Two Guys, a Girl and a TV Set

Three college friends out in the world, filling the void with television…and loving it.

The Sole Survivor

Posted by Mr. Feeny on May 17, 2010

“Do you have what it takes to be the sole Survivor?”

That’s what Jeff Probst asks four times every year. Twice at the beginning of the season and twice at the end of the reunion show. But — as we learned for the second straight season — it doesn’t matter if you have what it takes. What actually matters being likeable. Survivor is actually nothing but a popularity contest.

I mean, we should have seen this coming. It shouldn’t take 20 seasons to come to this realization. After all, Season 2 winner Tina was no where near as deserving of the title as Colby was. He won 7 out of 9 fricking immunity challenges. After three all-star seasons and multiple 3-time contestants, still no one has matched him in his one season performance. Yet he went home empty-handed (well, with 100 grand, but still, not the title)

I haven’t watched that season since it aired, so I don’t remember why Colby lost. He was a good guy, too. So it’s not like he lost votes for being a complete jerk. But many others have. Boston Rob in the original All-Stars. Knife-wielding Matt from Amazon. Every now and then a jerk does win. The original, Richard Hatch. Brian, the porn star from Thailand (although his was a lesser of two evils choice).

Point is, it’s become abundantly clear that the best way to win Survivor is to be a good person. I don’t really buy the “coattails” argument. That’s a strategic play. It’s valid. I don’t want to take that away from any winner. To last 39 days and not get blindsided or betrayed or tempted to leave your alliance, etc. That takes a sound strategy.

But, it’s not the impressive strategy. It’s not the hardest. The hardest is what Russell Hantz did…TWICE. And, not only two seasons. Back-to-back seasons. I still can’t believe he got to the finals of both seasons lying, cheating, bad-mouthing…just being a slimey, miserable human being. How do you not vote that guy out? He was the target multiple times, especially last season. He needed to find the immunity idols to stay in the game. And he did. With ZERO clues. THREE times. He played the game perfectly. And was denied his rightful award both times.

To be fair to Parvati, she was very smart to bring that hated person with her, knowing he wouldn’t get votes. But Russell’s right. In a just world, he would. There are no rules to Survivor. You don’t have to be nice and decent and honorable. All you have to do is survive. Survive the elements, survive the votes. The jury that once again gave Russell no votes at all for the million dollars failed to look beyond their prejudices. Even if they didn’t respect the way Russell played, they should have opened their eyes and seen how incredibly masterful he was.

Jeff Probst, the fantastic host of the show after all these years, says Russell needed to play the social aspect of the game more. And it’s true that that’s a part of the game. Probst also scoffed at Russell’s suggestion that America’s vote should be factored in (Russell won the fan’s player of the season both times). But Probst is right there, too. That’s not what the game is. It also, wouldn’t be fair. The people on the show see the candidates nonstop for 39 days. The viewers at home only see what the producers what them too.

But, it’s also not fair that Russell lost because he’s a jerk. Being a jerk is the only way to dominate this game. Russell was always in control. Very few others were from start to finish like Russell. Maybe JT, maybe Tom. It’s not impossible to win as a nice guy. But it shouldn’t disqualify you for being a jerk. If you dominated the game, you should win the million dollars.

Of course, Russell also has a bit of the Amanda-final-tribal-failure in him. He didn’t even mention that he was the only one up there who hadn’t won a million dollars. That’s enough reason to vote for him. Why should Parvati or Sandra (who did win, by the way) get a second prize? Also, another great strategy that should of worked. Bringing two previous winners to the end instead of voting them all out immediately like the first All-Stars.

This shouldn’t take away from what was the best season of Survivor. Wildly entertaining from start to finish. These normal everyday people have become stars, enough to drive up Survivor‘s ratings so that they won their time slot this season. Twists and turns, but also great characters with memorable moments. I can’t wait for Nicaragua.

Some time in the future, I will do a list of the greatest survivors. But it will be incomplete, since I missed about 8 seasons while I was in college. Thanks to this season, though, I’ve gotten to know most of those greats.

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