The most important quality that a Survivor player must have is self-awareness. A good player will never let their guard down, will always be ready for a move to be made against them, and will have their eyes open at all times, never getting comfortable. This week, Jon came very close to learning this lesson the hard way. Reed, who has been on the outside of every alliance, never really in a position of power, masterminded a move that would have seen Jon blindsided and sent to the jury. Reed convinced the majority alliance to split their votes, meaning that in a tribe of nine players, Reed only needed four votes to achieve the majority. Everything seemed to go exactly as planned- the majority alliance voted three for Keith, two for Wes; and Reed, Keith, Wes and Alec all voted Jon. Unfortunately for Reed, the whole plan came undone with four words from Keith’s mouth- “Stick to the plan”. Alerted that something was amiss, Jon played his idol, negating the four votes against him. Reed’s plan had come to nothing, and now he finds himself the most vulnerable player in the game. Can Reed (or Alec and Keith, the remaining outsiders) actually manage to recover from this position? Do you only get one shot at making the big move, or is there still hope for another opportunity? This week’s lesson in Survivor history comes to us from season seven, Survivor: Pearl Islands, and someone who was never afraid to make a big move, Jon “Jonny Fairplay” Dalton.Jonny “Fairplay” Dalton[/caption]
Jonny Fairplay came to Survivor knowing that he would be the villain and that he would do whatever it took to win the million dollar prize. So when he found himself on a tribe with Rupert Boneham, who was catching fish for the tribe, winning the tribe immunity with his strength, and taking control of alliances within the tribe, Fairplay knew that he needed to get Rupert out of the game as soon as possible. When Fairplay’s tribe, Drake, proved to be unbeatable at immunity challenges, Fairplay advocated throwing a challenge so that they could get rid of Rupert. At this point, he would have had the numbers to be able to vote Rupert out of the game. However, in an unusual twist, as part of winning the immunity challenge, the Morgan tribe was allowed to kidnap a member of the Drake tribe, thus keeping that person safe from Tribal Council. Morgan kidnapped Rupert, and Fairplay’s plan was thwarted.
His next opportunity to make a move against Rupert came six days later. Down to six members, and knowing that a merge was close, Fairplay and his close ally Trish Dunn, set to work convincing Drake that Rupert was a threat, and that there was a danger that Rupert would work with the Morgan tribe after the merge. The mistake that Fairplay and Trish made was to underestimate the depth of Sandra Diaz Twine’s relationship with Rupert. When Sandra heard that Rupert was about to be blindsided, she told Rupert about the plan, and Rupert was able to save himself, blindsiding Trish in a 4-2 vote.
Upon returning from Tribal Council, Rupert was furious. “Who the hell voted for me?”, he screamed, his face inches away from Fairplay’s. In a confessional, Rupert said “I was ready to kill Jon. Literally. Grab his little scrawny ass by the neck and pop his head off.” Jon tried to explain himself, and after Rupert had had his rant, he calmed down and told Fairplay that they would “start afresh”; however, Fairplay was clearly on the outs of the tribe. The failure of his big move put him in a weak and vulnerable position, and it was with considerable skill and some good luck that Fairplay was able to last until the merge, where he turned his game around, gathering new allies for himself and eventually making the final three. His position after Trish was voted out has several similarities to the position that Reed finds himself in now- but with some important differences.Fairplay was able to survive in the game because he had several things in his favour that Reed does not- the outcast twist, where several players who had been previously voted out of the game, provided a distraction that allowed Fairplay some manoeuvring room, the merge was fast approaching, and would bring Fairplay the chance to make some new alliances, so he really only needed to survive one vote. Reed’s chances of making it to the end are far slimmer, but if he is to get himself out of his current position, it will be by following Fairplay’s game plan.
Since the beginning of the game, Reed has been in a precarious position, never quite in with the majority alliance at his original tribe, Hunahpu, and distrusted by the power players. When a tribe swap reunited him with his boyfriend Josh, he was briefly in a position of power, yet he never got the opportunity to use that power. Until the merge, Reed had only attended one Tribal Council, where he voted with Keith, not the majority alliance. At the merge, Josh’s alliance found themselves outnumbered, with Josh becoming the first member of the jury. Reed managed to avoid the next vote because Jeremy presented as a bigger threat, but he wasn’t going to be able to play under the radar for long. Reed is a strong strategic player, and he wanted to make a strong strategic move. This week, the opportunity was there, and Reed took it.
