Survivor: Cook Islands – Why Jessica Lostby David Bloomberg -- 11/09/2006
Fire-dancing? Check. Stilt-walking? Check. Roller-derby? Check. Custom sewing? Check. Outplay, outwit, outlast? Not so much. Jessica is a woman of many talents, but sticking around on Survivor was not one of them. Why wasn’t Jessica able to dance around the flames of her tribemates’ torches, which all stayed lit while hers was snuffed? Why did Jessica lose?
All of our questions can be answered by paging through What Cook Island Survivors Should Have Learned. In fact, I already see one issue before we even get to the rules.
In the portion of the write-up before the first rule, the article briefly discusses what happened in each season. When discussing the third season, I said:
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.Yes, I wrote the above before I knew about Jessica. As she flat-out told me in my interview with her, “I was never tuned in to Survivor. … I was not familiar with season after season and the strategies.” At least she realized, albeit too late, that this was a problem, when she noted, “I think it benefits you in the game if you are aware of the different strategies people have in order to manipulate and stay in the game longer.”
Indeed, that’s what these rules are based on – the different strategies people have put together over the course of season after season. And the first, and most important, does indeed relate directly to manipulating people, specifically through scheming and plotting. Jessica failed here.
Early on, she just wanted to hang around with the cool people. She quickly learned that the hanging around part necessitated actually staying in the game, and was convinced by Jonathan and Cao Boi to vote out Cecilia. But she still didn’t go in for this part of the game and was completely shocked when Cao Boi tried to enact Plan Voodoo and instead was voted out – with herself being the only person on the tribe who was out of the loop.
As soon as we saw the result of the vote, it was pretty clear that Jessica would be the next to go. Sure, sometimes people who were out of the loop can make it back in, but it seemed very unlikely with Jessica, given her aversion to scheming (which she specifically admitted in her interview with me).
She did try to convince people to keep her over Jonathan because Jonathan is creepy and seemed untrustworthy. But her main problem was that she was an outsider saying this. Candice and Becky might have some misgivings about Jonathan, but for now he’s their ally. Jessica is not and never has been – and she would have said anything to stick around longer. So it only made sense that they nodded their heads and agreed with her statements about Jonathan, and then voted to keep him around.
Since we chastised Jessica for not plotting enough, certainly we can’t say she did it too much. While it did seem like some of the players grew annoyed with Jessica’s lobbying, it seems obvious that she was going anyway. At that point, she had little choice other than trying to convince them to keep her – she was damned if she did and damned if she didn’t.
However, I’d like to address one of her complaints. On The Early Show, Jessica said she just wanted her tribemates to be honest with her about the coming vote. She reiterated the same thought in our interview, saying, “I lost a lot of respect for them” because they wouldn’t be straight with her. She added, “I kind of figured they would be that way.” The thing is, she should have figured they would be that way, because being that way is smart! To quote from the second rule, “Lie to their faces, 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.” So they were right and Jessica was a bit too hopeful.
The third rule tells players to be flexible. A large part of this rule talks about blending in to your tribe – for example, if they work hard, you should work hard; if they’re lazy, you should be lazy. This needs to be extended for Jessica. If your tribe wants to sit around and compare underarm hair length, you should perhaps consider joining them rather than running off to play on the reef or go exploring. Is it dull and boring? Hell yes. So you need to decide if you want to have a short adventure or a long stay on Survivor. Jessica preferred the adventure, and that was her choice. But for the purposes of the game, that was the wrong choice.
Really, it comes down to a decision between emotion and strategy. I’m sure being out there on the island can be looked at as a fun experience, especially if that is your usual nature. But the fourth rule tells players to allow their emotions to control them. While this is usually aimed at people becoming too friendly with their tribemates or letting their anger get the best of them, I think it can also cover issues like this one – where Jessica allowed her emotions to control her, wanting to have fun instead of focusing on playing the game.
The fifth rule discusses how people need to pretend to be nice. Jessica didn’t have much of a problem in this regard, as she seemed very friendly. However, the friendliness only extended to sharing peanut butter kisses, not to the point of an actual alliance. Besides that, Jessica was the friendliest with Cao Boi, and they sent him packing a week earlier!
Sixth is not to be too much of a threat. Jessica was not a threat in the physical sense – though she probably was stronger than some of her fellow women. She was instead a threat in the strategic sense, and this relates back to what I said about her tribemates preferring to keep a creepy Jonathan over her. Because Jessica was not a schemer and mostly just wanted to have fun, there was no way of telling what she might do in future votes. If there is a merge, would she stay with them or go over to the other side? At least with Jonathan, there is the feeling that he would stand by his alliance. Certainly he will try to turn on them at some point, but his allies likely believe they can trust him for at least a little while. Jessica, not so much.
The seventh rule reminds us that providing food wins allies while laziness works just the opposite. While Jessica was not lazy, she was one of two obvious outsiders, with Ozzy being the other. Ozzy provided fish, coconuts, and even a bird! Jessica provided… well, I think she helped with the fishing, but she is no Aquaman like Ozzy. So when it came down to a decision between the two of them, Ozzy won himself some allies through their stomachs. Jessica did not.
Did Jessica’s tribemates make the right decision overall? I would have to say yes. The merge is drawing near, and Ozzy will become a threat once that occurs. But it’s not here yet and he certainly helps in tribal challenges. Also, if the main alliance can bring Ozzy in under their wing, at least for a little while, they can bide their time and get rid of him later. Certainly they have to make sure they don’t forget about him, but I doubt that will happen. Jessica, meanwhile, likely could not be taken under their wing and could have bolted at the first opportunity. She needed to go.
Jessica came into Survivor: Cook Islands almost the way some people came into the very first season – fairly clueless about strategy. While I know she was recruited and had other things on her mind, there is no real excuse for failing to get a handle on the most basic aspects of the game. Yes, she wanted to have an adventure. I’m sure she’s a nice person and it was fun while it lasted, but this column discusses why people lost. In this case, we have to be blunt.
Jessica did not understand scheming and plotting. She completely failed to do it early on, and when she eventually tried, it was too late and not gone about the right way. She put herself in a position where she became an outsider on her own tribe, a position destined for difficulty. Jessica wanted to do her own thing. She did, and her tribemates let her do her own thing right out the door. That is why Jessica lost.
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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