Well, in theory - Pat Ferrucci's recaps



Give Survivor producers some credit this week. In what had to be the most predictable and, in many ways, boring episode of the season, somehow the folks that craft the season’s narrative made it seem like Joe, in the end, might avoid elimination.


But, as we expected, the Golden Boy’s run ended this week and now we’re left with a final seven that’s varied in so many different ways. We’ve got some strategists, physical threats, double threats, silent folks, people without a chance in hell of winning and, um, Abi, who’s her own special brand of awful.


I would argue, though, that the folks deciding to eliminate Joe this week might have made the wrong move. And we can explain this mistake, I think, by examining one of the more prominent theories of mass communication: Elisabeth Noelle-Neuman’s spiral of silence theory.


According to some reports, Noelle-Neuman, a German political scientist and media theorist, came up with spiral of silence while studying journalism and politics at the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, the first school of journalism in the world (that’s my obligatory plug for Mizzou since I did graduate school there). The theory, at its core, basically argues that some people don’t want to disagree with more established others out of fear of being ostracized. Because of this, a spiral occurs and less powerful voices are effectively silenced. Get it? See what I did there with the whole spiral and silence thing?


Seriously, the theory describes how public opinion is formed. When people feel their views are in the minority, they’re more likely to stay silent. Over a long period of time, this can strengthen dominant views because other views become increasingly rare due to people fearing ostracizing or criticism. Noelle-Neuman originally came up with the theory as a way of explaining how Nazi Germany happened.


Sad Joe


So what does this have to do with Joe getting the boot this week? Well, I would strongly argue that Joe didn’t really have much of a chance of winning. Think about it. Yeah, Joe won a bunch of immunity challenges at the beginning of the individual portion of the game, but has he done anything else? I mean, for all his talk of playing a good social game (and producers framing that narrative), Joe never voted the correct way and, besides Savage, he didn’t really have any allies on the jury. What would his argument have been at final?


I think Joe’s reasoning to Jeremy and Spencer made a whole lot of sense. As it seems right now, Abi will take someone’s final three spot. Why? Because she’s an awful human being, of course. This may not happen, but it sure looks that way. Isn’t Joe just a more with-it Keith, one without an accent or a clear spitting disease? Both of them would have very similar arguments at final and nobody thinks Keith can win.


Joe and Keith


Throughout the entire season, led by Stephen, there’s been this steady drumbeat concerning Joe and his excellent chance at winning. I have a feeling not everyone agrees with the assessment, but I also bet people don’t want to disagree with the majority. It’s just easier to vote Joe off since the majority of opinions have swayed public opinion into feeling like Joe can win.


I don’t buy that and this is potentially explained by spiral of silence. Once public opinion became strong in a certain way, it could have been a negative for a player to push for an Abi elimination.


So that’s the theory part. More importantly, final seven is here. For this week, let’s assess everyone’s chances of winning.





  • 1. Spencer — Right now, the young one seems in a very good spot. He’s made alliances of sorts with basically everyone in the game, save Abi. He’s got a Big Move™ to point to with the Stephen vote. And, with Joe gone, he’s a real physical and mental threat in challenges. Besides Jeremy and maybe Kelley, does anyone else look to be in a better position? I think not.


  • 2. Abi-Maria — Oh, Abi. Remember when we didn’t see you for a few weeks? I long for those days. During those weeks, I could turn on Survivor and not worry about a vile personality making the experience not as, well, fun. Can’t contestants just boot her and make this better for all of us?  


  • 3. Kelley — Kelley’s got an idol. She’s really good in challenges. She’s smart. So you would think she’s in a great position to win, right? Well, maybe. I think she’s a target. I bet players like Spencer and Jeremy want her out and think she’s a threat. And Spencer and Jeremy have each other. Who’s Kelley left with? Abi? I just don’t know if she’s set herself up well for this endgame. I think she’s done OK under the circumstances, but not enough to actually win.


  • Keith4. Keith — Oh sweet Keith. He wants to drive funny little buggies and spit. Keith’s only chance of winning is getting to the end with Abi and, maybe, Kimmi. But how the heck could that happen? Keith may be a savant at spitting, but he’s no strategic savant and for that threesome to end up in the final, Keith’s going to have to make a move or two. But we know that won’t happen because when he should be making a move, Keith will be spitting and practicing his golf swing.


  • 5. Jeremy — The clear favorite, Jeremy is going to have work now. With Joe gone, Jeremy is the physical threat, even if he’s never really earned that label. He’s got an idol and what seems like a good three-person alliance with Tasha and Spencer. The question becomes, where’s the other vote coming from? I bet Keith. We’ll see.


  • 6. Kimmi — Well, finally, Kimmi made her move. But … isn’t kind of odd that her move is just what Monica originally proposed and Kimmi flipped out over?  Eh, whatever. At least Kimmi’s making sense and trying to win. And speaking of playing to win …


  • 7. Tasha — What’s Tasha doing? I really can’t tell what her plan is for the endgame. We know Tasha’s a smart woman. We know she’s physical. I mean, she’s got everything going for her and she’s in a pretty darn good spot right now. But she doesn’t seem to want to win. Why not go for it?  


OK, let’s talk next week. I promise I’ll deliver this here column on the normal Friday next week. Or at least I sure hope so …


Pat Ferrucci Survivor 31 recapsPat Ferrucci started watching Survivor when episode two of Borneo first aired. He’s seen every episode since. Besides recapping here, he’ll be live-tweeting this season from the Mountain Time Zone. Why? Because nobody cares about the Mountain Time Zone except when they want to ski. Follow him @patferrucci for Survivor stuff and tweets about anything and everything that enters his feeble mind.