Survivor: Analysis of Social Success

A quick analysis of how contestants tend to succeed on Survivor.

First off…

5 Main Reasons Why People Get Voted Off

(Most relevant game stages in parentheses)

1. Too big of a threat.

– Too strategic / Too smart / Too in control
– Too good at challenges
– Too likable
– Too determined

2. Too shady.

– Can’t be trusted
– Too inauthentic or disingenuous
– Too ambiguous or unpredictable
– Too fickle or noncommittal
– Too cagey or guarded

3. No strategic value / Low utility.

– Being outside an alliance
– Being at the bottom of an alliance (being an easy, throwaway vote)
– No clear role or purpose

4. Bad general character.

– Too Lazy (low effort around camp)
– Too Negative or Pessimistic
– Too Disruptive or Inconsiderate
– Too Annoying or Obnoxious
– Too Conceited or Pretentious
– Too Arrogant or Condescending
– Too Awkward / Uncomfortable / Unrelatable
– Too Erratic or Volatile

5. Too weak.

– Performs bad at challenges
– Tries but fails to contribute much around camp
– Can’t handle pressure


How Not to Get Voted Off (or How to Make it to the Final Three):

(in addition to having some luck…)

1. Don’t be too big of a threat, especially post-merge (unless you’re particularly dominant in individual immunity challenges).

2. Don’t be shady. Be as authentic and genuine as possible, and be as honorable as possible despite having to inevitably lie at some point.

3. Establish your strategic value / game utility. Create or clarify your role.

4. Don’t be a jerk or weirdo, especially pre-merge. (But if you are a jerk or a weirdo, make sure you’re in a dominant alliance.)

5. Contribute as much as possible pre-merge. (Or remain intentionally weak, ride coattails, and step up contribution post-merge)

A Step Further…

Criteria for Actually Winning (not just making the final three)

— You must out-play people. Period. You must remain actively involved in the game, and your involvement must be more compelling than other players. The only reason that merely out-lasting people warrants a win in the eyes of a jury is if the person who actually outplayed everybody is a horrible person (eg Natalie winning over Russell in Survivor Samoa). Out-lasting is for third placers. And ‘out-witting’ is essentially just a variation of out-playing.

— You must be very clear about your game at final tribal. You must have a tangible account of your impressive activity throughout the game. If you aren’t completely sure about why you deserve to win, the jury will immediately see weakness and shun you. You must detail how you executed your intended game strategy — how you actually played the game you wanted to play, and why your game was distinctively more effective than others’.

Winning Character:  Every winner needs some degree of these 3 qualities to win over the jury:

1. Likability

You must be perceived as genuinely kind, charming, honorable, and/or charismatic. Even if you’re not the most likable of the bunch, when the game play of the final contestants is similar, the jury will favor the person who is generally more likable. Ultimately, at final tribal, unless there’s an undeniably dominant player (who’s also not a complete jerk), it’s really just a popularity contest.

2. Loyalty

When confronted about disloyalty, you must show how you were at least moderately loyal to at least a few people while also not being *extremely* disloyal to anyone. You have to form genuine bonds, but you can’t under-bond and then pretend you were close to people at the end, nor can you over-bond with people only to go back on your commitments.

3. Honor

You must show that you actually have genuine principles that are reflective of your true character, and you must exhibit pride in your principles. You also have to exhibit respect and appreciation for other peoples’ part in the game. You must express a clear sense of fairness, and you must prove how you upheld your integrity in some way at some point.

Approaches / Styles / Focuses of the Strongest Winners

These are mostly intentional I presume, but sometimes they may occur naturally, sort of by default.

1. Adaptability and timing. (Examples:  Cochran, Denise)

General qualities of this approach/focus:

-Keen self-awareness and situational awareness
-Keen understanding of changing social dynamics
-Being involved but not taking control
-Suggestive but not forceful… not too pushy about voting one way or another
-Focus on the *timing* of your moves, relative to where you stand in the constrained hierarchy, more so than the *magnitude* of the move relative to the game in general.

[If you focus on magnitude over timing, you risk your stability within the hierarchy. A “big” move may look best in the eyes of the jury, but eliminating a threat makes everyone reevaluate everyone else’s threat levels, and if you were primarily responsible for the elimination then you become even more of a threat than you would have been if that threat was voted out naturally in time. Also, knowing that you made a big move can give you a false sense of security and make you put your guard down.]

2. Calm determination.(Examples:  Boston Rob, Earl)

-Deep focus on winning (not just on making final three)
-Anchoring the dominant alliance
-Coordinating votes by expressing value in others’ input
-Avoiding being at the center of a tribal frenzy

3. Intimidation by an Air of Leadership and Assumed Command. (Examples:  Boston Rob, Sandra)

-Establish a sense of fear of being crossed
-Establish a sense of pride in being aligned with or affiliated with

4. Obsessive Gamesmanship.(Tony, Ben, Todd)

-Constantly play the game (despite the elements, during rewards, etc.)
-Constantly be vigilant (always remain suspicious, be on the verge of paranoia)
-Win challenges, find idols, constantly seek out potential advantages and take advantage whenever possible