What Cook Island Survivors Should Have Learnedby David Bloomberg -- 09/14/2006
This is the twelfth 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. This time, we have heard that a number of the players were recruited rather than coming through the usual route of applying to a show they have watched and love. This could be interesting because if they didn’t do their homework, they might not know these rules. We’ll find out soon enough!
In any case, it's time to bring us all up to date and take a look at what the contestants on Survivor: Cook Islands should have learned by the time they got there.
Since this is the 13th time around, players should definitely know by now what they can expect and how they need to play the game – if they did their homework. There are some things players should have known since all the way back in the second edition, such as 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 earned him a Reality TV Hall of Shame Moment). But as we saw a few 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.
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 attributes 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 (I wonder if we’ll see a reprise on the Cook Islands). Ethan, the winner, said that he watched the previous series; Silas, who lost, said he hadn't. There is a big hint in that – but is it a hint everybody knows? 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 a number of seasons are available on DVD now.
Survivor: Marquesas showed us how to lose: You lose by showing your hand and practically daring anybody to go against you. You lose 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 showed 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 recent series. 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. 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 2 – 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.
And 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.
All players should know 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. In Survivor: Marquesas, there were no rations and true survival skills should have risen in importance. However, as we saw with Hunter's removal, that wasn't necessarily the case. On Vanuatu, there was no food provided, so survival skills should also have been an issue – but they really weren’t then either. This shows how Survivor is much more about how each person gets along with their fellows than whether or not they can make fire by rubbing two sticks together. If there was any doubt about this, the results of Amazon should have laid them to rest – Matthew was definitely a more physical “survivor,” but the jury voted for the better player. And if you still didn’t believe me, 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.
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.
Truly, the mental game is what allows a player to make it to the end. As Rob Cesternino said in the interview mentioned earlier, “I think the strategic part of the game is the most important. Even though the physical part of the game is important, these are not X-games. This is the most amazing strategic game ever created and that's where the fun in the game lies.”
What should the Survivor: Cook Islands contestants have learned? Let's take a look at these updated rules for survival. Each week, we will look back at this article and compare how each losing player did or did not accomplish these goals.
1) Make Machiavelli Proud: Scheme and Plot
Yes, this is still the primary rule, and unless Mark Burnett really changes the game, it will be for as long as Survivor is airing. As noted above, hunting and fishing are likely not very big issues; instead, the real survival skills necessary here are more along the lines of something you might learn from Renaissance schemer Niccolo Machiavelli than anything you can get out of a survival book.
From the very beginning, you have to start making alliances and cementing relationships. Under normal circumstances, it can be difficult to know whom you can trust after just a couple days (witness what happened to Kel and Mad Dog way back in Survivor 2, or more recently to Morgan and Brianna in Guatemala), but either you do it or you’re gone. Later in the game you can rework alliances according to what is necessary to stick around, but early on you should make use of whatever relationships present themselves – if you don’t, you might not have to worry about what happens later in the game because you won't be around.
If there was any doubt about how important the early alliance is, it was erased by Survivor: Vanuatu. The younger men all fell quickly because they failed to consider it important. Meanwhile, the older men joined together immediately and stayed solid, allowing them to progress much further in the game. And if anybody still had doubts, looking at Guatemala should erase them forever more – Lydia wasn’t in the main alliance on her tribe at first, but she managed to convince just a couple people to champion her, which ended up letting her make it all the way to the final four. And as mentioned earlier, Cirie showed that making alliances immediately is more important than anything when her tribe chose to keep her and her fear of leaves over somebody who could help them build shelter, start fire, get food, etc.
In their original series, Richard said he started planning even before he got to the island (too bad he didn’t plan to pay his taxes!). Although he obviously couldn't have known specifically who he would ally with, he knew what kind of people he'd be looking for. Similarly, Rob C. did his homework ahead of time, studying up on not only Survivor but some tactics from Big Brother as well. If you have a game plan and know who you’re looking for, you are in a great position from the very beginning.
As all of the contestants by now know, people who would do well in "real" survival situations have almost no advantage over those who would die of starvation or exposure to the elements. Even Sandra, the winner of from Survivor: Pearl Islands, admitted in final jury questions that she probably would not have lasted too long in a "real" survival situation. And think about the likelihood of Jan from Survivor: Thailand or, again, Cirie from Exile Island making it! But they, and others, managed to make it past the point where their weakness was, well, a weakness. They did it through making alliances – and were also somewhat lucky there were other scapegoats around. Similarly, laziness would not be rewarded in a real island survival situation, but Rob, Sean, Sarah, and Vee had that in common on Survivor: Marquesas, and used that bond to form an alliance that ousted the hard workers. The alliance supersedes work ethic or pretty much any other factor when it comes to surviving this game.
The most important attribute of an alliance is that the people in it won't vote for you to leave. The second most important attribute is that they will vote the same way as you will for somebody else to take the long hike. As the original Tagi alliance showed, if you get a group together, you have a much better chance of surviving against the rest of the unorganized clods wandering around, shooting their votes this way and that. Since then, the alliance based on original tribe has been a starting point in almost every series – though the producers have done everything they can to shake that up, and have largely succeeded in preventing Pagongings lately – though Vanuatu came close and Palau gave us an “Ulonging.” Contestants have to be prepared for anything.
Mind you, it isn't always the best idea to stay in a tribal alliance. Survivor 2's Amber, for instance, should not have continued voting with her tribe after Jerri was booted. She should have approached the remaining Kuchans and formed an alliance that would at least have carried her a bit further. She probably would still not have made it to the finals, but she could at least have had a better chance. Obviously, Amber made up for this misstep in All-Stars.
On the flip-side, Shii Ann in Thailand did the right thing by jumping alliances if there had not been a twist. She faced other problems in All-Stars, but despite her best efforts, she couldn’t get anybody to see what was going on, and nobody would flip to her side as they approached the end. In Vanuatu, Twila and Scout knew that they were not part of the core group of women, so they switched sides, resulting in Twila getting second place and Scout getting third, rather than the likely fourth or worse they would have gotten otherwise. Ian thought about jumping ship in Palau, as well he should have, but he only got berated into giving up the game for his troubles. We’ll discuss that particular move later. And there was all sorts of backstabbing going on in Guatemala, which helped Stephenie make it to the final two.
