Thailand Strategy #11: You Can't Stop the
Written by Mario Lanza on 11.22.02
"That terminator is out there. It can't be bargained with! It can't be reasoned with! It doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead!"
-Kyle Reese, THE TERMINATOR
We passed one of my favorite milestones with this episode: The last predictable boot pick! At a certain point each season, we finally reach the point where the formalities are out of the way. The dead weight has been shed. The fireworks are ready to begin. There is no more stalling for Chuay Gahn now, they have put off and put off and delayed making the tough decisions for as long as they could. The Sook Jais were easy pickings, so off they went. And, as a result, the Chuays have been on auto pilot ever since Shii Ann left. But the waiting is now over. Now they will have to start turning on one another. And I think the great Russian philosopher Ivan Drago described the last part of the game the best, when he uttered the immortal phrase, "I must break you."
First off, I have been incredibly short sighted in my power rankings the past couple of weeks. Because remember, when I looked at the player bios at the start of the season, only one real name stood out at me: Brian Heidik. His bio JUMPED out at me. Just check out my initial enthusiasm over our first used car salesman ever to play this game:
So Brian was my #1 in the rankings from day one, and he remained in that spot for much of the season. The only thing that changed his ranking along the way was his disastrous video from home. As they say in pro wrestling, that video was "a Pearl Harbor job." And no, that isn't because his wife is Hawaiian. A Pearl Harbor Job is defined as being blindsided by an attack that you don't see coming (although it usually involves a folding chair or a handful of salt, not a video in which your wife boastfully proclaims how much money you have.) Brian had played a masterful, near perfect game up to the point of his video from home. And then, well, the editors made a big deal of the reaction to Brian's video from home. And I made the mistake of thinking that C.C.'s video was actually a big deal. Yes, you got it. I should have known better, but I made the classic rookie mistake of falling for the editing. Darn you editors! The video from C.C. didn't make the slightest bit of difference in this game, and using that as my justification for dropping Brian from the top spot in the power rankings was short sighted and dumb. This week's episode made it all too clear that not only is Brian still the favorite to win this game, he is, in my opinion, the single best player to ever play Survivor.
Now I know that will be a debatable opinion, but I have always been under the impression that the players get smarter with each season. Well, okay not smarter, not in terms of physical intelligence, anyway. It is more wisdom than intelligence. With every season, the players learn from the mistakes of those who played before them. And Brian pretty much has this game figured out. He has no less than THREE of his four opponents thinking that he is the greatest thing since sliced bread. Ted has had a final-two alliance with Brian for a long time (unless you believe the whole "Ted is angry with the Clay-Brian bond" subplot.) Clay and Brian have also promised to go all the way to the end together. And this week, Helen pretty much confirmed that she is best friends with Brian too, and that Brian has promised to take "H" along with him to the finals. Not only does Helen believe that Brian is going to take her to the end, she also believes that he is a totally ethical human being and that he will never stab her in the back. I think Brian must have told her at some point that he runs an orphanage for sick children and wounded kittens. In fact, to drive this nail even further home (that Brian is the man), Helen seems giddy and excited over the fact that a cool guy like Brian would actually take her to the finals! As if, you know, she has no power over what is going to happen. As if that is all up to Brian.
My point is that even Helen is wooed by the charms of Brian Heidik, and she is the tough cynical bad-ass military instructor who I thought was going to be the one to take him down. Right now everyone is talking about Brian as if he is guaranteed a spot in the final two. Everyone is talking about him like they just want to be the prom date on his arm. And that, my friends, is a masterful manipulator. Richard Hatch aint got nothing on a used car salesman. And these aren't stupid people he is charming either, these are all experienced, hardcore strategists and Survivor players. I'm quite sure that Helen is not a stupid or gullible person in real life. Yet she is going on and on about Brian to her husband as if she were a freshman girl and football captain Brian just asked her to the prom. In fact they all talk about him like that. Heck, I'm just waiting for a confessional from Jeff Probst, where he gushes about Brian and says, "Brian says that if I rig the votes and make it so he wins, he will split the money with me. Gosh, he's such a nice guy."
My point is, Brian is going back to the top of the power rankings and he aint coming down unless somebody TAKES him down. He is in it for the long haul now.
Now Brian's personality and his entertainment value is another topic altogether. People have called him clinical. They have called him detached. They have accused him of being robotic, cold, distant, creepy, etc. And the answer is, yep, pretty much. He definitely has his game face on at all times, and like I said in an earlier column, I wonder what his psychological profile would look like in real life. He doesn't even show emotion when he sees his wife and kid on a video, it is almost like they are an annoyance to him when he is in "game mode." I don't think we really know much about Brian right now, all we are allowed to see in the episodes is his detachment from the game. And his single-minded purpose to win. And his playing up to the cameras whenever he gets bored. He doesn't seem to have the slightest emotional attachment to anyone or anything else out there, and I am guessing that if you asked him, he really couldn't give a crap about any of the other players as human beings. I would suspect that these signs would raise some pretty disturbing red flags if you were a trained psychotherapist, but really this is the type of person who can excel at a game like Survivor. It's also why a lot of psychologists and behavioral critics had a field day criticizing Survivor when it first came out back in 2000, because it is a game that encourages antisocial behavior. It is a game that is built for an animatronic robot who doesn't care about anyone like Brian Heidik.
