RNO Roundtable: Was the Wanda/Jonathan Exit Just Another Twist or Crossing the Line?by RealityNewsOnline Staff -- 02/24/2005
The most recent “big twist” on Survivor sent two people packing before they could even join a tribe, let alone get voted out or have their torches snuffed. It has created two very different opinions in Survivor fans, even here at RealityNewsOnline. So what happens when the folks at RNO don’t agree? We sit ‘em all down at a big table and have them talk it out – and then we post the results for you to read! Here are the thoughts of David Bloomberg, Jeffrey Clinard, Paris Cosby, Mike DeGeorge, Ken Kellam III, Phil Kural, Jeffrey Sadow, Sting7, and Betsy Wasser.
Sting7: The reality universe is full of stars and satellites. One of the brightest stars has always been Survivor. Not only because it was one of the first, but it is a game that challenges you mentally and physically, seemingly all of the time. It is a game an academic can watch and place themselves in, just as much as a casual television observer. It's all about group dynamics, testing your limits, your morals, your values – basically, what will you do for a million dollars? That's why this whole episode with picking teams to decide who leaves is so disappointing. Survivor stooped to a level that was well-beneath the standard they have set so far.
There have been plenty of twists on Survivor. And there will be more, we can assume. But all those twists happened within the framework of the game itself. Suddenly someone switching tribes, blending tribes, trading buffs, or even the reappearance of the Outcast Tribe (which was entertaining, but hypocritical in my opinion), all took place within the framework of the game. But, there are basic tenets, basic to rules to this game. You are eliminated by Tribal Council. Wanda and Jonathan weren't eliminated by Tribal Council. Every single Survivor contestant who didn't quit on their own or was deemed medically unable to continue has been eliminated by Tribal Council. That is how you are eliminated – Tribal Council. It has always been that way. Not this time, though. Wanda and Jonathan were eliminated like fourth graders at recess!
You answer in the form of a question on Jeopardy! You have to get through Contestant's Row to get a shot at the car on The Price Is Right. You are eliminated by tribal council on Survivor. So, Survivor has decided to break its own rules for the cheap thrill of alleged good television.
I've heard the argument that it's Mark Burnett's game and he can do what he wants. Yeah, sure. But what happens when no one wants to play his game because they don't really want to be made monkeys of on television? Or no one wants to watch his increasingly mean-spirited game? Or when the chicanery reaches the point where winning this game becomes pure luck? Mark has masters to answer to just like everyone else (CBS, sponsors, etc.). Some of those masters are us. So, he can't just do whatever he wants because his game has to remain credible. What if Jeopardy! decided you don't have to answer in the form of a question? Or if Bob Barker decided a contestant was so darn cute, they could come right out of the audience and join him onstage? That would be a foul, right? This is a foul. Survivor committed this foul for (supposedly) good television, but what it did was show how low it can go.
One of the shows we television viewers voted for in Reality TV Hall of Shame Awards was Forever Eden, primarily because it changed the rules on what seemed like any possible whim. It stunk, and it was rightly cancelled. We've read interviews from Probst and Burnett that have said, in hindsight, the Outcast tribe was a mistake. And, here they are, committing another one. It won't be the last either, I'd bet. If Survivor is willing to stoop this low for ratings, it will go lower. The great respect I had for this show is damaged, and it's really too bad.
David: There are basic tenets to the game of Survivor: Outwit, outplay, outlast. That’s it. Yes, Jonathan and Wanda were booted without the benefit of a Tribal Council. However, drawing the line in the sand at Tribal Council and saying that is where a twist goes too far is only a subjective matter. Let’s look at some other “big twists”:
And those are just a few of the twists!
You might say that every previous person was voted out in Tribal Council. So what? Looking back at the twists I just mentioned: Until Africa, every previous person stayed on a single tribe until it was time for the merge. Until Thailand, when you and the other tribe were sent to live together, it was because you were merged. Until Pearl Islands, when your torch was snuffed, you were done with the game. There are numerous examples of such changes (Thailand’s teams not being picked by producers, Amazon’s teams being split by gender, etc.) as Survivor has continued into now its tenth season. Why pick on this one?
When I heard about this season’s twist, I wondered if I would bother to write “Why [Somebody] Lost” columns about them. However, as soon as I saw the episode I knew they were appropriate. Wanda and Jonathan played Survivor. One of the “rules” that has been a part of those columns for years now is to make allies immediately. Wanda and Jonathan failed at that. Indeed, in an interview with Jonathan that you will see soon here on RNO, he talks about some things he could have done differently and mentions what “the game” is about. If he acknowledges that he played the game, I certainly see no reason to argue.
