In the final article in our three part “Survivor Perspectives” series of articles, we revisit 12 Survivors whose performance on the show didn’t live up to their pre-show potential. I would like to thank my collaborators, Fluff, Paulie, and Bill_in_PDX who wrote all of the profiles in this article and helped immensely with the “Survivor Perspectives” series. Please read the first two articles to catch up on other former contestants: Fatal Flaws and Missed Opportunities
Pre-show hype starts early with shows like Survivor, with internet speculation about potential contestants, leading to “my cousin’s neighbor’s cat-sitter was gone during the filming” spoiler / leads, culminating eventually with the CBS website profiles which give us the “goods” on the next batch of victims, er, contestants on the newest season of Survivor. How will these folks fare? Reality TV websites debate the merits of each contestant based purely on these first impressions, weighing in on who looks tough, who has (what we think are) relevant survival skills, who can formulate a successful strategy . . .
Pull up an armchair and Monday Morning Quarterback with us while we reflect on two Survivors from each season of the show who did not compete as well as expected. All twelve Survivors here fizzled in the game and all but one didn’t even make the jury. While an early exit was certainly expected of a number of older, less in shape, less prepared contestants who made it much further in the game (namely, Kim Johnson from Survivor: Africa and Jan Gentry from Survivor: Thailand), these early exits surprised us. Is this a massive case of resume fraud caught on film, with 12 people claiming to be fit and intelligent caught lying to the CBS casting director (at his head office in Belly’s)? What happened to these competitors to take them out before they ever had a chance to win it? We’ll discuss each one in details, but most of them can be summed up by saying: Dumb Moves, Dastardly Deeds (of their competitors), and Dehydration.
[size= 4]Pulau Tiga [/size]
Here is Joel, a fit, intelligent, successful in the real world contestant who seemed destined to move far into the game. Joel gets a pass on some things just due to the fact that he was in the first show, and thus may not have been as savvy to the ways of the game as the current day Survivors are. However, he did show some flashes of brilliance regarding game play. For example, prior to the merge, he told his fellow Pagong-mates that after the pending merge, “if we're not sticking together as a tribe, they're going to pick us off one by one.” He was right of course, and this was foreshadowing of the Pagonging that did indeed occur later.
So, he was smart about game dynamics, he contributed to the tribes workload, and he was a strong participant in all of the challenges. He played golf and sold health club equipment. Is there a nobler calling then that? We can’t think of one.
So what in the name of Rich Hatch happened? Joel seemed a lock to stay, while Gervase appeared to be on the hotseat given that he had done absolutely nothing the entire time he was there. For all of his strong points, Joel had a major drawback. He failed to treat his teammates with respect, specifically his female teammates. He came across as a little bossy, and a lot arrogant to Gretchen, Jenna, and Colleen. Further, even though he was right about the demise of his tribe, he failed to get many people to agree with him. Gretchen in particular refused to go along with tribe loyalty at all. Later, Gervase purportedly made a comment about women and cows that was less than complimentary to the ladies in the tribe… or to cows for that matter… and Joel allowed the idea to pass around that maybe he was the one who said it. Basically, he knew what could happen in the game, yet did nothing to impact the interpersonal implications of it. More condemning is the reality that he realized the last day that many votes were lining up against him, and much like the deer caught in headlights; he made little effort to change those votes. He remains one of the earliest examples of the importance of alliances in the game. Just being a good player is not going to get it done, and it didn’t for Joel.
Ramona was a physically-fit research chemist who described herself as “independent, outgoing, and meticulous.” Sounds like a perfect mix of brains and brawn, all in a mentally stable package. Perfect material to ride the game all the way to the finish, right?
