Pretend To Be Nice/Play the Social Game (and Keep Your Politics and Controversial Beliefs To Yourself)
As you’re making alliances, you have to pretend to be nice and play the social game. Players should follow this rule over the course of the entire game, but the most important times are right at the beginning (when everybody is just looking for a reason to vote somebody out and/or a reason to bond with someone as discussed in Rule 1) and nearer to the end (when you’re going to be looking for votes to win).
In general, people aren’t going to ally themselves with you if they think you’re a jerk or you’re untrustworthy. Or, maybe worse, you’ll make it to the end and then the jury will tell you to screw off.
To the contrary, in Tocantins, J.T. was so nice that people didn’t mind that he had stabbed them in the back, so there can be a lot to be said for simply putting on the nice face. The flip side of J.T. was Russell in Samoa, who tried to take credit for playing a great game but had so pissed off the jury with his attitude and ego that they decided to vote for anybody but him.
Another place to look for an example of what not to do was Jean-Robert in China. He went in the reverse direction, pretending to be a jerk! He justified this by saying he would behave better as the game went along, thus earning points in the others’ eyes for changing for the better. So many problems with this idea! He could have easily been voted out too early for the plan to work. And even though he was able to make it past that point, first impressions can be held onto for quite a while, and many of his cohorts continued to think of him as a jerk – and probably still do today. Bad idea, don’t do it.
As noted above in regards to Russell, even if you do somehow get down to the final two or three without pretending to be nice, if the jury thinks you’re too much of an ass, you still don’t get the big money (such as would have happened with Keith, had Colby used his brain – and as did happen with Clay against Brian, with Boston Rob against Amber, with Twila against Chris, with Dreamz against Earl, and so on, and so on. Heck, I’d say Missy lost second-place money for this reason in San Juan Del Sur, thanks to Reed.
To use our illustrious leader as an example once again, I have to say that Rob Cesternino was one person who really showed how this should be done. When others were pissed off at Roger, he sucked kneecaps and did whatever he was told. He pretended to be nice but worked behind the scenes to eliminate Roger. The same is true of how he dealt with Dave. For all the times we heard Rob talk about Dave, it was all in private. Until he saw the show, Dave really never knew about it!
That continued in how Rob dealt with Jenna, Heidi, and Alex. For a while at least, they were convinced he was a friend for life. But he never let it color his vision of the game. Rob tossed Alex, withstood a vicious verbal attack from Jenna and Heidi about how he didn’t treat people well, and then voted along with them when he needed to after that – while calling them both half-wits in his speech voting off Heidi. Rob’s private moments were the most revealing, but his skill in dealing with people was shown when he was in public with them.
Chris did something similar on Vanuatu, convincing Julie that they had practically a brother-sister relationship – she didn’t understand his true nature until the show aired and she saw what he was doing and saying behind her back.
Natalie in San Juan del Sur was also similar. She was seething with anger at Jon for voting out Jeremy, but she pretended to be friendly, even inviting him and Jaclyn on a reward for pasta in bed. We knew her true feelings but she kept them to confessionals, so he never had a clue.
Meanwhile, a perfect example of how not to follow this rule was Jonathan in Cook Islands. He said what was on his mind a bit too much and came across as too in-your-face for some of the people there. When he was gone on Exile Island, his supposed allies realized that camp was a calmer place when he wasn’t around.
Rocky, in Fiji, followed in Jonathan’s path, though he was even worse. He began fighting with Dreamz from the get-go, before the tribes even split up. He ranted, he raved, he picked on people. He managed to get through his original tribe, but after the switch, he wasn’t so lucky. He had already annoyed his tribemates with the way he treated Anthony, and then his big mouth started on all of them when they overate at a reward challenge. His failure in this rule was a big part of the reason he was voted out.
And Samoa’s Ben made Rocky look calm and easygoing by comparison, what with his apparently racist remarks and the way he treated some of his other tribemates, the others on his tribe just wanted him gone!
Watching your step applies to politics and other controversial beliefs as well. I can’t think of any recent specific examples of this, but in earlier seasons, we saw Frank in Africa starting a discussion blasting gun control and the liberal media, and Peter in Marquesas speechifying about yoga that made others think he was a fruit loop.
On the flip side, Brian in Guatemala was a non-religious guy stuck in a tribe with a bunch of rather Christian people. But did he object to their prayers before meals? Did he say, “Hey, leave me out of this!”? Absolutely not – he knew to keep his mouth shut and go along with whatever they were doing. On top of that, he managed to goad Blake into saying all sorts of things he shouldn’t, turning Blake into a target.