The Machi­avel­lian games peo­ple play

The bluff was so bril­liant I had to rewind to un­der­stand how clever it was

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Tv -

OH how the mighty have been blind­sided by a vi­cious tribal coun­cil vote. Sur­vivor , which once com­manded 2.25 mil­lion view­ers for a 2001 finale, is rel­e­gated to Satur­day nights. In the non- rat­ings pe­riod.

And for­get fast- track­ing. By the time you read this, the sea­son will be over in the US, so spoil­ers abound on the web. Still, we prob­a­bly should be grate­ful it’s on at a rea­son­able time and it’s fit­ting, as this is the times­lot in which the show de­buted.

Sur­vivor may no longer be pop­u­lar, but it re­mains a fas­ci­nat­ing show even in its 15th sea­son. The for­mat re­mains much the same as it was in 2000: 16 con­tes­tants on an is­land are di­vided into two teams and com­pete in chal­lenges, with the losers vot­ing one of their own off, un­til the two teams merge and it be­comes ev­ery half­s­tarved, in­sect- bit­ten, smelly con­tes­tant for them­selves.

There have been some tweaks that shake up the play while re­main­ing true to the spirit of the game ( ig­nor­ing Sur­vivor: Pearl Is­lands where they al­lowed the evicted to com­pete for a spot back on the show. Save that sort of stunt for Big Brother , peo­ple.) The best of th­ese has been the hid­den im­mu­nity idol, which al­lows the finder to play it af­ter a vote but be­fore they’ve been tal­lied, and save them­selves. In this episode there’s also a team mem­ber swap that shifts the dy­nam­ics, but this is the sort of thing I ap­prove of only when it doesn’t put a con­tes­tant I like in jeop­ardy.

But what makes Sur­vivor so great is that the level of strat­egy is now so com­plex that it makes a Mid­dle East peace so­lu­tion look like a dod­dle.

Last sea­son, Sur­vivor: Fiji fea­tured a dou­ble bluff — an al­liance tricked some peo­ple into think­ing they were vot­ing one way and mis­di­rected a mem­ber of their own al­liance of un­cer­tain loy­alty be­fore vot­ing a third way — which was so bril­liant I ac­tu­ally had to rewind it to un­der­stand how clever it was.

The afore­men­tioned swap pro­duces an­other dar­ing game play tonight, but it re­mains to be seen whether it will pay off. I kind of hope it fails be­cause the con­tes­tants are so damn smug about it.

And be­cause even bet­ter than a good strat­egy is a bad one, and Sur­vivor: China de­liv­ers. There are the con­tes­tants who thought they had the game in the bag be­cause they had an al­liance of four in a team of nine ( errr). But my favourite so far has been Jean- Robert, a pro­fes­sional poker player who is hi­lar­i­ously bad at read­ing peo­ple de­spite boasts to the con­trary. He con­tin­ues with his bril­liant strat­egy of be­ing re­ally lazy around camp so that when he even­tu­ally starts do­ing work ev­ery­one will be im­pressed ( how very Prince Hal). Of course, he could have im­pressed them by work­ing in the first place, but where’s the fun in watch­ing that?

Ker­rie Mur­phy

Fas­ci­nat­ing: Con­tes­tants on Sur­vivor: China have a solemn mo­ment as they con­tem­plate the rat­ings

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