Brian's personality type might make for a pretty dull TV character, but at the same time it creates a very efficient, machinelike Survivor terminator. Brian is just there to win the game. And he is going to win in as relentless and efficient a manner as possible. Lex touched on this topic very well in his column this week, Brian is just a Survivor machine. He goes after that money and he does not stop. Friendships don't stop him. Family doesn't stop him. Rules don't stop him. Ethics certainly won't stop him. In other words, he is the Terminator. He is just doing what he was programmed to do. And he won't stop until he is destroyed.
One final word about Brian. How is it that people don't remember that he is a used car salesman? I mean, if I heard that on day one, that is the ONLY thing I would remember about him. Your mind should automatically insert that at the end of every single sentence Brian says:
"Hi, I'm Brian. (I'm a used car salesman.) Okay, I got a deal for you. (I'm a used car salesman.) Clay's starting to get on people's nerves. (I'm a used car salesman.) I think you and I should team up. (I'm a used car salesman.) I'll take you to the end, and we'll just string Ted along with us for a while. (I'm a used car salesman.) By the way, you have really nice eyes, has anyone told you that? (I'm a used car salesman.)"
Okay, enough gushing about Brian. I've gone on too long. I feel like I'm Clay describing what C.C. looks like in a g-string. This week's episode was nice because it disguised the easy boot pick with a pair of interesting challenges and it hid it behind a lot of family emotion. I always like the family visit episodes, and the Thailand version was probably my favorite of the bunch. Plus we got to see adult film star C.C. Costigan again, and of course no one was more excited about that than Clay Jordan. Right, Clay?
Clay: Hummina, hummina, hummina, yowza! Yeeeeeeeeee ha, yummmm yummm yummmm! Wowzy wow wow woweeee!
Thanks, Clay. But I really don't have a lot to talk about in terms of strategy this week. And the simple reason why is that I don't have a clue what is going to happen now. There are so many possibilities as to what will happen next, there are so many variables, there are so many turns the game could theoretically take. I mean, who on Earth had Vecepia picked to win at this point last season?
It is a pretty common thing at this point to look at who is on the jury and see how they might vote. But I don't like to look that far ahead. At this point, as a player, all you can really do is look at the next vote. Besides, I have never really been that concerned as to who is on the jury, I don't care what Jeff Probst says, I just don't consider their individual personalities to be that big a factor (sorry, John!) It is my belief that a smooth talker and/or a good communicator can win almost any jury vote, despite what they have done leading up to that. Richard Hatch is a good example of this. And likewise, I have always believed that a bad speaker (Neleh) can single handedly sabotage their own chances. I don't care what John, Tammy, Robert and Zoe say about how they "stuck together and made a point," if Neleh had answered her questions better last season she probably would have won. All John wanted her to do was admit she backstabbed people and then she would have been a millionaire. So it's fun and all to look at who would vote for who on the jury, but if Brian makes it to the final two, then maybe we will get to see mister used car salesman really work his magic. That is where he will shine. We will get an insincere, yet somehow moving, speech that will put all other jury arguments to shame.
Oh yeah, some other fun notes on this week:
* Last week, I wondered why Clay voted for Jake instead of Penny. And, well, aparently the answer to this question is easily available as a CLIP ON THE CBS WEBSITE where Clay explains that he just wanted Penny's vote on the jury. Approximately eight thousand and six readers pointed this out to me, with Kevin Wales being the first one to do so, so he gets credit for it. In related news, I'm a dumbass.
* So Clay tries really hard to court Penny's vote, he goes out of his way to be nice to her on her way out, and then the very next day he goes out of his way to piss off Jake and maybe lose his jury vote. I think it's pretty safe to say that Clay didn't fully think out his "Suck up to Sook Jai" strategy.
* I was flipping back and forth between TBS and CBS during Survivor, because one of my favorite movies, "Jaws," was playing on TBS. And darned if Richard Dreyfuss in Jaws doesn't look exactly like Clay Jordan after 33 days. It was eerie. I almost forgot which show was which, although I think watching Quint get eaten by a shark was less disturbing than watching the water beetle feast.
* Helen demanding that her husband eat was one of the funniest moments of the season. She is really funny when she is animated like that. I also thinks she should go into the "Survivor Confessional Hall of Fame," since her confessionals are always so fun to watch. I would also nominate Jeff Varner, Greg Buis, Kelly Goldsmith and Rob Mariano for this prestigious honor.
* Speaking of Helen's husband, it's too bad they don't have a basketball court on Tarutao, because he could have had a very competitive game of one-on-one hoops against Clay. They are virtually the exact same size. My wife pointed out that Helen's husband also sounds exactly like Joe Pesci, if you close your eyes and just listen to his voice. He was a lot of fun though, and he was a good spot. He appeared to at least -try- to have a good time out there.
SURVIVOR: TEXAS POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK ELEVENLike I said before, Brian is now #1 until they vote him out. EVERYONE wants to be in the final two with him, they all assume he will be there anyway and they just want to be up there next to him. It's like it doesn't even cross anyone's mind to actually vote him off. Almost every permutation of the final two should involve Brian right now, so obviously he is back at the top of the power rankings. And everything that is ranked under him is just a crapshoot.