So players need to appear to be part of the overall tribal alliance, but they should also keep their options open. This is precisely what Alex, Rob, and Matthew did in Amazon, pretending to still be part of the all-male tribal alliance, but actually being out to get rid of Roger and Dave. Rafe did something similar in Guatemala, convincing his tribemates he was their ally while apparently planning to go far with Danni instead. Players need to be opportunistic – convince the others in their original alliance that everybody should be loyal, but then take whatever opportunities they have to form other alliances to keep them safe. They need to be flexible enough to jump alliances if the need arises, as we’ll discuss in the third rule.
One item of note to mention occurred in Thailand – Brian's variation on this theme. He created a tribal alliance, but also a number of sub-alliances that the others weren't aware of. He had a pact with Clay, one with Ted, and one with Helen. (Jan was along for the ride in each of them). Everybody was happy and secure – until the axe fell. This gave Brian the ability to figure out which opponent he would rather face in the final two – eventually leading to his picking, and beating, Clay. But if the others had taken a great dislike to Helen, for example, he could have simply changed his plan.
This was a risky maneuver because if, for example, Ted and Helen had talked about Brian on the reward they earned, he might have been found out. Indeed, that’s exactly what happened to Deena in Amazon. Boston Rob used a similar strategy in All-Stars, but because that show involved pre-existing friendships, it would have been difficult, if not impossible, for Rob to win no matter whom he took to the Final 2; of course, he chose future wife Amber, so in a way he won anyway. Chris used a similar maneuver at the end of Vanuatu, having alliances with two duos – Twila & Scout and Julie & Eliza. He made them both feel secure and then voted out Julie & Eliza.
Cirie showed how to play a strategy like this perfectly when she voted off Courtney in her Triple Play. As described in her Reality TV Hall of Fame Moment, Cirie had three different groups voting three different ways, thus putting her three-person alliance in control. She convinced each of the three groups that she was really with them, while telling the other groups that she was faking out the other contestants. In doing so, she convinced Terry and Courtney to target Aras while Shane went after Danielle. Then she, Danielle, and Aras took out the real target, Courtney. Under normal circumstances, you need a majority alliance to ensure you take out your choice target, but Cirie worked things so she didn’t need the numbers – she had the brains instead.
Part of plotting and scheming can also be making good use of sneakiness – witness Sandra hiding behind the bushes in Pearl Islands and overhearing Burton and Jon talking. She was able to use that information to talk to Rupert (who mostly ignored it) and Tijuana (who changed her strategy based on it but then caused Sandra to turn against her anyway). A corollary is that if you are going to plot and scheme, make sure nobody else is listening – as occurred in All-Stars when Rupert and Jenna L. were talking about booting Rob… and Rob walked up!
It should be noted that the best schemer does not always win. While this is the most important rule, it is not the only one – and immunity challenges always have the possibility of messing things up, especially if you reach the Final 3. Following this rule will help you get to that point, but after that you’re on your own.
Note that I have been talking about making alliances, not making friends. See Rule 4, below, for advice about friendships.
2) But Don't Scheme and Plot Too Much/Keep Your Scheming Secret/Don't Backstab Until You Absolutely Need To
There's a fine line that needs to be drawn. If you spend all your time scheming and plotting, and you try to scheme and plot with everybody, everybody will know what you're up to. In the end, nobody will trust you and they'll turn on you. This is precisely what happened to Kelly in the first season. She tried to be all things to all people. Instead, it cost her everything when Susan turned from a trusted friend to a hated enemy.
It has happened again since then, of course. Clarence in the second season tried to plot with everybody and nobody trusted him. Kelly in the third series did not necessarily try to plot with everybody, but because she was friendly and spent time with some of the others, she was seen as a potential traitor. While she did not actually jump ship until it was obvious her shipmates were going to make her walk the plank, the seed had already been planted in Lex's mind (or gut) when Brandon helped it to grow. Gabriel in the fourth season did something similar when he was friendly with Rob and Sean and refused to swear a blood oath to stick with John's Rotu 4 alliance. But then John himself fell in part due to the same issue because he had made deals – fake or real – with just about everybody.
Many viewers thought that Rob C. from Amazon fell because of this flaw. But while he was definitely scheming and plotting a lot, and everybody knew it, he managed to make everybody think that he was being honest with them. Jon in Pearl Islands somehow managed to pull off a similar feat, as did Boston Rob in All-Stars. This is a method reminiscent of the one used by Dr. Will on Big Brother 2 and again by both Jun and Alison on Big Brother 4. It takes a special kind of schemer to pull it off, and it’s not something I expect to see work very often, but when it does, it can be pure poetry.
In the second series, Debb tried to scheme too much, too soon, and started spreading stories that Jeff wanted to be voted off. When this got back to Jeff, it cemented the unanimous vote against Debb. In the third series, Brandon violated this rule by jumping from the Samburu + Kelly alliance to Lex's camp. He did indeed help get rid of Kelly, but then Lex's cohorts decided that if a guy couldn't even keep his word to his original team, he was not trustworthy enough to stay with them, either. Off he went.
We've already mentioned Shii Ann, who I think deserves a bit of special dispensation because she was tricked by the producers. It's easy for us to say she plotted and schemed too much (as she said herself), but the fact is that she was on the right track and then the train turned out to be heading in the wrong direction.
There is also Christy from Amazon, who avoided any sort of plotting and scheming for most of the game, and then ended up being voted out because she did too much of it! She was approached by two opposing alliances and refused to make a promise to either. Bad move. The opposition realized they were both vulnerable if she couldn’t tell them for sure and joined up to get rid of her instead! What’s worse is that Dolly duplicated this same mistake on Vanuatu, also refusing to say which alliance she was going with, which caused some people from each side to join together against her.
