Daily Archives: December 21, 2009

Who Was the True “Survivor” Winner?

See that “Survivor: Samoa” logo above? It reads “Outwit, Outplay, Outlast,” which has been the “Survivor” franchise motto since the first edition 18 seasons ago.

Someone needed to tell season 19th’s jury that awarding the title of sole Survivor isn’t about having your feelings hurt because you got voted out. This isn’t high school. The winner should be the person who has played the best game outwitting, outplaying, and outlasting the other competitors.

Russell, the evil, little pirate

“Survivor: Samoa’s” winner should have been Russell Hantz, a good, old boy from Dayton, Texas. He found two hidden immunity idols without the benefit of a single clue, and he was busy strategizing from the first second of the game. He was a great player! Instead, it was Natalie White, who Russell tucked under his wing and carried to the finals. Sure, she outlasted almost everyone, but she didn’t outplay or outwit anyone.

Erik, the tribe has spoken!

Well, except for Erik Cardona. She did engineer his blind-side ouster, which turned the game in the outnumbered Foa Foa’s favor. That was huge. Ironically, at the final tribal council last night, Erik championed Natalie’s cause by arguing that her strategy of flying under the radar and playing a good social game was just as valid to crown her champion. He probably convinced a few of his fellow jury members, who were all part of his former Galu tribe except for Jaison Robinson, that Natalie was worthy of winning “Survivor.”

Natalie helps her team win a reward challenge.

Now let me give Natalie (or “Ratalie,” as Erik humorously wrote down in paying homage to her rat-killing prowess) her props. Our family has watched every episode of every season of “Survivor,” and one thing plays out every time: A social game is more important than a strategic game. “Survivor” really is a social experiment under hardship conditions. Players bond in unique ways leading to trust factors that can make or break alliances. Natalie played a better social game than Russell; she was much more likeable than the evil, little pirate (who was both hated and loved by the audience).

That being said, I have a hard time respecting players like Natalie who use competitors like Russell as a shield to win. Her smartest decision was to ally with Russell, a choice that netted her a million bucks. If the jury members had voted with their heads instead of their hearts, Russell would have been a unanimous winner. However, emotion plays a huge part in the jury’s final decision of who they want to give the money to. Not who really deserves to win.

Mick and Russell bookend the winning Natalie.

When the votes were read at last night’s reunion show, Russell was shocked and upset that he lost 7-2 to Natalie. In fact, he was visibly disappointed the entire program. It never had occurred to him that he might lose! He totally underestimated or didn’t understand the importance of Survivor’s social game, especially how the winner needs to be able to sway those s/he voted off. I really don’t think Russell played for the money as much as for the title. He so wanted to be proclaimed the “sole Survivor.”

Fortunately for Russell, the fans vindicated him by voting him Player of the Season in the Sprint competition. That was worth $100K and some assuaging of his hurt feelings. Thanks for making the season so enjoyable, Russell!

Random “Survivor” snippets

• Once again, the third-place finisher (Mick Trimming) received no votes. It’s time to go back to a final two, which is more interesting.

• I really liked how upbeat Shambo (Shannon Waters) was. If you go to cbs.com’s Ponderosa videos (http://www.cbs.com/primetime/survivor/video/?pid=MYn2tzMIyUVmHha_t5tLG4FqYtFxhhey&vs=Ponderosa&play=true), you can check out her philosophy. By the way, watching Ponderosa (where jury members stay) videos is a great way to get to know some of the competitors.

• The 20th season, which starts on February 11, is called “Heroes vs. Villains: Return, Revenge, Redemption.” Here’s hoping that Russell comes back, no doubt on the villains side, and proves once and for all that he really is the true sole Survivor! We’ll be watching!