Survivor: Heroes v Healers v Hustlers

Historical Perspectives: Don’t Let The Pagong Ring On You

Andy Pfeiffer travels back into Survivor history to look at how to avoid being a victim of a Pagonging.

When you are in the minority at a Survivor merge, you need to heed the immortal words of Queen Sandra and take to heart the concept of “as long as it ain’t me.” You also have to remember that this applies to more than just the current round – the next one is equally important. The entire way to avoid a Pagonging – which is defined when the majority alliance or tribe sequentially votes out each member of the other – is to set yourself up in a position where the majority wants your vote when it turns on itself. By fostering distrust, a player will only ensure they’re the next to go.

Today’s entry of Historical Perspectives will examine Dr. Mike’s gameplay and what he could have done to better his situation going forward to avert the Round Table alliance from Pagonging the Healers.


The Queen herself recognized that if Courtney Yates were to go in 12th in Heroes vs. Villains that her reign would end at 11th, so to protect both herself and her closest ally, she lied to Russell Hantz that Coach wanted to vote him out, setting up Coach for a fall. Being an egomaniac who hates anyone who dare challenge him, Russell gathered the troops and blindsided Coach, which also helped further the fake girls’ alliance plan and earned him a free idol from an idiot. Sorry J.T., but there’s no defending that move. It would make more sense if it was someone he knew, like Tyson.

The two Survivor winners that expertly avoided being picked off after the rest of their foursomes at the merge were Chris Daugherty of Vanuatu and Danni Boatwright of Guatemala. Both of them were the last on the hit list of a Pagonging (barring Danni getting lucky that Nakum had to purge a lunatic before Gary) and they were forced to use strategic chops that allowed them to rely on the majority alliance’s stupidity to destroy itself.

After losing Rory, Sarge, and Chad, Chris was left alone with six women who were finally ready to shut Eliza’s productive mouth out of the game. Chris was happy that the alliance was finally granting the last man standing a reprieve. Chris was not happy that the target was Eliza… because Eliza was useful. He decided to take a shot at the Queen Bee, one Ami Cusack, and vote out Ami’s closest ally Leann because Ami was too immune to be targeted, and used Eliza’s vote to do so. Chris made a final three deal with Scout and Twila, a rare thing the pathological liar would honor, and the four of them pulled a massive blindside. This allowed Chris to take control of the game instead of being the next to go, a fate he would not have escaped had he simply allowed Eliza to walk.

Danni Boatwright got lucky. Many times. However, she made the most of each blessing she got. Gary Hawkins pulled out the mostly useless Immunity Idol from that season to grant him protection, forcing the Nakum majority to choose between her and Bobby Jon. They chose Bobby Jon because he was a bigger threat. They proceeded to vote out psychopath Jamie from their own alliance after his instability was making them nervous, causing fear of both strategic leaking and being run at by a madman with a machete. After Gary was voted out next, the Nakum group was afflicted by a case of chronic stupidity, of which Danni took full advantage. At the auction, she bought the challenge advantage for cheap, unchallenged, which allowed her to win immunity, much to Stephenie’s frustration. Finding someone new to bully, Stephenie started voting out jury goats in Judd and Cindy – which Danni instigated. By saying fishmonger Lydia was popular with the jury, and by winning the final immunity, Danni made the finals and won handily. It helped that she took a bully with her, as juries never like bullies.

Then there’s the idea of changing somebody else’s vote at Tribal. Before Malcolm made the concept of a Live Tribal a legitimate strategy, votes almost never changed at Tribal Council. The most blatant example before then is Russell coercing Jerri Manthey into voting out Danielle in Heroes vs. Villains, but that was only one person’s vote, not pandemonium with multiple people considering shifting their votes at random. Vote changes at Tribal might have happened a few times in Borneo, but that was Borneo, and nothing can be compared to the one season where nobody knew what they were getting into.


Like Chris and Danni, anyone in the minority needs to practice that any other members of their alliance need to go first, to allow them to ninja their way to the end. Dr. Mike knew this far better than Cole or Joe, which is why he decided to start selling the two of them out. This failed, however, so he changed tactics quickly and decided to attract more votes to himself by spewing nonsense at Tribal, hoping that would get someone to change their vote. He forgot that while there were still three Healers in the game, that wasn’t going to happen – Chris was the last original Lopevi standing, while two of Yaxha had been voted out when Nakum decided to blindside Jamie.

The edit was not kind to Dr. Mike, as it did not show what he actually pulled at Tribal. According to Cole, after attempting the Statue of Liberty play, Mike tried to pull a Malcolm and pulled out two idols, giving one to Joe and putting one around his neck. Of course, the one he gave to Joe was a phony, designed to scare people (quick aside: after dissecting Tribal a little, I found evidence to corroborate, which Cole tweeted out). Why this wasn’t shown, and an incomprehensible strategy was, is difficult to discern.

The one thing that’s still baffling is why Dr. Mike and Joe voted for Cole, but Mike played his idol anyway. If Cole was one of the targets of the split, which he obviously would be as he was known not to have an idol and was an immunity threat like Desi the week prior, those two votes would seal his fate. Mike could have flashed his idol and then played it at the next Tribal, the same way another guy named Mike did.

The Pagonging that season, in Worlds Apart, saw the dominant alliance take out all four of the No Collar group (including Shirin but not the unmentionable) unceremoniously after that group had used their idol to get out the one person tying the Blue and White Collars together. Losing Kelly Remington only united that alliance further, and Hali, Joe, Jenn, and Shirin were sequentially sent to the jury. Mike Holloway started to become a target during that time, but he kept winning immunity. Mike successfully used his idol to set up the one person remaining who had beaten him in an immunity challenge at that time and get Tyler to change his vote to someone who wouldn’t be happy about it. Dan Foley was indeed angry, and Tyler was gone next by way of Mike’s idol.

