Survivor Survival Guide: “Fatigue Makes Cowards of Us All”

“Every time she speaks, it becomes more evident she’s crazy. I’m gonna keep one eye on Holly and one eye on my shoes.”


The second episode of Survivor: Nicaragua, which I believe is the first episode of a television series to be named for a quote taken from one Super Bowl winning coach by another Super Bowl winning coach,* represented, I suppose, a slight upgrade from a bland opening salvo. The main thing it really did, however, was further the realization that a lot of these castaways are really bad Survivor players.

*Jimmy Johnson quoting Vince Lombardi: “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.”

We’ll start with Holly, who after going against her day-old alliance with Wendy in the season premiere, became a bit unhinged. First, she snapped at Jill for eating snails because she deemed them inedible (by watching Jill eat them), eventually throwing all the snails away. Then, after overhearing her tribemates making fun of her, she stole Dan’s $1,600 alligator shoes,* filled them with sand, and placed them in the water. Dan started wondering where his shoes were, Holly started wondering why she was rapidly becoming such a terrible person, and so she decided to come clean — which I believe only made the rest of her tribe think less of her.

*Really, Dan?

On the other side of the beach, NaOnka — who appears to be on a mission to fill certain stereotypes — grew angry when her socks went missing. And so she just stole Fabio’s socks, blatantly wearing them in front of the tribe.* This led Na and Fabio to argue a bit, but Fabio isn’t really the arguing type, whereas Na very much is.

*Man, is everyone trying to be Russell by stealing stuff? And can’t anyone man up about it and just deal?

That brought us to the Immunity Challenge earlier than usual in the episode. This week’s challenge consisted of racing on all fours through mud to then find a ball hidden in a haystack, then passing the ball to tribemates who had to use shields to pass the ball among themselves and into a bucket. I’m pretty sure the latter part of the challenge was a game we played in fifth-grade gym class.

Espada chose to use the Medallion of Power this time around, meaning they only had to get three balls into the bucket instead of four. This proved valuable at the end, with Tyrone going 3-for-3 in tossing the ball into the bucket while Benry (for La Flor) struggled. Along with Immunity, Espada won a reward of fishing gear, which they chose over a tarp for shelter.

Included in the fishing gear was, of course, a clue for a Hidden Immunity Idol. On the plus side, at least the clues appear to be getting harder this season, since only Jill was eventually able to figure it out. She dropped some knowledge on Marty in a shrewd move that allies her with who might just be the most powerful player in Espada. Marty found the idol, and no one appeared to see him and Jill find it — not even Amanda from last season.

Back at La Flor, two alliances began to emerge. First (earlier in the episode), Sash approached NaOnka about the possibility of a minority alliance, since, you know, he’s actually half-black. The two of them figured they could rope Brenda — the Asian with a Hispanic lilt to her voice that I’m now officially switching the classification from cute-ish to cute — in as well. It didn’t seem like Sash had thought much beyond that, considering they were the only three minorities.* NaOnka, as much as she dislikes Fabio, said they should cut the head off of the other alliance by voting off Shannon.

*And come on, a minority alliance? Why not base it off something a bit more legitimate than Sash’s claims of half-blackness.

The second alliance was the one led by Shannon (the ironically named, misogynistic male), who had Benry and Chase as his closest allies along with Fabio. Alina and Kelly B. appeared on board as well, and they wanted Brenda out because she was a relatively strong woman who would likely use her looks to her advantage. Only problem is, she was already using her looks to her advantage with Chase, who was stuck between both alliances.

It was shaping up to be a big vote: Shannon and Brenda were the two targets, and they were seemingly the most involved members of La Flor to this point. Whoever won the vote was likely to seize control of the tribe, possibly all the way to the merge. For the second straight week, though, a lot of the suspense was drained out of the decision process at Tribal Council, where Shannon made it very clear that he is a terrible human being. Continuing in the tradition started by Holly and Wendy in the first episode, Shannon first made all alliances transparent by calling out Chase for hedging between he and Brenda, saying he would vote him off next if he were still around (this, by the way, is not a good strategy: If you help me out of this situation, I’ll kill you. If you don’t help me, I can’t do nothing about it). To make it even worse, when Sash told Shannon he was digging his own grave, Shannon quickly came back with, “I’ve been meaning to ask this, man. Are you gay?” Tact is not Shannon’s strong suit.

Eventually, Fabio and I think Alina stuck with the initial plan — although Fabio expressed confusion about it while voting — to eliminate Brenda. Chase, Benry, and Kelly B., however, all flipped to the other side after seeing Shannon’s performance and sent him home. Shannon’s post-elimination comments about how much he hates his marriage — dude was married at 19 — made Tribal seem less like an aberration than it might have been. He’s also a Louisianan who doesn’t eat seafood, which strikes me as inconceivable.

So in Week 3, we get to look forward to another episode of Holly Drama, the feud between NaOnka and Fabio, and the continued growth of the ill-conceived but productive-to-this-point minority alliance. What’s not to like?

