The Eyes– The Best Of The Best

Welcome back to another week with the Eyes! This is an exciting time for all of us Survivor fans, because yet another season kicks off tonight! I am looking forward to seeing tonight’s premiere of SURVIVOR: GUATEMALA, it looks as if we are shaping up for a great season.

Last week, I contributed to the cast preliminary analysis, if you haven’t checked it out yet, I definitely recommend it. The talent of IP TV truly came together and everyone who contributed their insights did a great job!

However, other than mentioning that, and giving it my highest recommendation for you to read, there is nothing else Guatemala-related for me to talk about this week. I have offered my insights on the new cast, and I will of course be back next week with my take on episode 1 and my predictions for the future. But for now, I’m pretty much in limbo because we are all still eagerly anticipating the premiere.

So, for this week, I decided to continue what I have been doing all summer, and that is talking about Survivor strategy. More specifically, I have spent the last seven weeks devoting each column to one of the winners, in order, and talking about what they did to earn a million bucks. This week, since there is nothing about Guatemala to discuss yet now that the cast has been analyzed, it is time to talk about Amber Brkich, the winner of the All-Star edition of the show.

Talking about the All-Star season brings about one of the biggest controversies in Survivor history, for the very reason that this season incited a lot of strong feelings, positive or negative, from the fans.

I will go right out there and say that I am a big fan of the All-Star season, and I feel that Amber deserved to win. A lot of people were disappointed with the All-Stars season because they argue it was too predictable, the winners and big players were targeted early and so therefore it was boring, and the best person did not win, to name a few criticisms I have heard.

My response is that people simply expected too much. People set their expectations way too high, to something no show could live up to, fantasizing about the big showdowns the big players would have with each other. When that did not end up really happening the way people wanted to, they became angry and decided the season was a waste of time. While I do agree that this game was not meant the be played by friends and people who know each other, I think there was a lot of great stuff that came out of the All-Star season. To name a few:

~ First, just the element of seeing favorite players from all the seasons come together and play was exciting for a Survivor fan like me. I mean, come on. Seeing Hatch with Colby, Kathy with Lex, Cesternino with Mariano, and all the others together in new groups and with new strategies was a lot of fun. One of my favorite scenes of the entire season is that first challenge when Jeff Probst calls the tribes in one by one and the tribe members get to see their competition for the first time.

~ The story that evolved from the Pearl Islands was just great. You couldn’t script this stuff if you tried. Rob and Amber became the primary focus, but with good reason. The pivotal moment of the season came when Lex and Kathy made the bonehead decision to keep Amber as a favor to Rob. But from beginning to end, you had a great storyline that developed. I love going back and watching this season from beginning to end and just watching the various plotlines evolve, like watching Saboga unravel over the Great Divide between winners and non-winners, to Lex’s crusade against the bigger players on Mogo Mogo, to the ultimate blunder I just mentioned, to Rob and Amber’s budding romance and eventual take-over of the game, it’s just great. That’s one great thing about Survivor: the way the editing is able to take the experiences of these people playing this game and give it to us as a great story. The editors always do such a good job, in my opinion.

~ You can’t forget the romance! Never before or after (as of now) was there ever a romance in Survivor as strong as the one that evolved. The live proposal was a classic TV moment, and Rob and Amber are now a happily married couple thanks to this show. I mean, come on, that stuff’s priceless.

Okay, so I have told you some reasons why I am fond of the All-Star season, even though many people feel let down by it. Oh, well. Now it is time to narrow it down and talk about why Amber deserved to win that million dollars, as well as the title of “Ultimate Sole Survivor.”

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

THE CHALLENGES

Amber proved in Australia that she is a strong girl, capable of more than one might give her credit for at first glance. Here in All-Stars she also held her own physically, and she even won Immunity one time at the Final Four. Again, like so many other winners, Amber’s game did not rely on physical prowess but rather strategic domination. Some people may be confused by that last statement, but I firmly believe Amber played the better strategic game. But more on that a little later.

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

THE JURY

Here we go, the hot button issue! This was one of the most heated and most personal final Tribal Councils the show has ever seen. This was the manifestation of the belief that this game was not meant for friends to play. The Jury is the whole reason Boston Rob lost this, and it was not all the sore losers’ faults. Rather, it was the failure of Rob to play the game as well as he should have been able to. I’m not trying to denounce the level of his game, because it was great. Rob was the clear dominant player from day one. From day one, it was evident that he knew what this All-Star game was going to be different because he said right at the beginning: “All-Stars is going to be the most cutthroat Survivor ever. Nobody trust anybody.” Right from the get-go, he was the physical powerhouse of the challenges, leading Chapera to dominance of the tribal portion of the game and then dominating in the individual challenges after the merge. Jeff Probst even said at the finale, “With all respect to the other 17, this was your season.” However, there was one critical thing that Rob did wrong. He failed to compensate for Jury planning. Back in my article on the Jury, I mentioned that it was critical to plan ahead when you were dealing with the formation of the Jury. Rob failed to do this, and he failed miserably. While he succeeded at dominating strategically and snowing everyone in his alliance except Amber, he cut people lose, even though he knew they would be on the Jury, without any regard for their feelings. While what Lex and Kathy did was the stupidest thing they could have possibly done, and they definitely deserved to be kicked out of the game (sorry, Kathy, I still love you!!!!), Rob could have handled his approach to the betrayal much differently. He cut people right where it hurt the most, and he did it to Lex, he did it to Kathy, he did it to Alicia, and he did it to Tom. My friend, that is four people, and that is the majority of the Jury. And while they should not have been sourpusses about the whole thing like they were, Lex was especially disgraceful, (and Kathy actually voted for Rob anyway, so she is excused), this cost Rob the game. Why did Amber win?
Spite? A lot of people will argue that, but I don’t agree. Rob could have chosen to play it differently, so while a lot of the heat he got, especially from Lex, was undeserved and uncalled for, a lot of it also wasn’t. Amber, on the other hand, got right behind him. Amber was doing the EXACT SAME THINGS Rob was doing. But she allowed him to take the heat. They both knew what was happening. It was classic good cop, bad cop. Rob knew, as he said later, that he was playing the bad cop. No one said he had to fill that role, and Amber certainly never said anything to try and dissuade him and take that role.

Amber won this game because she was smart enough to stay under the radar when the bigger players were focused on killing each other. She was smart enough to find a solid alliance in the beginning, and she used him to be a smokescreen. Like I said, they made decisions as a team, they were both doing the exact same things, but Amber was smart enough to allow Boston Rob to be the bad cop so that he would take all the heat when it came time for the Jury. A lot of people might call that weak. I call it smart, and it worked, and it even ended up turning into something real.

I’m going to stop there, because I truly feel I have made my point the best way I possibly can, and any further discussion would not be valid or useful. In summary, Amber deserved to win the All-Star edition because she was smart enough to stay low and not let people know everything she was doing.

I will continue my analyses of the winners in the next off-season, but we have a new season premiering tonight, so it’s time to talk about that! I’ll be back next week with my take on the first episode of SURVIVOR: GUATEMALA—THE MAYA EMPIRE.

“See” you next week! Enjoy the premiere!