Introduction by lurkinggirl
We’ve survived 5 ½ seasons of Survivor, and some of the FORT writers spent the flashback episode week contemplating the 96 players who have entertained us thus far on the various series of the American version of Survivor, aired on CBS and produced by Mark Burnett. Of these nearly one hundred contestants, some were born to play this game, i.e. Richard Hatch (who invented the term “alliance” and knew how many he needed in his to win the game) and Brian Heidik (who kept his stupid remarks for the camera, not for his tribe mates, who all liked him to the end), and some were not. We’ve had some time this “off week” to contemplate the mysteries, which surround the Survivor series. Does having the name Rob in and of itself destine Survivor contestants to failure? Another chapter is yet to be written in that book, as Rob of The Amazon is still keeping his head above the piranha infested waters, but take note that this 4th player named Rob has a long history of Robs not living up to their potential. Coming covered in tattoos and calling yourself “Robert” or adding a second “B” to your name (followed invariably by “Dude”) hasn’t helped, and neither has turning into the Rob-father and making other survivors an offer that nobody could understand. We shall see if the Magic 8 Ball rescues this season’s Rob from the fate of his fellow Roberts.
Of those who failed to take home the million dollar prize and advertising sponsored car of the series, there were number of players who failed to bring it on home because of several recurring themes. These articles are not going to focus on the players who were clearly out of their element in the elements, but instead on players who realistically may have won, if only . . . However, as a quick aside we would like to poke some fun at our favorite horribly miscast and out of place survivors from each season:
Sonja (who ended up face down in the Ocean at the end of the first day of season one),
Debb (who wanted to make a shelter of rock),
Linda (who morphed into Mother Africa and ran around forcing her tribe mates to hug her),
Peter (whose explanation of his bodily holes got him booted despite the fact he was the first survivor ever to get a fire lit prior to the first immunity challenge),
Jan (who made it quite far despite her clearly tenuous link to reality, which gave us all baby bayat pet cemetery material for weeks), and
Janet (who was so ill prepared for the show that getting booted over granola bar speculation was really a blessing).
In a series of articles written as a collaboration between fluff, lurkinggirl, Paulie and Bill_in_PDX here at the FORT, we will be exploring three categories of survivor contestants:
1. They Coulda Been A Contenda. We’ve picked two survivors from each season of the show who looked good “on paper” when examining their resumes prior to the start of the show, but they failed to catch on for one reason or another and were gone before the merge or very early thereafter. For these contestants, we ask the question: “what happened?” and give some of our armchair 20/20 hindsight.
2. Seven Deadly Sins Tragic Flaws. Based on the “seven deadly sins” we’ve narrowed the field down to seven survivors who failed to reach their full potential because of some character flaw in their strategy or behavior in the game. Literary scholars have analyzed the seven deadly sins as tragic hero flaws from all sorts of classical works from Greek Tragedies to Shakespeare’s plays and modern day application to such neo-classics as Deuce Bigalow, Male Gigolo, but as far as we know this is its first application to reality TV. We apologize in advance for the impending onslaught of reality TV websites across the Internet posting historical literary analysis of Mr. Personality as a morality play and the women of The Bachelor as a microcosm of society, but we did think this is rather nifty and wanted to share it.
3. Missed Opportunities. Things that make you say “D’oh” like Homer Simpson, we’ve identified an opportunity from each season of Survivor in which a contestant was in a position to dramatically alter the course of the game, yet failed to act in their own best interest. This is our first article in the series and starts right now:
Missed Opportunities or, "If "Ifs" and "Buts" Were Candy and Nuts"
Survivor: Pulua Tiga – Gretchen
How can it be that two people, each of whom looks capable of taking the game by the scruff of the neck, can have such different ideas about how it should be played?
Richard instantly realized an alliance would be essential if he was to progress, Gretchen just as quickly dismissed the idea when presented to her by Gervase.
It could be that Gretchen decided to "consider the source". Gervase had hardly shown himself to be a master tactician up to that point. Gretchen's game playing policy does not give one the indication her answer would have been any different if someone else had made the alliance suggestion to her either though.
Now in our sixth season, the concept of the alliance is as inextricably linked with the game of Survivor in the minds of contestants and viewers alike as Mark Burnett himself.
The idea, even in the first season, that people would be voted off in an order that best supported the tribes overall ability to successfully survive the elements seemed naive.
The game is about so much more than conquering challenges and hunger, it's about surviving each other. A political game of the highest order, with the rewards of cash and a company car. We are not sure if Gretchen was aware of the "Outwit" part of the three-word motto for the show, but it was an essential element of Richard's game plan.
Gretchen's refusal to entertain the suggestion of an alliance, ultimately sealed not only her own fate in the game, but also that of her pre-merge tribe and gave us one of the most famous examples of "Survivorese", the "Pagonging".