An important part of this rule is that players should not be open about their scheming. This part Shii Ann definitely did violate, as she flat-out told Ken that she was going to join with the other tribe. Similarly, the Samburu split was obvious to one and all. On the other side, Lex felt he needed to be honest to Clarence and then again (at least partially) to Kelly before voting them off. Sorry, but that was the wrong move. Lie to their faces, and then vote 'em off. There is no reason to alert them to their impending doom – it only gives them time to plot their own counterattack, which Kelly almost successfully did against Lex.
A similar situation presented itself in Vanuatu, when some viewers thought Chris should have told Julie and Eliza straight-up that they were going home, rather than lying to them right up until they were voted out. However, Chris knew that he had to lie to prevent a possible counter-attack, as he explained in his RealityNewsOnline interview.
As much as some targets say they want to know ahead of time, and as much as players might feel like it’s a good idea to let them know in case they make it to the Final 2 and have to face them at the jury, the fact of the matter is that it’s better to risk it and at least get to the Final 2 rather than giving your target an opportunity to turn the tables.
How do we know that it’s the wrong move? Because in case there was any doubt, Alex showed us on Amazon and then Ian showed us once again on Palau. Alex schemed and plotted too much, he didn’t keep his scheming secret, and he backstabbed before he absolutely needed to. Wow – three for three. That’s impressive. Impressively bad, that is. They are all related to one thing, though – his revealing to Rob that he would vote against Rob in the final four. By doing this, he was looking too far ahead and scheming too much. He obviously was not keeping it secret since he told the person he was planning to vote out, and he backstabbed too early – he turned Rob from a friend to a foe by taking out the knife, showing it to him, and telling him exactly where he planned to stick it in Rob’s back. Had he just kept his mouth shut, he would have been in a much better position.
Ian’s issue was a bit different in that he just couldn’t seem to keep his mouth shut. First, he admitted to Tom that it would have been a difficult decision on who to vote out if he had won immunity. Tom is a bright guy and realized that Ian might be doing some plotting outside the alliance. And indeed he was – he told the women he’d vote against Tom if Tom hadn’t won immunity. Maybe it was just talk – many people speak of hypotheticals in the game – but hypotheticals can come back to haunt you. Ian found that out, as did James in Big Brother 6. Then Judd faced the same problem in Guatemala when he was trapped by Danni and Lydia into saying things he shouldn’t have. Be careful who you’re talking to and what you’re talking about at all times!
The downfall of the Rotu 4 in Survivor: Marquesas is also almost entirely due to their failure to recognize the part of the rule that says to keep scheming secret. They thought they had it made. They were in the final four and there was nothing anybody could do. So when it came time to chop down those coconuts in an immunity challenge, they laid out their plans just as clearly as if they'd written ‘em down and handed ‘em out. Paschal and Neleh were shown that they were not part of the core alliance and the best they could hope for would be fifth and sixth place. By making their scheming so apparent, the Rotu 4 were instead chopped down one by one, just like those coconuts – and they also were recognized in a Reality TV Hall of Shame Moment. Mark Burnett knows darn well how that challenge went, and there has been at least one in each edition since then. Until Palau, nobody else had fallen for it. But Gregg did just that when he tipped his hand in a reward challenge and showed exactly who he was standing with and who was on the opposite side. Bad, bad move.
This also leads to a corollary to this rule, which is that if any alliances do get out in the open, do not let it be known that you are the decision-maker – even to those within your own alliance, if possible! Rich Hatch succeeded in great part because he allowed his cohorts to believe they were making the decisions. On the other hand, Lex made it clear to the Boran Boys Club that he was in charge, and that caused problems. It caused even more problems for John of the Rotu 4. And of course, we must recognize Deena as she decided Alex needed to go but the rest of her alliance didn’t think this was such a great idea – and got rid of her instead!
I'm also going to bring in one more point regarding open scheming – couples. I'm talking about joining up openly with another person for any reason, whether it's love/lust, a father-daughter type thing, or whatnot. Yes, a couple went to the final two of All-Stars and another couple made it to the final two of Big Brother 5, while Big Brother: All-Stars had two showmance couples in its final four. However, the first was a special situation – friends allowing a relationship to continue when they should have been playing the game instead – and the second was, well, just strange. And the third was strategy.
But in general, we have seen on reality TV that open partnerships are just begging to be split up. If we are looking to Big Brother 5 and seeing one couple succeeding there, we also have to look at two others (one a dating couple, the other twins) being broken up and booted out, and the whole of Big Brother 6, where partners were specifically targeted. And Gregg from Palau showed us another violation of this rule in his behavior when he hooked up with Jenn as both a romantic couple and an alliance. This fact helped Ian and Tom decide that Gregg was an appropriate target.
In summary, pairing up draws attention to both people and that can lead to votes. Plus, it violates Rule 4, below, about not letting emotions control you. Just don’t do it.
Another point in discussing the open scheming takes us to Peter, from Survivor: Marquesas. What's that you say, you barely even remember Peter? Yes, that's my point. He was the first one booted, in large part because he tried to discuss the vote with everybody in the tribe. He wanted to force them to talk openly about who should get the boot. What was the result? They decided that he should get the boot!
The main point in dealing with the backstabbing portion of this rule is that it goes along with scheming and plotting, and backstabbing too early is scheming and plotting too much. In the second series, the Colby/Tina/Keith alliance didn't get rid of Jerri until they had whittled down the numbers of Kuchans to the point that they felt safe. Frankly, they weren't really safe since Amber could have joined the remaining Kuchans to overthrow the alliance, but things ended up working out. The same was true when the Borans decided to get rid of Kelly. In that case, they mistakenly thought Kelly had betrayed them, but even if she had, so what? They were lucky to have the numbers to get rid of her, but sometimes you have to keep the person you don't like for a little while longer if it means keeping the alliance (and therefore yourself) secure.