Wanda and Jonathan were not “voted in” to the tribe based on what they did and how they acted. Wanda might have suffered because she was older, but considering that Jonathan was up against Willard, we know that isn’t the overall explanation for both of them! Both of them had the same chance to make early allies that everybody else did. They failed and were sent packing.
Did this particular twist thrill me? No. However, I’m a purist. I didn’t like the original swap in Africa. I didn’t like the Shii Ann screwover in Thailand. I didn’t like the Outcasts’ return in the Pearl Islands. This is just another twist in a long history of twists. I see nothing to get upset about.
Phil:When the elimination first occurred, I really didn't think twice about it. I thought to myself, "Oh well, that really sucks." Life moved on. As I watched Wanda and Jonathan on The Early Show the next morning – it really hit me. This thing was not fair for them. Wanda stated that she was a HUGE fan of the show, and went so far that it was as if she only got one lick of the ice cream cone. That's exactly what it was. This made me start thinking about how Jeff always says that on Survivor, fire means life. Well, apparently not anymore. Now, if they feel like having a draft before the show starts, your life is in the other hands of those people.
What I'm trying to say is that I'm not so much against WHAT was done, but HOW it was done. I think had Wanda, Jonathan, and heck, the rest of the contestants known that there would be a draft, maybe they would have thought twice about even applying. Some, like David, above, say that it's just another twist in the game. I don't agree. I felt so bad for Wanda. The woman won't get another chance to show what she could do, and was eliminated based on her physical attributes (I don't think the singing had anything to do with it). She said in her interview that she had trained so hard when she knew she was going to be on the show so she wouldn't be eliminated because she couldn't do the challenges. She didn't even get a chance to prove herself in a challenge, let alone get a buff. The whole thing was simply unfair, and way below the standards of Survivor. I'm still disappointed.
Jeffrey Clinard: As David said, above, Survivor has always has twists – it's what makes the game interesting. Players should be ready to deal with the unexpected and be flexible enough to handle whatever is tossed at them. However, the basic strategy is to find allies for political protection. Ever since it became obvious that having political allies was the route to success in the game, the producers have introduced challenges to test and expose political situations in the game.
I think the pick 'em challenge was fair because everybody had an equal chance to get to know each other and start making allies and playing politics the moment Jeff Probst said the game was starting. The players had ample time to start playing the real game of finding some friends that would keep them around in the game. Fundamentally, Survivor is all about politics, and this was just another political game that Jonathan and Wanda didn't play well enough.
Paris: I was extremely disappointed with the way the producers eliminated Jonathan and Wanda. I thought it was ridiculous and fell way below the standards we've come to expect from Survivor. I feel that with this move, they stooped to the level of a show like The Will – which used pretty much the same method of elimination.
I do understand that this type of elimination could have political ramifications within the game; however, they didn't even know if they would be on tribes at that point – let alone know who would be on their tribe. There was no reason to do this other than shock value.
I felt terrible for the two players who were sent home that way. It's one thing to be voted out because you screwed up or were a threat but quite another to be humiliated by peers and told to leave immediately without ever having been given a buff, torch, etc. Did they have a chance to play the game? In my opinion, no, they never had the chance.
I understand that anything can happen once Jeff Probst says, "the game is on," but a grade-school game of "pick me, pick me" is a little ridiculous. Had they been the last two to arrive at the island and were eliminated, fine. I could have understood that but not the way it was done. Survivor is supposed to be Outwit, Outlast, Outplay – not Outpopular. I thought it was a horrible idea and didn't enjoy it one little bit.
Jeffrey Sadow: For somebody who likes the strategic side of Survivor, the relatively rapid elimination of Wanda and Jonathan was somewhat unsettling. I'm not even sure it makes for good television. But it has an unimpeachable place in the game.
Some have reacted to this event almost as if they have been cheated, that a public utility to which they pay taxes suddenly has decided to do the people a disservice, as if the "public" owns the Survivor franchise. The error in this view is most obvious when considering an example.
Let's say that you invent a card game called "fizzbin." You create the rules, you set up the tournaments, and you act as the final arbiter on who wins the tournaments, subject to the rules. ESPN, FoxSports, and the Travel Channel begin to broadcast the tournaments and they generate a loyal fan base.
Let's also say that one of the rules regards the second card drawn, which is supposed to be face up, except on Tuesdays. After some time, you decide the game will be more unpredictable and competitive if you change the rule to allow the card to be face up only at night on Tuesdays. You debut this rule change, and suddenly a number of fans become irate. They argue that it is "wrong," that you have changed the entire nature of the game, that it is inconsistent with the "spirit" of the game.
