The second season of Survivor is consistently rated by fans as their favorite. The cast was stellar and the series was still young so it still felt extremely fresh. Plus, of course, there were some highly memorable events: Mike falling in the fire, the camp being flooded, Jeff offering to trade rice for shelter, the infamous Alicia/Kimmi fight, etc.
When it came to weather and the elements, it is fair to say that this group had the worst time. Yeah, Africa was horrible, but this group had a flood run through their camp, ran out of food due to poor rationing techniques, and came dangerously close to starving. However, at the end of the game, the true highlight is not what the elements did to each group, but the strategic style of the gameplay.
At the end of the game, all that counts is the strategic element, because ultimately, that’s what the Jury looks at. Yes, physical strength is important. But the mental aspect of the game becomes more important when it comes to who actually gets the million dollar check.
In my opinion, that was the theme that this season brought about. We saw it to a lesser extent in Borneo, but here, I believe the example is even more striking. You have the Final Two of Tina and Colby. Colby has created a record and won more challenges than anybody. He completely dominated them, and went to most of the post-merge Tribal Councils with the Immunity necklace around his neck, so he really didn’t have to worry about his own security. Then you have Tina, who did not win a single Immunity Challenge, but rather got to the Final Two by using her head. In the end, the Jury respected that and rewarded her with a million dollars.
So what exactly did Tina Wesson due to earn the title of Sole Survivor in the Australian Outback? To be honest, Tina remains to this day one of my favorite winners. I did not get to see this season when it was airing on television, and Sandra Diaz-Twine from Pearl Islands is my #1 favorite winner, but Tina is a close second. I really respect the way that she played this game. She was constantly using a strategy, whether it appeared that way or not. Yes, she made some mistakes and had some lesser moments out there, but as I’ve said before, what counts is necessarily the mistakes you make, but rather how you deal with the aftermath of them and how or when they may come back to haunt you.
This will work exactly the same as it did last week, with the analysis of Richard Hatch. I will take a close look at Tina’s game through the various aspects of it that I have discussed since the Palau finale, and then give an overall evaluation of her performance in the Outback.
When it comes to the challenges, there is nothing stellar to report. Tina did not win one single individual Immunity Challenge. She contributed well to the tribal challenges, except she failed to eat during the food wheel challenge. That was her big challenge mistake, but it’s an easy one to overcome because everyone is usually pretty willing to forgive a mistake like that, especially when it was so early in the game and still so early in the series itself. But in this section, that is really not what I want to talk about, especially seeing as it obviously had no negative impact on her overall game at all. While it is true that she did not win a single Immunity Challenge individually, Tina still used one to the strategic advantage of herself and her Ogakor alliance. This move made my list of best strategic decisions, so if you read it, you already know what I’m talking about. In quite possibly one of her most brilliant and most consequential moves of the game, Tina stepped off the Perch in the first individual Immunity Challenge in order so that Keith could have Immunity. From the surface, this really does not appear to be highly significant. However, you need to remember at this point that the two tribes were even, and a tie would be decided by previous votes. The Ogakors knew that if Kucha targeted Keith, they were finished because he had the most previous votes against him, far more than the one against Jeff that Ogakor had discovered. So in the Perch challenge, it came down to just Tina and Keith. Keith looked right over at Tina, and said, “I need this.” After taking just a moment to consider the option, Tina agreed she needed to step down so that she could protect Keith, simultaneously preserving the game life of herself and her allies. They then used that one vote they had discovered against Jeff, sent him home, and gained a majority over the Kuchas. So even though Tina never actually won a challenge herself individually, she used one of the challenges to her strategic advantage, successfully changing the course of the entire game for the betterment of herself and her alliance.
Tina did a good job in front of the Jury. While she may not have been necessarily as straightforward and honestly blunt as Richard was in Borneo, I was still impressed overall by the way she presented herself. My favorite Tina quote from the Final Tribal Council is when she tells the Jury that they “should not vote based on whether or not they got their feelings hurt. That doesn’t show who the Survivor is, that just shows you got your feelings hurt.” How true is that? I wish that all Survivor players had this same attitude when it came down to the Final Tribal Council, the most important night of the game. Unfortunately, as we all know, that was not the case. As far as Outback is concerned, however, I felt Tina and Colby both did very well, and it was a close vote. I believe this decision was based more heavily on the 42 days than on that night, and the majority of Jury members respected Tina’s strategy and the way she presented herself in the Outback. I do, however, love that quote I mentioned because it really reflects both Tina’s attitude and the ideal attitude for any future Survivor contestant to have going into both the game itself and the Final Tribal Council.
One thing I admired about Tina the entire time in the Outback was her overall presentation. She was always guardedly neutral, never actually revealing anything important or significant about her strategy until it was time for people to know. It was the same thing with Jeff at Tribal Council. Her answers were always neutral, and there was rarely anything else for Jeff to ask to try and drag out of her because while she did not reveal the juicy information he wanted, she still said just enough so that she could be excused from his line of questioning. There were times when she made comments that did not appear to be so neutral. There was the time right after her loss at the Food Wheel challenge where she came right out and said “I deserve to be the one to go because I failed.” Was Tina actually throwing in the towel? Of course not! The reason this was a good answer at that time was because Tina knew that she was going nowhere. She had already set up her alliance, and she knew she was safe. Remember, she never got a single vote cast against her, and never saw her name on parchment until the Final Tribal Council. She knew she was safe, and so she was able to make a proclamation like this. If you know for a fact you’re going nowhere like she did, better to come out and be honest than to say that they should keep you around for reasons that sound more like pathetic whining than anything else. Second, after she gave Keith Immunity, Jeff asked for her reasoning, and she said she did it as part of a team effort. Again, this is NOT a neutral answer and it’s quite honest without revealing specifics. The reason this was smart was because everyone in that room at that moment where the battle lines were drawn. At this point, it was better for Tina to be honest about the fact she made that move as a team player because it did not cause anyone to disrespect her for openly lying, and planted the seeds of her strategy into the minds of the other players. The lesson here is that when you can be neutral, you should be neutral. However, the trick is to know when to use some honesty so that you don’t get reamed out for openly lying, and yet without revealing any pertinent information. In my opinion, Tina mastered this craft, and presented herself at all Tribal Councils in the best way she knew how.
Even though Tina played this game at an early phase, she is still a good model for future Survivors to follow, even more than Richard Hatch. Throughout the entire time in the Outback, Tina used a strategy to her advantage. She knew what she wanted from day one, and in the end, the Jury respected her for it. Her greatest move of all was convincing Colby to keep her over Keith in the Final Tribal Council, because it was that move that ultimately sealed her victory. If you look back at how well Tina played this game, there really shouldn’t be any surprise that she was the first All-Star voted out. After all, she may very well have been the player to beat.
“See” you next week!