Each week in Lessons in Survivor History, I will revisit another season to compare gameplay and draw from the lessons that have been learned.
Lessons in Survivor History: Just Take the Shot
I never look forward to the double boot episodes, but that was one of the best. These episodes always feel a bit rushed, as we go through two challenges, two tribal councils, and very little else- and this was no different. But as far as the results go, it was good to yada-yada through the Will and Sunday boots, two people who seem to be quite competent players, but hadn’t added a lot of value to the season. If this was the episode that we lost David and Jay, I would have been hugely disappointed.
In all honesty, it should have been the episode that we lost David and Jay. It is so rare for a season to go into the finale with so many players left that could legitimately win the game. The final six consists of five people who are fans of the game, and know how it is played- as well as Ken, who despite not knowing the game as well as the others, has been playing reasonably well. Yes, he had the moment where he ‘tested’ Will’s loyalty, blowing up Will’s game and nearly ruining Hannah and David’s game in the process. But other than that, his game has been low key, not making any strategic waves, but keeping his social bonds strong. And that is a winning strategy. We don’t have any obvious goats around now. I think that Hannah is actually the biggest goat at the moment, and she’s proven in her confessionals that she can be articulate and could possibly successfully argue her case in front of a jury. Although she’s a long shot, she can’t be completely counted out.
The editing has largely been quite even too. There have been so many recent seasons where there was a clear frontrunner in terms of the edit. Cochran was obviously winning Survivor: Caramoan. Tyson Apostol was the frontrunner in Survivor: Blood vs Water. Mike Holloway was the only legitimate candidate to win Survivor: Worlds Apart. We’ve had winner-like quotes from nearly everyone left. We’ve had both Adam and Jay have confessionals where they have spoken about their motivations for winning. Hannah and David have both had confessionals about setting themselves up for the win. Even Ken has spoken about how it is relationships that win the game of Survivor. I’m going into this finale without a clear idea of who is winning this– and that is my favourite thing about this season.
But while I love the evenness of the season, it is a bit of a double edged sword. The reason that we still have so many legitimate threats to win left in the game is that we have seen some really bad gameplay. David should not have lasted this long– he has been unprotected Tribal Council after Tribal Council, and yet he has remained safe. Jay should have been voted out when Chris went home, but he didn’t receive a single vote. He remained in the game, and he got to keep possession of the immunity idol. The reason that Jay and David are still in the game is because instead of voting them out, the other players are targeting players like Will or Sunday, players who had very little chance of winning the game.
They all know that David and Jay are threats to win. What we haven’t seen is whether anyone is afraid of Adam, Hannah, Bret or Ken winning. But they have spoken of David and Jay as threats, and yet they continue to leave them in the game. What they should realise is that we are so, so close to the end of the game now. It’s all well and good to be able to recognise threats, but what is the good of knowing that someone is a threat if you are not willing to eliminate them? Time is running out, and there are still so many good players left in the game. When you get a chance to eliminate someone who is a threat, you should take it. Particularly when we are so late in the game. Three more eliminations left. Three more immunity challenges. How many more shots are they going to get to take out Jay? With the numbers getting smaller, and David having inspired so much loyalty in his allies, how many more shots will they get to take David out? I think that not taking the shots earlier will turn out to be a fatal mistake in the game for Adam and Hannah. For this reason, for this week’s lesson in Survivor history, we are going back to season nine, Survivor: Vanuatu, and sixth place finisher Ami Cusack.
Survivor: Vanuatu began as a battle of the sexes, and Ami was on the women’s tribe, Yasur. A strong physical and social player, Ami quickly formed bonds with her tribemates, and joined the majority alliance. She was an outspoken person, and soon took a leadership role within the tribe. She had close relationships with all of the women on the tribe, and was a hard worker around camp. In the early stages of the game, Ami was the power player.
When the two tribes swapped, Ami remained on the Yasur tribe, which was now physically by far the weaker tribe. However, Ami was still in a good position, as there were five women on the Yasur tribe, compared to only two men. When they lost immunity, Ami spearheaded the move to get out one of the men. When Yasur again lost immunity at the next challenge, Ami made a power move. Instead of voting out Rory Freeman, the lone man on the tribe, Ami moved against Lisa Keiffer. Her reasoning behind this was that Lisa asked Ami where the food supply was– “just in case”. Ami saw this as a threat (despite the fact that Lisa was loyal to Ami), and voted Lisa out of the game.
