There is always that time when you have to blindside multiple people, leaving somebody out of the vote because you don’t need their number and don’t feel they’re trustworthy enough to include. Like Ryan neglecting to inform Ali of the Roark vote, many a Survivor player, both good and bad, has taken solace in a majority and left someone they previously voted with irate. The fallout often occurs immediately back at camp, and sometimes the relationship is repairable – sometimes it isn’t.
In the case of Ryan and Ali, the relationship was irreparable, and that ultimately led to Ryan making the correct move in taking out Ali. This week’s entry of Historical Perspectives will examine when a relationship is repairable, and therefore that person can be kept around, or when it isn’t, and you have to take out somebody who is busy sharpening the knife behind your back, ready to get revenge.
SURVIVOR 101: MANAGING RAGE
We can’t all be Natalie Anderson. When she got blindsided by Jon Misch and Missy Griffiths-Payne voting out her closest ally in San Juan Del Sur, future winner Jeremy Collins, she pretended to forgive them back at camp like it was a necessary move. In reality, Natalie had deduced that Jon was the head of the snake, and she started preparing to get rid of him. But Natalie also knew if she acted hastily on that, she’d be at the bottom and would have no chance to claw her way out of a hole. Instead, she waited until two people with no intention of moving forward with her were gone (Wesley Nale and Reed Kelly) until she first attempted the move. In this rare occurrence, Natalie was the one managing the anger as opposed to another player. She did not let her emotions consume her, a trait of most winners of Survivor.
When someone comes back from being blindsided at Tribal, you need to be prepared for their reaction. Jon was not expecting a Twinnie to be so calm, so he was clueless as to her true plans because he did not realize she was that angry. Many players will be visibly upset, and confronting them will only make them more hostile – look at Millennials vs. Gen X and how Adam and Zeke grew more frustrated with Hannah as she tried to defend taking ten minutes in the voting booth to switch her vote to Mari. Look back even further at how Jenna and Heidi eviscerated Rob Cesternino in Amazon for blindsiding Alex – and them in the process. Rob managed the two of them far better than Hannah managed Adam and Zeke. While both betrayed pairs reconciled with their betrayers eventually, Jenna and Heidi were back voting with Rob just three days later. Zeke and Adam were skeptical of Hannah up until the swap.
Rob’s gameplay was revolutionary at the time, making it a recurring thing to blindside people. The next season, Pearl Islands, featured Rupert’s alliance with Christa and Sandra taking out the snake in Trish Dunn, yet it was Rupert who felt blindsided even though the plot to get him out failed. He went storming around like a one-man wrecking ball and nearly choked Jonny Fairplay to death, solely because Jonny had voted for him. Jonny knew Rupert needed to go, but he could not turn Sandra and Christa against him in the next vote (the infamous Outcast vote), so he instead chose to convince them to get rid of Shawn, whom he’d wanted out for days. What Jonny did is basic Survivor: if you get yourself in trouble but you don’t have the numbers, suck kneecaps and bide your time until you have an opportunity. Jonny knew he couldn’t keep Rupert in the game for long, and while it took longer than he wanted, he still got the opportunity and made it with his new alliance at the merge.
When you make a big move on Survivor but keep someone out of the loop, you need to remember that unless they’re Jason Siska, Jon Misch, or Cole Medders, they’re not going to take it lightly. If you don’t think you can calm someone down after leaving them out of the loop, maybe they’re the one you should get rid of – or you should tell them about it, possibly at the last minute, or vote them out next. Anomalies occur, like Hairdresser Lindsey the First in Cagayan, who was so angry about having seen her closest ally Cliff blindsided that she quit the game in a fit of immature rage, feeling that she’d be beating Trish Hegarty to a pulp if she didn’t. Most players, however, aren’t dense enough to quit because they can’t handle the game.
CALMING THEM DOWN
When Natalie Anderson took out Jon Misch, she had to deal with Jon’s future wife Jaclyn back at camp. She did so by making an alliance with her, one that culminated with her playing the idol on Jaclyn to blindside Missy’s daughter Baylor. She then had Missy to deal with, and she made sure Missy wasn’t angry before making sure both women were on board with taking out Keith if he didn’t win immunity. Natalie’s play across that period is what won her the game. She ensured that nobody was too angry at her to vote her out in fourth and since those two jury votes didn’t matter (seeing as there’s no way Baylor wasn’t voting for Mother Dearest and Jon wasn’t voting for his future wife), she had nothing to lose.
However, not everyone has the fortune of such things occurring so late in the game. After betraying the Couples Alliance in Micronesia, Parvati had alienated her two closest allies in James and Amanda, but she couldn’t tell them that she was frying Ozzy the night before because word would get back to him and he would idol her out. She was able to rectify her bond with Amanda over time, but Lividmanda did not easily forgive Parvati’s breach of trust. Parv’s attempt to calm James down was foolhardy in that she outright told him he wasn’t in her long-term plans, which only served to make him want her gone even more. Parvati had the right idea but a downright terrible execution, but it was a lesson learned for a Survivor legend. While she won the game, she never redeemed herself in the eyes of Ozzy nor James, and it took effort to reconcile with Amanda.
Mike Holloway pulled an insane idol stunt in Worlds Apart, threatening to save Shirin and claiming she was voting for Tyler, creating what Probst called “Survivor Russian Roulette.” This was literally a couple of minutes before the vote. To save his skin, Tyler and the first person he could whisper to – a nameless individual whose love for his wife is his one redeeming quality – voted for Dan Foley, who naturally did not take this well. Tyler had to plead his case to Dan after returning from Tribal, saying he had to save himself in his panic because he’d only had a few minutes to digest Mike’s idol and didn’t want his torch snuffed. Dan calmed down, but still didn’t trust Tyler and partook in his alliance’s plan to vote Tyler out next, when Mike played his idol. There wasn’t anything Tyler could have done.