Since our sex doctor friend did something similar and threatened to play his idol, albeit on himself seeing as he doesn’t have the luxury of going on an insane immunity run, he should not have played it. It’s an intimidation tactic to get people like Tyler to change their votes. However, Dr. Mike could have waited until there were only two people left on his side like Mike Holloway had. Shirin was his only ally left, and he had one idol and one necklace, so he had enough immunity to cover his crew. The sex doctor did not. It would have been best for him to let Cole walk since he didn’t have enough immunity, real or fake, to cover three people, and if he showcased three idols, nobody would buy it. At that next Tribal, he could have gotten people to panic if he’d accompanied it with a bold statement like “to the people I talked to earlier, the plan hasn’t changed. We are still voting for Ben.” Hysteria would ensue.

There’s also the risky move of playing the idol on a friend. Had Dr. Mike played his idol on Cole instead, Ben would have been sent packing (since Mike and Joe would have voted for Ben with Cole) and whoever flipped their vote, which was also never shown, would have been compared to the classic of Tyson blindsiding himself. If it didn’t work and Dr. Mike was voted out, he’d look like an idiot for idoling himself out of the game, something that’s only happened on Australian Survivor. Dr. Mike is the type of superfan who would have watched that, so he would be privy to it, but most fans would think of the legendary moment of Russell giving Parvati his idol, Malcolm telling Reynold to “hold up, bro” and at the next Tribal giving Eddie his spare idol, and Jeremy playing one to save Fishbach, among others.


The very first time someone flaunted their idol at Tribal was when Sugar Kiper came in wearing hers in Gabon – when it oddly expired at the Final 6 – but she had nothing to lose since that was her last chance to play it. Russell replicated this strategy in Samoa, though unlike Sugar passing it off to Matty, he arrogantly kept it for himself as a souvenir. Neither idol was necessary to play, but while it was okay for Sugar to do that since everyone figured she had the idol, Russell made yet another mistake in advertising his ego to the world – the ego that ultimately allowed Natalie White to take him down.

Beating a dead horse, Malcolm’s two-idol stunt in Caramoan worked to get out the Specialist but ultimately made Stealth-R-Us want to get rid of Malcolm even more because they knew what he was capable of. While it granted Malcolm three more days – and he had no idea he didn’t need his idol, because it was hard to spot Erik’s trolling – it didn’t let him have any more than that without constant idol retrieval while Andrea was watching him. Malcolm’s stunt in Philippines which got the Brazilian Dragon to reveal her idol, too, was far better for him since it put the target on her first.

There’s also yet another redundant comparison to the classic Tribal in Fiji where Dreamz sold the other Horsemen out and got Stacy Kimball to change the target. Playing the idol on the wrong person (they’d agreed to share the idol since they needed each other to find it) cost the Horsemen and they were Pagonged right after, with nobody even wanting to use their votes because Alex and Mookie were physical threats they didn’t want around. Like them, Dr. Mike played his idol on the wrong person and has ensured that the two biggest strategic threats from the Healers are left in the game. Both have “schemer” reputations, and their competition isn’t going to want to keep them both around. Though it’s doubtful the Pagonging will continue since this group is aching to get rid of the many other threats still in the game, since every single person that made the merge this season was a “threat” of some kind. The only waste of space so happens to be a physical powerhouse, so he’s a threat, too.

In Redemption Island and South Pacific, two seasons notorious for their Pagongings, targets were picked… uh, never mind, nobody wants to hear about those. The point is, Dr. Mike made himself the driving strategic force the way David Murphy and Jim Rice did, which is why they were both voted out. Dr. Mike is comparable to these two in that they showed their brains – or had someone rat them out – and that left the dominant alliance running scared. Dr. Mike did not have that perception yet to the extent that was shown; sure, he was a doctor, but they didn’t know what he was strategically capable of doing.



By attempting the Statue of Liberty play and failing, Dr. Mike has ensured he will not be able to pull off what Chris Daugherty and Danni Boatwright did all those years ago. He made himself a major target that will probably leave before Joe does, much like stronger challengers Sarge and Chad in Vanuatu and three intimidating men, including a former NFL QB turned landscaper and someone clearly about to go bonkers, in Guatemala.

Dr. Mike made several miscues, and a confounding edit makes it hard to discern what the hell even happened there. But everything that’s come into focus paints him as someone who made a lot of mistakes if he wanted to avoid being in line for execution. He’s wasted his idol after the defense spotted the fake. He didn’t need to do an elaborate trick play on that down; all he needed to do was sacrifice Cole first, then follow it up in a place where he could cause panic. It may have become apparent that Dr. Mike has usurped Joe’s position as the “Chief Healer strategist” and he may find himself getting put on probation first.

Written by

Andy Pfeiffer

Andy is a 30-year-old from Wisconsin, having an English major from UW-Whitewater. He has watched Survivor from the very first episode and can't go a day without running Survivor-related thoughts in his head. When he's not entranced by a computer at home or work, he's probably playing a video game or out and about somewhere. You can follow him on Twitter @IAmAndyPfeiffer.

6 responses to “Historical Perspectives: Don’t Let The Pagong Ring On You”

  1. Frankly, this column may be the best thing on the site, and that’s saying something. I think any Survivor fan would enjoy reading it every week. Hope you guys are pushing it on social media.

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