When the two tribes merged, Rory was quick to target Ami. He told all of the males in the game that it was Ami who was in control, and the male alliance voted against Ami. However, there were only four men left in the game at this point and six women. Ami was able to gather the women together, and they voted out Rory. The women took control of the game, voting out Chad Crittenden and Lea ‘Sarge’ Masters at the next two votes. At final seven, there were six women, and one man– the one man who would go on to win the season, Chris Daugherty. Ami won individual immunity, and Chris should have been targeted next. However, Ami made a very Adam/Hannah-like mistake, and did not target Chris, choosing instead to vote for Eliza Orlins. It was this move that cost her the game.
Who can you beat?
Ami had supreme confidence in her ability to control the game. She believed that she had absolute control over every member of her alliance, and that she could choose who would be going home next. What she didn’t notice was that not everybody was happy to sit back and let her take control. Two of the women in particular– Twila Tanner and Scout Lee– wanted to take some of the control away from Ami, and Ami targeting Eliza was the excuse that they needed to wrestle control away from her. Ami’s arrogance meant that she didn’t see Twila and Scout’s move coming. She thought she had their absolute loyalty. Instead, Twila and Scout joined with Eliza and Chris, and voted out Ami’s closest ally, Leann Slaby. This meant that in one move, Ami went from being the most powerful player in the game, to being the weakest. It was a move that she was never able to recover from, and despite her best efforts to get Eliza to flip back over to her side, Ami was eliminated at the next vote.
Ami’s plan was to eliminate Eliza, who would later become something of an underdog. At the final seven, however, Eliza was what Hannah would call ‘an enticing goat’. She was someone that Ami should have been looking to sit next to at the Final Tribal Council. She was viewed by many as lazy and irritating and hadn’t made any strategic moves. Chris, on the other hand, had a jury that was made up entirely of his friends. Everyone on the jury wanted to see Chris win the game. Eliza was a tiny woman who hadn’t won any challenges and had actually been a liability in the tribal stage of the game. Chris was the lone man standing, who, although not necessarily the challenge beast that Jay is, would obviously be a favourite to win any strength-based challenges. Ami had the chance to take a shot at Chris, and instead, she took aim at Eliza, someone who was no threat to her whatsoever.
And this week, we have Adam and Hannah do exactly the same thing. The stage was set for David to go home. He was completely unprotected and is a clear threat to win. He has won individual immunity before, but went to both Tribal Councils this week without any protection at all– no immunity necklaces, no idols– yet he managed to get through unscathed. Instead of taking a shot at David, who is a threat to both Adam and Hannah and can probably beat both of them at the end, they made the mind-boggling decision to target Will and Sunday instead.
Will was mentioned by Bret as a threat to win the game– yet Bret also referred to him mockingly as a high school kid trying to get his homework done. Perhaps Will was a genuine threat, but was he a threat on the same level as David? Or Jay? Or even Adam himself? His secret scenes tell us that he wanted to play the game with Hannah. And he wanted to be the one flip flopping from alliance to alliance, eliminating all the threats. If I’m Hannah, this sounds great. It’s an easy way to get to the end and be sitting next to someone who seems to be perceived as a spoilt child who has made every member of the jury furious.
But this one wasn’t Hannah’s call- it was Adam who made the decision to target Will instead of David, and it made no sense at all, even when he explained it. He said “The question is: Blindside Will and take out someone who I do believe is loyal to me at this point, or try to blindside Dave and take out potentially the biggest threat in this game.” Will is loyal. David is a threat. David is unprotected at Tribal Council. Adam has the votes to get David out of the game, but Adam targets Will. His line about not wanting his game in Will’s hands was quite telling– David is a threat, but at least he is a known quantity. Will’s unpredictability made Adam target him. I honestly think that Hannah could beat Will in a Final Tribal Council. Obviously, that option is no longer open for her.
And in the second Tribal Council of the night, it was Adam who was thinking clearly, and trying to flush Jay’s idol, and get David out of the game. Hannah was the one making inexplicable decisions! Adam had everything lined up so that Jay’s idol would be taken out of the game and David would go home, and then Hannah decided that Sunday should go home. The reason that Hannah gave for targeting Sunday was that “Sunday’s extremely dangerous because she’s sort of made herself into a tempting goat.”
