Well, in theory - Pat Ferrucci's recaps

Ironically, Peter is not so attractive?


A few weeks ago, during the episode when our beloved Liz got the boot, Peter went out and delivered some weird soliloquy during tribal council about him and Liz being smart, attractive, having great smiles, having tiny toes, eating tangerines and so much more. I might have added a couple of those descriptions, but you remember the scene: Peter and Liz were both smart and attractive.


What I’ve learned writing these columns the last couple seasons is that the beginning of the season is harder than the latter half. Why? Well, so many vote-offs are pretty self-explanatory. They just make sense. Voting Peter off? From what we’ve seen on the show, it just had to happen. Therefore, it’s kind of tough sometimes to apply theory. I mean, you might think because I always come up with some weird sounding theory that there really is something called Vote off the Annoying, Arrogant Ass Theory. Alas, there’s not. But remember what I wrote about three sentences ago about attractive?


You see, Peter called himself attractive and I’m going to tell you he isn’t. And I don’t mean attractive in terms of looks (I make no judgment about him in those regards, but with Liz …). You see, we’re going to apply reward theory of attraction today.


Coined only in 2004 by social psychologist Elliot Aronson, a professor emeritus at the University of California-Santa Cruz (although many academics studied the same phenomena with different names in the years prior), this is a pretty straightforward and easily applicable theory. You see, reward theory of attraction basically argues that people are more likely to like and become friends with people whose behavior they find rewarding to themselves.


Pretty simple, right? I mean, it’s common sense that I’m going to be friends or more with folks whose behavior makes me happy. But, when you think about Survivor or workplaces, it’s not always so easy to accomplish this. And I think this situation with Peter and Aubry illustrates this really well.


Joe and Aubry clearly haven’t liked Peter since almost the beginning of the season. But last week, they voted with him because they needed the number. We’ve seen this too many times to count on Survivor: I may not like my alliance member, but I’m sticking with them because it helps my game. Well, that’s exactly what Joe was thinking this week. And Aubry too, for the beginning of the episode. But then she started thinking about Peter.


Joe and Aubry vs. Peter


Peter’s behavior didn’t provide any rewards for Joe or Aubry (or anybody besides Liz, seemingly). And, finally, Aubry decided his behavior wasn’t attractive enough to warrant keeping around. There was no reward to keeping him around once she realized he might try to take her out.


Again, this is all pretty simplistic, but that’s kind of what theory is, you know? If you’re like me as an undergrad, when professors started talking about theory, my eyes would gloss over because I thought it all sounded so complicated. But then I started thinking about it. At its heart, theory is just a way of explaining things. Why do we do the things we do, in all contexts? Why do we like people who make us happy? Why do we reward some behaviors and not others? This is, kind of, what social psychology is all about.


And this episode we saw Peter (who, it must said, might be one of the worst players we’ve seen in a while) outlive his usefulness to Aubry. When he was just an arrogant ass, she could deal with him because he rewarded her with votes. Once he started targeting her, there were no rewards at all left for her if she kept him around.


OK, so that’s that. Let’s now move from theory and talk about the remaining players. It sure seems like this is the last time we’ll be talking about them as two distinct tribes. Or maybe not.



Gondol (plus Peter)


  • Joseph D. – If my head got hit as hard as Joe’s did, I would have run to medical immediately. Good for Joe. But, seriously, this episode was another example of stereotypical Old Players On Survivor Behavior™ from Joe. He’s simply not adaptable in terms of strategy (or anything) and this will eventually be his downfall.


  • Aubry B. – I’m honestly not sure what to think of Aubry right now. This episode, she really annoyed me. It seems like all season, Aubry just kind of complains a lot and whines a bit too much for my liking. I’m just not getting a good vibe from her. I mean, she’s not Kyle/Jason or anything, but I just don’t think she has the personality to win over a jury.


  • Julia S. – Julia’s looking good. I know that Peter going home is mostly, well, the fault of Peter (something he can take credit for!), but to come into the situation that Julia did and survive, that’s a good sign. We also saw the first hints of personality from Julia and she made some great decisions at tribal and at camp. Arrows point up on Julia … at least in my mind.


  • Tai T. – Well, Tai continues being Tai, which means one of the all-time best contestants.


  • Scot P. – I’ve got to say, once again removed from the shackles of having to play next to Kyle/Jason and the bullying-by-association vibe he was giving off, Scot had a hell of a week. He put himself into a power position on the tribe, even though he started as a minority. He’s making strong relationships with people and he’s performing at challenges. Good for him.


Chan Loh

Chan Loh


  • Debbie W. – Honestly, the way producers have been messing with Debbie’s occupation on screen all season has made my day countless times. This week, with the part-time model thing, I honestly laughed out loud for a few seconds. With that said, she still seems to be playing a good game, although I hate when contestants are gender focused or focused in the same way on some other characteristic. With Debbie telling everyone she wants a woman to win, she’s leaving herself open for a blindside later because everyone will know her tendencies.  


  • Neal G. – We didn’t see much of Neal this week, but it seems like he’s still playing a good under-the-radar game. Good for Neal. Oh, and if you’re reading this, feel free to send me ice cream.


  • Nick M. – Can anyone remember a more conceited recent castaway? I mean, I know Hantz was something, but at least he only mostly boasted about his gameplay, which was admittedly good occasionally. To Nick, nobody is better at anything than Nick, and we’ve seen no evidence of anything at all.


  • Michele F. – In the middle of this episode, I would have said Michele would be first to go on this tribe. But then I think producers somewhat subtly set us up for next week when Michele leads the charge to boot Nick.


  • Kyle/Jason – Oh, Kyle/Jason, for a week you looked good. Now your new tribe is realizing you’re lazy. So sexist, a bully, lazy … you’re coming off really well this season. And this is sad because he’s not playing a bad game otherwise.


  • Cydney G. – I’m still loving my pick of Cydney as a potential winner. Go Cyd.    


Well, that’s all I got this week. If you’re celebrating a holiday this weekend, have a good one. If not, have a good one. We’ll talk next Friday.    


Pat Ferrucci Survivor 31 recapsPat 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.