Monday, December 21, 2009

December 21, 2009

I’ve watched all 19 seasons of Survivor, and while I’ve sat through horrible seasons (Vanuatu, Thailand), watched the horror of Vecepia winning in Marquesas, or Sandra and Lillian as the final two in Pearl Islands, and even watched as Amber beat a deserving Boston Rob in the first All-Stars season, nothing was as painful as last night. Russell not winning the $1 Million Dollar prize and title of Sole Survivor was without a doubt the biggest travesty in the history of this show.

As we learned with the Boston Rob/Amber situation on the All-Stars season, sometimes you end up with a ridiculously bitter jury that refuses to acknowledge good game play and instead simply awards the prize to ‘the other option’. But other times, like in the China season, when Todd did the same things, the jury still voted for him. As much as you may hate what the player did to you, he or she did it within the confines and parameters of the game, and that’s good game play. If you can’t respect that and use that as part of your decision-making process, then you shouldn’t be handed the responsibility of helping to choose the winner.

I understand that it’s a social game, and that it’s a fine line between eliminating players and still being able to get their vote. But at it’s core, it’s still a game, and essentially the best player should have a shot to win the game. In last night’s episode, it was clear that Russell had no shot because of the pissy antics of the jury. What was the deal with Erik’s speech? For someone who came in 11th place in the game and whose sole memorable moment was clotheslining himself while chasing a chicken, it certainly was dramatic. I can’t tell if he was drunk, crying, or trying to get a date with Natalie…or none of the above. It just didn’t make any sense.

The jury in itself was clearly a bunch of idiots. Brett comes up and asked a homo-erotically charged question that confused everyone, and clearly made Mick feel uncomfortable. (Hey, remember Mick? He was there, too…did you see him?) Monica asked the standard ''tell me why the people sitting next to you don't deserve the million dollars" question, which, after 19 seasons, I feel is a cop-out. Dave asked a two-second question about percentages which seemed to have no purpose other than to make Russell look arrogant, which even a blind monkey knew prior to Tribal Council. Only Shambo and Erik had any passion or purpose, but both of them just wanted to insult people while saying that they already had their mind made up.

Look, I get that Russell was a total douchebag. I understand that. I hated him at the beginning of the season, but the fact that he was awesome at everything just has to grow on you. And it’s not just CBS editing him to look likeable…they did the exact opposite! They even labelled him “”The biggest villain in Survivor history.” And when he won that last immunity challenge head-to-head with Brett, that was just clutch. I’m talking Mariano-Rivera-bottom-of-the-ninth-in-the-World-Series clutch.

But the thing about Russell is that he absolutely OWNED everything he did. He made no excuses for it, and then answered everything honestly and openly at the Final Tribal Council. He was very straightforward with his moves, explaining when and why he did them, and flat out telling the jury “If you think one of them played a better game than me, give them the million dollars.” And no one on the jury can honestly say that, they can only say that Mick and Natalie played ‘a different game’.

I have nothing against Natalie…she was quite likable all season. It’s the jury that’s to blame, not her. And I understand that sometimes the smartest strategy is to align yourself with an aggressive player who will always be a big target, because then you’ll always be the SECOND choice to vote off, and have two votes minimum to work together…but if that’s what you did, then say it at the Tribal Council with the jury! She didn’t say anything to them that would have convince me to vote for her. All she said was that it was hard and she didn’t think she’d make it as far as she did. This is worth a million dollars? Independent of Russell, if I was leaning towards voting for Natalie going into that Tribal Council, and I heard her answers, I would have changed my mind to NOT vote for her because she proved that she did nothing during the game.
Today on the Early Show, Russell was very un-gracious when talking about the result, even going so far as to say Natalie was undeserving of the money and the title. I don’t necessarily agree with his methods after the fact…you can make your point without being a jerk now, but I understand he’s upset, and rightfully so. One of his comments this morning was “"You know, when you play a football game, and you're the quarterback to the football game, I'm throwing all the touchdown passes, right? She wasn't even on the field. She was my cheerleader." As jerky as that sounds, he’s right. You don’t give the Super Bowl trophy to the cheerleader. Natalie, to her credit, coolly responded that “Russell is a character, and I'm going to laugh all the way to the bank."