Richard and Gretchen have both secured their place in Survivor history. He for providing the blueprint in alliance building which contestants of this, and other reality shows, have followed ever since. She for, through her demise, perfectly illustrating just why alliances are so important.
Survivor: The Outback – Elisabeth
Elisabeth’s chance to make a power play came later into the game.
You could argue that Jeff also missed his chance by failing to win the crucial immunity challenge the day he was voted off. He has explained may times subsequent interviews that it wasn’t the lure of peanut butter alone that made him jump from his perch and straight into loser lodge. A leg injury incurred in the early stages of the competition made standing for hours too painful. So grabbing an opportunity by winning that challenge was never really an option.
Obviously no one could have predicted Michael’s terrible accident.
There were alliances being built within the Kucha tribe that seemed so unified following the departure of Kimmi.
Rodger and Elisabeth, Alicia and Jeff. Two “couples” bonded by friendship and their desire to further themselves in the game. Each couple courted Michael’s vote, before the accident, which sent the Kucha tribe as a whole into a “tailspin” and marked the allowed for the second successive “Pagonging” of a tribe post merge.
Kimmi’s “beyond the grave” contribution to Jeff’s downfall left the Ogakor tribe in a seemingly unassailable position. Alicia was voted out next and with a majority firmly established, the Ogakor members of the Barramundi tribe were able to turn on one of their own and join with the former Kucha’s to vote out Jerri.
With Amber reeling from the booting of her friend and ally, the time was ripe for Lis to open up alliance negotiations.
Amber was a follower. Completely unaware of the plan to vote out Jerri, she should have taken this as a sign that she was not part of the core alliance controlling the votes. This was exactly the angle Lis should have used when approaching Amber. She had to convince her that her chances of progressing in the game would increase if she joined an alliance against Tina, Keith and Colby.
Would Amber have gone along with this plan? Possibly not. She seemed to trust Colby implicitly. Colby’s stunning immunity run meant he was always going to be final two whatever strategy the others employed.
Lis had the opportunity to trade on Amber’s insecurity after Jerri was booted. Let the seed of doubt that incident so clearly planted flourish by questioning her real position within her alliance.
It might well have proven fruitless, but Lis should have gone all out to exploit the similarities between herself and Amber. Work quickly to fill the friendship void, gaping after the departure of Jerri.
It might just have worked and left the viewers with an alternative to the predictable Keith, Tina. Colby, final three.
Survivor:Africa – Silas
Silas really was the architect of his own demise, bought on by an almost unhealthy abundance of arrogance.
His missed opportunity was not so much to a chance to command the game as a chance to remain in it.
Silas and his Mall Rats thought they were sitting pretty after Carl was booted from the “Oldies” faction. Little did anyone know we were about to be introduced to “The Switch”.
Silas had the opportunity to join the “oldies” alliance at Samburu, he did in fact tell them he would join them. While many people found his decision to then join the Mall Rats team repugnant, would they really blame him from a tactical viewpoint? He would lead the Mall Rats alliance, but was firmly at fifth place in the hierarchy of the Oldies alliance.
Of course, had he followed through with his decided to join with Carl, Frank, Teresa and Linda, he could have attempted to strengthen his position by appealing to the men to form a further sub- alliance against the women.
His mistake was in so blatantly trying to take charge of the Samburu tribe once his alliance took the numerical advantage. This marked him as even more of a “turncoat” in the eyes of Frank and Teresa who accompanied him to Boran as part of the “Switch”.
Finding himself separated from his alliance, he failed to establish where the power lay at Boran and state his case to that person. Instead, he invested his time building a “tough guy” friendship with Clarence, the one person who had no power or influence in the Boran tribe.
By the time he realized he needed to limit the damage caused by his decision to turn his back on his word to the Oldies and approach Ethan to plead his case, the Boran had thrown the IC with the express intent of eliminating him at TC.
Silas Cannot have known the implications his “betrayal” of the older members of his team would have, but he compounded his fate by the arrogance he showed, both in the treatment of them after he declared himself as unelected leader of the tribe and in failing to realize that it’s actually Mark Burnett that controls this game.
His inability to fathom that the quiet, unassuming Ethan was the real power player remaining at Boran, until it was too late, then approach him in almost “bully-boy” fashion to sell his plan to oust someone else marks a sever miss-reading of the game and hence an opportunity lost.
Survivor : Marquesas – Kathy
An emotional wreck early on, Kathy emerged as a pivotal player with a series of chances to take control of the game.
By the time her son Patrick won an overnight stay at camp, Kathy was in the final six amid two strong alliances of two, yet she was not aligned with the other “single”, Robert.