Then in Vanuatu, Leann earned herself a Reality TV Hall of Shame Moment in part for violating this rule. She had been annoyed by Eliza and felt she had the game in the palm of her hand. So rather than vote out Chris, the last man standing, and then move on to others she wanted to dispense with, she went straight to Eliza. As soon as Eliza was told what was going on, she jumped ship and the tables were quickly turned. Goodbye, Leann.
Both Brian in Thailand and Chris in Vanuatu showed precisely how to hold your knife until the last minute. With Brian, Ted knew he was probably going before Tribal Council, but by that point there was nothing he could do about it; and Helen was utterly clueless until the knife had been plunged in deep. After Leann’s mistake discussed above, Chris managed to convince Julie and Eliza that he was on their side; more stunningly, even after he sent Julie packing, Chris still made Eliza think he was standing with her! Similarly, the Stephenie/Rafe/Danni/Lydia combo was good at this in Guatemala, first sending Jamie home without telling Judd, then sending Judd without telling Cindy, and finally finishing with Cindy.
One follow-up: Never provide the enemy with information. Unlike most of the other sections, this one usually won’t get you voted out right away, but it can make your life more difficult. There are many opportunities in Survivor to accidentally give too much information to the other side. We saw it way back in the second series when Kimmi mentioned during a challenge that Jeff had a vote against him. When the merge came, that piece of information allowed the opposing tribe’s alliance to target Jeff, knowing that he would lose a tie-breaker.
A similar situation occurred on Amazon when Jenna blabbed (and blabbed and blabbed) to Dave about what was going on at the women’s tribe when they got together for their night of wine and showers. Dave pretty much kept his mouth shut, which allowed him to pick the new tribes with knowledge that Jenna had given him. OK, so she still won, but had she kept her mouth shut, Dave would have had to guess on how to create the new tribe, which would have made things more difficult for him.
And, of course, on Vanuatu Julie fed a variety of information to Chris. Maybe she thought there was nothing he could do with it. If so, she was very wrong.
3) Be Flexible!
We’ve seen numerous times that following these guidelines by the letter of the law is not always the best way to go, depending on specific situations. Players have to look at what’s going on around them and judge the proper way to proceed. For example, when you are in an alliance of lazies, working hard may not be the best idea. We saw this on Amazon when Rob C. had to work hard while in the tribe with Roger but then laid around when allied with Jenna, Heidi, and Alex.
An even better example is Boston Rob in the two different series. On Marquesas, he was one of the lazies. On All-Stars, he was one of the hard workers complaining about people he saw as lazy! He was flexible depending on his situation.
More importantly, you can’t simply tie yourself to one alliance and hope that it survives. On Pearl Islands, Rupert thought he would go with his tribe all the way, but after the game was over, he admitted that he should have jumped ship to go with Andrew and Ryan instead. In contrast, Cirie had an alliance with Shane on Exile Island that she saw was doomed, so she changed things up on him.
On Guatemala, the tribes switched up early and Judd saw immediately that he was in a dangerous situation. Rather than wait for the tie vote – or worse, somebody else switching sides – he jumped right into a new alliance with players who used to be on the opposing tribe. Meanwhile, Gary found himself doing the same thing in the other switched-up tribe. All of them did better because they were flexible enough to see that they couldn’t simply stick with their original tribe and expect to win.
Another point is that if you see that the majority is leaning another way, by all means make sure you’re part of that majority. You need to have your finger on the pulse of every member of your tribe. It’s not easy, but it will help keep you around. Usually it means you should do more listening than talking.
Paschal and Neleh did this in Marquesas. Kelly saw the chance in Survivor: Africa, but Brandon saw the same opportunity too, and took it without realizing what a completely idiotic move it was (indeed, it earned him a Reality TV Hall of Shame Moment). Vecepia saw it several times over in the fourth series, as did Kathy. Shii Ann thought she saw a golden opportunity in Thailand, but we've already discussed that. Sandra and Jon saw it many times in Pearl Islands and took every opportunity they could. We had Scout and Twila doing the same in Vanuatu. And a number of people did throughout the Guatemala series.
Besides the usual scheming, producers will throw in more twists and turns as we’ve mentioned previously. Players have to be ready for anything. If they get tunnel vision, they’ll likely find that the tunnel has a train heading right in their direction.
4) Don't Let Your Emotions Control You
This section addresses both "positive" emotions, like friendship, and also "negative" ones, such as anger. Let's address the positive first and then move on to the negative.
The people you are with are strangers. You are stuck with them for a bit over a month, but you never really have to see them again (well, other than fund-raisers and parties and various other post-reality show reality shows, but you know what I mean). So treat them as pawns in a game, not as potential friends for life. As Greg said in the very first series, you might just have to break that kitten's neck. Or she might be trying to break yours.
In the first series, Susan thought she had a real friendship with Kelly, but she eventually saw through that. Those emotional bonds caused Susan to lose and to be viewed as an incredibly evil woman by many due to her final speech before the jury vote. The first series' Sean, the last non-alliance member to be voted off, noted before his departure that these were the "most conniving bunch of people I've ever met." He added, "there's not an honest one in the bunch." Finally, he said that they were "callous, cold, and duplicitous people." He was right. And the most duplicitous of them won.
Meanwhile, Colby made a friend in Tina. While she did end up giving him some money to pay off his debts, he could have had all of the money anyway if he had simply played the game. Gabriel, in the fourth series, came to start a commune and be friends with everybody – he was the first one booted off of his tribe.
Friends are great, but this is a game show. Now I already hear some people protesting, "But Ethan made friends, and he was a nice guy – and he won!" True, but he didn't allow his friendships to interfere with his play. He was friendly with a number of the contestants, but he voted 'em off, one by one. He made alliances and he stuck to 'em. He did not allow his emotions to control his game play. We can similarly look at Danni in Guatemala, especially her final move in the game – she was great friends with Rafe, but when the time came to choose friendship or money, she went with the money.
This is exactly the opposite of what happened to Ian in Palau. He made friends, especially with Tom and Katie. Eventually, they used that against him, whether as a strategy or just because they were upset. Katie repeatedly browbeat Ian into doing what she wanted him to do. And Ian simply could not live with the idea that he had disappointed Tom – so he earned a Reality TV Hall of Shame Moment by giving up in the final immunity challenge and throwing the game away. Just thinking about it still makes me ill.
