When we’re watching Survivor, we’re seeing 40-something minutes culled together by editors and producers into something we’re all really familiar with: a story.
As we all know, that’s the key to the show. Oh sure it helps to have engaging characters and some good fortune in terms of strategy, but, really, I would argue the most important job on the show is manned by what I assume is an army of folks working incredibly hard to put together an overarching story for the season.
I’m guessing many of us on this here site have listened to a podcast or two or a thousand from over at Rob Has a Website. And there’s that clip from the great Jonathan Penner that Rob loves to use a lot: “I’m like a storyteller, that’s what I do,” says Penner.
I couldn’t help but think of that quote while watching this week’s episode of Kaoh Rong. We also often hear about how every Survivor player is the star of their own story, which is why they’re sometimes unable to understand other people’s intentions and strategies. And that, my friends, is what did Nick in.
There’s this theory in social psychology called narrative transportation theory, which is a super complicated theory (at least for me), which is often employed in advertising or, more generally, persuasion studies. I don’t really do any of those so bear with me, as I think this theory really fits this week.
The basic idea behind narrative transportation theory is that stories, or narrative, are incredibility important to us as humans. They’re how we learn, how he think, how we experience life. You often hear people say we’re “narrative creatures.” That’s basically at the heart of this theory. In essence, the theory argues that people get lost in stories, when certain conditions are set, and when they get lost, their attitudes and beliefs shift to fit that story.
We know that on Survivor, people are constantly thinking about their game. They wonder about Big Moves™ and how they can present their case to the jury. They wonder about how to convince others to do what they want. They wonder about a lot of things, but, in essence, they’re crafting a narrative. And once someone gets lost in their own narrative, I would argue, their game’s over because a key to winning Survivor is understanding your opponents’ narrative. If you can do that, you can better read your opponents and anticipate what they’re going to do.
For Nick, I think, he simply got lost in his story and that made him start to believe too much in his own game. Nick got cocky (I mean, he was always cocky) and didn’t understand that, yes, maybe for Julia or Cydney or Aubry, going with the guys wasn’t a smart idea. Just maybe. Nick couldn’t see that. In his story, the alliance was way too powerful and made too much sense to everyone. Um, nope.
To apply the theory more explicitly, Nick crafted this story in his mind of the cocky hero having everyone under his thumb. Brawn needed Beauty took take out Brain and, of course, Brain is more important to eliminate than any other tribe … for Nick’s story. And the women from Beauty and Brawn were just sheep being led by the evil dictator Kyle/Jason … but Nick had Kyle/Jason and Scot under his thumb too. Nick seemingly stood at the nexus of all alliances. He was his own narrator in a truly powerful story that would lead to his victory. But, of course, not so fast. He made no real connections in the game and that ended up biting him in the butt.
You’re seeing the opposite happen with the women now. Julia and Michele, especially, understood the stories the Brawn men (and Nick) were telling in their own minds and they also understand where they themselves stood more realistically.
This led them to changing things up.
And now we have a really interesting end game developing and I’m totally excited to see where this goes. But, now, let’s talk about the remaining players.
And that’s it. Thanks for reading. I’m sorry this went up a little late, but I got a little busy at the end of the week. I’ll be back next with more theory and more fun. What else could you want out of life?
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.