Hm, not exactly. Ramona was the race horse that stumbled right out of the gate. She gulped far more South Pacific sea water than she should’ve while her tribe was paddling its way to Pulau Tiga. As a result, she became violently ill and then later became dehydrated. She spent almost the entire first week laying in the shelter, rejecting food, water, and physical labor alike. After a while, her health returned, and she pitched in around camp with gusto. Unfortunately for her, she’d lost valuable bonding time with the rest of her compatriots. When the time came to vote, the other tribe members found it much easier to jettison someone they didn’t know as well and who hadn’t been as useful to the tribe early on as some of the others. Although she seemed ready to step up and really help the team, her fate had already been settled that first week.
Kel was an Army intelligence officer, with some field experience in Germany and Bosnia. Like Hunter (discussed below), he was physically fit and mentally prepared for the Survivor experience, in this case, the Outback. Kel made good efforts to provide food for the tribe through his fishing. Sure, he wasn’t that great of a fisherman, but he tried while most of Ogakor was out scouting bathing locations.
Once again though, separating yourself from the tribe proved to be dangerous. Mad Dog Marilyn wanted a target to focus the tribes efforts on, any target would do fine, as she suspected the others would come for her early unless they had bigger fish to fry. Tina was quick to jump on the Jerkygate bandwagon, and Jerri showed her true colors early and often in this situation, continuing to emphasize Kel’s wrongdoing, when there was scant little evidence that he did actually have jerky. No matter, as perception is reality in the tribe, and Kel was history. In the end, his willingness to not bond with the tribe was his downfall. It matters not if the stuff he was chewing on was dried grass, and not the beef jerky that the rest of his tribe mates agreed to convince themselves it was. Early in the game, the tribe is looking for easy targets to boot, and his failure to be involved with the group sealed his fate.
Supremely physically fit, Alicia looked the likeliest female, pre-show candidate to challenge Kelly Wigglesworth’s tally of individual immunity wins.
While still at Kucha, Alicia had made an alliance with Jeff, which planned to court the votes of both Nick and Michael. Michael’s accident leveled the playing field between the two tribes going into the merge. Tina’s early, casual questioning of Kimmi gave the Ogakor their most valuable piece of information, Jeff had prior votes against him. Once the Ogakor’s had used that knowledge to gain a numerical advantage within the merged Barramundi tribe, they could set about voting off the others in an order of their choosing.
The fact that Alicia, along with Tina and Keith, stood for ten hours in the first individual immunity challenge, only served to establish her as a genuine contender. It wasn’t in her best interest to stand for that long and not win. It wasn’t necessarily in her best interest to stand that long and win. With the help of a water-surrounded platform, she literally held herself up for ten hours of scrutiny, and was deemed a threat. Her stamina alone was enough to see the previous Ogakor’s take her out of the game and onto the first seat on the jury.
Viewers rarely embrace the “under the radar” style of play. The generally held view is that while it may prove a successful route for any given individual, the very nature of that strategy makes it less exciting to watch. For the sake of remaining in the game, it’s a plan Alicia might have done well to implement. Although, had she not been able to win future individual immunities, it was only ever going to take her down a rung or two on the boot ladder though, against Colby, Tina and Keith who were so committed to their core alliance.
Sometimes, no matter how well you play you fall prey to circumstance. How very different the story of S2 might have been had we not seen Michael leave in such an unfortunate manner.
Jessie Camacho was poised to be the deserving sweetheart of Survivor: Africa. She also could have been a very capable competitor. She was a deputy sheriff by vocation, and a kickboxing, rollerblading, mountain biking, dancing collector of cartoon movies in her spare time. She was likeable, intelligent, and fit. Her tribe mates liked her. Sadly, she borrowed a page from Ramona’s play book, and that wasn’t smart.
Jessie was brought down by one simple necessity of life. She needed to drink water, and she refused to do so. Sure it tasted like, well, what horrible water on a hot African day would taste like, but it was water. Somehow Jessie seemed to feel that she alone could overcome the most basic laws of nature. Where others realized that a dry parched throat could mean certain death in the very harsh environment of Survivor: Africa; Jessie chose her own path for success, by thinking that she could hold out without drinking water for the full 39 days. Or, at least it seemed like her goal.
