This week completed our six-episode argument for a Survivor season of winners. When winners return to the show to face off against non-winners, it never ends well. Like basically everyone else, I was really looking forward to seeing, especially, Tony and Sandra this season. And while we saw Sandra play a great game, she had no chance to actually win. And we all knew Tony would go quickly.
And that brings us to drive theory. The genesis of drive theory goes all the back to Freud, so we’re talking early 20th century here. But, when it comes to applying drive theory in social psychology, the theory is often credited to Robert Zajonc, a psychologist who spent most of his career at Stanford.
Let’s get back to drive theory and Survivor. So I want to make something clear. While this is the case almost every week, it’s especially so this week: The theory is actually super complicated and I’m just taking a small bit of it and applying it.
OK, enough disclaimers. The basic definition of the theory is that people have different drives that control their behavior. Simply put, let’s say we’re without food for six days. Well, our drive to get food is going to be a hell of a lot stronger than if we just ate a ton of food 10 minutes ago. Pretty simple, right? And obvious?
But now let’s get to a little more of a complicated definition. One facet of drive theory posits that when a person is completing a task, their drive to perform depends on a couple other factors, one of which is the audience.
The theory says when that a person needs to complete a task and there’s the presence of a passive audience, what matters is whether the person believes the task to be easy or difficult. When we’re talking about audience, it’s doesn’t mean a literal audience, but rather if the result affects people who have no control over the task.
In essence, Survivor players complete tasks in front of a passive audience. A castaway always knows they’re on television, which is going to affect how they play. I know there are a lot of factors that go into vote-offs, but I think this audience effect makes a difference in seasons with winners.
Hear me out here. I think players look at their competition, see a winner, knows the audience would think it’s smart to eliminate a winner and subsequently sees that task as an easy one. Basically, drive theory says when there is a passive audience and an easy task, arousal levels in the person will spike and they will want to complete the task.
Therefore, while it may have made sense for people to ditch Tai this week since he’s a more variable and less predictable player, players knew Sandra was a winner, that the audience would praise them for eliminating a two-time winner and that the task was relatively easy. This results in Sandra, or any winner, really, getting the boot.
Consider this column my plea for a winners’ season.
I know I’ve heard some people say that it would be boring, but I don’t agree. I would love it. And I know Probst has said he doesn’t think there would be a good cast to choose from, but I think that’s wrong too. Let’s end the theory stuff, and think about a winners’ season, a season where drive theory might not matter. Let’s figure there would be a 20-person game.
And here’s who I would have on.
For men: Richard, Brian, Chris, Yul, Earl, Todd, Boston Rob, Tony, Mike and Jeremy.
For the women: Tina, Vecepia, Sandra, Danni, Parvati, Natalie W., Sophie, Kim, Denise and Natalie A.
Basically, for a variety of reasons (mostly because they’re dull or I’ve seen them too many times), I would be leaving out the following winners: Ethan, Jenna, Amber, Tom, Aras, Bob, J.T., Fabio, Cochran, Tyson, Michele and Adam.
Any thoughts on my fantasy season?
OK, so I went off on a tangent this week. Let’s call it a column. As we officially hit the middle game, here’s how I’m viewing the remaining players:
- Brad — For a little while there, everything went perfectly for Brad. This episode, he had to deal with two pretty significant negatives: His tribe placement and J.T.’s ouster. We’ve all, I think, been surprised at Brad’s good gameplay so far, but now comes the hard part. How he deals with these two setbacks will let us know how good of a game player Brad became after his stretch on Blood vs. Water.
- Aubry — I have a feeling that when Mana goes to tribal for the first time, Aubry will be the one going home. Why? Well, I think she’s the easy target. She doesn’t really have any relationships with anyone on the tribe and her season’s recent airing makes her an easy vote.
- Michaela — I’ve pretty much come to the conclusion that Michaela will be an early merge boot. I don’t really have any evidence to support my guess, but the editing really makes me think that. We shall see.
- Hali — Well, the tribe swap probably couldn’t have come at a better time for Hali. Her position in the old tribe was precarious at best and now she’s kind of settled in here, I think. Of course, I don’t mean she’s running anything; I just think she’s going to blend in easy now. I think we’re in for a relatively long stay for Hali. And I’m not sure how I feel about it.
- Troyzan — You know why Troy is in a decent position? Not only does he have an idol, I don’t think anyone suspects him of having an idol. And being one of only two dudes on Mana might give him a little protection. I’m not sure, but it might. Honestly, I like Troy’s spot right now.
- Cirie — On the other hand, I don’t particularly like Cirie’s spot. To me, she kind of sticks out on this tribe. I’m not really sure why I think this, but I just believe her best allies ended up on Nuku, and that could be a problem for her. The other issue is, of course, Cirie is easily the least physical member on a tribe that, while it won immunity, doesn’t stack up so well against Nuku… especially now that Nuku added the Greatest Athlete Alive™ in Debbie.
- Sierra — During J.T.’s exit interviews, he echoed what a couple other booted players have said: Sierra’s a follower and not doing much this season. I know people disagree with this, but I’m not sure why. The basic argument is that she first mentioned Malcolm’s name before his elimination. Um, so? We saw her on Worlds Apart: Sierra is not a leader. She’s got zero votes at final tribal written all over her.
- Tai — I’m not sure how I feel about how easy it was for Tai to get a second idol, but we all have to admit: Even though he still stinks in social interactions, Tai is playing a much better game this time around. I know that’s amazing to say after his tribal performance, but I have to think some of that was planned and we just didn’t see the planning. Nothing else makes sense, right?
- Debbie — Oh, Debbie. Forgetting about the game for a second: I hope you watched that scene with Cochran this week and realized how you come across to everyone. Cockiness and arrogance never gets anyone ahead. And in a game like Survivor, that gives castaways blinders, making it difficult to get an accurate read of what’s actually happening.
- Jeff — As much as I love watching Varner play Survivor because he’s so damn entertaining, this week showed why he’s played twice without making the merge: He’s just not that great of player. His horrible read on Zeke was just that: horrible. Zeke’s reasons for ditching Tai really made no sense, but Jeff wanted to believe them, so he did. That’s the mark of a not-great player.
- Andrea — I feel like there’s somebody named Andrea playing this season. This person, her name’s Andrea, was on two seasons of Survivor before this and always received far more airtime than she deserved, arguably. But this season, this Andrea woman must be a full-time resident of Exile Island or something.
- Sarah — Did you know she’s playing like a criminal this season? If you hadn’t heard that, I just wanted to remind you.
- Ozzy — While his name came up at tribal this week, I think Ozzy remains in a pretty good spot. To me, there seems like a lot of easy boots on this tribe before Ozzy. And, unlike Tai, most people with half a brain don’t actually worry about Ozzy’s, um, strategic talents. As an aside, besides being a little nervous about a boot, Ozzy must have absolutely loved tribal and being praised for strategy for the first time in his 3,451 days on the island.
- Zeke — To me, Zeke looks to be in a really strong position. And as much as I want him to go far or even win, I have a bad feeling. Here’s why: Last season, he looked to be in a great position until around this time, and then things started to go to his head a bit. Instead of being an under-the-radar threat, Zeke started talking a lot at tribal and making his social moves too obvious. At tribal this week, Zeke’s questioning of Tai made me think he might be doing the same thing. And these castaways this season, well, they’re going to take note.
Now that we’ve completed another tribe swap, here’s hoping producers let this one play out until the merge. While all for switching things, especially in returning seasons, I think these constant switches have made it difficult for tribe dynamics to develop. And those dynamics, and what they lead to, are kind of my favorite part of Survivor.
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.