wondered if Phil’s mania was really an act designed to convince others to keep him in the game as jury fodder, and our special super-secret agent man pretty much confirmed this for us as the game went on.
It was an interesting strategy, to say the least, and hypothetically, in some seasons, it might have stood a chance of working. Had Phillip gotten to the jury and made a dynamite argument, basically pulling back the curtain and revealing the opposite of The Wizard of Oz -- that the crazy, ineffective old man was really a crafty and powerful wizard -- he might have pulled it off. However, he blew it by being basically the same argumentative, confrontational whackadoo that made him jury fodder in the first place. Moreover, no one was beating Boston Rob anyway. Phil’s ploy might have worked in another season, but not that one.
Throughout this season, however, it feels like we’ve had multiple people trying this same strategy -- become so disliked, so disrespected that anyone would be crazy not to take you to the end, then hope things get crazy with the jury and anything can happen.
To be fair, I certainly don’t think this was really Colton’s plan. He was more of a Russell Hantz, as I explained last week -- a guy who was playing hard, but couldn’t resist being a jerk to those around him. I don’t think Alicia is playing the Phillip Sheppard way either -- however she is in real life, she clearly just has an inner “mean girl” that comes out under high-stress circumstances (and around Colton).
Tarzan, however… I might buy it from him. We have no reason yet to suspect he’s playing this strategy for sure, but he’s been very Phillip-like, with his bizarre behavior, unintelligible rants, and even his willingness to drag his saggy old body around in unflattering shorts. Like Phillip, any other player in the game would be nuts not to take Tarzan to the finals, because anyone can beat him. Even Alicia could probably beat Tarzan, and I don’t think she could beat anyone else right now.
This was shown to be true when the tribe voted out Jonas -- yes, Jonas was well-liked. Yes, he deserved to stay more than Tarzan. Yes, more people wanted Tarzan out of their lives -- but that’s exactly why Jonas had to go. Because the inconvenience Tarzan caused was not worth the million dollars the others could win by sitting beside him at the end of the game.
Tarzan committed several offenses this week which pointed to why he’s made it virtually impossible for himself to win this game:
* We have to go back to the previous episode to really see how far off base Tarzan is. Apparently Jonas and Leif had already made the decision pre-merge to side with Christina. Colton was even on-board with the plan, it would seem. Only Tarzan was still clinging to the idea that somehow Alicia was more preferable than Christina, and even tried to convince Leif of this.
I don’t think it would have worked. Had there been a vote, and had Colton been around for it, Tarzan would probably have picked the wrong pony. The fact that the rest of his males’ alliance had basically chosen a strategy and weren’t worrying about how he would vote shows how little influence Tarzan really had, and how disrespected he was for so long, even by his allies.
* Fights over food. A Phillip Sheppard classic (remember the “Rice Wars”?). Tarzan wanted some of former Salani’s coffee. It’s not unreasonable to ask for a scoop of coffee -- if you get turned down because it isn’t for you, then graciously accept that and move on -- but in Survivor, it’s always important to keep your finger on the pulse of every member of your tribe, and that means being able to read the room. If Tarzan had looked at the people consuming the coffee, he might have noticed that it was only the people who had actually won the coffee.
Instead, Tarzan just kind of butted in and assumed that what was once Salani’s was now community property. That’s a sign of poor social awareness within the tribal setting. Worse, when he was turned down, Tarzan made a comment assuming entitlement to the coffee as community property. You won’t get anywhere by arguing, dude. You want some coffee? Make yourself valuable to a member of Salani.
You scratch their back, maybe they’ll scratch yours back -- or be willing to share some of their coffee with you. But just kvetching about it isn’t going to endear you to anyone. This isn’t preschool. Jeff Probst isn’t around to make the other kids share their stuff with you. This is a social game, and you have to figure out your own way.
* Tarzan and Jonas quarrel during the puzzle-solving challenge. Tarzan gets defensive about his contributions, but it seems that Jonas and Probst alike felt that Tarzan wasn’t carrying his weight. Not helping the cause is a good way to make a bad name for yourself. So is getting snippy about it. I understand getting testy in the heat of battle -- I’d probably be subject to the impulse as well. But if a million dollars is on the line, I think it’s worth it to make sure you always think before you speak -- and try to help solve the damn puzzle.
* Then we have the big Tarzan-Jonas blow-up. Yes, Jonas was at fault here, too, but I bet not many people on that beach would have blamed Jonas for getting angry with Tarzan. Instead, Tarzan made a bigger scene by getting up and declaring that his alliance was through. He drew attention to himself in all the wrong ways and ended up looking like a loose cannon. Not a good sign if you want other people to give you a million-dollar vote.
In fact, Jonas pretty much made the point to Mike that Tarzan was a loose cannon because of Tarzan’s confusion about who’s in his alliance and who’s getting voted out. Tarzan thinks he’s controlling the show to some degree, but really, he couldn’t be farther on the outskirts, as we saw before with the Alicia/Christina debate.
* The undies. Oh, the undies. Once again, Tarzan bullied his way into a situation, much like with the coffee, wearing a sense of entitlement like a bad suit. Also once again, Tarzan completely failed to read the room, and this time, he managed to alienate Chelsea so completely that she actually lobbied for him to go home over the much bigger threat Jonas.
Throwing your underwear in with Chelsea’s in the hot water pot is rude and presumptuous. It is also, however, a simple mistake, the kind we all make from time to time. If you are told that what you’ve done is inappropriate and upsets someone else, the polite thing to do in any life situation is to apologize for your faux pas and do what you can to rectify it. In Survivor, it’s not just a matter of being polite -- it’s potentially a million-dollar decision.
When Tarzan saw that Chelsea was displeased with his actions, the smart thing to do would have been to apologize and let her take care of her own laundry, then do his afterward. The dumb thing to do was to argue about it, act like she was overreacting, and not take his own shorts out. Showing Chelsea he was willing to be cooperative could have gone a long way toward changing her opinion about him; as it is, Tarzan just lost one vote for a million dollars all because of a poopy-looking pair of underwear.
* The blow-up at Tribal Council was a continuation of the earlier fight with Jonas, and only cemented the notion that Tarzan’s a loose cannon. But Jonas offered an olive branch on his way out by telling Tarzan, “No hard feelings.” Tarzan’s response? “Hard feelings.” Yep. Tarzan just made an enemy of a confirmed juror. Way to go, buddy. There’s one more potential vote for a million bucks down the drain.
We’ve seen more reasons in past episodes why Tarzan is unlikely to win jury votes and influence people, but these are the major ones from just the last couple of weeks. Tarzan is this season’s Phillip Sheppard -- as if the world needed another one -- and the best he can hope for is to meet the same fate (a sound beating at the final Tribal Council). Frankly, making it impossible for yourself to win is as good as quitting. That’s why Greg Smith is the proud owner of one shiny new Missing Intelligence Award -- he’s not gonna win anything else.
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Chris Harris is a newspaper journalist from Somerset, Kentucky, and has decided to go with the nickname “Henderson the Rain King.” You can email Chris at email@example.com.
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