Picture a small, picturesque island. From the forefront, it looks like paradise, but if you were to live there, you would quickly realize it was much tougher than it looked. This island has a name, but at the time, it is a name that has never even really been heard of by the general public. It really is a nothing island with no fame at all.
But what was about to happen on this insignificant blip on the map was going to be momentous. It would literally change the face of American pop culture. Sixteen Americans were about to be stranded on this piece of sand, where they would then be left to fend for themselves and build a new society for themselves, and every three days, vote one of their own off the island. This Machiavellian experiment was the ultimate test of social politics.
The success of the TV show Survivor can be attributed to the trials and tribulations of these sixteen Americans. They provided for entertaining and compelling television in that summer of 2000, and helped launch the reality TV craze in primetime television. Since then, nine more groups of people have played this game, and the experiences of each have been unique, and it still remains a popular show throughout the world.
But in this column, the impact of the show Survivor on the television waves, while impressive, is not important. What matters here is the impact the players have on the game itself, and no single player has had more impact on this game than the very first Survivor winner, Richard Hatch.
Over the past several weeks, I have analyzed various aspects of the strategic element of this game. I have tried to form a picture of what a good strategy for this game would be. Unfortunately, there are no clear answers because, as we all know, Survivor is a very complicated game. However, by giving general looks to the ultimate losers and ultimate winners of the game, the Jury, the challenges, the host, and various blunders and smart strategic decisions, I hope that I have created a thorough picture of the strategic element of this game.
Now it is time to apply the knowledge that we have gleaned from these various strategy columns. I will do so by giving one column to each of the ten people who have won this game. These people have done what many people have tried to do….win the million dollars and the title of Sole Survivor. While their games have not been flawless, they each played their respective seasons the best, because the single object of the game is to win.
So what did these people do right? What did they do to get them to the end of the game and fulfill their objective? How should future Survivor contestants model the different elements of the strategic games of these players so they too may share in the thrill of success?
I wrote one of my columns, as I mentioned, with the focus of giving a general overview of these ten winners as sort of an introduction to my own personal objectives for these strategy columns. It is now time to narrow it down. We will begin this week with the very first Survivor winner, Richard Hatch, who not only played well enough to win the first Survivor, but also turned that little island into the nucleus for a change in American pop culture.
Last week, I listed one of the greatest strategic decisions as being the formation of the Tagi Alliance. Richard Hatch undoubtedly played a large role in the formation of that initial alliance. The ultimate success of this alliance contributed to Richard’s victory and to the establishment of how the game of Survivor would be played in the future.
I’m going to break this down into categories based on the different topics that have been discussed over the past few weeks. I will evaluate each winner based on their performances in the challenges, in front of the Jury, and with Jeff Probst. Then I will give a general overview of their games.
So, without further ado, we will begin with analysis of Richard Hatch.
There was nothing remarkable about Richard in the challenges. His strengths came from his political views about how the game was meant to be played. However, Richard did win one Immunity Challenge, but in the end, it did nothing for him, either positive or negative. The biggest challenge moment with Richard was not in his victory, but in his mistake. I am referring to the first Fallen Comrades challenge. Richard did horribly, and actually embarrassed himself in front of the Jury by not performing very well in a game that required knowledge of his fellow castaways. Colleen even used this as ammunition in the Jury. She asked him how he could claim that he could be “observant” when he didn’t even pay real attention to the personal lives of the people around him. When I talked about mistakes, I drove the point home that was mattered was not the mistakes made, but rather how a player dealt with them. Richard proved here that he was quite capable of this. He turned the potential weakness he had shown in the challenge to his advantage in the Jury session by using it to emphasize his point that he had a plan, and if he had to be ruthless, that was too bad because it was what worked. So as far as the challenges go, there was nothing remarkable to report except for one individual Immunity Challenge until he got caught looking stupid by another challenge, but then was savvy enough to turn it around and emphasize the points he was trying to make about his strategic game. Finally, an analysis of Richard’s challenge performances would not be complete without the mentioning of his action in the final challenge. Richard made a very bold and brazen move by stepping down off the Idol, realizing full well that Kelly or Rudy would take him….Kelly because she had a better shot, Rudy because he was honor-bound. Richard secured himself a spot in the Final Two without having to compete in the challenge, thereby forcing Kelly’s and Rudy’s hands. So this would serve as another example of using a challenge to heighten your political advantage, although throwing a challenge nowadays is not recommended, because now there is so little trust as opposed to Richard’s simpler days.
I established in the last section that Richard used some bad luck in a challenge to his advantage in his Jury arguments. This, however, represents only one facet of how well he played it in front of the Jury. I feel that you truly have to respect the man for having the audacity to be brutally honest. Nowadays, most people beat around the bush and start apologizing to Jury members for hurt feelings. While this may be appropriate and useful in some cases, it can also be interpreted by some as an expression of weakness. Richard, more than almost any other Final Two candidate after him, really came out and said, in the nicest way possible, “I deserve to win because I played this game the best.” Whereas Kelly started talking about morals and being the better, more deserving person, Richard laid out a cleverly thought-out network of plans and strategies he had used to his advantage on the island, and came right out and said “That’s how I did it and that’s why I deserve to win.” He was honest, but he was also not mean. I think that one of the main reasons Richard won was because of his performance in front of this Jury. Remember, you have a group of people who had been completely shocked by the cruel nature of the game that had been revealed to them. While some Jurors ultimately did vote for Kelly because they agreed with her stance on morality and her amazing challenge performance, Richard was able to convince the majority that it was indeed a nasty game, and he had realized that long before ever stepping foot on the island of Pulau Tiga.
At this point, you have to remember that the game was new to everyone, even Jeff Probst. His questions were not as specific and picky as they are now, nine seasons later, but he was still very direct. One of the most memorable Jeff moments, at least for me, is when, at a Rattana Tribal Council, he asked flat-out “Is there an alliance?” Richard handled this just like he handled all other Jeff questions, which was a very similar approach as to what he took with the Jury. Ultimately, he talked, but never really said much. He would be honest without sacrificing his hand or his composure. I remember he was very stoic and alert and practical at that one TC I mentioned, and in what I believe to be one of the funniest moments of the first season (aside from Rudy fumbling around in the jungle with the video camera), he promptly went back to camp and started venting to the camera (humorously, of course) about Jeff and how direct and brutal he was. That is what all players in the future should learn to adopt, and not just with Jeff: be calm, practical, and neutral in front of Jeff and the other players, and save your true feelings for the privacy of the cameras. Along with many other arts of the game, Richard mastered this one, being mostly neutral in front of other people and then sarcastic and blunt to the cameras.
When you look at it in context, you realize that there is actually very little that Richard did wrong during his time in Borneo. He realized very early on what this game was going to entail. He knew that if he wanted the million, he would have to get a little dirty, and he was willing to go there. The game he played would not work nowadays in Survivor, but that is because he, along with the other members of the Tagi Alliance, established a precedent that the game has evolved from. But Richard most definitely created waves from the beach of that tiny, insignificant island. He was tactful, he was smart, he was serious when he needed to be, funny and sarcastic when he needed to be, and he made all the right moves in all the right places. Richard was definitely a very good player, and no matter how much you may have disliked him, he was a deserving winner, and as you can see, there are many reasons why.
And oh, by the way, in case you were wondering: the island of Pulau Tiga is now officially on the map.
“See” you next week!