Is it harder to win the game of Survivor as a male or as a female? That is the main question I am exploring in the Survivor Brainstorm this week. This is part two in a three article series exploring this topic. For part one click here.
This whole idea came to me while watching Sophie Clarke’s final tribal council speech in which she said that she wished she was a man because men are at a greater advantage in the game and then referred to Coach as a young girl. This got me thinking, what gender is really at a disadvantage in the game of Survivor? Is it the males who are always bigger targets or is it the females who often have a hard time convincing the jury to give them the votes? That is what I am hoping to determine in the Brainstorm this week.
So how can a male win the game of Survivor. Well it turns out most of the male winners of Survivor can be divided into three different categories. Here are those three categories/three effective game winning strategies that have been used to win Survivor by males.
Be The Authoritative Leader (Richard, Brian, Tom, Rob M.)
Players like ‘Boston’ Rob and Brian Heidik ran their alliances like cults, but still managed to secure enough votes to win. Coercive power or authoritative leadership can be a very powerful thing in the game of Survivor. BUT, you have to remain likable and even if you alienate people on the other side of your alliance, you have to keep everything in your alliance centered around you. Nobody was ever going to go against Tom or Rob Mariano! They were strong leaders of their alliance and going against them would have destructed the whole ship! Rob and Tom made sure that everything was coming through them and made sure that their tribe hated the other tribe, instilling an us vs. them mentality that allowed them to remain in control the whole game. Richard also belongs in this category because he was really the only one truly playing in Borneo and made all of the decisions for his alliance. Meanwhile, Brian remained in control of the situation by somehow convincing everyone in his alliance that he was an amazing person even though he was awful behind their backs in confessionals. Both of these players were far more authoritative than democratic when voting people off but always made sure not to alienate anyone in their alliance.
It takes a really special player to play this type of strategy perfectly as these are some of the best players ever, and so commonly power can get inside the heads of Survivor contestants and they can become too powerful for their own good. John Carroll and Coach in Tocantins are two examples of that notion as they used authoritative leadership but made it too widely known that their group was in power and got way too comfortable in the positions that they were in. Both of these players thought that there was absolutely nothing anyone else could do to go against their alliance. But in both of these cases the people at the bottom of their alliance flipped against them and changed the whole game around due to feeling alienated from the rest of the group. So to use this strategy effectively, you have to always remain in control of everyone in the game, including those that are in your alliance and those that are outside your alliance and you can never ever alienate someone in your alliance, otherwise they’ll flip everything around against you.
Be The Democratic Leader (Ethan, Aras, Yul, Earl, Todd, Cochran, Jeremy, Tyson)
It’s hard to say which style of leadership is more effective in the game of Survivor. Both have led to massive victories and both have led to narrow victories. But in theory, democratic leadership is probably the most effective way to go unless you are a psychological wizard like Rob Mariano. Winners like Ethan, Aras, Yul and Jeremy created a strong alliance early on in the game, kept everyone happy and then went to the end with their allies. What you’ll find in common about democratic leaders is that they have such good social relationships that they rarely need to make big moves to win. Yul has his Jonathan Penner idol play and Todd eliminates James with two idols in his pocket, other than that most of these winners just make very subtle moves to advance themselves in the game while keeping everyone around them happy and remaining in control of the situation.
Male leaders of strong alliances almost always win and the male followers of these alliances almost always lose. Players like Tai, Gervase and Albert followed for far too long, went to the end of the game with the person that was the leader of their alliance and then couldn’t make a strong enough case to win. The one exception where a follower won is Bob in Gabon, but everyone else in that final three was a follower as well and Bob is an anomaly that will never happen again. In terms of democratic leaders who were ineffective at winning, there aren’t too many, proving it’s a pretty effective strategy. But two examples are Aras in Blood vs. Water and Mick in Samoa. Aras got way too comfortable with his power and thought he had control over everything without realizing that Tyson and Gervase were ready to cut him loose. Mick in Samoa was ineffective at being a democratic leader because nobody respected him as the leader of their alliance and he ended up just being dragged along by stronger players. So the trick for being a democratic leader is to be aware of what is going on with both your allies and your enemies and try and stay on everyone’s good side without ever getting too comfortable.
Create Chaos (Chris, Fabio, Tony, Mike)
This is probably the riskiest and trickiest type of game style to play. These players found themselves in tough situations and decided to create chaos to get out of it. Both Mike and Chris were leaders of a strong alliance early on. But after they became left on an island, with all of their allies either out of the game or in Mike’s case going against them, they had no choice but to create chaos and work from the bottom to the top. Chris did so by masterfully pitting six women against each other while he aligned with the one’s that were in the most control before winning his way to the end. Mike did so by winning five immunity challenges and finding a hidden immunity idol, forcing everyone else to go against each other while he remained safe every single week despite being public enemy number one. Fabio, similarly forced other people to be sent home when he certainly would have been gone due to winning the final three immunity challenges. And then there’s Tony. Tony was kind of the leader of his alliance, but kind of also went through the game without really committing to one particular alliance. He created chaos by voting out people left, right and centre and never really even staying loyal to anyone except for himself. Tony voted out Cliff and LJ before they could vote out him and voted out Trish so that he was in the best position to win the game as Trish very well may have beaten him. None of these moves were really necessary at the time that they were done, but proved to be extremely effective in helping Tony always remain in control of the situation and win the game.
Creating chaos does not work if your arrogant about it, or if you alienate people while doing it. Russell Hantz was ineffective at creating chaos because he was so ruthless about voting people off and so rude about it that no one was willing to vote for him at the end of the game. Jason and Scott from this season of Survivor, Kaoh Rong, were also ineffective at creating chaos as by trying this strategy, all they did was band a tight group of people even tighter together and make everyone else hate them that much more. So creating chaos is definitely tricky and when doing so, you have to still be the one in control of the situation. Mike was able to flip people back on to his side like Carolyn and Sierra. Chris was able to be in a power position with Twila and Scout, and Tony was able to be in a power position with Woo, Trish and Kass. Chris, Mike and Fabio also had the benefit of winning challenges to be able to make it to the end of their games, something that Jason and Scott couldn’t do to keep themselves in the game.
Question of the Day: Can Males Ever Remain Under the Radar?
Answer: Yes, but they usually don’t win. It takes a very good player like Todd or Jeremy to be able to remain under the radar and still win. Both of these players did so by making enough moves and social relationships to have the necessary votes at the end of the game and both of them also accomplished this by setting up their alliances in a way where bigger targets were always around them. JT managed to do it as well but it was because he had amazingly strong social relationships and everyone absolutely loved him. So why were players like Gervase, Will Sims or Albert ineffective at remaining under the radar? Well all three of these players simply remained too far under the radar. None of them ever made enough moves to win, and all of them went to the end of the game with people far more powerful in the game than they were. Will and Albert were practically dragged to the end of the game because everyone knew they would never get the necessary votes to win. Gervase meanwhile absolutely could have had a case to win against Tyson. It was his move to blindside Aras at the merge after all. But Gervase didn’t do anything to try and make himself look like the leader of the alliance over Tyson and that is why he lost.
So yes, males can remain under the radar in the game of Survivor, but it takes a very special social mastermind to be able to do it effectively and still manage to have a strong enough case to win.
So that ends my second article of three for this week’s Survivor Brainstorm. Stay tuned for Part Three, when I form a conclusion as to whether males or females are at an advantage in the game of Survivor. And check out part one right here, if you haven’t already.
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