Reed’s target was Jon. He told us that this was because Jon “thinks he’s the alpha-male”, but it was the wrong choice. Had they chosen to take out someone without an idol, the play likely would have worked, and subsequently Reed’s position in the game would have been far more secure. They had to know that there was a good chance Jon had the idol- especially after Wes was sent to Exile Island, where he presumably got an extremely precise clue showing him where the idol should be. Perhaps Reed chose Jon, knowing that he would be so comfortable that he would never play his idol, and he was almost correct. If it hadn’t been for Natalie telling him to play the idol, Jon would have been voted out. Even when Natalie told him that something wasn’t right, Jon still needed reassurance, asking “Really? Are you sure?” before taking his idol out and handing it to Probst.
The big problem with Reed’s plan was that it hinged so heavily on the gameplay of Keith, and that was always going to be dangerous. Keith told us in his opening confessional, “Reed’s a gamer. He plays, and he knows how to talk to folks and figure stuff out, mathematical numbers and all that mess, which is way above me”, and then spent the remainder of the episode demonstrating just how little he understood about the game. In order for the plan to succeed, Keith needed to vote for Jon, which he did, but he also needed to play along with the plan, and that is where Keith failed miserably, alerting Natalie to the need for Jon to play his idol, thus sending Wes home.
We know why Reed’s plan failed. But is there anything that he can do now to ensure his survival in the game? Is it a foregone conclusion that Jon, Jaclyn, Baylor, Missy and Natalie are the final five? I don’t think it is- as long as Reed, Keith and Alec use some of Fairplay’s strategies, there is every chance that one of them will make it far in the game, and perhaps even win.
The most important thing that Fairplay did to ensure his own survival in the game was to shift the blame for the failed move onto someone else. When Rupert was screaming at him, demanding to know why Fairplay voted for him, Fairplay’s first response was “I didn’t turn the tribe against you!” Rupert responded “Who did?”, and Fairplay answered “The person that’s gone right now.” He was quick to turn the blame for the attempted blindside on Trish, and Rupert seemed to buy the excuse, saying “You were following Trish, who was telling every one of us, you and me are going to the final two.” He made it clear that the entire move was not his idea, and tried to convince the other players that he was nothing more than Trish’s pawn, acting only for the best interests of the tribe. Although the Drake tribe didn’t completely believe that Fairplay was loyal to them, they certainly believed that he wasn’t a threat, and continued to underestimate him, allowing him to get further in the game.
Blaming someone else for the move is only going to work for Keith or Alec, who could very easily put all the blame for the failed blindside at Reed’s feet. We know that Reed has a reputation for being overly strategic. Keith called Reed a “gamer”, Natalie referred to him as “very, very scary”, and Alec and Keith simply don’t have that same reputation. Reed said of Keith “I don’t know if Keith quite understands exactly the intricacies of how this game is played”, and I think that view is shared by the rest of the players. Baylor could not believe that Keith would be capable of finding an idol, let alone hiding it from anyone else. Keith and Alec have long been underestimated, and they won’t be Jon’s first target for revenge. Keith is far less dangerous now without his idol, and his lack of game sense will now become an advantage as Reed is targeted. Alec’s ability to convincingly lie to Jon makes him a target also. Keith might find himself in a great position- where all of his alliance is on the jury, and he only needs a few lucky breaks to make the Final Three. If Keith has picked up any ability to play the game at all, he will disassociate himself from Reed quickly and try to fly under the radar.
Once Fairplay had blamed his failed move on the ousted Trish, he then set about shifting the target for the next vote off himself. To aid him with this, he had a huge stroke of luck in the outcast twist. The outcast twist meant that both the Drake and the Morgan tribe would attend Tribal Council, where they would each vote out a member. Those two players would each be replaced by an outcast, who was voted back into the game. As soon as they found out about the twist, the Drake tribe realised that the most likely person to enter the game would be Burton Roberts, whom the Drakes had previously voted out.
At this point, Sandra, Rupert and Christa Hastie were closely allied, and would vote together. Either Fairplay or Shawn Cohen would be going home. Fortunately for Fairplay, Shawn had been allied with Burton before Burton was voted out. Because of this, it was Shawn’s loyalty, not Fairplay’s that was questioned. When asked to explain to his tribe why he should remain in the game, Fairplay mentioned the amount of work that he did compared to Shawn. And he emphasised his loyalty to Drake. It was a convincing argument, and Shawn was voted out. That night, Burton re-entered the game, and he and Fairplay pledged allegiance to each other. After surviving one vote, Fairplay was back in a power position.
