Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Survivor Ratings: Jeremy

For just the third time in its history, Survivor had an all-returning player season and the biggest difference between S31 and its predecessors (S8 and S20) was that unlike those earlier “all-stars” years, this one didn’t end in horrific bitterness.  The two previous seasons were so sour and largely lacking in good feeling that S31 had a leg up simply by not making me want to take a shower after watching it.  Perhaps it was due to the fact that all 20 players were voted onto the show by fans, so they felt on some level like a winner just for making the cut.  Maybe it was because this bunch seemed relatively level-headed and were mostly focused on the game, whereas the bad vibes of the previous couple of seasons seemed mostly to stem from legit hurt real-life feelings (i.e. Lex feeling betrayed by Rob, everyone loathing Russell Hantz).

The one common link, however, was that all three returning-player seasons featured a final vote that seemed just as much a vote against the losing Final Tribal Council players as it was a vote for the winner.  Amber won because there was so much anti-Rob animosity, Sandra won because everyone loved her and everyone hated Russell (and to some extent Parvati), and Jeremy Collins won in a unanimous vote in a seemingly uber-version of that Sandra victory.  Let’s check out Jeremy’s case….

How He Won: Virtually everyone on this “second chance” season made an adjustment to their previous Survivor strategy since, well, it obviously didn’t work the first time.  Jeremy’s adjustment was interesting since he didn’t necessarily change his own game but rather just did a better job of hiding it.  In S29, Jeremy was the clear big dog on his alliance and it made him a big target post-merge, so this time around he looked to surround himself with other alpha-type players (Joe, Tasha, Savage, sorta Keith) so he wasn’t as obvious a threat.  This idea was shaken up by the multiple tribe swaps, but Jeremy adapted by sticking with his “old Bayon” teammates (Kimmi, Stephen) who all stayed together through the swaps and also picking up other temporary alliance with the likes of Spencer or Kelly Wiglesworth.

Let’s talk for a second about the whole “voting bloc” thing that was allegedly so ground-breaking this season.  It was basically all horsecrap.  From the merge, you had the core alliance of Jeremy/Tasha/Kimmi/Andrew/Stephen, the Ciera/Kelley/Kass/Abi minority, and the Joe/Kelly/Keith/Spencer swing votes that mostly swung with the group of five.  (They all joined with the Big Five for the first two post-merge votes, until Kelly was blindsided.)  So it was essentially a three-alliance game at that point that was a bit more fluid than usual thanks to the wild card that was Joe.  He drew so much attention since he was SUCH a challenge beast that everyone had their eyes on getting him out as quickly as possible, which is why the women’s alliance didn’t join up with him full-bore.  Joe himself was trying to play a bit of the ‘hide amongst the alphas’ strategy which is why he also didn’t join full-bore against Jeremy’s alliance.

Every Survivor season has players targeted for being challenge threats yet Joe was such an outlier that, really, it proved Jeremy’s strategy correct.  There were several points in this game when Jeremy didn’t have control in a vote — the blindsides of Andrew and Stephen, for instance — yet he avoided being targeted himself since those other big players he was teamed with had drawn more attention (and enmity) to themselves.  I also wonder if Jeremy was considered for a boot but kept in part because the others needed someone around to give Joe a run for his money in physical challenges.

Long story short, this season wasn’t really all that different from any other Survivor season that had a big majority alliance that took a few detours to victory (whether via opponents playing idols or some strategic vote-offs of unneeded alliance members) rather than being a straight Pagonging.  While Jeremy ended up in the FTC with only one of his original alliance and one of the swing votes, the numbers game still ended up working in his favour.  The “voting bloc” narrative was pushed by Probst and, it seemed, Stephen and Ciera to try and make things perhaps more complicated than they really were — Ciera to try and help her own game, and Stephen because I swear, that guy is such a gamebot that he could obsess over a four-person voting structure even worse than Michael Bluth in the dorm room.

