"Survivor" is just a game- NOT a metaphor!

Up front, yes, I KNOW this is a completely unimportant issue, and it deals with a show I never even watch (okay, not quite true- I saw the last 15 minutes of the episode where Richard Hatch won all the money).

A LOT of people came to despise Richard Hatch, and they’ve learned to hate several of the current “Survivor” players, because they seem to be duplicitous, manipulative phonies, ready to betray each other at any moment.

Now, I don’t begrudge ANYONE the right to love or hate someone they see on TV. Everyone who watches a game of any kind on TV forms a rooting interest, as well as utterly irrational likes and dislikes. (Can I offer ANY sane reason why I liked Carl Yastrzemski and LOATHED Carlton Fisk? Since I didn’t KNOW either of them, no!) So, if you like any individual contestant (even if it’s just because he/she looks good in a Speedo), fine. Or, if there’s just something about one of them that makes you sick, that’s fine, too. But what I object to is the idea that Richard Hatch’s victory represented a triumph for Evil, or that people who employ deceit to win the money in this game are somehow immoral. In short, a lot of people are making value judgements about the players , and that makes no sense. This is JUST A GAME, not a metaphor for life. And deception and trickery are part of MOST games!

Consider a few hypothetical scenarios.

  1. The Yankees are playing the Braves in the World Series. There’s a man on first, and Andruw Jones hits a deep fly ball to center field. Bernie Williams has lost the ball in the sun, and doesn’t really know where it is, but he signals for the catch, and acts as if he’s settling under it to make the catch. The baserunner is fooled, and hesitates to stary far from first base. When the ball drops in, Williams quickly grabs it and throws it to the shortstop. As a result, the baserunner is forced to stay at second, when he could easily have gone to third or even scored.

  2. The Broncos are playing the Bucs in the Super Bowl. Brian Griese fakes a handoff to Terrell Davis. He fakes it so well that the entire Buccaneer defense bites and pursues Davis to the outside. Meanwhile, Griese has kept the ball, and throws a touchdown pass to Ed McCaffrey, who is all alone in the end zone.

  3. Gabe Kaplan is playing in the finals of the World Poker championships. He has 4 hearts in his hand, and takes one new card, hoping for a flush. He gets a spade, so his hand is worthless. Nonetheless, he looks and acts confident, and bluffs his opponent (who has two Jacks) into folding.

Now, in all three cases, has an athlete misled his opponent? Yep. Has he tricked his opponent? Sure. Deceived him, made a fool of him, all in an attempt to beat him? Absolutely. But does anybody think less of Bernie Williams, Brian Griese, or Gabe Kaplan as a result? Not at all! We all know that winning is the name of the game, and that in some games, a player can and will resort to trickery, in order to win.

If a player DOES fool his opponents, and this enables him to win, does this tell us ANYTHING about how virtuous or moral a person that player is in everyday life? Not at all. Brian Griese could be a thoroughly honest, honorable man, and still resort to deception to win a football game. Football is a GAME, after all, not a metaphor for life!

Well, “Survivor” is a game, too, a game where ONE person only stands to win a lot of money, but only if he can get his rivals booted. Richard Hatch seemed to be the only contestant on the first show who grasped that (everyone on the current show knows that by now, of course). Hatch manipulated people the same way Brian Griese did in my example. That doesn’t make him a good or bad person. HE didn’t create the game or make its rules, after all.

If you want to establish your own game show, one where people win prizes for cooperative, team-building, problem-solving efforts, be my guest! Good luck with that game! But until such a game exists, why should ANYONE resent a player who does whatever he/she can to win, under the currently established rules?

I think a lot of the hatred for certain contestants on Survivor has to do with their attitudes rather than their strategies. Richard Hatch scheming and creating alliances on the first show is to be expected and even commended. Richard Hatch singing “Goodnight sweetheart it’s time to go…” in an extremely smug manner while voting off Greg is annoying and worthy of our hatred. Imagine the baseball team giving the raspberry to the opposing team after they’ve won.

Jerri Manthey, Survivor II’s villian, is not hated for her scheming and strategy. She is hated because she is controlling and bitchy in every aspect…even in ways that have nothing to do with game strategy. Others on the show have betrayed alliances and been duplicitous but few people hate them. People know that’s part of the game…I guess it’s all about trying to be being scheming and duplicitous with grace.

It’s been noted before, but here it is again: Richard won because he caught nearly everyone napping. Gervase pretty much slept through the first nine weeks. Colleen wasn’t much better. Greg couldn’t decide who to hook up with. Sean looked like he didn’t even know what the object of the game was. Perhaps the big turning point was the board-standing immunity challenge where Kelly outlasted Colleen. Had Colleen won, Kelly would have been ousted right there, and neither Sue nor Rudy looked particularly strong in the later challenges. There was an outside chance that Colleen, had she won that challenge, could have had a clear shot to the final, where she would have destroyed Richard. Of course, it’s just as likely that she would have slipped up along away, in which case Susan would have most likely taken it. You never know.

In any case, how anyone can honestly claim that Survivor I was “the triumph of evil” (and remember, Kelly’s record wasn’t exactly pristine either) continues to baffle me. Richard got lucky, period. Of course, he also had a good plan. He won with the right combination of luck, skill, and determination, and I find nothing unusual about that. It’s a game show, for crying out loud. Not the same style as Wheel of Fortune, but a game show nonetheless.

I wouldn’t worry. The hype’s going to die down eventually, and I guarantee that the winner will be absolutely nothing like Richard Hatch. Heck, we’ve seen enough evidence in the first seven rounds.

Oh, one more thing…the Bucs? Man, and I thought Chiefs fans were overconfident! :slight_smile:

astorian: I agree regarding the whole deception bit. In fact, I even wrote an article about it at the time:

Why Is It Wrong for Richard to Be Deceptive?

I never had the intense dislike for Rich that some people did. I thought he deserved to win. Now, his actions since winning have somewhat changed my opinion of him, but that’s neither here nor there.

Jerri, as has already been mentioned, isn’t hated for being deceptive, but for being a first-class bitch. Rich was at least enjoyable.