Thursday, March 3, 2011

Survivor Redemption Island E3: Break Ups and Pick Up(Artist)s

“A wise man knows much but says little, a fool knows little but says much.” – Unknown (If you know the source of this quote, please let me know.)

“Man it feels so good to play with you amateurs. You give away so much. You don't even know when to keep your mouth shut. Thanks for the memories.” – Rob Mariano

Dear Stephanie,

We have to break up. I took my stuff. I’m so sorry.

I wanted to like you. I really did. Physically, you’re one of the most attractive women to ever play Survivor, and for awhile I thought you had quite a brain in the pretty little head. Allying with Russell was a bold move that had the potential to pay off majorly. Everyone knew he was deceitful and abrasive, so they avoided him. You, however, were trying to use his personality to your advantage. You tried to train your dragon like Parvati, and for awhile I believed in you. Rather, I wanted to believe in you. I created a false conception of you in my head based upon what I wanted you to be. The editing plays funny tricks on a guy like that.

Unfortunately this week I learned that you’re not Parvati. Oh sure, you were playing the basics of her strategy, but we all watched Heroes vs. Villains. Any pretty young girl can flutter her eyelashes and suck up to Russell. Flirtation is not what made Parvati’s game—not even in The Cook Islands. No, what made Parvati is her discretion. Her flirting got her into people’s inner circles. She only used the information she learned there when it benefitted her most.

You, on the other hand, lack discretion. Rather than wait to strike like a coiled snake, you climbed out of your cave to pounce on Frodo when Samwise was hiding behind the rock face. Maybe that reference is too nerdy for you. I don’t know, but if it is I’m sure you’ll tell me eventually, because apparently that’s what you do. You run your mouth My only question is: why? I can’t think of what purpose it serves.

Do you just think you’re that much smarter than everyone that you can berate them at Tribal Council and still win the game? Do you think you’re too smart to make decisions that are harmful to your life in the game? Because you’re not. You clearly demonstrated at this Tribal Council that you can’t see beyond the tip of your own nose. Yes, you understand how the game works. Yes, you understand how to think about strategy. Knowing those things doesn’t guarantee you won’t make mistakes though. Sometimes you just don’t know everything.

If you do make a mistake, the best thing to do is admit to yourself you made one and keep your mouth shut while figuring out how to sustain the least possible damage from it. Except you can’t do that. Instead, you dug your heels in and went on a tirade, berating anyone who dare challenge your understanding of the game. Well, I hate to break it to you sweetheart, but you’re a day late and a dollar short. Barring a twist or your finding a Hidden Immunity Idol, you’re about to follow your guy to Redemption Island where I’m sure you’ll find about as much success as he will—none.

Seriously, do you not realize that your little tirade may have been what caused Julie to vote against you? Maybe she was on the fence and then decided she didn’t want to risk her entire game by allying with Hope(less) and Associates. I really can’t say because this is clearly a case where editing hid Julie’s decision making process, but it is an important fact to note. You don’t run your mouth at Tribal Council because it shows your cards. I’m sure you’ve heard Lady Gaga. What happened to your Poker Face?

Like Gaga in her new video “Born this Way,” you dropped the plumage and discarded the mask, and I don’t like what I saw underneath. Be sure to tell your little mentor the following when you see him again: personality matters in this game, and yours, like his, is so profane that without intimidation and idols, you’re nothing more than an early boot with a hint of potential.

Don’t ever call me—even if you’re on a coconut phone made by Greg Buis,

Now that I’ve taken care of that bit of unpleasant business—and trust me, it’s always unpleasant—it’s time I turned my attention to more important development in this episode: the destruction of the Survivor legacy of Russell Hantz. There are two perspectives from which to approach this subject (which is a hell of a lot more touchy than it should be): editing and strategy.

For two seasons, the editors ran the Hantz Train. Because everything worked out in his favor (except the final votes), Russell was untouchable. He was, as he said, the LeBron James of Survivor—building him up as unstoppable increased ratings and buzz. In exchange, Russell was unleashed like a genetic hybrid in Gremlins 2. He could pretty much do whatever he wanted, but it was all only going to end in one way—destruction. Then came the clusterfuck now known as Nicaragua, and the future of the series was in doubt. The editors had to do something.

What they did was embarrass Russell in such a heavy handed manner it made Purple Kelly’s edit look benevolent in comparison. From moment one of Redemption Island, Russell was constantly being shown failing in contrast to Rob’s success (which they did again in this episode by showing Russell being stubborn and then Rob adapting by searching for the HII). Sure, it was possible to say they were trying to build Russell up for another underdog showing. Their edit of Russell was so harsh that it almost seemed like something else had to be going on. I can’t have been the only one actually believing that Julie was going to turn at Tribal Council.

