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“Don’t play your game so loud”. If Australian Survivor had titles for their episodes like US did then I suspect this would be this ep’s title (WHY THE FUG DON’T THEY?!). It should be clear to anyone reading this why Russell left tonight. I’m not going to go into too much detail about all the things he did right, he did wrong, and what he continues to do wrong, but much like Sam fondling his balls, I will touch on them below. I’ll talk a little bit about how Jackie ended up with so many votes and the opportunity she has now to turn things around for herself. But first, it’s time again to have a discussion about the place of mateship in Australian Survivor.
Yeah, Nah. Yeah.
For three seasons now I’ve witnessed (and been part of) bitching and moaning within the Survivor Fan Community within Australia about how ‘mateship’ does not belong in Survivor and is ruining Australian Survivor (note ‘mateship’ is not the same thing as ‘social gameplay’). Generally the arguments put forward are that Survivor is about strategy, cunning, manipulation and ruthlessness. I’ve taken part in these debates myself and made comments similar to those above here in Drop Your Buffs!, but it’s about time we actually pulled apart what it means when people make these arguments.
I agree that the reason I watch Survivor is because I want to see that sort of gameplay. It’s what I find exciting about watching the game. Seeing people given the opportunity to engage in behaviours that they would never engage in in their everyday lives, and to use this freedom to win what is an incredibly competitive game. In my opinion however these are just the reasons we as fans enjoy watching the game so much. These behaviours are inherently more entertaining to watch than ‘mateship’. It makes sense to me that fans react negatively when the strategy and cunning that is so paramount in their enjoyment of this game is replaced by unexciting ‘friendliness’.
I argue that more crucial to the essence of Survivor, what gives Survivor its ‘Survivorness’, is that the game is what the players make it. There is no one, or even handful, of ways to play the game. The possibilities are endless. To argue that something doesn’t belong misses the point that EVERYTHING belongs.
JLP – “Are the cracks starting to show?”
Monika – “No”
Contenders – “…”
I do believe that producers play a huge role in manipulating what elements they emphasise and broadcast in their show, and though I wish that wasn’t the case as it dilutes the purity of the game’s ‘Survivorness’, unfortunately it is a reality that we have to accept. I don’t work in television/media and clearly have no idea what the public want, so take the following commentary as the opinion of a punter, not a professional. The self appointed fans have made it clear that they want less mateship and more tension, but if the producers are emphasising the mateship it’s because the ‘casuals’ (not a derogatory term) want it. And while it is unlikely we wouldn’t have an Australian version of the world’s greatest game without our very passionate fanbase, it’s equally unlikely that we wouldn’t have an Australian version if it was only marketed to the fanbase. Without the casuals, Australian Survivor doesn’t exist. So I don’t envy the balancing act that the producers have to play in order to turn this game into a financially viable show to get it to our screens, and keep as many viewers as happy as possible. I’m not saying production does a great job. I’ve spoken at length in the past about representation (rant still to come this season) and myriad other failures both in content and format, and will continue to point out instances where I believe they have missed or misfired and need to improve. But they are clearly doing well enough to at least put a show on air and that is something to be happy about.
Furthermore, I don’t feel as though we fans need to worry that mateship will ruin the game. To date no Australian Survivor has won on mateship, and I can’t see it happening soon. What is exciting to me is that Australian players are manipulating and will continue to learn how to manipulate the level of mateship (I promise this is the last time I’ll use the word this post) going on around them to further their game, and ultimately this makes the game even deeper. Adding another element in the landscape for players to navigate to make it to the end and win. Which brings us to Russell.
‘Pic Ass O’ or ‘Mr Tex-Ass’
As has been been articulated by commentators more articulate than I, and as I alluded to in the previous episode’s analysis, Russell was going to have to adapt his gameplay if he was going to get a foothold this season. Some might argue that he did change his gameplay. That in the previous seasons he did well in he kept a lower profile at the start of the season and didn’t start making bold moves so early. Or at least that any bold moves he made were not so loud. The disclosure of his idol to his tribe absolutely screamed ‘kick me out’. So perhaps one could say that his gameplay this season was different to the gameplay on his most successful seasons.
The key word for me though is ‘adapt’. And though he may have changed his gameplay somewhat, he didn’t adapt his gameplay to suit his season. His gameplay did not fit his tribe. Clearly Russell hasn’t been reading my blog (fucken idiot). We’ve talked at length previous seasons about how important it is to keep a low profile at the start of the season, particularly in (exceedingly) long Australian seasons. His first flaw was in thinking that he had the right game plan and could bring his play style to the season and force the game to be played his way. Survivor rarely works that way. Not in Australia, and not anywhere else. I contend though that there is a bigger flaw in Russell and it doesn’t lie in his gameplay, it actually lies in his attitude, and is why I now think he’ll never win Survivor.
