The Machiavellian games people play
The bluff was so brilliant I had to rewind to understand how clever it was
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?
Fascinating: Contestants on Survivor: China have a solemn moment as they contemplate the ratings