Sometimes a player themselves will calm down. Sure, some of them have severe emotional disorders like Brandon Hantz in Caramoan, but a logical player will do what they can to make up for putting a target on themselves, a la Jonny Fairplay. Brandon was upset after being in the minority after the first Tribal Council but changed his mind about how to retaliate on an hourly basis. Another example of someone unstable is Dreamz, in Fiji, but it was so late in the game when he betrayed the Four Horsemen that when they argued with him, Dreamz only served to make himself an even bigger jury goat. While he tried to calm Alex and Mookie down in hopes they might reward him with jury votes, he ended up partaking in their vote-outs, and they knew he didn’t deserve a million dollars. While they calmed themselves, it didn’t change their mind that Dreamz had committed an unnecessary betrayal.
Someone reasonable like Ali is going to calm down in three days’ time and perhaps still be a viable option going forward. Her mistake was outright telling Chrissy that she didn’t trust Ryan, which made it more apparent that she had not calmed down. That made her an unstable ally moving forward. No matter how reasonable of a person she is in her everyday life, they could not trust her to stick with them the way they could someone who isn’t very strategic like JP. JP is easy to calm down, unlike most players. Usually, when you burn somebody, they’re out for blood, and more often than not, it’s best for you to take their blood first.
VOTING THEM OUT
In Guatemala, Judd felt ostracized on Nakum and thought that he was toward the bottom of his original tribe. When the swap occurred, he was eager to flip, especially on Margaret, whom he felt was too bossy. Oddly, he chose to vote out Brooke first because that was who Stephenie was bullying that day, instead of utilizing his position to say “Nah, man, I’ll only flip if you vote out Margaret, man.” When they returned to camp, Margaret was predictably angry at Judd and lashed out at him. She continued to express her anger, which made it very clear that the tribe couldn’t continue with both Judd and Margaret there. Even though Margaret set up Judd the bomb, there was nothing she could have done to save herself aside from ingratiating herself with Stephenie’s crew. Once Judd had already done that and burned her, Margaret was done since she did not keep her options open. Margaret was booted over Cindy because Cindy was a better social player who better integrated with the new Nakum tribe.
Ryan had to vote Ali out because he hadn’t told her about his plan. Like Judd hated Margaret and thus refused to keep her as a viable option for himself, Ryan refused to keep Ali as an option by not informing her that Roark was his target right before they left for Tribal, the same way Ian from Palau approached Katie to get her to vote for Gregg. If he had done this, he would not have needed to vote Ali out. Like Margaret, Ali drew more attention to herself by refusing to work with the new majority, while JP was chill like Cindy and was a more comfortable option moving forward.
Infamously in South Pacific, Cochran flipped on Savaii at the merge, leading to a thorough evisceration by his original tribemates, namely Whitney Duncan screaming “You disgust me!” in his face. As this was inarguably a bad move for Cochran – he was playing for seventh place – nobody can blame them, but them doing so cemented Cochran’s loyalty to Upolu. Cochran could not calm them down, so he worked with Upolu to instigate a thorough Pagonging of his former tribe. Cochran himself was predictably the Pagonging’s last victim, seeing as he was of no use to Upolu at that point.
This is similar to Ryan in that he didn’t need to burn Ali and that angering her in the first place was a bad move. Her reaction is what forced him to vote her out, and if he had been smart in the first place, he would have had a stronger alliance going forward. As things are now, he could find himself at the bottom of the Hero-Hustler alliance. His only options are Devon and Chrissy. Devon has an opportunity with Ashley and, by association, JP. Chrissy has options with JP/Ashley, two people she could beat against a jury, and her original F2 in Ben. If Ali were present instead of JP, Ryan would be in Chrissy’s seat. Expect the alliance of seven to triumph over at least one Healer before it falls apart (even if one of them is idoled first), with Ryan becoming a likely early target of its self-destruction.
There are many more examples. In Cook Islands, Penner flipped on Rarotonga because of Yul’s intimidation tactics with the Hidden Invulnerability Idol, leading them to hate his guts for the rest of the game and continuously lobby for his vote out. Penner tried to explain why he did it – that Yul had the Super Idol (which Yul confirmed at the auction the following morning) – but they weren’t having it. Similarly, as frequently discussed in this column, Chaos Kass in Cagayan flipped at the merge and incited the ire of her former alliance. Because her reasons for flipping were egotistical, not a single one of them was going to vote for her to win the million, and some of them were going to make her life hell. Even Morgan used what little energy she had to openly and frequently get catty with Kass. There was no way Kass could work with them. She’d burned that bridge already, so she had to partake in voting them out with Tony’s crew. In the instances of Cochran, Penner, and Chaos Kass, all of them made mistakes that cost them the game, though in one case it was mutinying as opposed to flipping right at the merge.
Ryan’s decision to vote out Ali was the correct one, but only because of his own erroneous play with the prior vote. While keeping JP was highly beneficial to Chrissy as he is a shield and blindly loyal player, he does not have the same loyalty to Ryan that Ali would have had Ryan not kept her in the dark. He has that loyalty to Chrissy.
Moving forward to the merge, Ryan will need to be careful. He lost an ally by his own error and had to vote her out. This may make his former Hustler allies leery of him, because if he did that to Ali, who’s to say he won’t do it to Devon or Lauren or even Chrissy? While it was good for him to finish burning the bridge he’d already singed, it would have been best for him to retain his front of trustworthiness moving forward. With Ali gone, that image will disintegrate. Ryan has likely backed himself into a corner, and he may find himself blindsided by his own alliance before the finale rolls around.