It’s really a shame that a great season like this had to end with such a travesty.

But here’s some good news for you Russell fans. If you watched the end of the reunion show, you saw that the next season of Survivor (shot in Samoa as well) is a Heroes vs. Villains theme featuring past contestants. Well, guess who is on the Villains tribe? That’s right….Russell! Immediately after this season ended, he went right back and shot the new season. It’ll be interesting to see how the others respond to him, considering they know nothing about him since his season had not yet aired when they were filming.

Richard Hatch was supposed to be on the villains tribe, but his legal problems kept him out of the cast. I’ve seen a list of the 20 Heroes and Villains for next season, but I won’t post it here for you spoiler-free readers. It will, however be in the Comments section, so be warned if you don’t want to know who is on next season.


Sean said...

Colby Donaldson (Australia)
Rupert Boneham (Pearl Islands)
Tom Westman (Palau)
J.T. Thomas (Gabon)
James Clement (China)
Jessica 'Sugar' Kiper (Gabon)
Amanda Lee Kimmell (China)
Stephenie LaGrossa (Palau)
Cirie Fields (Panama)
Candace Woodcock (Cook Islands)

Rob Mariano (Marquesas)
Randy Bailey (Gabon)
Benjamin "Coach" Wade (Tocantins)
Tyson Apostol (Tocantins)
Russell Hantz (Samoa)
Sandra Diaz-Twine (Pearl Islands)
Jerri Manthey (Australia)
Parvati Shallow (Micronesia)
Courtney Yates (China)
Danielle DiLorenzo (Exile Island)

There you have it folks. Why is Sandra on the villains tribe? And do Amanda, Cirie, Stephenie, Parvati, Jerri, Rob, James, and Rupert all deserve to play Survivor for a THIRD time?

jim said...

Hey Sean,

Love the blog, and agree with everything you said. But being a huge Survivor fan I have to comment on this one.

I totally agree that Russell should have won that game. His tactical execution was brilliant - the best I have ever seen in all the seasons of Survivor. No one has ever completely control the game like Russell did. But Russell’s strategy was one dimensional. And if you don’t charm the jury, you don’t win the million dollars.

To make my point I’m going to compare Russell to Sugar. Sugar’s strategy was completely opposite to Russell’s. Where Russell was totally focused on who should go next, Sugar focused on who she wanted to stay. Sugar was totally selfless, and she made several moves to protect other players. It was a brilliant strategy, that nobody has ever used before (we can debate whether it was strategy or whether Sugar was just being herself). Like Russell, Sugar made it all the way to the end, even winning final immunity. Sugar had a huge impact on how the game played out. But Sugar’s strategy was one dimensional. She didn’t charm the jury, and she totally could have if she had been more self aware, and if she explained her value and contributions to the game. In the end she lost to Bob, who only got to the end by Sugar’s protection, and by being a likable guy (like Natalie with Russell).

Russell and Sugar both employed one dimensional strategies. And that isn’t enough.

Parvati was an excellent example of multi dimensional strategy (Micronesia) – the kind it takes for a power player to win the game. Being physically weaker she aligned herself with someone strong. She sat back and allowed things to just play out when she could. She changed gears at key points to influence the game. She orchestrated the demise of key players. She made a big move cut James when she didn’t need him anymore. She lost final immunity, but had Amanda’s loyalty. She totally charmed the jury - her response to James’ question was classic. And all of this earned her a million dollars.

Had Russell added other dimensions to his game I think he would have won. It is really too bad that spite plays such a huge factor in who wins sole Survivor. Russell made a fatal mistake at the final tribal counsel. He fueled their spite by reminding them how he nailed them all, and insisting it was obvious that he deserved to win. The jury is not going to be told what to do. There are techniques Russell could have used at final tribal counsel to charm the jury. I think Russell forgot that the game wasn’t over. But I also think Russell didn’t know how to change gears and change tactics. So he lost.

Great season though. Thanks for the blog.