Last week, I had to give Will credit for knowing his place in the tribe. I can’t give Hannah that same credit- in one episode, she eliminated the two people that she had the best chance of beating. I still think that she is a slim chance if she is there with Bret and Ken, but she has to be a long shot to take the million. Yes, Sunday was a tempting goat. So use her! Trust me Hannah, she wanted to be used just as much as you did. What was frustrating was Hannah’s confessional, where she said “I’m very scared that someone who worked less hard will get a spot that I worked really hard for.” There isn’t much in this game that frustrates me more than when the players start talking about who is ‘deserving’ of the win. Sunday deserved to win just as much as Hannah did- perhaps more, because Sunday has been playing from the bottom the entire game. If Hannah thinks that she has played a game that will garner the respect of the jury, then I’d say she is in for an unpleasant surprise.
Sentimentality is not good strategy
A big part of Ami’s decision not to target Chris at the final seven was the family visit. Chris’ fiancée Laurie came out to see him, and the loved ones participated in the immunity challenge. When Ami won, Chris hugged Laurie, telling her that he was the one that was going home and that it was all over. It was an emotional moment, and it affected the women. When they returned to camp, Leann didn’t want to vote Chris out anymore– it didn’t feel right. She wanted Eliza gone because Eliza didn’t ‘deserve’ to be there. Ami was the Adam in this spot– she clearly said that she wanted Chris gone. But she let Leann have her way and targeted Eliza despite her better judgement. Leann allowed her emotions to get in the way of good strategy, and Ami went along with it.
Hannah’s decision to go after Sunday was absolutely a sentimental one. Hannah’s biggest problem with Adam’s plan was that getting rid of the threats meant losing David– and she has an emotional connection to David that she isn’t ready to lose. She said “if Jay plays his idol, and David goes home, I lose David, who I freaking love.” Instead of thinking strategically about who she can beat, Hannah was thinking sentimentally about who she wanted to be friends with. She was thinking, just like Leann was, about who ‘deserved’ to be in the game. And that is no way to play Survivor. And although Hannah definitely gets most of the blame for voting Sunday, Adam went along with it. Just like Ami let Leann have her way, and it was to her detriment, Adam just allowed Hannah to vote out someone that was no threat to their games at all.
You might never get another shot
Once Ami agreed to target Eliza, that was the end of her game. It gave Twila and Scout the impetus to align with Eliza and vote against Leann. Without Leann, Ami had no more power in the game. She never got another chance to take a shot at Chris. She had her moment, missed it, and probably regretted it afterwards. I think that Adam is going to end up in a similar situation– he had his moment to disarm the two biggest threats in the game. He got rid of Jay’s idol, but now it is going to take him at least two Tribal Councils to get rid of the two people that can beat him. And that is assuming that the remaining immunity challenges go his way. It’s not entirely improbable that Jay can win the remaining immunity challenges, and Jay is the one person that nobody should want to sit next to at the end. If Jay is at Final Tribal Council, then Jay wins, and it isn’t even close.
One thing that Adam has done well is build relationships. Ami’s game came to an end because Scout and Twila saw her as cocky. They didn’t want to keep working with her. Jay sees Adam as a ‘warrior’. Even though both Jay and David are threats to Adam’s game, at least neither of them are actively working against him. And right now, Hannah is probably in everybody’s dream final three. She’ll make it to the end, but she’s going to struggle to get votes. Adam hasn’t blown his chance of making it to the end of the game, but he has made it harder for himself to win.
Both Adam and Hannah, who have everyone in the game wanting to work with them, could have gotten David out of the game with no consequences for themselves. I can understand that Hannah was worried that Adam’s ideal final three was himself, Bret and Sunday with no room for her. But as a fan, she should be able to see that with David and Jay gone, the next biggest threat is Adam. Nobody is coming for Hannah. She and Adam had been working together since the beginning of the game. I think Adam knows that he beats Hannah if they are at the end together, and so he would have remained loyal to her. It was a paranoid move by Hannah, born out of a sentimental desire to protect David–not exactly the type of power move she hoped it would be.
And so we head into the finale with so many contenders left in the game, a legacy advantage still to be played out, and a jury that has so many real fans of the game, ready to hopefully give us an entertaining Final Tribal Council. My pre-season prediction was that Sunday would be dragged to the end as a goat (I was oh so close on that one!) and that Will would be the winner. I still think a Millennial male will take the game–and between Adam and Jay, I think that Adam has the better chance of making it to the end. However, after watching the way that Jay has been playing from the bottom, never giving up, and seemingly enjoying himself the whole way, I am wholeheartedly team Jay this week. He’s a strong competitor, and I think he can use his physicality to get to the end, where he will win decisively–the perfect end to such an entertaining season.
For more blogs this season: RHAP Survivor Blog Schedule.