Throughout Russell’s career in Survivor, and he has made a career of it, one thing that has accompanied Russell from day one, is his arrogance. He will tell you every chance he gets that he is the king, he is a champion, and as I spoke to in the analysis of the previous episode, he feels that he deserves to win, so much so that he believes the rules of the game should be changed to facilitate this. In short, Russell feels entitled. Nowhere was this clearer than in his post elimination interview at the end of the episode where he told us repeatedly and in no uncertain terms that he made the right move, it just didn’t work. At the risk of using results-oriented thinking, I have to say that “mate if it didn’t work, then it’s not the right move!” I’m talking primarily here about whether or not he played his idol, and not the idol reveal itself. As miscalculated as I believe the idol reveal may have been, that is not what cost him the game here. BECAUSE HE STILL HAD AN IDOL TO PLAY TO SAVE HIMSELF (admittedly as a result of flashing his idol, playing his idol may have only bought him 3 days). I don’t believe that revealing idols is inherently a bad move, particularly if you want to be able to hang on to it for later. But if you’re going to bring your idol to tribal, you have to be prepared to read the room and use it if necessary. It should have been crystal clear to him, based on the tribal that we were shown, that votes were still coming his way and the best move was to play it safe, play the idol.
Which brings me back to my initial point. Russell believes he is untouchable. Despite all the signs around him that he needed to play his idol, he believes he is so special that things will go always go his way. And when they don’t, it was because everybody else fucked up, not him. This attitude will never get you a win in Survivor. Even those great players who are arrogant pricks have had to find a way to curb this distorted thinking to keep themselves in check. To put processes in place to verify that the way they are thinking matches what is happening. Despite all the great things that Russell has brought to the game, Russell is clearly incapable of doing the one thing that is lacking from his game that he needs to do to succeed. Humble himself. To himself. Which brings me to Jackie.
Jackie When I Lost Control in the Heat of the Night
The second Jackie opened her mouth to tell her tribunates who should go home I thought, “steady on Jackie, them’s drawing attention to yourself words”. This is what began Matt’s downfall previous episode. Once you start talking about numbers and splitting the votes and throwing other people into the mix, then people start to see you as a strategist. And now is not the time to make people edgy. By all means do that stuff with your alliance, once your alliance is tight. But to do that while alliances are just beginning to be formed is unwise to say the least. The good news for Jackie is, even though she received the next highest number of votes this evening, the writing is not on the wall. There is one simple thing that Jackie has to do know to set her path straight again. Say sorry.
The shining example of the power of humility in recent memory is AK’s (or as regular readers of this blog know him, MRW, Male Rebel Wilson) turnaround early in the previous Australian season. AK played too hard, too fast, too early and very nearly paid the price for it. AK was smart enough to know the best course of action here was to admit it. To own it. To admit to his tribe that he had played too hard, that he got caught up in the game and making moves for himself by himself without regard to his tribe. His mea culpa was a defining moment of the season and this tactic should be regarded by students of the game as a critical tool that any self-respecting player needs to have at their disposal.
With Russell having created such chaos at camp prior to tribal Jackie is in a good position to be able to apologise for her behaviour, attributing it in part to being caught up in the hysteria that Russell had created. I hope for Jackie’s sake she is astute enough to see this pathway. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens to the Champions tribe now that Russell is gone, and now that they realise they have to start playing the game. I’m also really looking forward to seeing how the Contenders react when they learn Russell is gone.
Two things before I finish up. Firstly, I’m generally not one for discussing things that happen behind the scenes, or in the game but outside of the show, but I have to share the footage of Sam at camp that is at the end of this recap video by the good people at Fantastic Fools. Do yourself a favour and check out their regular video recaps. The Sam footage is at the very end. You can view that here.
Secondly, I have to apologise for the lateness of this post. It has always been and continues to be my goal to make my analysis of each episode available by 6am the morning after the episode airs. I’m disappointed that I wasn’t able to do that on this occasion, especially so early in the season. Unfortunately life got in the way (I’m fine, thanks so much for your concern Featherheads, it is really touching). This may happen from time to time, and knowing exactly when Survivor is going to air each week helps me to avoid this (I’m looking at you CHANNEL TEN), but as I said, I’ll endeavour not to let this become the norm.
I got nothing else for you, head back to camp.
– Russell Feathers
(Most memes created by Russell Feathers, most everything else and all Survivor gifs Channel Ten)
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