Early in the game, the tribe is looking for a reason to boot someone that all can agree on so they can avoid exposing their loyalties. This is where the “weakest link” is usually severed. Being sick is always a winner in that department, and Jessie’s once promising run at a Survivor victory came to a screeching halt.
Clearly an imposing figure physically, Clarence’s job as a teacher and basketball coach spoke of someone who should be able to interact well with others. It seemed he could have the physical prowess of Colby, coupled with the essential “people skills” one needs in order to downplay that physical threat.
Who could possibly have forecast “Beangate”?
Clarence, the strongest member of the tribe offered to stay at camp to watch over an ailing Diane. Equally sick Jessie, and Kim, thirty years his senior, went with the others to collect water immediately leaving him open to accusations of laziness, something rarely tolerated on Survivor shows. We will never know whose decision it was to crack open that can of beans, but the early dismissal of Diane on health grounds meant her part in it was never really an issue. It was for Clarence.
While it was explained to him that his perceived ability to blaze an individual immunity trail was the reason he was ousted, the Boran never trusted him, wouldn’t align with him and he was left as an easy target. The call to vote against him was met with universal compliance, save T-Bird’s promise not to vote his way after the immunity challenge.
Clarence is also the victim of the actions of the Samburu “Mall Rats”, including Lindsey who he never met until they were both residents at Loser Lodge. Had their alliance not chosen to vote people off using age or wealth as the determining factor, they would not have alienated Teresa and Frank. While Teresa didn’t give her vote to Clarence, due to their deal, the promise of Frank’s vote, as well as Kim P and Brandon who had seen the demise of their own alliance and would vote whichever way ensured their safety, was enough to give the Boran’s the confidence to turn on someone they had never fully embraced as one of their own.
Hunter came to Maquesas as one of the speculative favorites to win. He was a handsome pilot by trade, had survival training, and was physically in good condition to compete. He seemed to be a lock for the merge at a minimum. Instead, he was the third contestant overall to be voted off, while completely worthless participants continued on in the game. So what happened?
No, Hunter was not physically lazy. In fact, the entire Marammu tribe likely would have starved to death on the beach had Hunter not taken the initiative to organize food gathering efforts (read that as he and Gina provided food). No, Hunter’s downfall can be directly attributed to not playing the game. He did little, as the tribe lost the first three immunity challenges, to influence who was going. First Peter, who was a bit of flake, and then Patricia, were voted out. Both of them were potential allies for Hunter in Marammu. Hunter made little effort to influence the tribe into booting the completely worthless Sarah, or one of the slacker twins, Rob and Sean. Hunter assumed that there was no way he would be voted off. He told Gina as much. After all, he and Gina were primarily the only working members of the tribe.
The other tribe mates would have to be complete idiots to vote off their strongest player, and primary food provider. Enter Rob and Sean, who compared notes on the situation and decided that Hunter had to go. He was a threat, and besides, they were tired of being bossed around all the time. Hunter needed to understand that while he and Gina were doing all the work, Vee, Sean, Rob, and Sarah were bonding. Survivor is a game in which you outplay, outwit, and outlast. Most notably, it is actually not a game of physical survival. Hunter failed to play the real game, and he paid the price.
Oh, boy, where do you begin with Gabe? The Christopher Atkins clone looked like he was born to live on the island. Even at the tender age of 23, Gabe’s bio packed more experience than anyone else on the island: classical cellist, jazz/ballet dancer, homebuilder for the poor, adventure guide... He even competed on a semi-pro soccer team, and Africa’s Ethan showed everyone how valuable a skill that can be when trying to win Survivor.
What we did not know (and neither did Rotu) was that Gabe was not on the island to win a million dollars. No, he was there to conduct a sociological experiment. He wanted to build a commune in the middle of nowhere and see how much love they could spontaneously generate with the sheer power of their good will towards one another. As soon as the game started to get nasty, he wanted out. The arrival of Sean and the Robfather was the beginning of the end for Gabe, who immediately told John that he had no interest in winning or even playing the game.
