Survivor has been named the television programme that has defined a decade. Arguably other reality TV shows (such as American Idol) would not be far behind. But these shows are hugely popular for a reason. It’s real people, putting themselves before the world, revealing human frailties and strengths; the weaknesses and triumphs of humanity. Pretty good for the producers too. But there’s no denying there is so much intensity in these programmes because we are seeing the familiar.
(Reality TV is a fascinating area to blog about, but I’ll leave my critique of it for another time – in terms of subjecting indigenous cultures into the ‘exotic’ for economic gain.)
Survivor Samoa was no different. And man was it intense. Not sure how it was aired elsewhere, but in Niu Sila/New Zealand, TV3 screened the last three days of the Survivor Samoa competition.
I had only been watching the show sporadically, but last night’s finale was exhilarating! For those not familiar with the contestants, the most controversial and polarising finalist was Russell Hantz – an oil company owner and self-confessed millionaire. He is the man! He masterminded his way to the finals, whether by making various alliances, making promises, breaking promises, lying, manipulating his team, tough playing in challenges, and finding immunity idols with no clues! He is probably the best Survivor contestant in the history of the show.
Unfortunately, getting to the finals is just not enough in Survivor, something Russell failed to appreciate. While he was successful in getting to the finals, there is the social element that he either was too cocky about and took for granted, or misread the impact of his actions on the contestants that eventually became his jurors.
So who did the greatest Survivor contestant lose to? Natalie White, a 25-year-old pharmaceutical sales rep from Arkansas. Her strategy, many would say, was to ride on the coat tails of Russell’s master plan. Natalie said aligning with stronger players was a necessity to make it to the end. “There were a lot of things to my game that I did right, starting off by assessing the cast right,” she said.
“I built really strong personal relationships, and they were genuine. I will be friends with these people for the rest of my life.” Staying “humble” was also the key to winning, Natalie said. “In this game if you get overconfident it’s a huge mistake, especially this season. Any time anyone was overly cocky and arrogant it seems like it didn’t work out for them.”
If being the passive member gets you to the final and the jury is more sympathetic to you, then yes, Natalie did outwit, outplay and outlast Russell.
And it wasn’t all a one way road in this allegiance of Russell and Natalie. He needed her, because as he calculated, Russell needed a “weaker” player as oppose to Brett who was voted off Survivor just before the finals. Russell believed people would respect him for his ruthless tactics. Unfortunately either hated those tactics, or they did respect Russell, but respected Natalie even more.
When the winner was announced, Russell was visibly upset. Russell even tried to buy Natalie’s title of Sole Survivor from her during the reunion show for ,000, but she refused. It was clear how much the title of “Sole Survivor” meant to him. It appeared as though the motive was not about money. At that point I thought to myself, hmmm perhaps he did deserve to win. He’s a millionaire, so perhaps he wasn’t doing it for the money. Russell was adamant his personality on the show was not the same as that in the real world.
However there is a consolation prize for the person who receives the most votes from the American public. The three finalists were Brett Clouser, t-shirt designer (who almost toppled Russell’s master plan by winning the immunity challenge), Russell, and Shannon Waters aka ‘Shambo’. Shambo served her country for five years, and went onto become a chef before changing gears to be a sales representative for a food service company. Russell won the consolation prize of 0,000.
What would’ve confirmed to me that Russell was only in it for the title, and money was not a goal, would’ve been if he had offered that 0,000 to either the popular young Brett to help him with his t-shirt business, or the equally popular Shambo, a sales representative, both a long way from being an oil millionaire. Then I would agree with the millions of Russell fans, that he truly did deserve to win the competition.
Yip, this is human drama in the 21st century, broadcast to millions who only want more.