Next we have the negative side of emotion – anger. Susan, in the incident discussed a few paragraphs ago, let her anger get the better of her and it interfered with the proper way to play. Lex did the same thing in Africa, and it got in the way even more. He also did it on All-Stars, of course, but by that time he was gone anyway, so it only mattered as far as the jury vote and his future relationship (or lack thereof) with other players.
On Survivor: Africa, Brandon so disliked Frank that he refused to be in an alliance with him, and it cost him a good chance at progression into the final four. Ghandia (another Hall of Shame inductee) really blew this one out of the water with her accusations against Ted after she had already discussed them with him and she had accepted his apology. She was simply too angry to let it be; thus, she was voted off.
Andrew was so upset at the Outcast twist on Pearl Islands that he could not bring himself to even pretend to be nice to Lill, which made her that much more likely to abandon Morgan and give him the boot. And several of the women were so determined to make a political statement in Vanuatu that they would not even consider aligning themselves with a man – which proved to be a big part of their downfall. And on Guatemala, Margaret and Judd so disliked each other that it became obvious one of them had to go – unfortunately for Margaret, Judd was the one with the alliance.
Meanwhile, Amazon’s Rob C. didn't like Roger, but that didn't force him into doing something he would be sorry for later. He had been verbally attacked by Jenna and Heidi, but when he saw that Christy's vote was unreliable, he had no problem approaching them with a new plan. Whether he liked a person or disliked a person did not really matter – he went with what he felt was the best game plan to move him forward.
So we have two sides of the same coin here. Colby allowed his friendship with Tina to cost him $900,000; Ian allowed his friendship with Tom to cost him potentially more than that. Lex allowed his anger to get the better of him and tossed off somebody who could have remained a solid ally for a while. Contestants need to achieve the proper balance and remain objective. This is a game. You wouldn't allow emotion to rule in a game of Jeopardy or Wheel of Fortune, so don't do it when a million dollars are on the line. Besides, as Danni noted, that prize money can really help your family if you so choose – and you’ve known them a lot longer than your new best friend on Survivor.
As a side note necessitated by Survivor 2, I guess I should add that you shouldn't form emotional bonds with any animals, either – especially if they will be food. This was one of the reasons Kimmi ended up losing, though certainly not the only one.
5) Pretend To Be Nice/Keep Your Politics and Controversial Beliefs To Yourself
As you're making alliances, you have to pretend to be nice. It's like diplomacy. Keep your real feelings inside. In general, people aren't going to ally themselves with you if they think you're a jerk or you're untrustworthy. Look at Jerri and her behavior in the second series (for which she received a full induction into the Hall of Shame) as the prime example. Even if you do make it past that point and you somehow get down to the final two, if the jury thinks you're too much of an ass, you still don't get the big money (such as would have happened with Keith, had Colby used his brain – and as did happen with Clay against Brian, with Boston Rob against Amber, and with Twila against Chris).
One person who really showed how this should be done was Rob C. from Amazon. He recognized that Survivor is a game and that meant playing it – and playing other people. When others were pissed off at Roger, Rob kissed up and did whatever he was told. He pretended to be nice but worked behind the scenes to eliminate him. The same is true of how he dealt with Dave. For all the times we heard Rob talk about Dave, it was all in private. Until he saw the show, Dave really never knew about it!
But the perfect example for Rob is how he dealt with Jenna, Heidi, and Alex. They were convinced he was a friend for life. But he never let it color his vision of the game. He tossed Alex as soon as it became obvious that the alliance was a threat to him. He withstood a vicious verbal attack from Jenna and Heidi about how he doesn't treat people well. He got along with them when he needed to after that, but then called them both half-wits in his speech voting off Heidi. His private moments were the most revealing – but his skill in dealing with people was shown when he was in public with them.
Chris did something similar on Vanuatu, convincing Julie that they had practically a brother-sister relationship – she didn’t understand his true nature until the show aired and she saw what he was doing and saying behind her back.
This applies to politics and other controversial beliefs as well. As Kel noted in an interview with me, most Survivor players are not on the far right wing politically. So it's not terribly smart to start a discussion blasting gun control and the liberal media, as Frank did in Survivor: Africa, even if you believe you are 100% correct. Frank was probably going anyway at that vote, but it's still just not a good idea to give people any reason to vote against you.
Another good example – dealing more with beliefs than politics – was Peter of Survivor: Marquesas. His "holey" yoga speeches made others in his tribe think he was a fruit loop. He had already attracted their attention with his attempts to get everybody to vote a certain way, and his bizarre spoutings only made it easier for people to target him.
On the flip side, Brian in Guatemala was a non-religious guy stuck in a tribe with a bunch of rather Christian people. But did he object to their prayers before meals? Did he say, “Hey, leave me out of this!”? Absolutely not – he knew to keep his mouth shut and go along with whatever they were doing.
Also remember that in the Machiavellian world of Survivor, it's not good enough to look good yourself – you must make your competition look bad. Politics and controversial beliefs can come into play when doing this. Guatemala’s Brian again did this well – goading Blake into saying all sorts of things he shouldn’t and thus getting Blake voted out before he would have been otherwise.
6) Don’t Be Too Much of a Threat
Time and time again we’ve seen people do what they should have been doing, only to be voted off anyway. One recent example was Stephenie in Palau (though not Guatemala). She was the only member of Ulong to survive to the merge. This singled her out as being a surefire threat, and even those who had previously promised to ally with her ended up taking part in the vote against her.
An earlier example was Hunter in Marquesas. He was a hard-working and likeable guy in a tribe full of lazies. That meant he had to go. In The Amazon, Rob C. targeted Dave because he too, was a threat. He said of Dave in his RNO interview, “He's smart, funny, and a very charismatic leader. It's a weird game where people's good qualities can actually hurt their chances. If he was a weirdo who was annoying I would have wanted to keep him around until the end.” Indeed it is a weird game, but it’s something you have to consider.
