Well, in theory - Pat Ferrucci's recaps

Jenny shows everyone how not to play Survivor


If you’ve watched enough Survivor, you probably knew about 10 minutes into episode two of Kaoh Rong that Alecia wouldn’t be going home. Why? Producers gave her a hero edit, one that showed her trying hard and succeeding, while juxtaposing that with Scot and Kyle/Jason lounging around.


But who would be going home? For a while, it sure looked like it would be Kyle/Jason, and that would have made my day because my observations about him from last week sure still seem spot on: This guy is a sexist bully who simply doesn’t treat people well.


And while I would have loved to see him be the second person booted on the season, the way it went down with Jenny sure made for a more entertaining episode. I mean, honestly, can anyone remember a worse tribal performance? I watched in shock and horror thinking, “This really can’t be happening. She can’t be acting this dumb.” But, alas, Jenny did show everyone how to not play Survivor and saved Kyle/Jason and Alecia in the process.


So how can we explain how Jenny could seem like such a decent player and then completely become a trainwreck oh so quickly? I think it’s appropriate to take a look at the theory of cognitive dissonance.


Once again, we’re borrowing from the world of psychology, this time with a theory most often used in cognitive psychology research. Introduced by Leon Festinger, a psychologist who spent time at a lot of universities including MIT (located in the best state in the world), cognitive dissonance theory basically describes the mental anguish and indecision a person goes through when they hold two or more incongruous views at the same time. What usually happens when a person suffers from this? Well, they tend to choose a side and avoid anything, any evidence, that would support the other.


We see this happen a lot with people who have strong political views. We all know, I hope, that with most political views, there is at least some evidence for the opposing side. But let’s say I want to believe, against all evidence to the contrary, that climate change is not real. In the back of my head, I know I’m wrong, so I’ll tune out all the actual evidence on the subject.


To apply this to Jenny and Survivor, we need to realize all the things going on in Jenny’s mind, which is probably negatively affected already by being in the elements and, of course, that worm that chowed down on her brain like it was a damn Golden Corral.


Bad idea


First, we know Jenny can hear the sweet nothings Jeff Probst whispers in the ears of all Survivor viewers every single season: You need to make big moves to win this game. Eliminating the Patron Saint of Horrible Tattoos would be a Big Move™. She also knows that Kyle/Jason treats people like crap and is incredibly lazy. On the other hand, she’s in an alliance with Kyle/Jason and Scot, and breaking that up this early is bad news. Second, we know at Tribal, Probst wants something out of contestants, but it’s also important not to indulge him.


What’s a person hungry, thirsty and with a feasted-on brain to do? There are all these contradictory thoughts going through her mind at once. Jenny decides she’s sticking with her alliance, and I think she began her verbal diarrhea as a way to convince herself she was making the right move. You see, one of the ways people attempt to cure themselves of cognitive dissonance is to justify behavior. And if you listen to Jenny’s speech and can get past how dumb it was to say it out loud, you’ll hear a lot of justifications.


Jennifer at Tribal


That’s how Jenny’s boot came to be, I believe. I think Scot made the right move in trying to keep her for strength, but I can also understand Kyle/Jason and Cydney wanting no part of someone who would actually behave that way on Survivor.


Again, the best part of the whole thing really affected us, the viewers. This episode was shaping up to be a pretty boring second glimpse of the season. Instead, Jenny’s cognitive dissonance made watching Tribal Council just like a proverbial train wreck. Good times.


Now after two episodes, have your impressions of people shifted? Mine have. Let’s talk about some.


Brains – Chan Loh



  • Peter B. – Before the season, I was down on Peter. After last week, he seemed a bit better, but I was still, overall, feeling negative about him. Now? I’m starting to really like his play. His social game looks especially good. The way he communicates with people he clearly doesn’t care for looks pretty good to me.  


  • Debbie W. – Oh my gosh. When you think it can’t get any worse, it does. Debbie is surely a character. Wow. I understand why nobody would want to live on an island with her, but on the other hand, if someone boots her I’ll sure be sad. She needs a spin-off show where Debbie gets sent to live with unsuspecting families and those people win like $10,000 if they can put up with her for a couple hours.


  • Joseph D. – Ah, Joe. I thought he looked promising if he could survive his age disadvantage. Well, now not so much. What is it about most older folks that get them so set in their ways? Poor Joe. His manner and, really, straightforward social game isn’t going to work for much longer. I think he’s first gone if this tribe loses immunity.


  • Aubry B. – We saw very little of Aubry this week and I have a feeling that’s a good thing for her overall game.


  • Neal G. – Neal is still sitting pretty. He seems like the leader of this tribe. He seems level headed and someone who can get along with everyone. At a merge, he won’t be a target, I don’t think. If only he can win an ice cream reward …


  • Elisabeth M. – Elisabeth wants to be a robot. That’s not a good gameplan for this show. You know? It seems to me you have to put yourself out there emotionally to win. But I think Elisabeth is trying oh so hard to be that robot from the greatest sitcom ever made.   


Beauty – Gondol



  • Nick M. – We didn’t see much of Nick this week, which made it hard for him to tell us how amazing he is at everything.


  • Caleb R. – OK, so I’m going to put aside my preconceived notions about what I’ve read about this dude and my general feelings about anybody who Big Brother casts and say, so far, I really like this guy. He’ll probably be a target in a merge situation and I know nothing about his strategic acumen, but, you have to admit, there have been few more likable folks this season.


  • Julia S. – Julia doesn’t say much, but when she speaks, she’s making a good impression. And she lives in Boston. Have I mentioned that before?


  • Michele F. – Did she appear this week? Maybe I missed it when I blinked?


  • Tai T. – Can you imagine a more likeable and easy to root for player? I sure can’t. Well, maybe if they cast a puppy.


  • Anna K. – We didn’t see much of Anna this week either. Basically, this was one reason you knew Brains weren’t heading to tribal: Unless your name was Tai or Caleb, you took a week off if you were on Brains.   


Brawn – To Tang



  • Scot P. – As much as I want to dislike Scot for his association with Kyle/Jason, I just can’t. Scot seems to be playing a good game and I liked his vote at tribal. And, of course, Scot won a championship with the Boston Celtics. He can’t win this game though.


  • Kyle/Jason – Quite possibly my least favorite player ever. And I know before the season Probst talked about there is some bullying this season. I’m guessing I have a feeling who does the bullying. I mean, he already has, right?


  • Alecia H. – Good for Alecia for trying hard and putting the work. I came away from this week rooting for her a bit. She still needs a tribe shakeup though. If she can make the merge, she’s a goat, I bet.


  • Cydney G. – I’m not at all sure the game Cydney is playing since we get very little from her compared to the rest of this tribe. I think she’s playing well, but who can be sure?


OK, let’s talk again next week. Sound good?   


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.