Don’t Be Too Much of a Threat
Time and time again we’ve seen people do what they should have been doing, only to be voted off anyway. Why? Because they became threats to the others. Indeed, I believe we’ve seen a lot more of this in recent years, as people think ahead more and more, and therefore plan to take out threatening targets before they used to worry about it. One by one we see people showing that they’re making moves and getting voted out right away, often as a series of dominoes. Mike White even referenced this very point in the second of his three Emmy award acceptance speeches in 2022, hoping that he wouldn’t get voted out because of his awards!
One of the first I remember was Hunter in Marquesas. He was a hard-working and likeable guy in a tribe full of lazies. That meant he had to go. Moving forward a little, that Cesternino guy had another great quote in this regard when talking about Dave as a threat. He told me, “He’s smart, funny, and a very charismatic leader. It’s a weird game where people’s good qualities can actually hurt their chances. If he was a weirdo who was annoying I would have wanted to keep him around until the end.”
Of course, we all know Rob found himself on the bad end of this very stick on All-Stars, where it seemed the world turned upside-down and many contestants who had played well previously were targeted early because they were known threats. That tradition has continued through most all-star seasons, especially Game Changers.
It happens all the time with players who are good in challenges. You just don’t want to take them to the end, when they might win final immunity and ruin all your plans. They are the most obvious threats. Such a person is great to have around early in the game, when you are playing as a team. Once it gets to individual challenges, though, you don’t want somebody else winning rewards and immunity. Eventually, even the best challenge-winner is likely to miss a step and fail to get immunity, and that is when people might step in and vote that person out.
Another way to be a threat is somewhat opposite of the earlier paragraphs – if you are so untrustworthy that people don’t know which way you will vote, you may be perceived as a threat to them sticking around. I’ve already talked about Christy in The Amazon, Dolly in Vanuatu, and Odette in Australian Survivor, all of whom were threats to both alliances because they wouldn’t say which way they were voting.
A different type of threat relates to knowledge and understanding of the game. Or at least it used to. For example, if you have been studying reality TV strategy and have watched every edition of this show to see who did what right and wrong, the last thing you wanted to do until recently was let people know that. Kelley Wentworth got tarred with this brush in San Juan Del Sur. Others saw her as a gamer and a threat. So until very recently, my advice was that if you have studied the game, never let on to how much you know. Recently, though, the players being cast have featured many who know the game and have watched many – or all – of the seasons. So it may not be a big deal. But I would still advise players to keep that information close to the vest until you can figure out where everybody stands. And of course, even if others around you do seem to be similarly experienced in watching the show, you still don’t necessarily want to make it clear you’re an expert about the ins and outs of strategic game play.
As a whole, this rule is especially important as you near the endgame. If you are so well-liked or respected for game play that nobody would want to face you in the final three, you probably won’t make it that far, barring a series of immunity challenge wins. How many times have we seen that happen? I’ve lost count.
It’s become increasingly important to have the right amount of shields around you, whether meat shields or brain shields. But it’s always a balancing act to figure out when those shields have to go. Too soon and you may follow them right out the door. Too late and you may come in second to them. One interesting thing to consider is what types of shields you need. Shaun, a rather huge and strong guy in Australian Survivor, realized during his second time playing that he didn’t need other meat shields around because they wouldn’t really help him, he needed to keep around a strategic shield instead.
One way to address this is to downplay yourself to those you want to face at the end, without appearing weak to the jury. For example, two-time winner Sandra continued her strategy of appearing weak right up to the end. Indeed, like Natalie White the season before her, Sandra played up her weaknesses to Russell so he wouldn’t feel threatened by taking her to the final jury. She agreed when he kept saying there was no way she would get even a single vote. She wisely nodded her head along with his proclamations and then privately told us she wasn’t so sure he was right! Indeed, he wasn’t!