Lack of social awareness leads to an epic downfall on another stellar episode of Survivor: Kaôh Rōng.
When Russell Hantz made it to the final tribal council, twice, he thought the jurors would reward him for his aggressive strategic gameplay. To his dismay, both the juries in Samoa and Heroes vs. Villains denied him the title and the money. For all of his idols and lies, Russell forgot about the key component of the game – the people. He failed to take the other player’s emotions into account. He treated people like obstacles in his way rather than human beings with thoughts and feelings. “Survivor is always about emotional intelligence,” Jeff Probst said at the end of this week’s episode of Survivor: Kaôh Rōng, “…your ability to pick up on social cues. That’s what gets you to the end.” It might be the truest statement Probst has ever made.
Survivor mathlete Liz Markham and President Obama stunt double Peter Baggenstos are just the latest in a long line of Survivor players to lack social awareness. It makes you wonder whether there is something about the game itself that causes certain people to lose all self-perception or whether Survivor casting just attracts these people to the show. Liz and Peter made the classic mistake of treating their fellow players as chess pieces, or in Peter’s case, pieces of clay that he could mold, rather than live, breathing humans that could feel emotions such as say, sadness, and anger.
Despite their self-described good looks and great smiles, that wasn’t enough to convince four other adults into doing their bidding. Especially when one of those adults is the enigma that is Debbie Wanner. Debbie has been a revelation, both as a character and a player. For all of her goofiness, there is a shrewd strategist lurking beneath. It’s unlikely that her cat-lady craziness is an intentional distraction, but it almost doesn’t matter because it’s acting as one whether she intends it to or not. She was quick to pick up on how Liz and Peter were hoping to use her. She nodded along with Liz’s patronizing plans and formed her own plans by aligning with Joe Del Campo, Neal Gottlieb, and Aubry Bracco – who had also become frustrated with Peter’s arrogance and controlling attitude.
At tribal council, Peter took a page out of the Jennifer Lanzetti playbook and completely unravelled, revealing the supposed hierarchy of the tribe, dictating the vote, and making fun of Neal’s ice cream pants. Maybe it’s something in the unboiled water this season. Peter’s Drew Christy tribute act, unfortunately, did more damage to his partner Liz than it did to himself. Liz’s connection to Peter made her the perfect target for a tribe that wanted to send a message but still keep the strongest group for challenges. The tribal council that Liz described as a “blessing in disguise” became a nightmare in reality when was sent packing.
On the other side of the island, emotional intelligence has been vital in the happiness and success of the Beauty tribe. Watching Tai Trang, the vegetarian gardener who loves all living creatures, have to help kill a chicken for the tribe’s consumption was a sad moment. But Tai’s sadness was recognised by his tribe, who comforted him, and empathised with him. Except for Nick Maiorano, who had much more in common with Liz and Peter. Nick said that you don’t need emotions in this game, you just have to pretend like you have emotions. However, Anna Khait saw through the pretence, describing him as fake and uncomfortable. It was a further demonstration of the need for emotional intelligence on Survivor. Otherwise, you end up on the outs like Nick.
There wasn’t much emotional intelligence on the Brawn tribe, or any intelligence at all judging by the chaotic idol search. The tribe continued to treat Alecia Holden like a spare part rather than an actual person and member of the group. The episode consistently reminded us that taking into account the emotions of others was important, so it certainly wasn’t a good look for team Brawn. However, they did get a win on the board and avoided tribal council (and a potential Ulong-ing/Matsing-ing) for the first time this season.
In a season that has started so delightfully unpredictable, it seems that those who are best able to control their emotions and the emotions of others will have the most success in this game.