Skillset: Jeremy was an important part of Bayon’s early challenge domination and he won that final individual immunity challenge, so it’s not like he was a stick in the mud out there.  Still, that final challenge was the ONLY thing Jeremy won himself in the post-merge game.  It’s usually a bad spot to be the “perceived to be a threat but not actually that good at challenges” guy, though it isn’t impossible to win from this role (as Ethan showed us way back in the third season).  Again, playing amongst actual challenge/gameplay threats helped Jeremy in this regard.  It also didn’t hurt that Jeremy helped himself by having two immunity idols of his own to aid his game, including the big one that saved him at that insane F6 tribal council.

The biggest thing that seemed to go in Jeremy’s favour was, as usual, that he seemed to be like and respected by everyone out there.  This is Survivor’s dirty secret; no matter how much the show talks up “big moves” and “big plays,” the final vote is virtually always just a popularity contest.  Jeremy was wholly more liked than Tasha and Spencer*, hence his blowout victory.

* = as several post-game interviews with the players has revealed, the show’s editors did quite a job in hiding how disliked Tasha and Spencer were by everyone else.  For all of the “I’m learning how to play with emotion” interviews that Spencer got, apparently that was falling flat in real life.  His bratty outburst to Jeremy at the F4 vote when he threatened to swing the jury against him if he didn’t vote for Kelley also apparently went over extremely poorly with the jury members, as evidenced by Kimmi’s statement/question to him in the final tribal council.  Don’t forget, Spencer was almost voted out 19th when he and Shirin alienated everyone right off the bat….I doubt he ever really recovered even from that.

While I kind of pooh-poohed the ‘voting bloc’ thing, Jeremy certainly didn’t have an easy Pagonging road to the finals.  He had to adapt to several tricky blows, like Kelley idol’ing Savage out of the game and then Joe/Keith switching sides in the wake of the Kelly blindside and eventually ousting Stephen.  Though Jeremy did win, he may have made a tactical mistake in voting Kelly out when he did — that was an anti-Joe move they felt they had to make since Joe was safe with immunity but Kelly was apparently his closest ally (something we viewers didn’t know, so thanks for nothing, editors).  Still, it seemed like Stephen took all the heat for that move rather than Jeremy so ultimately it didn’t hurt him that much, though it did make things a bit trickier.

Jeremy’s best play, ultimately, was teaming up with two goats in Spencer and Tasha who didn’t realize they were goats and thus unwittingly helped lead him to victory.  Spencer/Tasha were actually probably right in thinking that they had a better chance of beating Jeremy than they did Kelley, Joe or Keith….it’s just that they would’ve lost 10-0 to any of them as well.  (I’m wondering at this point whether Tasha/Spencer would’ve even beaten Abi, if that had somehow been the final three.)

Could He Do It Again:
Jeremy is a thoroughly solid all-around player who’s good-but-not-overtly-good in challenges, a first-rate idol finder, seemingly a very nice and respectable guy with a fine social game AND he won an all-returnee season.  I’m down on returning players who win seasons of at least half-newcomers, yet I’m very admiring of any player who can win an “All-Star” season.  This is why Sandra going 2-for-2 with her second win coming in an all-returnee year makes her almost the greatest of all time.

Beyond the experienced opponents, Jeremy also had to contend with the extra difficulties of the frequent tribe swaps and the idols hidden either at camp or in challenges (both twists that I loved, btw).  The fact that he navigated both of those twists in such prime form really cemented his victory, really.

However, for pure ‘could he do it again?’ purposes, I’m not sure.  It depends on how you interpret this category, really.  Jeremy’s win here was largely informed by his past experience; if you’re having Jeremy play a hypothetical season in a vacuum, then, he might not have the learned idea to hide amongst other alpha players, for instance.  If you put the Jeremy v. 2.0 that won Cambodia into another Survivor game, he may very easily do well again.  If you put him amidst other experienced players, however, I suspect he’s targeted early since a past victory will make him too big to ignore even among other “alphas” he could be playing with.  Jeremy’s flaw, if you can call it that, is that he’s unable to directly hide how good he is at the game — he’s only able to obscure it by aligning with the likes of Stephen or Savage, and he was helped this time in that players often had bigger fish to fry in the form of Joe and Kelley (who played a hell of a game that in many ways mirrored Jeremy’s except she was on the wrong end of the numbers).

