Monday, December 21, 2009

Survivor: Did Erik's Speech Sway the Jury?

How fitting that the best season in Survivor history ends with a blindside.  If you didn't see it, or haven't already heard, underdog Natalie won the million dollars, literally and figuratively upsetting Russell, one of the strongest competitors in the history of the game.  And if you ask me, she has Erik's impassioned speech at that final tribal council to thank for it.

John mentioned that the jury was interested in hearing more about Natalie's strategy.  I think a lot of them had already decided they weren't voting for Russell -- they were choosing between her and Mick.  The big strike against Natalie was her perceived weakness as a player.  Erik clarified that her passive approach to the game was just as valid as Russell's more aggressive strategy.  It's a risky to do what Natalie did precisely because of the inevitable backlash against you. It also takes strength to shut up and keep smiling when so many people around you are acting like jerks.

I would have voted for Russell, but have to admit that Erik's speech gave me pause.  It was a reminder that Russell's game, for all its strengths, was fatally unbalanced. He systematically alienated every member of the jury, banking they would nevertheless applaud his strategy.  But it's human nature to resent your betrayer, and Russell played the game so aggressively that jurors were looking for a reason -- any reason -- to vote against him.

So what do you all everybody think?  Did Natalie deserve the million?  Was this the best season of Survivor ever?  As always, you're welcome to post anonymously, but please identify yourself somehow, so I can distinguish between anonymous posters. Thanks!


Capcom said...

Pfff, he's never seen anyone get to the right place by behaving the wrong way? He should work where I worked...a place full of the arrogance and delusional entitlement that he speaks of. :-p

I don't watch this show, but you have a good point about his speech, it was very on point about ethics, and it's nice to see ethics win for a change on TV.

Joshua said...

I am sick of people talking about ethics in survivor. It is a game and a competition. And like other games and competitions, actions that would be clearly unethical in real life are accepted and needed for the game itself to exist. No one watches boxing and says, "What unethical behavior! He is punching the other guy in the head harder than he is being punched." If it was not for the punching, no one would watch boxing. If it was not for the betrayals, no one would watch survivor.

Capcom said...

Heheh, I'm sure that all those sports figures being charged with performance enhancement, Pete Rose, etc., would agree with you.


Bigmouth said...

Capcom: I, too, laughed at that part about never seeing someone get to the right place the wrong way LOL! But the rest of his commentary about Survivor was spot on, particularly the point about Natalie's presence in the finale belying claims she was weak. You didn't see this season, but Natalie was the ULTIMATE southern belle. Looking at her, you never, ever would have believed she'd make it 39 days, let alone win the million.

Joshua: I used to think the same thing. The analogy I used to illustrate the point was cards -- no one blinks an eye when you bluff at poker. But I realized recently there's an important difference between Survivor and those games. Winning at boxing and cards doesn't require that your competitors vote for you. Think about it -- how many boxers would vote for their opponent after being brutalized for 12 rounds? And I guarantee you there'd be a lot less bluffing in poker if taking home the pot depended on majority vote.

That was the last challenge, and Russell failed. In the end, it's not about morality, so much as pragmatism.

Capcom said...

Interesting Big, she must have been one of those litle Steel Magnolias that they talk about down here.

Good points also Big about the differences, and the voting factor. And there are of course ethical rules in sports, for instance, you're not allowed to wear brass knuckles inside your boxing gloves, or to put certain types of sticky junk on the baseball when pitching.


veo_ said...

I think the right person won.

Throughout the airing of the season I was telling my friend that while watching Russel was awesome, no matter what happens he will not win this game because he's totally forgetting the social aspect of winning Survivor.

My friend, who was a HUGE Russel fan, said I was totally wrong because he was playing the 'best' game ever! He was kicking everyone's ass and had the tribe wrapped around his little finger. In his mind there was no doubt that Russel was "the man" and deserved the win.

I countered that while his strategy was certainly effective at getting people to do what he wanted, he hadn't thought the whole thing through, which is kind of a problem with Russel, he has almost no 'full picture' planning as far as I can tell. He only sees whats directly in front of him, nothing else. Effective but shortsighted. Russel was pissing off every jury member as he went, which is a mistake since they are ultimately who he needs to convinced and in the end game he going to fail for just that reason.

Of course my friend was very upset at the end of the season. He claimed that Russel played "the game" better then everyone else. Well, no he didn't because he totally neglected half of the game which is getting people to vote for you. He utterly failed to understand that dynamic of the game.

This is where the brilliance in Natalie's game comes in. She got close enough to Russel so that she was always protected, and at the same time PLAYED NICEY NICE with the jury members while they were in the game. She was congenial and friendly and they all liked her. They didn't think she was a threat and didn't realize she basically had an immunity idol around her neck thanks to her smart alliance with Russel; which she rode all the way into the final 3. Awesome!

I also think that she rightly won over Mick because she had a plan and stuck to it unwaveringly. Mick was truly aimless, flip flopping between weak alliances and never making any big moves or even worse outright making errors. He should've been actively gunning to get Russel out, but he didn't even try. He got the social part down alright (it seemed) but he didn't have anything else going on. He could almost be considered the anti-Russel that way.

So in the end, I do think it was the best season ever and I think that what happened in Samoa should be a huge lesson to future players. Be aggressive and do what you need to do, but simply steamrolling over everyone isn't going to do you any favors in the end.

Subtlety is a virtue in Survivor!

Bigmouth said...

veo: I would have voted for Russell myself, but your argument is nonetheless spot on. I especially like your characterization of Mick as an aimless flip flopper. Devastating but accurate!

Anonymous said...

wakeboarder146.Hi good was survivor samoa?Look at the end of the day love russell or hate him he was funny to watch.I cant believe he actually got away with it,No one else in the games history was as good as him at it,You have to give him credit,I personally liked russell.I feel he blew it in front of the jury,he played the game really well up until that point.However i also believe winning the game wasnt as important as the title soul survivor fpr russell.I Also think the editors and casts of thee show need to mix it up a bit.the show is becoming very predictable.I knew from the start russsell would be there at the end.The focus from day one was always centred around russell.they give away to much.Especially if you have watched alot of the shows.Its like ghost whisperer.same show different ghosts...Roll on heroes and villians.And GO RUSSELL......