Reed needs to survive more than just one vote. But the only way to move forward is to find a bigger target- and that person is still Jon. After Jon blindsided Jeremy, Natalie was furious. She was savvy enough to keep her feelings hidden, but she was looking for a chance to blindside Jon, and give him a taste of his own medicine. She told Baylor that they had to keep making Jon comfortable, and keep him around for one more vote. She wanted to get rid of one more of the boys before she got rid of Jon, to ensure that she kept herself in the majority. Now that Wes is gone, the opportunity for Natalie to blindside Jon presents itself. Has Reed’s failed move changed Natalie’s mind, or does she still want her revenge? If Reed has noticed Natalie’s desire to blindside Jon, he could easily exploit it.
Another way for Reed to shift the target is to once again go idol hunting. He knew that the target was on him last week, and by rummaging through Keith’s bag, he was able to save himself. The audience knows that Natalie has an idol that she has kept secret from Jon and Jaclyn. Whoever gets sent to Exile Island next week will presumably also get the clue to an idol. Reed has shown the ability before to use idol paranoia to his advantage, and it might be a strategy that he can employ again.
The best way for any player to advance in the game is to be useful. One of Fairplay’s biggest arguments as to why he should stay in the game was that he did more work than Shawn. They didn’t know when the merge was coming, and they had to keep their tribe strong. Reed can’t make himself useful by working hard around camp. At this point in the game, it is the possible goats that are most useful. Reed needs to advertise himself as a free vote- to anyone that might need one. He cannot simply give up, but needs to show those in power that his vote can be useful in getting themselves further. At the moment, Natalie is in the perfect position, virtually guaranteed final three. She is the swing vote between two couples, and at final five she can decide which couple she wants to be sitting next to at the Final Tribal Council, and from what we can see, she is much closer to Baylor and Missy than she is to Jon and Jaclyn. As a fan of the show, Reed should be able to identify this, and should do everything in his power to convince Jon and Jaclyn of the situation that they are in.
Fairplay’s first attempt to take Rupert out of the game failed, and he was left as the odd one out in his tribe. However, he was able to ride out the storm, and after the merge came he was able to bring more people onto his side. In a devastating blindside, Rupert was voted out of Survivor: Pearl Islands in eighth place. In the end, Fairplay’s reasons for wanting Rupert out of the game were valid- he was seen as almost godlike by some players from both tribes, and couldn’t be beaten in a final two. He was also incredibly strong, and a good swimmer, and was therefore an immunity threat. It didn’t take long for the other players in the game to see this, and Fairplay’s second attempt at taking out Rupert succeeded.
Reed might also find that his opportunity will come again. Jon remains a huge threat, both for immunity and for jury votes. He is arguably physically the strongest player left in the game, having beaten John Rocker in a wrestling challenge earlier in the game. He has been a force in most immunity challenges (although clearly endurance is not his thing!) and could conceivably win the last few immunities also. Socially, he represents two votes, as one can assume that he and Jaclyn will vote together. He has made nearly every important decision in the game- deciding that Dale and Kelley would be eliminated instead of Baylor and Missy, deciding to go with first Josh and his alliance, and then Jeremy and his alliance, and finally making a deal with Missy that saw Jeremy blindsided. He has a compelling argument should he make it to the Final Tribal Council, and there are no other big targets left in the game. The other players should be able to see the power that Jon and Jaclyn have, and Reed’s chance may come again.
The interesting players in this are Baylor and Missy, and I’m not sure where they stand. Last week, it seemed that they had a final four deal with Jon and Jaclyn, and Missy voted out her long-time ally Jeremy in order to make Jon feel a little safer in the game. This week, Baylor and Natalie went on an idol hunt together, and Natalie made a comment that Baylor was her number one ally. Together, Natalie and Baylor planned to blindside Jon, the very person that Baylor voted with last tribal council. Perhaps Missy and Baylor are not working together as closely as we had previously believed, or perhaps they changed their strategy when Jeremy was voted out. Their apparent willingness to turn on Jon could be Reed’s salvation.
I was so disappointed for Reed when his big move didn’t quite come off as planned, and I would love to see such a strong strategic player be given another chance. Ultimately, he has shown himself to be a threat, and unless something crazy happens, there isn’t anywhere for Reed to hide anymore. He isn’t trustworthy, and won’t have the same ability to manipulate people that he had this week. The only way that he can truly guarantee himself more time in the game is to win immunity or find an idol- and I’ll be hoping that he does both this week, and sticks around a little longer.