Finale Week is upon us, Loyal Blog Readers! We’ve weathered the Caramoan storms of Hurricane Brandon and Tropical Storm Phillip. Our Survivor winner is emerging from its cocoon of mystery. In just 48 hours, someone will be getting that million dollar check. The future is bright, Loyal Blog Readers. The Survivor machine just keeps humming away.
But before we deal with the upcoming finale, or the speculation swirling around next season, let’s deal with what we just saw. There has been a messy Survivor break-up. Survivor Sweetheart Brenda Lowe has been cast aside. She cried. We cried. Jeff cried. Dawn cried. Not a dry eye in the house this week. So how do we cope with such an emotional boot? Was this fair? Why were Cochran and Dawn so mean to Brenda, and how are we supposed to feel about them going forward? In short, Loyal Blog Readers, how do we mend our broken hearts?
Hang on a second. Before we bust out the chocolate ice cream and have a good cry, I have to ask: Are you kidding me? This is no way to talk about Survivor. In this game, feelings are irrelevant. Only strategy is important. Brenda is a very sweet person, with a big heart—but she also possesses a sharp strategic mind and the diplomatic skills needed to play the social game. I think we have to hold her accountable for failing to use these assets. I’m not a hater, but I won’t tolerate these shenanigans. Let’s get real here, people. Brenda’s game was a train wreck. It would be disingenuous to say otherwise.
There’s an important unwritten BR Rule that I think applies to Brenda Lowe’s game: Play To Win. Don’t play to make friends. Don’t play to look good on TV. Don’t play to make your family proud. For 39 days, you have only one job as a castaway, and that is to win the million dollars. If you are not fully committed to the completion of that goal, you are failing as a player. Period. And all season long, Brenda consistently allowed herself to be too trusting and too passive to maneuver herself into a winning position. So I ask: If you aren’t playing to win—actually WIN—what are you even doing out there at all? For 35 days Brenda endured the harsh elements, the starvation, and the brutal psychological wear-and-tear of this game—and for what? What was gained here?
I have to be honest with you, Loyal Blog Readers. I don’t believe that Brenda left it all on the field. I know that she’s capable of more. This is a girl with the beauty and the brains and the social skills to steamroll over everybody else out there. What was holding her back? Why did she defeat herself?
So often in Survivor, as in life, I think that the answer comes down to priorities. I don’t think that Brenda’s priorities were properly aligned with what it actually takes to win this game—and probably weren’t from Day One. And if you don’t believe me, all you have to do is listen to her post-game interviews.
Let me just cherry-pick a few quotes of Brenda’s from her exit interview with Rob, and I want you to listen to the subtext behind what she’s saying.
“At that point, it was like we paused the game of Survivor.”
“It never crossed my mind to use strategy.”
“It was about having a true friendship out there… Why would I not want to give it to you?”
“Just be kind, just be humble, and things will go good for you.”
What I hear Brenda saying is that winning wasn’t the most important thing to her out on that beach. I think if you broke down her priorities emotionally, her relationships with the other people out there were more important to her psychologically than the million dollar prize—and, I think, for that reason, she was incapable of doing what it would actually take to get herself there.
Loyal Blog Readers, I realize that I’m subjecting Brenda to a level of criticism here that I normally don’t levy onto other castaways. Perhaps some of you will be upset at me for this. The girl just watched herself getting kicked off Survivor, and the emotions are probably still raw for her. Why am I kicking poor Brenda when she’s down?
Because Brenda is a massively talented player. I think it’s fair to hold her to a higher standard than I would a Reynold or a Phillip or even a Corinne. When Brenda’s emotions cloud her ability to execute—when they sabotage her success in the game—I think that’s worth pointing out. I don’t think we should make excessive apologies for a poorly executed game when we know that Brenda is capable of doing much, much better. That’s the double-edged sword of performing at a high level: expectations tend to balloon under you.
But, in the interest of fairness let me take a moment to give Brenda a little bit of credit. Brenda came out this season and tried something that most castaways don’t or can’t ever try: she radically changed her approach to the game. Many players come back with a few new tricks or a slightly tweaked approach—but Brenda obviously took the time to dissect her previous game and develop a radically different strategy from the ground up. More than anything, I think that shows how talented she actually is as a Survivor castaway. She is capable of playing the game on so many levels, and in so many different kinds of ways. I only wish she’d wanted the money badly enough to really give it her all.