Ironically, Rob C. found himself on the bad end of this very stick on All-Stars, where it seemed the world turned upside-down and contestants who had played well previously were targeted early because they were known threats. A similar thing happened on Vanuatu, when the elder men joined against the younger, stronger guys to create an alliance based on strategy rather than strength. It happened again on that series when Chris knew that he was in a better position taking two older ladies, Twila and Scout, to the final challenge than in taking two young, strong women in Julie and Eliza.
There are many ways to be a threat. The most obvious threats are those who win challenge after challenge. Such a person is great to have around early in the game, when you are playing as a team. Once it gets to individual challenges, though, you don’t want somebody else winning rewards and immunity. Eventually, even the best challenge-winner is likely to miss a step and fail to get immunity, and that is when people might step in and vote that person out. As Rupert found out in Pearl Islands, sometimes you just have to rein yourself in or you’ll be voted out. Austin understood this in Exile Island and held himself back to allow Nick to appear stronger, so he would be voted off first. It didn’t end up winning Austin the game or anything, but even staying around just one more Tribal Council can make a huge difference sometimes.
Tom in Palau was the exception to this rule. He was a huge threat, both when leading his own tribe to victory and then in individual competitions. But he also had a tight enough alliance and made the right strategic moves to overcome this pitfall.
On the flipside, an early injury can make a player a threat to the success of the tribe. Jim hurt himself during the first Guatemala challenge and his tribemates had little choice but to send him packing. Amy, on the other hand, injured her ankle several times over on the same edition, but managed to cover it up well enough and keep pushing through the challenges such that her tribe kept her around longer than some healthy members.
Another way to be a threat is somewhat opposite of the earlier paragraphs – if you are so untrustworthy that people don’t know which way you will vote, you may be perceived as a threat to them sticking around. Christy in The Amazon was a threat to both Rob and the Jenna/Heidi team because she wouldn’t say which way she was voting; Dolly made the same mistake in Vanuatu. Shawn was a threat in Pearl Islands not only because he was in good physical shape, but also because he had once been allied with Burton, who his tribe thought might be coming back into the game (and they were right). And Bobby was seen on Exile Island as a threat to flip at the merge, so he was taken out before he had the chance – and, indeed, he told me in in his post-game interview that he would have flipped “instantly.”
A third type of threat is strategic. For example, if you have been studying reality TV strategy and have watched every edition of this show to see who did what right and wrong, the last thing you want to do is let people know that. They will see you as a gamer and a threat. If you have studied the game, never let on to how much you know. Using Bobby from Exile Island as another example, viewers never once saw Bobby as this type of player, and there is no indication the other players did either. Yet when he talked to me after being voted off, he talked about his respect for the game and said, “I consider myself a serious Survivor strategist.” He hid that in order to avoid being more of a threat.
This rule is, of course, especially important as you near the final four. If you are so well-liked or respected for game play that nobody would want to face you in the final two, you probably won’t make it that far (barring a series of immunity challenge wins). All we have to do is look at Terry and Cirie from Exile Island to see how true that is. There was no way either Danielle or Aras could face either Terry or Cirie in the finals, so the only thing that could have saved them was an immunity challenge win.
7) Providing Food Wins Allies / Don't Be Lazy
Rich was the main food provider of the first series with his spear fishing. While this was not the main reason he won, it's one of them. Rupert, of course, provided so much food for his Pearl Islands tribe that they were actually full – something rather rare on Survivor. Tom and Ian caught fish, snakes, and Tom even snatched a shark on Palau. If any of these men were, for example, as lazy as Gervase when it came to providing for others, his alliance might have turned on him.
It's not just fish, either. Several contestants in other series were ragged on for not going to look for any food, like the tapioca roots of Season 1. They also tried fishing with a pole in the middle of the day, which was a complete waste of time. People will like you if you provide them with food; they won't if you simply eat the fruits of others' labor.
Admittedly, this rule took a bit of a hit early on in Survivor: Marquesas, when the lazy folks started voting out those who were feeding them. This just goes to prove the point that alliances are more important than anything else, including food. Eventually, Rob and Sean were given the boot – in part because of their laziness, but more because they were just in the wrong group. Vecepia, who was in the lazy alliance originally, ended up winning!
In theory, food providers and other hard workers should be held in higher esteem. But overall, it still ranks at the bottom of the list as compared to the more "political" issues discussed earlier.
However, providing food can help people ignore some of your other flaws. Whenever anybody considered voting off Rupert in either series he was on, they always considered it in light of how they would eat. Boston Rob felt providing food was so important that on All-Stars he had to show people he could catch fish just like Rupert could.
Occasionally, this rule can even help overcome some of the others. On Guatemala, Lydia was going to be the first person voted out of her tribe, but her abilities to catch minnows and work hard around camp helped persuade the already-formed (though rather loose) alliance to get rid of Morgan and then Brianna instead.
Thailand even showed that while the issue may not get you immediately voted out, it can make or break you at the end. Clay lost in part because of his laziness. Indeed, he also showed that you can’t just ask if work needs to be done – do it! A smart player may tell you that it's not necessary, don't worry about it. But it may come back to haunt you later. For example, Brian told Clay he didn't need help on various things, so Clay continued to just lie around. Meanwhile, Brian was volunteering to help others, like Helen, even when she said it wasn't necessary. He used work to help form a bond that took him to the winner's circle, while Clay was stuck in second.
A quick note: On the flipside of providing food being a plus, stealing food is a definite minus. Just ask Clarence. 'Nuff said on that one.
8) Vote Off: Weak, Strong, Weak, Strong
In the beginning, vote off the weak. In the middle, after the tribes have merged, vote off the strong. Then vote off the weak again. Finally, get rid of the remaining strong contenders. In each case, "weak" and "strong" need some definitions, and actually mean different things at different stages.
