Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains Final thoughts

I'm in a ranty mood...

Can we stop with the "Russell can't be the best player ever because he can't play the game socially" meme? I realize that it's become trendy to point out how horrible his social skills are, but it ignores that if he played the game any differently in Samoa, he wouldn't have been in the final tribal in Samoa.

The social game has value, of course. But it can only add value if the jury is willing to ignore the feeling that they have been wronged. In All-Stars, the jury was made up of bitter people who had failed in their second attempt to win the game. Rob lost because of this, even though it was pretty obvious that he had played the game the best. (It's also funny that nobody is now bringing up Rob's lack of social skills after being bested by Russell.) Brian Heidik, for all of his dominance in the game, was not well liked at all. However people were able to overlook their dislike of him and stil vote him winner (his choice of Clay was probably helpful in this regard.)

And then there's Richard Hatch. It wasn't his social play per se that won him the original game. Pagong did not like him at all, but Greg respected his game play enough to vote for him. Heck, Susan Hawk voted for him because she disliked Kelly more. If Richard is supposed to be the best player ever, maybe we should realize that he won based on is game play and not how nice he was to other people. And Russell should be viewed as the guy who sould have won Samoa.

*****

I've made my peace with Sandra winning. While I still think that Parvati should have won this season, I admit that Sandra played the final tribal council incredibly well. She found the line necessary to win (aka be the anti-Russell) and she took to it hard. Every thing she said at tht tribal council was intended to remind the jury that (a) she's not Russell, (b) she wanted to get Russell out of the game for a long period of time, but was thwarted by the disinterest of the jury and (c) did I mention she was against Russell?

It takes both a lot of guts and a good read of the jury to go into a tribal council to basically refer to youself as a failure at the game that you played. It's especially more difficult when Parvati is there as an option for voters who want to reward the gameplay that lead them to the finals, but do not want to reward Russell. Sandra held to her guns and was rewarded with $1 million. I might not have voted that way, but I respect that when all was said and one, she ended up with the most votes.

*****

While we're talking about making peace with decisions, I was blown away by an interview that Rob Cesterino did with Natalie White on his podcast. Natalie is the winner of Survivor: Samoa, aka the season that even Jeff Probst thinks Russell was robbed on. I was struck by how much she knew about the game, and her thoughts on how Russell and others were playing the game. I still feel as though Russell deserved the victory on Survivor: Samoa, but I will make every effort to not refer to Natalie as undeserving. It demeans her game play as well as the title of Sole Survivor.

*****

The biggest question that everybody is asking is whether this victory makes Sandra the greatest Survivor player of all time. Winning both seasons you are in is quite the accomplishment, one that nobody else can take claim to. However, I'm not willing to give her that title.

There's something to be said for being a threat at challenges. Being able to win a challenge is the ultimate backup plan, one that can cause strategy to get thoroughly changed. Sandra's inability to win any sort of challenge means that she can only play one game - the "don't vote for me, I'm not a threat" game. While she might be the best at playing this style of strategy, that isn't enough to be the best Survivor player ever. Somebody who can play the passive game, but is also able to compete in challenges is a much better all-round player. Which leads us to the question: Is Parvati the best Survivor player of all time?

I'll answer that later in the week with my foolish attempt to rank the greatest Survivor players of all time.

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