5 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by John S on September 29, 2010 at 7:10 PM

    OK, so here’s issue with Survivor, which I think these early episodes have illustrated: So much of the alliance-forming/backstabbing/strategizing is based on nothing but assumptions and accusations, like someone claiming “X is going to be a strong player” or “Y is a threat”. It seemed like both Shannon and Brenda were more or less picked out of a hat as targets, while NaOnka had done things that were legitimately crazy. Plus, she had sat out the Immunity Challenge. And yet because people suspect that Shannon or Brenda is “strong,” they vote based on that. This would make sense if the definition of “strength” in this game was based on anything other than voting. I mean, excuse my lack of knowledge, but aside from Immunity Idols (which only Marty, on the other tribe, even has at this point), the only way a player can be sent home is if s/he is voted out, right? So a player’s “strength” is entirely based on how many votes you can count on. By this measure, a “strong” player can never be voted out, by definition. But the PERCEPTION of strength, which seems to be entirely based on gossip and assertions (“Brenda is strong because I say she’s strong”), is what matters.

    The other, related thing I don’t really understand is all these people insisting that Kelly (I’m not sure it’s Kelly, which is the one with one leg?) is going to garner sympathy votes because of her disability. I mean, aren’t these the people voting? So why can’t they just agree to not factor that in? As it is, you have people following this weird circular logic where they say, “We won’t treat her different because she has one leg, but we have to vote her out early because if she gets to the end she’s going to get a lot of sympathy votes (from us) for only having one leg.” This game treats perception and reality as so indistinguishable that there’s no way to think rationally.

    Anyway, here’s a weird interview with Shannon where he explains why he’s so misogynistic and homophobic:


    • What you take issue with — the obfuscation between perception and reality — is what I like so much about the show. As I said in the review of last season’s finale (, “Survivor is not about who controls the game best; it’s about who controls their own perception within the game best.” Or, as Sherlock Holmes once put it, “What you do in this world is a matter of no consequence. The question is, what can you make people believe that you have done.”

      The best Survivor players are the ones who can get their way and be self-interested without appearing to be either of these things. It’s very much an example of Appearance vs. Reality.

      I don’t agree, though, that Shannon and Brenda were picked out of a hat as targets. Shannon was clearly the head of his alliance, and Brenda was threatening to them because of her hold on Chase (there have been multiple seasons of the show where attractive females were the most powerful characters).

      I’m also not sure I quite follow your definition of “strength,” which I think comprises, at various points in the game, your physical attributes in a challenge (good to be strong early, bad to be strong late), your alliances (always good to be strong), and your likability (good to be likable early, bad to be likable toward the end, very good to be likable at the end). I don’t think it comes down to votability.

      And as for Kelly B., there does appear to be a cognitive dissonance, but what the castaways all (justifiably) presume, is that regardless how they feel now, it will be really impressive if Kelly B. makes it to the finals on an artificial leg. The people saying they don’t want her to get sympathy don’t want her to get sympathy votes over them specifically. They have no qualms giving her sympathy votes if they themselves are on the jury with those votes coming at their expense. (Shannon, who was one of the loudest “Vote her off now” proponents, said in his final words that he hoped Kelly B. would win.)


      • Posted by John S on October 1, 2010 at 8:45 PM

        My definition of “strength” comes from the fact that way to win the game is to survive, which translates only to not getting voted off. And while there are ways to do that by competing physically (keeping your tribe out of tribal council, winning Immunity), it’s mostly about voting and alliances. As a result, the perception (which translates to votes) doesn’t obfuscate reality…it simply becomes reality.

        Take, for example, Dan’s recent insistence that he is “much much much much stronger” than Jimmy Johnson. One of my biggest complaints about reality television is this kind of constant unjustifiable arrogance. But in a show that didn’t come down exclusively to player voting, Dan would be forced to defend his claim by some kind of performance or physical activity. I mean, I have no evidence at all that Dan was better or worse than Jimmy and, in the context of the game, Dan is still around and Jimmy isn’t, so Dan is a “stronger” player. That’s not interesting, it’s just stupid.


  2. Shannon may very well be the dumbest player I’ve seen in recent seasons. Even dumber than James, who had all those idols and didn’t see fit to use them.

    Your graf about Na and Fabio was spot on. I wasn’t a fan of Fabio’s at all until the sock incident and his confusion at tribal council. Now I think of him as a lovable little dolt — if he can manage to not go apeshit on Na with all the attitude she’s constantly throwing, he’s a better person than I.

    Another comment that was spot on? This one: “And come on, a minority alliance? Why not base it off something a bit more legitimate than Sash’s claims of half-blackness.”

    Looking forward to seeing a recap of last night’s episode!


  3. […] by detailing the castaways’ prior bouts with wanting to go home. There was Holly on Day 5 when she was hiding Dan’s shoes and becoming a terrible person, Na struggling with that one rainstorm, and apparently Purple Kelly feeling the same way (there’s […]


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