But who owns the game? You do. No one else can claim that your change is wrong or right, because the game is not based upon a set of metaphysical, universal principles that are part of the human condition. Its rules do not encompass moral questions. Only you decide what is wrong or right for your game; nobody else has the right to tell you that you are "wrong" about your game. You make no promises to viewers that they get co-ownership of the show just because they watch; your deal with them is you put out a product that they either accept of reject.
They can choose not to watch. They can start their own brand and try to get somebody to carry it on TV. They can write about how it makes the game less appealing. But they cannot sanctimoniously say that you have somehow violated a trust with the audience by your altering your own creative product, a decision with which they have no claim to interfere.
Ken: I've flipped-flopped on this, and in the long run, I don't care for it. Wanda and Jonathon are probably thinking, "I gave up six weeks of my life for THIS?" On the other hand, Jeff Probst DID say, "The game is on," when they were all in the boat, so they should've taken their cue.
Betsy: Just about everyone has bad memories about being the last one chosen in a schoolyard game of pick ‘em. I think that’s why there’s been such a strong response to this particular Survivor twist – we all feel for Wanda and Jonathan because it’s such a lousy feeling. But lousy as it was, that twist was perfectly within Mark Burnett’s rights to do. Some might argue that Wanda and Jonathan didn’t have a chance to play the game. I say if they weren’t playing the game already, then they would have been lousy Survivor players. As several people have already mentioned, before the boat left for the island, Jeff told them that the game was on – but he shouldn’t have had to. A smart player knows that the minute you’re put together with the other players, the game is on. Even if you can’t talk to each other, everyone is sizing up everyone else, and the game is very much underway. If Jonathan and Wanda didn’t realize that and weren’t taking steps to protect themselves from being sent home, then they got what they deserved.
Other people, as we’ve seen above, might also argue that by having Jonathan and Wanda eliminated outside of Tribal Council and without torches to snuff, Burnett broke the rules. What rules? It’s not like each contestant gets a copy of The Survivor Rulebook along with their buffs. Near as I can tell, there are three rules to Survivor: you can’t plan to share the money with another contestant, you can’t hit anybody, and Mark Burnett can do whatever he darn well pleases. There have been plenty of other twists in the history of the show that have thrown players for a loop. Several of these have been mentioned, but bear repeating: There have been tribal switch-ups, starting in Africa, that caused a real disadvantage for players. There was the merge that wasn’t, which caused Shii Ann’s downfall in Thailand. In Marquesas, players thought that a tie would be broken by a series of trivia questions as it had been in the past, not by the now infamous Purple Rock Of Death. And in the Pearl Islands, players who had previously been voted out were put back in the game. Anyone who plays the game thinking that certain rules are going to be followed obviously hasn’t paid attention to the way things have been done in the past.
I’m sure Jonathan and Wanda are nice people, and I know it had to be really disappointing for them to be sent home so early on in the game. But that’s just too bad. Survivor is not a nice game. It’s harsh, it’s cutthroat, and if you don’t know that coming into it, then you won’t last long anyway.
Mike: I didn't think anything of this season's twist. I thought it was different, even though I really didn't like it. I don't like early boots. I think the Survivors should stay at least six days before the first boot. But it was interesting and different, and shocked a lot of people. It served its purpose. It's part of the game.
I am, frankly, shocked at some of the intense negative reactions this twist has brought. First off – was it fair? Well, not really. But was it fair to Silas and Lindsay to switch tribes in Africa? Was it fair for the men in the Amazon and Vanuatu to be hit with a balance beam in the first challenge? Was it fair for athletic worker-bee Hunter to be voted out by the lazy alliance in the Marquesas? Was it fair to Shii Ann when they stuck both tribes on the same beach without a merge? No. Survivor is a lot of things, but I don't think anyone ever claimed the game is fair. Besides, Wanda and Jonathan were Survivor fans. Wanda supposedly prepared as much as anyone. If they heard Jeff say, "the game is on," and weren't on the lookout for something, then maybe they didn't deserve to be there in the first place.
It was just another twist. Some have said that they didn't get voted out. Fire represents life, and their torches were never snuffed out – they never even GOT torches – and therefore, the boots are not valid. Yes, this method of elimination has never been done before. Before All-Stars, they never did three tribes before. Before Pearl Islands, Outcasts were never brought back (OK, maybe that's a bad example, but that doesn't make it any less valid). They do something different every season. This was it.
Again, I'm not a huge fan of twists. For once, I wish they'd play the game without any twists. Wouldn't that be a nice twist? But they're part of Survivor. Twists have kept the game fresh over ten seasons. Mark Burnett created a phenomenon that reinvented television. It's not perfect, but I'll defer to his judgment on this one.
If you haven’t already, be sure to check out these other Survivor: Palau Episode 1 articles:
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