Of course, Gabe’s opinion alone would not necessarily have led to his immediate departure. Many players have lasted much longer than Gabe without ever playing. Vee and Neleh were both so under the radar, there is a theory they made it to the final two because no-one knew their names to vote for them at tribal council. What really doomed Gabe was the fact that he was such a threat. Physically fit, well-liked, even-tempered, and (for a while there) very level-headed. That’s exactly the kind of player you want to get rid of if he’s not on your side. And Gabe, quite obviously, wasn’t on anyone’s side.
While we would not suggest he in any way “traded” on his profession, being a New York city cop in the wake of 9/11 certainly didn’t harm this physically imposing figure. His decision to join forces with three females and the oldest member of the tribe, when he might have been expected to align with the younger, fitter males, marked him as hardworking and reasonable. It made him a favorite among his own alliance members, even the ones that didn’t like each other. With his alliance holding the numerical advantage and his sub-alliance with Jake likely to control the voting, he looked to have positioned himself very well for an extended run in the show.
It was not a case of the merge coming too soon or too late to save Ken, the problem was that the merge came at all. While popular at his own tribe, Sook Jai, (even bad feeling from early arguments with Robb was erased by Robb’s epiphany), the Chuay Gahn tribe never really seemed to share their enthusiasm for him. When he reached the shores of Chuay Gahn beach, his attitude seemed to change. He became very vocal in his condemnation of the toilet habits of the Chuay Gahn males, despite the fact he chose to sleep in the area of the cave designated as their “washroom”.
Losing the first immunity challenge following the “merge that wasn’t”, resulted in the Sook Jai’s losing their parity with the Chuay Gahn’s and meant the Sook Jai were most likely about to fall victim to yet another “Pagonging”. When the merge did finally happen, the physical threat Ken posed would come into play. The fact he had not only made minimal effort to integrate with the Chuay Gahn, but also had adopted a hostile attitude since arriving at the cave also played a part in why he was eliminated before both Penny and Jake, neither of whom found many fans at their new home. We did not see any evidence of Ken trying to woo any of the Chuay Gahn’s to join his alliance before he was voted off. Unfortunately for him, any such attempt would probably have proved fruitless with three of the Chuay’s standing by the “you and me in the final two” pacts they’d made with Brian.
If you look at his bio, Jed looked like a recent graduate of The Gabe Clone Factory, only with brighter, fresher teeth. You want physically fit? He’s another soccer player. You want worldly experience? He traveled through Europe while studying geriatric physiology and socialized medicine. You want selflessness? He rode camels all over India to provide dental care to poor villagers there. He’s fit, he’s kind-hearted, he’s good-natured. He’s perfect!
So...what happened? First of all, Jed put himself on the outside of the tribal core by spurning their efforts to construct a shelter. He was a confident young man and had placed the gathering of food atop his list of priorities. While the rest of the tribe bonded over the creation of the shelter, Jed tried (largely unsuccessfully) to secure some fish. When it came time to catch some shut-eye, Jed and his numerically insignificant faction (Stephanie and Robb) rebelled by sleeping outside of the shelter. Well, technically Jed was outside the shelter, even if his feet were poking out from under the elevated floor of the shelter (Wicked-Witch-of-the-East-style) the morning after a big rainstorm.
The final nail in Jed’s coffin was the loss of the tribal fish net. While resting up for his next round of relaxation by taking a short nap, Jed allowed the unanchored fish net to drift away. Note to future Survivors everywhere: if you’re going to establish yourself as the breadwinner for the tribe, don’t let the bread-makin’ stuff disappear on your watch. Jed was useless in his chosen tribal niche, and he overtly rejected the priorities of the tribal majority. Obviously, he had to go.