Early on, the weak are those who will hurt your tribe's chances in the immunity challenges or who will cause divisions in the tribe that will overall weaken the group dynamic – which will in the end hurt just as much as losing challenges. Even though there will certainly be some more mixing of alliances and tribes, the best bet for staying around is still to have a larger cohesive tribe going into the merge – just ask the Koror tribe from Palau. By winning the immunity challenges, your tribe stays strong and you stay away from Tribal Council. Even the reward challenges can keep you on your feet, as we saw with Kucha's string of victories – giving them plenty of food while Ogakor practically starved. So, early on, it's time for the survival of the fittest.
We saw this several times in the first three editions of Survivor. And we saw how Ogakor's vote to eliminate a fairly strong Kel contributed to them losing future challenges. They went against this advice and suffered for it. But Boran got rid of their weak – Diane and Jessie – immediately and were able to gain relative strength from it.
Meanwhile, in Thailand the first to go was John, who seemed strong, but was causing divisions in the group. Tanya, who was ill, was next. Then Ghandia, who, as already discussed, caused huge problems in the tribe. After those first three cuts, Chuay Gahn stuck together while Sook Jai, which had its own internal problems, fell apart. In Pearl Islands, Drake made the fatal error of throwing a challenge and then got rid of one of their strongest members. Morgan rallied from the depths of despair and beat them time and time again.
What about cases like Survivor: Marquesas, Vanuatu, and Exile Island? In the former, Maraamu definitely went against this advice with the vote against Hunter. Why? Because Rob figured it was better to have people who would listen to him (and "fear" him) rather than strong people in the tribe. Frankly, there is something to be said for not worrying about voting off the weak early on if you know that tribe-swapping will occur at some point. If you don't know whose tribe somebody will be on, why should you care if you keep the strong? He may be on your tribe or he may become your opponent. Instead, keep an alliance partner. Such was the case with Hunter. At the time, it sure seemed stupid because Maraamu was on such a losing streak – and sometimes it may still be pretty stupid; they could have voted off Gina instead and kept the stronger guy for physical challenges.
This is not something you generally want to do as the first or second vote, because odds are against a swap happening so quickly (though Guatemala and Exile Island showed us it can happen pretty early). But that’s exactly what the men did on Vanuatu, apparently figuring that a team of men was strong enough no matter who was booted, and that having a strongly allied core was more important than having some strong young muscles around. That’s also what Cirie convinced her fellow “older women” to do in voting out Tina. Alliances have to hold supreme. But never assume a swap/merge/twist will happen – the producers love to take your assumptions and turn them upside down.
Later, though, when the tribes merge and it's every man, woman, and voting bloc for him/her/itself, it's definitely time to vote off the strong who are not part of your alliance. If they are allowed to stick around, they will hurt your chances at the big money.
Here, "strong" has varied meanings. It can mean those who are literally strong and thus able to win the physical reward and immunity challenges. If you boot them when they are vulnerable, you won't have to worry about them later. We saw this with Clarence – he was kept around until the tribes merged and he went from being helpful to being dangerous. And we didn’t see it happen to Tom in Palau. His tribemates kept him around until there was nothing stopping him from collecting a million dollars.
"Strong" also means those who can organize others. The former Pagong tribe members almost managed to boot Richard, the glue of Tagi's alliance. They missed by a vote because they didn't catch on until it was too late. If they had moved a little sooner, things would have been much different. I doubt Rudy would have allied with Susan and Kelly had it not been for Richard. The Tagi alliance, however, knew they needed to do this and took out Gretchen, a leader, as soon as the tribes merged. Greg, one of the most well-liked amongst his Pagong cohorts, immediately followed. In a post-show interview, Sue explained that they were going to vote off Greg first, but he won immunity, so they went with Gretchen first instead. She noted, "They were all different kinds of leaders – either emotional or physical."
Both Kucha and Ogakor realized the need to vote off the strong in Australia. Unfortunately, that was not necessarily the right strategy for their particular situation. Obviously, you need to be flexible. Kucha voted as a bloc to try to get rid of Colby, Ogakor's strongest member. But because they went into the merge with equal numbers, they should have instead been looking for the weak link. But they didn't pick up on Jerri's problems with several other tribe members.
As we have seen in Vanuatu and a few previous seasons, some players have been thinking ahead and deciding to vote off the strong before the merge. It’s not necessarily a bad plan, as long as you have enough people in your tribe but outside your alliance to survive another vote if you are forced to have one before the merge. However, if it means you could end up cutting yourself down another person before the merge because you’re weaker for the next competition, you could put yourself in a dangerous position. Think long and hard before doing something like this.
You need to go back to voting off the weak again after the unallied strong are gone. In this case, "weak" means the stragglers. These are the members of the herd who are left over with nobody to protect them. Gervase and Colleen were absolutely right to call themselves a target and a sitting duck, respectively. They had no protection, and they knew it. They were weak, and they were removed by the alliance.
In Survivor: Africa, Teresa knew she was in trouble and did everything she could to try to convince others – especially Kim J. – to ally with her. It didn't work, as we know, but it illustrates how the others were correctly following this at the time. Similarly, Shii Ann on All-Stars pleaded her case but was summarily voted off (after a stay of execution due to an immunity challenge win). In her case, some of the others should have listened to her about switching sides, but nobody was willing to make that leap. In the Marquesas, after John, the head of the Rotu 4 alliance, was cut off, the remaining three were picked off one by one, and they knew it was coming, even though they begged for their game lives.
One group that failed to properly cut out the stragglers was the women on Vanuatu. As we’ve already discussed, rather than getting rid of the last man standing, Chris, they turned on their own and several of them decided to target Eliza. This gave Twila and Scout – who had been looking for a way to turn the tables, the opportunity they needed as they joined with Chris and Eliza to turn the game completely around. Danni managed to pull off a similar win after getting herself an immunity win and stay of execution on Guatemala, and then getting the majority alliance to turn inwards on itself rather than targeting her.
Once the stragglers are properly disposed of, the next step should be to remove the "weak" members of your own alliance – those who can be plucked out without completely fracturing it apart. In a way, it's like pulling cards out of a card house. Some can be removed without causing much of a problem. Others cause the whole thing to collapse like, well, a house of cards. This is not always an option.
