I used to watch Survivor, the granddaddy of all reality shows, back when it was fresh and interesting. After about 5 seasons of it, I got bored with the same old story and left the island. I really hated it the last couple of years, beginning with Survivor: Samoa when Russell took manipulation, lying and deceitfulness to an all-time high…or rather…low.
The Russell Factor is Born.
And will most likely remain.
Control the emotions and control the game. It’s Sales 101. He strategically played the game well, but not well enough. His encore was last season’s Survivor: Heroes and Villains, and…you guess it…he was one of the villains. And made it to the top 3 finalists (all villains) by using the same tactics. I watched a few of the last episodes just to root for anyone other than Russell. Did he play the game to win? Absolutely. But in the process, he became a loathsome human being.
So, here’s the question. Should you play the game strategically to win at all costs? Or is it possible to play the game to win while keeping your integrity? Hmmm, sounds a lot like a life question to me.
It’s Not the Battle of the Sexes…
Survivor begins its 21st season in Nicaragua and I’m mildly interested again. Interested not because there’s a clear villain like Russell to root against (not yet anyway). I’ll tune in because they’ve created a new twist.
It’s the Battle of the Ages.
Young versus Old. Yes, they’ve divided the teams to those 30 and under and those 40 and over.
Not fair you say? Perhaps. I think we all can agree that nothing says life should be fair.
Of course I’ll be pulling for the Older, Aged, Geezer, More Mature team.
Meet the Espada tribe (“sword” in Spanish), with ages ranging from 41 to 67. I’m pretty worried about them as this show is physically taxing on the best of physiques. Among them is an ER doc, actor, homemaker, rancher, dog breeder, seafood inspector, swim coach, triathlete and others that boast former athletic accomplishments. And yes, that’s Jimmy Johnson, retired NFL Super Bowl winner coach among them. He’ll either become the motivational glue holding them together or one big fat threat for the money…and consequently a target, even though he’s positioning himself as only there for the adventure and to help someone else win. Sounds good, but is this reasonable coming from a bulldog of a football coach with TWO back-to-back Super Bowl rings?
This is the La Flor tribe (“the flower” in Spanish), ranging in age from 23 to 30. Among the tribe are med students, real estate agent, beauty pageant contestant, former football linebacker, swim suit model, personal trainer, marathon runner, artist, Iron Man triathlete, former NFL cheerleader and NASCAR pit crew member. Lots of eye candy here on both sides of the gender aisle. Quite the contrast, wouldn’t you say?
Beginnings: Cue the song Getting to Know You
After one of the youngens finds the Medallion of Power, teams are assigned and the La Flor tribe gives it up to Espada in exchange for fishing gear…only to find out later that it held power that could be used for an advantage during the challenges. Score for Espada.
The two camps couldn’t be more different. Espada appears for the most part to immediately develop some continuity. They work together, organize and create fire using a a pair of eyeglasses (thank you ladies). There is one crankypants man who may need to go home early. A few of the men complain about the conditions, but for the most part, the Baby Boomers make me proud. I am hopeful at this point.
La Flor removes most of their clothing, parade around in their BVDs and bras and immediately begin to clique. Although there are lots of high fives and laughter, they already have lots of opinions about each other. In their tribe is an amputee with a prosthesis. She’s already a target and is thought to be a candidate for the sympathy vote. Little do they know she’s an Iron Man triathlete. Most of the tribe has dubbed one of their own “Fabio,” and it’s not a compliment. Meanwhile, the alpha males already feel threatened by the strong women.
Drama. Drama. Drama. Can’t you just taste it?
Cut to the first Immunity Challenge. La Flor marches in chanting some type of throwback cheerleader chant in hopes of intimidating or at least giving the impression of unity. Roll the eyes. Espada passes on getting the upper hand, keeping the Medallion of Power to use later. Looks like a stupid move but with this challenge, they should have been equally matched on this one. Save it for a challenge that is truly unbalanced in skills. Score Espada for strategy.
But strategy could not compete with the agility and quickness of youth on this one. Fairly evenly matched until time to put together the puzzle pieces, Espada lagged and lost. Score for La Flor when it counts. They win the challenge and one of my own must now become a target. And true to form, the weakest link is the first to go.
But who to kick off first? While there is clear animosity for certain members in the La Flor camp, there’s no unanimously clear target in Espada. Only after Jimmy throws Wendy under the bus..strategically along with himself…do the others begin to show their true colors. But, why Wendy?
Playing the Game
This a game of salesmanship as well as strategy. Quickly establish strategic alliances and work to achieve trusted adviser status. Poor Wendy didn’t have a chance. She held back; didn’t show her true self; played her cards close. Thinking it was too early in the game to trust anyone, she never made those valuable first impression connections. It wasn’t until at the tribal council that she found her voice. And boy, did she ever. But she sounded desperate to have everyone know that she was really a fun and interesting person. Another Sales 101 lesson: never sound desperate for the sale. Prospects can smell insecurity and desperation. Wendy essentially talked herself into a ticket home.
Would she have been an asset? As a former Army nurse, her knowledge may have come in handy. As a rancher, her work ethic and outdoorsy experience may have proved valuable. But she was quirky. The island doesn’t like quirky. Quirky is too much of a gamble at this stage in the game.
With Age Comes Wisdom
Or so we’ve always been told. I’d like to think Espada has the upper hand in this area. All seasoned life players, they should be able to collectively pool their talents and experience to outwit, outsmart and outlast their younger rivals.
When will the Russell factor emerge? And who will it be? Will Fabio rise to the challenge and prove his La Flor tribemates wrong? Will JJ’s “humble celebrity” beginnings play well within Espada? Will the La Flor’s ever find the rest of their clothing?
Only time will tell.