In my dream scenario of an all-winners season of Survivor, Jeremy might do very well since in such a season, that would be nothing BUT strong players to hide amongst.  With S31 still fresh in my mind, I’m hard-pressed to put Jeremy anywhere but within the top ten in my Survivor winners’ rankings.  Call it recency bias, but I can’t help but be impressed by how well Jeremy navigated a very difficult season.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I agree that Jeremy played a stellar game. He was in control for most of the game, was liked and respected by everyone else, found two idols, won a key immunity challenge, and made the right choices at every step of the way. The best part of his game was something that didn’t come though the screen super clearly – he was connected to and trusted by everybody to the degree where they couldn’t bring themselves to vote against him until the very end. But I wouldn’t say that he’s a top tier winner. He was out of the loop at 2 tribal councils. Jeremy was out of the loop the night Stephen left, and he was out of the loop at F6 as well. F6 highlighted the biggest hole in his game, as he was the only one who Kimmi actually fooled. He thought Kimmi was loyal to him. He was saved because Spencer and Tasha were aware of what was happening and tipped Jeremy off.

You say that the players were negative about Spencer in exit interviews. This is what the cast had to say about him in the word-association in Gordon Holmes’ Xfinity exit interviews; where he asks them to share their thoughts on each player. This is what the cast had to say about Spencer

VYTAS: He was playing hard
SHIRIN: Tyrion Lannister. He’s smarter and more strategic than everybody. But because of appearances people don’t want to admit it. And people treat him unfairly.
PEIH-GEE: He’s an earnest, smart, intelligent kid. I love him.
VARNER: Smart. Odd. He’s too smart for his own good. I thought for a while that he might be autistic. Like brilliantly autistic. He’s not in touch with his emotions. One of my proudest moments was when I voted out Shirin and made Spencer cry.
MONICA: “Survivor” superstar.
WOO: Crafty.
KASS: Spencer is probably too cerebral for his own good.
SAVAGE: A brilliant young kid. I’ve got a lot of respect for him.
KELLY: Spinning around in circles.
CIERA: Spencer is so very smart. He’s like a little brother.
STEPHEN: Spencer was my blindspot in the game. You have to trust people in “Survivor.” But, you want it to be a strategic trust. I said to myself, “I’m going to make the strategic decision to trust Jeremy.” You have to trust people, and if he chooses to screw me, I’m done. With Spencer I made the emotional decision to trust him because, it’s Spencer! From the “Survivor” community! RHAP! I considered him a friend. As a result of that I saved him a few times in the game. I did not see it coming. And that’s not to say I blame Spencer for doing what he did. I just wouldn’t have thought that he would flip in that moment. Obviously, I was wrong.
JOE: Witty.
ABI MARIA: I’m not really a fan of Spencer right now. Spencer can go die in a fire.
JEREMY: Spencer is my brother.

So Spencer wasn't hated by this cast. You say his social game was “falling flat in real life” but plenty of people had positive things to say about him in interviews. During episodes 3 and 6, Jeremy and Savage both gave very positive reviews of Spencer in confessionals. So at worst, Spencer’s jury management/social game could be described as hit or miss. You say Spencer was a goat, but he wasn't. Goats r carried to the end 'cause the person doing the carrying knows the goat can’t win. Spencer wasn’t carried; he had as much say in terms of who stayed or left as anyone else did (example: Stephen blindside). And his social game was fine for most of the season – it was just at the F6 and F4 tribal councils that it fell apart. Kelley said that it was towards the end that Spencer got cocky and bossy, and that was when the jury lost respect for him. Obviously that’s not good, but at it’s better than someone like Russell, who never even had the juries respect in the first place. You say that Spencer might not have beaten Abi. Even if the jurors had issues with Spencer, they would not have crowned Abi the victor. When you make someone the winner, you’re making them the person that your season is remembered for. These players, who were so focused on reminding us that their season is an epic evolution of the game wouldn't want ABI to go down as the one who beat them all.