By now, any physically strong contestant should know they could become a pre-merge boot target, simply because of the immunity threat they pose post merge. Bearing that in mind, once again the need to form an effective alliance cannot be over stated. While we’re sure not only the viewers, but also her tribe mates, felt JoAnna had every right to her opinions regarding the immunity idol, her decision to be so vocal about them was not always popular. Attempts to understand her reasoning and even pleas to “whisper” her protests so the others could go to sleep, were met by further argument from JoAnna.
She was the strongest, she caught the most fish, yet the women decided to make her their second bootee, despite the fact Shawna was literally crying out to be sent to Loser Lodge. JoAnna also had to contend with tribe mates that seemed to feel dress size was the best indicator of suitable alliance mates. The decision by the cute girls to join forces against their “plus size” oppressors, coupled with their move to recruit Deena who was looking to creep back below the radar after being appointed leader, left JoAnna vulnerable.
With Janet gone and Christy unlikely to team up with JoAnna after the fierce tongue-lashing she handed out to her, Jeanne was her only ally. JoAnna was ousted by an alliance that played the “numbers game” very early on. Their level of success in both the reward and immunity challenges gave them enough confidence to feel that they could lose their strongest tribe mate in order to establish themselves as the dominant alliance.
Before the cameras started rolling, Dan appeared to be an outstanding contestant. He was obviously very strong, and his bio made him sound like a fun-loving hard worker. He was proud of having transformed himself from a gooey creampuff into a burly Asian-American Schwarzenegger. Takes hard work and personal dedication to pull that off, right? And he started his own coffee distribution company. That ain’t easy. Sure sounded like a hard worker. And listing “Hungry Hungry Hippos” as his favorite board game positively screamed, “Look at me! I’m fun!”
Ah, but when we got to see Daniel in action, a very different person began to take shape. The industrious, body-sculpting entrepreneur was replaced by a vain and often lazy young buck. Perhaps he has elements of both characterizations in his personality, but he never really seemed able to strike the proper balance during the game. He angered Roger with his indifference towards completing chores around camp and lashed out by becoming even more surly and uncooperative when Roger pushed him. Sure, Roger was bossy. But the smart Survivor player plays along, anyway, knowing the abrasive personalities are far more likely to be eliminated early than the hard workers who don’t draw attention to themselves.
But what really did Daniel in was his inability to focus on the game itself. As soon as the initial tribes were announced, Daniel was caught up in the whole “men vs. women” thing, predicting a clean sweep of every possible Challenge by the men. He foolishly underestimated his opponents and, even worse, viewed them merely as potential sexual conquests. His lack of focus cost his team two Challenges: the initial IC where he was beaten senseless by the balance beam and the RC where he was too busy ogling and preening to be bothered to listen to previous questions. Early in the game, when other tribe members are looking for any reason to vote you out, costing your team Challenges through a lack of concentration is an excellent way to get your walking papers.
Conclusion So there you have it, twelve Survivors whom we expected to go the distance instead got the ultimate vacation experience on CBS’ dime by maximizing their stay at Loser Lodge. And what a fun party these twelve would throw at Loser Lodge together. We’d see Joel telling off-color jokes to Alicia, who waves her finger in his face, and JoAnna, who tosses an immunity idol at Joel and calls him the devil. Kel and Clarence have whipped up some tasty beans and beef jerky, which makes Jessie and Ramona sick, so they share a barf bucket. Gabe and Hunter would be building a perfect society where hard work matters but alliances don’t. Ken stumbles out of the Lodge to pee on the ground so he won’t soil his sleeping area, but ends up peeing on Jed who is camped out “under the stars” while speaking Mandarin with Daniel. If you want to lose weight and increase your chances of contracting a parasite while competing for a million dollars, don’t make boneheaded mistakes or unnecessary enemies, and be sure to drink plenty of fluids, just not sea water. We hope you enjoyed our collaborative article series. Based on their success, we are hoping to bring you more in the future.