If you’ve watched enough Survivor, you probably knew about 10 minutes into episode two of Kaoh Rong that Alecia wouldn’t be going home. Why? Producers gave her a hero edit, one that showed her trying hard and succeeding, while juxtaposing that with Scot and Kyle/Jason lounging around.
But who would be going home? For a while, it sure looked like it would be Kyle/Jason, and that would have made my day because my observations about him from last week sure still seem spot on: This guy is a sexist bully who simply doesn’t treat people well.
And while I would have loved to see him be the second person booted on the season, the way it went down with Jenny sure made for a more entertaining episode. I mean, honestly, can anyone remember a worse tribal performance? I watched in shock and horror thinking, “This really can’t be happening. She can’t be acting this dumb.” But, alas, Jenny did show everyone how to not play Survivor and saved Kyle/Jason and Alecia in the process.
So how can we explain how Jenny could seem like such a decent player and then completely become a trainwreck oh so quickly? I think it’s appropriate to take a look at the theory of cognitive dissonance.
Once again, we’re borrowing from the world of psychology, this time with a theory most often used in cognitive psychology research. Introduced by Leon Festinger, a psychologist who spent time at a lot of universities including MIT (located in the best state in the world), cognitive dissonance theory basically describes the mental anguish and indecision a person goes through when they hold two or more incongruous views at the same time. What usually happens when a person suffers from this? Well, they tend to choose a side and avoid anything, any evidence, that would support the other.
We see this happen a lot with people who have strong political views. We all know, I hope, that with most political views, there is at least some evidence for the opposing side. But let’s say I want to believe, against all evidence to the contrary, that climate change is not real. In the back of my head, I know I’m wrong, so I’ll tune out all the actual evidence on the subject.
To apply this to Jenny and Survivor, we need to realize all the things going on in Jenny’s mind, which is probably negatively affected already by being in the elements and, of course, that worm that chowed down on her brain like it was a damn Golden Corral.
First, we know Jenny can hear the sweet nothings Jeff Probst whispers in the ears of all Survivor viewers every single season: You need to make big moves to win this game. Eliminating the Patron Saint of Horrible Tattoos would be a Big Move™. She also knows that Kyle/Jason treats people like crap and is incredibly lazy. On the other hand, she’s in an alliance with Kyle/Jason and Scot, and breaking that up this early is bad news. Second, we know at Tribal, Probst wants something out of contestants, but it’s also important not to indulge him.
What’s a person hungry, thirsty and with a feasted-on brain to do? There are all these contradictory thoughts going through her mind at once. Jenny decides she’s sticking with her alliance, and I think she began her verbal diarrhea as a way to convince herself she was making the right move. You see, one of the ways people attempt to cure themselves of cognitive dissonance is to justify behavior. And if you listen to Jenny’s speech and can get past how dumb it was to say it out loud, you’ll hear a lot of justifications.
That’s how Jenny’s boot came to be, I believe. I think Scot made the right move in trying to keep her for strength, but I can also understand Kyle/Jason and Cydney wanting no part of someone who would actually behave that way on Survivor.
Again, the best part of the whole thing really affected us, the viewers. This episode was shaping up to be a pretty boring second glimpse of the season. Instead, Jenny’s cognitive dissonance made watching Tribal Council just like a proverbial train wreck. Good times.
Now after two episodes, have your impressions of people shifted? Mine have. Let’s talk about some.
Brains – Chan Loh
Beauty – Gondol
Brawn – To Tang
OK, let’s talk again next week. Sound good?
Pat Ferrucci started watching Survivor when episode two of Borneo first aired. He’s seen every episode since. Besides recapping here, he’ll be live-tweeting this season from the Mountain Time Zone. Why? Because nobody cares about the Mountain Time Zone except when they want to ski. Follow him @patferrucci for Survivor stuff and tweets about anything and everything that enters his feeble mind.