Inside Survivor contributor, Derek Beets continues to look at the different perceptions of female Survivor finalists.
In this multi-part feature, we are looking at the instances in which women have lost against men at the Final Tribal Council and why it happened. In looking at the data, it becomes apparent that people lose Survivor if the jury finds them either UNDESERVING, UNLIKABLE, UNTRUSTWORTHY, or they are UNDERAPPRECIATED because the jury didn’t see all of the moves that they were making. I will be grouping the finalists into the “U” that I think they more accurately represent.
In some ways, it’s impossible to get to the end of a game like Survivor without being a bit untrustworthy along the way. The nature of the game is to be deceitful and dishonest at times. However, sometimes a player’s actions can be so erratic and incongruous that they eliminate other players who feel blindsided and completely taken for a fool. These players reach the end of the game and have to face a jury who feel taken advantage of and misled, and often have no idea what kind of game that person was playing.
Since it was the first season, a lot of the rules weren’t written yet in Survivor: Borneo. Kelly Wiglesworth made it to the end as part of Survivor’s first successful alliance. She wasn’t unlikable to most of the jury because she was able to garner three votes. She wasn’t seen as undeserving because she won four individual immunity challenges on her way to the finals (alleged producer interference notwithstanding). If anything, she was considered to be untrustworthy, and this was primarily due to her betrayal of alliance member Susan Hawk.
The drawback to winning so many immunity challenges, especially the last two, was that Kelly took the heat from the eliminated players because she was immune. She did betray Sue in the final four and chose to bring Richard Hatch to the finals over Rudy Boesch to give her what she felt was a better chance. As mentioned before, Kelly did earn three votes to win but had to endure Sue’s famous “Rats & Snakes” speech along the way. Whether or not Sue’s speech swayed some of the other jurors away from Kelly and to Richard is unclear, but it proved that if anything, Kelly fit more into the untrustworthy category than she did in any other.
To her credit, Dawn Meehan played an excellent game in Survivor: Caramoan. She made big moves in tandem with John Cochran, but in the end, the title of Sole Survivor was rewarded to Cochran and Dawn was shut out entirely. Again, the double standard comes into play here. How can two people who played such a similar game, have such a disparity between them in votes? The jury expected Cochran to play the way that he did. They had seen him play deviously in his first season.
However, someone like Dawn, a sweet, Mormon mom, was not supposed to play deviously. It was something that they weren’t expecting, and when she had a hand in voting them out, they reacted angrily. Brenda Lowe’s request to have Dawn remove her teeth is still one of the most uncomfortable final tribal council moments ever. Dawn was seen as untrustworthy primarily because her gameplay did not match her personality and the perceptions that the other players had of her coming into the game. Again, people were more forgiving of a man than they were of a woman playing a cut-throat game.
Monica Culpepper is similar to Dawn in that they are both mothers over forty. What’s different is that Monica didn’t dominate the game in Survivor: Blood vs. Water like Dawn did in Caramoan. The elimination of her husband Brad pre-merge was part of the reason for Monica’s success. Without Brad, the target on Monica’s back wasn’t as large and allowed her to navigate to the end of the game.
Another part of Monica’s success came from the fact that she always seemed to be the swing vote. The primary reason that Monica was seen as untrustworthy by the jury on her season was that (as the swing vote) she had many opportunities to change the direction of the game. On several occasions she told the opposing alliance that she would work with them, only to stay true to her alliance and vote them out. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me two or three times, and then you didn’t intend on doing anything differently. In the end, Tyson Apostol was rewarded for his more overt and strategic gameplay and Monica lost because some of the jurors had put their trust in her (sometimes more than once) only to be betrayed.
In Part 4 we will look at the final category, Underappreciated, as well as some unique cases.