“Whoever wins wins, but I don’t wanna be the pawn.”
– Kathy Vavrick O’Brien, Survivor: Marquesas
Survivor is a treasure trove of valuable life lessons: People will do anything for money; the human spirit can triumph over the elements; never try to sell beach-front property to a native Kansan.
Wednesday night, through the poignant travails of Kat Edorsson, we all learned another lesson about our shared humanity. People know at heart what they need to do. They need to stand up for themselves! To take ownership of their decisions! To vote out Chelsea! But when it comes down to Tribal Council and you’re filling out that parchment, more often than not, you’ll just settle for mediocrity – and do what Kim tells you.
All Kat wants in the world is not to be seen as a follower. Maybe more even than she wants to win. So why then does she keep following?
One problem is she has a lack of other options. Troyzan, the only real hope for a revolution against the Kimocracy, may be the single least persuasive human in the universe. Witness what happens when Troy goes back to camp after the reward challenge, and finally has a moment to speak to some of the girls without Kim. What does he do? Charm and persuade them about the incredible delights and wonders that await if they align with him? No. He browbeats Kat, right in front of the other girls.
That’s the same behavior that alienated him last week, when he bickered with both Alicia and Christina. You catch more flies with honey than with sniping. Troy may succeed at poisoning Kat against Kim. But he doesn’t make the crucial next step, which is winning her over to him.
Kim, on the other hand, wins her customary Fishy for the way she elegantly does damage control and placates Kat. She pulls Kat away from camp for a one-on-one conversation. She sympathizes with her grievances. She flatters and cajoles. “Kat, I adore you,” she says. Compare that to Troyzan’s stark “You need to wake up and smell the coffee.” As great as coffee is, who doesn’t prefer adoration?
I actually have a lot of sympathy for Kim’s hard reward challenge decision. Obsessive Survivor historians may remember that I won exactly the same challenge, and made exactly the same choice – I brought my best friend to the reward. It looked absolutely idiotic to people watching back at home.
But when you’re out on the island, there isn’t such a clear division between friendship and strategy. Sometimes in order to keep someone as your best friend, you need to treat them like your best friend. Having a rock solid ally is invaluable, so you don’t want to make any decisions that might jeopardize that alliance, like snubbing them for a reward.
And again, you may argue, it’s just one reward, weighed against a million bucks. But it’s almost pathetic how much time Survivors spend obsessing about rewards. There’s not a lot to actually do in your downtime, and you’re starving, so you tend to fixate on the possibility of winning a feast. Contestants debate who “deserves” to go and make elaborate “I’ll take you if you take me” deals.
So if Kim had snubbed her BFF Chelsea, it might have had real consequences. Even Sabrina admitted in a secret scene that she entertained the possibility of voting Kim out. Kim’s mistake wasn’t who she chose, but in winning the challenge at all. She should’ve thrown it.
So that’s another life lesson: sometimes you have to lose a battle to win a war. Not like this temporary setback seems to actually hurt Kimpossible.