The Paschal/Neleh bond was clearly the strongest, yet opportunities to break it were never taken. Kathy entertained the idea of aligning with Robert (The General), but ultimately rejected it in favour of the previous arrangement she had made with Paschal, Neleh, Sean and Vee to become the final five, “then it’s every man for himself”.
Kathy failed to realize that would never be the case as long as the bonds the couples had made were left intact.
Robert had witnessed the consecutive booting of the other three members of his alliance.
He knew he was next, his support and vote were clearly Kathy’s for the taking.
Unfortunately she made the cardinal error of sticking to her word, only to later see how easily Vee would in turn break the deal had made the night of Pappy’s Purple Rock.
The story of S4 could have been so very different if Kathy had aligned with Robert, Vee and Sean to take out either Paschal or Neleh.
Survivor :Thailand – Helen
As with Kathy, her relative won the overnight stay and pointed out a potentially successful strategy.
Jim, Helen’s husband realized the threat Brian posed to Helen’s chances in the game and the necessity to eliminate him as soon as possible. With that advice fresh in her mind and Ted and his brother winning immunity, the opportunity could not have presented itself at a more fitting time.
Helen failed to act on the advice and as far as the home viewers could see, failed to even present it as an option to the remaining members of the tribe.
Helen and Ted did not communicate in sufficient detail to discover Brian had a multiplicity of “to the end alliances. It doesn’t always pay to be completely honest when playing this game, but had Helen said to Ted, “I want to vote out Brian because he’s the strongest, even though I do have an alliance with him”, Ted would surely have come on board with the plan for the very reasons he stated at final tribal council, he now saw Brian’s friendship and “word” as “lemon’s”.
Ted’s face at final tribal council, clearly betrayed the fact he had no idea Helen had a similar pact with Brian as his own, despite their conversations during their overnight stay courtesy of Ted’s win in the Raodtrip reward challenge.
They knew Jake was fighting for his life in the game. Gaining his support against Brian and Clay would surely have been simple, plus at that point Jan seemed fully in support of Helen and likely to follow her lead.
By the time Helen made a move to court her vote, Jan seemed to have departed the game mentally. She was somewhat emotionally unstable and easily fell prey to the intimidating tactics of Brian and Clay when it came time to vote out Helen.
Jan’s mental state at the time was never more clearly shown than at the reunion, where despite the fact we had all just witnessed Helen open negotiations, Jan didn’t even realize she’d been approached.
Survivor: The Amazon - Dave
Pre-season, Dave had youth, physical ability and brain power in his Survivor arsenal, yet he only squeaked onto the jury by virtue of the fact the females did not want Roger taking up a seat. He had a perfect opportunity to take the game by the scruff of the neck, but it all went horribly wrong.
His overnight date with Jenna was an education in Jaburu tribal politics.
She gifted him every shred of information he needed, yet he failed to make it work for him.
He started off promisingly in selecting Heidi from the draft, thus temporarily calling a halt to her alliance with Jenna. He chose the females far more wisely than the males, indicating that Jenna told him more about her team in one night than he was able to learn about his own in twelve days. Dave’s speech espousing the essential need to incorporate the triumvirate of “honour, integrity and whatnot”, into their everyday lives was obviously lost on the bitter threesome that became part of Jaburu. His decision to select the seemingly universally despised Roger to remain at Tambaqui baffled and annoyed the Jaburu bound trio. His failure to adequately explain the reasons behind his choices was met with equal disdain and in Rob’s mind specifically simply reinforced his “he thinks he’s better than me” opinion of Dave. Dave somehow managed to allow Matt, who had voted against Roger at TC and Alex who had openly clashed with Roger over their differing views on the subject of homosexuality. Even if Dave had not realized Rob was a master game player, the fact that he was a severe horn dog with the potential to turn against the men in favour of any female that would look his way surely cannot have escaped Dave.
Why would he ever think they would choose to remain in an alliance with Roger if another one presented itself at Jaburu?
Having separated Heidi and Jenna, Dave’s crucial error was in allowing them to realign post merge. His strategy was to try and persuade Heidi to vote with the men, who he assumed would all fall back in line with the previous men v women game plan.
He should have approached the Jaburu “outcast” Jeanne with the same plan. She would probably have jumped at the chance to save her own skin.
Dave took the information Jenna gave him and formulated a game plan. Unfortunately for him his plan was flawed.
The Jacare cited his superior physical ability as the reason for voting him off.
The combination of poor selection of the males to remain at Tambaqui and his failure to observe the unwritten rule that it’s essential to eliminate known alliances, proved to be his downfall by putting him into a position where he had no alliance to protect him.
Whether the opportunity came early, or later into the game, each of the people mentioned had the opportunity to change their fate and put themselves closer to the title and it’s million dollar pay day.