Except this editing wasn’t about gameplay at all. Sure, Russell helped that along by playing the exact same game as he did the first two times. This wasn’t even about a good story. Sure, it helped that Ralph found the idol, but that didn’t amount to anything really. This was strictly personal. While watching the episode last night, my friend remarked that maybe the editors reworked the episodes once the spoiling story leaked. I doubt that’s true, but this edit was so harsh you have to wonder if maybe he had a point. They even made it a point to show him as being diseased AND mock his tattoo. “Keep Hope Alive” was not only scrawled across Russell’s shoulder by a kindergartener, but was the episode title. Too bad hope not only died, it was brutally murdered in a manner that would make even Dexter sick.

And the truth is, Russell may have taken his talents to Redemption Island, but he brought all of this on himself. His game hinged on two things: the unknown and the HII. Russell is basically a Survivor Pick Up Artist. He knows all the routines to perform, the sweet nothings to whispers, and the switches to flip. The problem is, being a PUA only works if the girl you’re attempting to pick up doesn’t know you’re a PUA. If she doesn’t know and you’re good, you can take on all the trappings of the nice guy, and she’ll buy it. Notice how Russell always did this, constantly saying how he was about the tribe, the numbers, and being loyal. He was only interested in those things in the same way a PUA is. In a true relationship, the partners are concerned about both involved people’s pleasure. They both derive pleasure from the fact that it is a mutual beneficial arrangement. Russell, on the other hand, like a PUA, is only interested in how a deal benefits him because he doesn’t care what happens to other people. It is a cold, callous, and calculating way of approaching the game.

Don’t understand what I mean? Consider past winners who have dominated strategically and who they got to the end with. Yul got to the end with Becky and Ozzy, two players close to his age, intelligence level, and athleticism. Earl went through most of the game with Yau-Man, a kindred spirit. Todd reached the end with Amanda and Courtney, all youthful and spirited players. When you establish a relationship with somebody, even in Survivor, you’re looking for things you value in them—and since you value those things, you’re going to want to see them be successful as well. And this works to players advantages, as who would you rather have next to you in the F2 or F3 and on the jury? Players who are more like you or less like you? (Hint: The players who are more like you are more likely to vote for you to win the game.)

Now consider who Russell took to the F3 both times, Natalie, Mick, Parvati, and Sandra. How did he end up with those people sitting next to him? Because he targets all the strong minded, confident individualists immediately—which is exactly what Russell is. Say what you will about Ralph this season, but the guy is secure with himself and has a game plan. It’s no wonder Russell targeted him so quickly. So if you get to the end with a bunch of followers and collectivists, who do you think they’re going to vote for? It’s sure as hell not going to be the guy who doesn’t give a shit about them and what they think. It’s going to be the girl that has empathy for them and loves them. Still don’t believe me? Look at who voted for Fabio in Nicaragua: Dan (UTR smart guy), Benry (UTR laid back guy), Purple Kelly (UTR laid back girl), Na’Onka (youthful and does what she feels), and Marty (smart and world wise guy). All of these players bonded with Fabio because they were like him in some way. This is the human side of the game.

The other thing a good PUA needs is a trick. Like a magician, he needs to distract you so you don’t think too much about him (because if you do you won’t figure out that he’s all image and no substance). Russell’s trick was the HII. By constantly finding it, he could be ignored and still have a chance in the game. People wouldn’t think much of him because he was in the minority. Yet, he would constantly come out on top. The best way to concretize this metaphor is refer to Barney Stinson in How I Met Your Mother. He literally does magic tricks to pick up girls. Don’t believe me that PUAs do that in real life? Girls, if a random guy ever jokes that he can read palms and grabs your hand, he was just looking for an excuse to touch you. Guys, if you see another guy do that, keep your eye on him.

Consider everything I just wrote and you’ll understand why Russell was dead in the water once Ralph found the HII. This season he was like the PUA in high school that everyone had exposed. It’s to the point that random people protect the new girl in town from him at parties, and they don’t even know if she’s a doucheasaur or not yet. Yes, that’s what happens when a PUA gets exposed. People would rather befriend possible doucheasaurs than him. And you know why? The PUA makes life harder for everyone else. Girls who get burnt find it hard to trust guys who actually mean things when they say them. Nice guys find it hard to be taken seriously because everyone starts to assume they’re a PUA.

The metaphor holds true in Survivor, and all you have to do to see how is go back and watch Nicaragua. All three guys in the F3 played the nice guy image intentionally, but were playing it up or faking it to some extent. Sash told everyone exactly what they wanted to hear (in true PUA style). Chase used his Southern charm, but defended his disingenuous gameplay with “it’s Survivor” (as PUAs say that this is how “the game” works), and Fabio pretended to be a hell of a lot dumber than he actually is (as PUAs often do). I’m not saying these guys are Russell. I’m saying his influence on their gameplay is undeniable.

Still want to deny it, huh? That’s fine. I don’t need you to agree with me. The editors knew all of this. That’s why they dismantled Russell’s legacy. I only need you to do one thing and you’ll figure it out eventually:

Think about it.

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