How much of Survivor is reality, how much is fixed? I tend to look at things with a cynical eye so I always had reservations regarding SEG’s integrity. Now, with all the legal stuff surrounding Russell and spoiling, it seems a good time to post some thoughts.
For SEG to get involved with the results, there has to be something to gain, something to protect. Which seasons put the Survivor franchise at risk? Which players could have deserved help or protection from SEG's point of view?
The first season was the riskiest of course. A new show is never guaranteed renewal so Survivor could have gone the way of “Treasure Hunters” or even “Pirate Master” before anyone ever heard of it. By Stacy’s case, we know that, when at risk, Burnett wasn’t above doing something to influence the outcome. Rudy was certainly worth his weight in gold to Burnett.
After the first season, Survivor was on a roll, the ratings making it a cash cow. The first risk SEG took, the first real change to a winning formula, came with All-Star. Rob’s dominance caused many big names to be voted out, namely Hatch, Colby and Ethan. Maybe Burnett, like most fans, had an early preference for Mogo Mogo. Or maybe Burnett wanted to protect Rupert. Either way, the swap that sent Amber alone with the opposing tribe was strange to say the least. The odds for that redistribution were very low. Was it fixed?
The challenge that followed should help us with that answer. It was designed for Lex's team to lose, dooming Amber. The only obscure question in the quiz was the one from Borneo that only Jenna would know. Since Rob was trying to throw the challenge to save Amber, it wasn’t enough so they needed a tiebreaker. "Name all the first boots" was made for Rupert because the others didn't really know Nicole, PI airing as they were preparing to leave. We can assume the New Chapera was supposed to lose that challenge.
That way, Rupert was safe and Rob would lose his number one ally. But why would they want to break what would become almost a fairy tale? Two possiblities: Either the staff misjudged Romber’s impact with the fans. (Romance wasn’t well accepted on Survivor. Sure, there had been Colleen and Greg but that was the exception. The only other “pairings” we had seen were Jerri with Colby, Rob with Sarah and Alex with Shawa. Note that, of all those connections, the audience was really happy when the “hussy” was voted out. Maybe SEG thought the reaction would be the same if Amber was voted out.) Or SEG knew about the pre-season alliance between Rob, Lex, Tom and Kathy and wanted to throw a wrench in their plans.
The next big risk was using returning players in Guatemala. The season’s whole promotion turned around the identity of those returning players and how they would fare. Knowing what was at stake and how it turned out, I’d suggest that the game could have been rigged to make sure Stephenie would last deep into the game.
Looking at the tribes’ composition, Steph’s fans will say that production didn’t favor Stephenie because her team was weaker but you can never predict the outcome of the first challenge by tribal composition. Just look at Jaburu vs Tambaqui, Koror vs Ulong, etc...
Instead of making Stephenie’s tribe stronger, they did much better by making sure Yaxha would need Stephenie. Looking at the female cast, it was obvious that Lydia, Morgan and Brianna were the 3 weakest women so the conclusion is that they were put on Yaxha to make sure one of them would leave before Stephenie.
Then, as soon as 2 of those 3 women were voted out, a tribal switch was conveniently scheduled. That tribal switch was like no other we have ever seen; Probst, in effect, having the power to decide who would go where. The net result of that switch was that Stephenie had a sudden numerical advantage, had gotten rid of a huge threat to her safety when the scheming Brian went away and received a huge help when the stupid but loyal Judd came over. The rest, as they say, is history.
But the riskiest of all seasons was Cook Islands. The advertised Race division caused tension with sponsors and cries of boycott from many corners. What did Probst say to defend their season? “Watch how it turns out.” I wonder what he would have said if the F4 had been Adam/Jonathan/Parvati/Candice instead of Aitu’s melting pot. I truly believe that a white supremacy was the last thing Burnett wanted to advertise. We do have proof that he is sensitive to the racial issue because, in Fiji, the African American alliance was taboo; no one was ever heard whispering a single word about it during the episodes.
CI’s green bottle twist has been often cited as possible production tampering: Jeff could have been holding two bottles and ready to hand out a different twist if Aitu had lost. Even with only 1 bottle, the twist in itself favored Aitu, the team trailing in numbers. Not only was Raro less determined to win but seeing 1 or 2 Aitu leave wouldn’t have made a big difference for Raro
The real doubts I have about CI center on Jonathan’s decision to throw away his chances to win the game. He said it himself that flipping on Raro would mean everyone would consider him a bastard. He had no chance of winning against Yul or Ozzy in the end so why go with them? We heard what Big Brother did in the Diary Room to save America’s Player, so it’s possible an interviewer helped Jonathan realize that his planned Caucasian alliance would make him look like a racist, which isn’t a tag that someone working in the entertainment business would want. Jonathan gave SEG what they wanted so was it payback that he was asked back in Micronesia?
And now, we have Samoa:
Why were Shambo and Russell picked for the first challenge in Samoa? Looking at Mick’s options, it’s surprising that he would pick Russell over Ben for the tribe’s strongest player. Ben stood nearly a foot taller and was physically fit. And who in their right mind would look at Shambo and figure she’d be the smartest one around? Is it possible that production told Mick and Swan that they had to incorporate those two players in their line-ups because they had already figured they’d be the ones they’d want to feature? From the pre-game interviews, the producers knew they had two big characters so maybe they tipped the scale from the start.
Another thing that seems obvious from Samoa was that Russell wasn’t shy when it came to talking about his plans. I have no doubt that he boasted he would start looking for idols as soon as he’d hit the beach. I wasn’t a coincidence that the Samoa idols could be found without clues. If the Samoa idols had been hidden as well as the one in Cook Island then Russell would never have found them. Or maybe SEG simply gave him the idols as the current outbreak of spoiler-wars seems to indicate.
Deciding to have no one voted out when Swann went down was much more beneficial to Foa Foa than Galu. Not only does the tribe that is trailing can’t afford the double boots but Galu would have voted out either Monica or Shambutch. Either way, that would have been bad for Foa Foa, erasing part of Galu’s division.
The early merge was a new twist and it certainly helped Foa Foa. The staff saw the fractures in Galu so it was a chance to take. It worked beautifully because, like Natalie said, Galu “had so many”, losing one didn’t seem bad. Then there was the more subtle manipulation, the one that imposed lockdown on the Survivors as soon as Galu agreed to vote out Erik, not letting his allies a chance to reverse the situation. John said that there was only 1 minute between the time he heard Erik was the target and the time producer’s imposed lockdown.
In HvV, we all heard how Russell and Parvati were encouraged to form an alliance. Tyson’s vote against Parvati was so weird that, beyond his explanations, one cannot help but wonder if an interviewer suggested he vote that way. From there, one can suppose that production told Russell that he was safe, that Parvati needed his idol.
In Nicaragua, Marty was the player that most resembled Russell except he found himself in big trouble. Conveniently, an odd team pairing during a reward challenge gave him a big opportunity to get the men working together. Just like the All-Star swap, there was less than a 0.5% chance of getting all the men together for a challenge that they would certainly win. Better still, the only man that wouldn’t agree with Marty’s plan, namely Chase, was forced to sit out. I have a hard time believing in such convenient coincidences.
There it is; nothing new but I think that assembling those doubts one next to the other shows a pattern, something worth questioning. Strange events have happened on the island. It’s not because Lost ended that we can’t ask questions. I doubt we’ll get answers but I was never one that demanded all the answers, just a good understanding of rules of the game.