After the various weak members are gone, you need to refocus on the strong. In this case, the strong are those who are members of your own alliance but threaten your chance in the end, either because they can win the immunity challenges or because they are popular with the future jury. This is where the rule, above, about being too much of a threat comes into play. Unfortunately, this is not an easy task because the fact that they will be popular with the jury may mean they are popular with the rest of your alliance. You need to be careful or else a suggestion like this could rebound and you could be the one voted out. See Deena’s attempt to oust Alex too early in Amazon. Still, it is in everybody else's best interest to get rid of such people.
One of the most important points to remember is that you want to be better thought of than the person left with you in the final two. If the jury compares you and somebody they like more, you're going to lose. You want to look like an angel by comparison. If that’s not possible, you want to look like the best player.
It was in everybody else's best interest to keep Richard around for the final two on the first series, because he had been such an arrogant jerk. This is why Kelly correctly voted Rudy off when only the three of them were left. But it still wasn't enough. Richard's Machiavellian planning won out in large part because enough voters concentrated on game play as opposed to personality.
It was in Tina and Colby's interest to keep Keith around, for the same reason. Had that been the case, there is no way Keith would have won. The only problem was that Colby let emotions get in the way of his judgment. Neleh was definitely correct to bring Vee, rather than Kathy, into the finals with her. Had the Rotu 4 not been so vindictive and immature, Neleh would have won. Chris knew that he had to face Twila in the Vanuatu jury, because she was “the most controversial player,” as he explained in his RNO interview. He was, of course, correct. Same with Danni knowing she had to face off against Stephenie rather than the well-liked Rafe in Guatemala.
The Jury Phase
If you play your cards right, you might eventually get to the jury phase, specifically being in the Final Two. If you do make it, you need to be ready, and many previous final two contestants have not been.
Clay showed us a great maneuver for the jury when he made it seem like he was on Penny's side, even to the point of voting against Jake instead of her when he knew she was going. He made the others in his alliance, mainly Brian, think he was doing this all to confuse Jake. But he had told Penny he was on her side. So what happened? She was voted out and placed in the jury, ready to vote for Clay should he be in the Final Two.
But even without going to extremes like that, you have to realize how important jury arguments are. In fact, they are $900,000 important! So be prepared. Be ready to tell the jury why they should vote for you and not for the other person. Many Survivor winners have been decided by a single vote, which could have been changed during that final Tribal Council. And even Amazon, which was a landslide, was won in part by Jenna because Matthew messed up his final arguments. While many of those on the jury were probably already leaning towards Jenna, Matthew made sure they went that way. As Rob C. said in an interview with me, “I personally also felt that Matthew had a very poor final tribal council showing. His opening statements were along the lines of, ‘I have played this game with utter honesty and integrity,’ and his closing statements were, ‘I have been deceitful and dishonest during this game.’ All in all I felt the entire performance was inconsistent, whereas Jenna's responses (while not divine answers from the heavens) were more straightforward and truthful.”
Sometimes, it's obvious what you need to say. Sometimes, it's not. Neleh went to the final Tribal Council without a clue that the Rotu 4 were so vindictive and basically wanted her to apologize for beating them. Clay had no answers for those who accused him of being lazy. But Brian eventually caught on that Helen wanted an apology from him, and he gave it, thus securing her vote and the win. And Chris began with a vague opening statement that allowed him to figure out the best way to tackle the jury – and then he followed through with one of the best jury performances ever. More recently, Aras did a good job of reading people in the jury and played up that he had shown integrity while still playing the game and getting to know them on a personal level.
If the jury is looking for apologies, then in general they are good. Say you're sorry to those you ran over to get there. While you're at it, flatter ‘em – it never hurts. Point out that it was nothing personal, but you only acted that way for the game. Etc. But don’t overdo it, or they will know you are faking. On the other hand, some jurors won’t be voting on a personal level, but on game play. In that case, you have to reverse yourself and talk about what a great job you did of outplaying them. It all depends on the jury.
In short, whether it's through seeding the jury with people who will vote for you (a difficult task) or simply knowing what they want to hear, you need to think about the jury before you actually have to face them. In case you haven’t thought it all the way through, RNO writer Betsy Wasser did it for you in her article on Surviving the Jury.
These are the most important lessons that should have been learned ahead of time by the Survivor: Cook Islands players. Richard played by these rules and came home with the big prize. He was the best player and the jury recognized it. Tina did a good job as well, though her win had a bit more luck (and dumb playing by Colby) involved. Ethan did a good job of following these rules while others around him stumbled more than they should have. Vee, well – let's just say that sometimes every rule in the book gets broken. But then we went back to Brian, a player I consider to be one of the best in Survivor history. We had Jenna, who angered many viewers with her win, and who did a passable job – though pretty much everybody thinks Rob was the better player. Then there was Sandra, who won by a combination of luck and an interesting plan that worked for her even if it wasn’t the most strategically satisfying for viewers. Amber did it through a combination of luck, good play by her boyfriend, and really horrible play by several other people. Chris brought it back to strategy, pulling out a win that many viewers (not to mention fellow players) thought was impossible. Tom went against the grain by muscling his way to the top, winning in spite of being a threat because he had enough of a game plan to overcome any potential problems. Danni clawed her way up from the bottom to turn Guatemala upside down. And Aras did it not by being the best in any one particular area, but by being near the top in several while managing to avoid being seen as a threat.
For this 13th go-round, the person who wants to win a million dollars will need to plan at least as well as Richard, Brian, Rob C., and Chris did, or stay as under the radar as Sandra and Amber did – but put his or her own twists into either plan in order to stay out of the line of fire. The Cook Island Survivor contestants will need to use every ability to Outwit, Outplay, and Outlast.
If you haven’t already, be sure to check out these other recent Survivor: Cook Islands articles here on RealityNewsOnline:
David Bloomberg is the Editor of RealityNewsOnline and can be reached at RNO@pobox.com.
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