Well, in theory... Pat Ferrucci's S34 recaps

His name was Patrick. Now it's Matthew


This week, it’s time to get biblical. No, we’re not going to talk about god and things of that sort. Or maybe we are. Well, no, unless you think Patrick is like a god.


We know that Lauren sure didn’t Patrick was a god. She just hates anything with red hair. And let’s be honest: Her insistence on talking about Patrick’s hair color seemed borderline creepy and without a doubt very odd.


But this isn’t the space to talk about Lauren’s proclivities. It’s also not the space for an explication of the dimensions of redheadedness. This space right here is for theory and that’s how we’ll be biblical.


In prior seasons, we talked about the theory of cumulative advantage, a sociological theory coined by Robert K. Merton, a theory I’ve actually applied once to explain how age matters in journalism. Sometimes scholars interpret Merton’s theory in a slightly different manner and call it “The Matthew Effect.” And, yes, the Matthew reference comes directly from the Gospel of Matthew.


Let’s back up for a second. Recently, noted author and pop theorist Malcolm Gladwell published a book called Outliers: The Story of Success. In that tome, Gladwell uses anecdotal evidence of folks like Mozart or Bill Gates to argue that outliers – or people different from other members of similar groups – can earn success more easily than people who think inside the box. And, in the media, we hear a lot about outliers, so this all sounds like a good point by Gladwell. However, research – with actual empirical data – shows us this is actually fiction: People who don’t rock the boat and conform to existing norms do much better in general.


And this is basically the Matthew Effect. In the Gospel of Matthew, there is a line that says, “For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.” Merton uses that line to explain his theory: That people who already have a lot are more likely to gain more (and vice versa). So rather than outliers, it’s the opposite folks – the people living inside the box – that are more likely to succeed.


Patrick being Patrick


We see that all the time in Survivor. And think about Patrick: He talked way too much, openly looked for the idol and acted somewhat obnoxiously around camp. None of these things directly made him a negative for his tribe. But they all made him different. He did not subscribe to the norms of the game. Think about it: We know everyone looks for the idol, but they do it carefully and without being obvious. Patrick acted like an outlier, doing it obviously. That made him a target for something negative, and did not set him up for success.


That’s key in the game of Survivor. When you think about people who win the game, they almost always do it in a way that’s been done before. In reality, Richard Hatch gave us a template to win the game; he provided norms for others to follow. Occasionally, we’ll see new styles of playing that end up being successful. But, I would argue, even when that happens, there are obvious reasons. For example, Tony played and won Survivor using a very different tact than we’d previously seen, but he harnessed the power of the Super Idol™, which made his style more protected.


For Patrick, the Matthew Effect became his downfall. He tried to do things differently and act in way that usually does not deliver successes. And, in his case, it didn’t result in success. If he acted more in a manner that typically results in success in the game – as less of an outlier – I would bet Lauren would be back to her illustrious softball career right now.


OK, so now it’s time to take an individual look at the remaining castaways. With a tribe swap, all of this could change, but here we go:


Levu (Heroes)



  • 1. Alan – We didn’t see much of Alan this week. However, I thought two specific instances told us all we need to know. First, Alan did that amazing jump during the challenge, so we know, as if we didn’t already, in physical challenges this guy can dominate. And, then, we got Ben and Ashley telling us once again that Alan is a wild card and basically can’t be trusted. Neither of these are a good sign for Alan’s longevity.

  • 2. Ben – Ben’s talk with Ashley, to me, illustrated the right and wrong way to play social interactions in Survivor. Ben didn’t do much talking and, when he did, didn’t say many definitive things. He really just wanted to see where Ashley stood. That’s good playing. Don’t show your cards. Ashley, on other hand, definitively urged Ben to keep JP. Not a good move. I’m still liking Ben’s chances here.

  • 3. JP – Each episode that goes by, I get more and more nervous about my Winner Pick™. Really, the best move for JP is to lay low and hope to get to the merge. The problem? Such a physically strong dude can’t lay low and, more importantly, Ashely is doing him absolutely no favors.

  • 4. Chrissy – Another week, another good episode for Chrissy. We’ll see how good she really is, though, once she gets to the tribe swap and needs to ingratiate herself with new people.

  • 5. Ashley – In general, I want to like Ashley the player, but, unfortunately, she’s just not very good. If someone ever taught a class in how to be a good social player in Survivor, that instructor could use clips of Ashley from each of these three episodes to illustrate bad examples. Every week she does a new thing wrong. Sadly.


Yawa (Hustlers)



  • 1. Ali – As her tribe dwindles, Ali keeps standing out as a superb player and, easily, the most impressive player of the season so far. And, to think, I didn’t believe she’d be able to handle the conditions based on her CBS profile. I’ve done it every week, but let me once again apologize to Ali. So far, she’s been an amazing player and I’m rooting for her.

  • 2. Devon – We actually heard Devon talk a bit at Tribal this week. He also made a couple shrewd observations while talking to Ryan. Out of my entire True Dork Times fantasy team (JP, Devon, Jessica and Mike), I had the least amount of faith in Devon. That’s slowly changing now, though.

  • 3. Lauren – I have no doubt Lauren could have helped in the challenge. But can I just say something? Nothing about playing center field for 25 years makes you a prime person to throw a non-softball at blocks. It’s not like center field is this throwing-heavy, accuracy-driven position. It’s just an odd thing to say. Instead of saying, she’s played softball for 25 years, Lauren kept saying center field, which made me laugh. And, again, it doesn’t exactly make sense… out of all the positions?

  • 4. Ryan – You know, we’re seeing romance bloom between Jessica and Cole, but a better match might be Jessica and Ryan. He’s never been in a relationship and she gets butterflies kissing someone on the cheek. That’s a match made in heaven.


Soko (Healers)



  • 1. Jessica – I have to say, I liked Jessica’s reaction to Cole telling others about Joe’s idol. But, I’m not sure if her reaction came for the right reason. Is she just jealous Cole shared a secret with others, or does she actually understand Cole made a bad move? All I know, virgin or no virgin, is it’s odd to get so worked up about a kiss on the cheek. Her reaction reminded me of a fifth-grader. Sorry.

  • 2. Roark – Roark speaks! Hallelujah!

  • 3. Cole – I know his outdoorsy nature might make some think Cole is playing a good game, but I don’t buy it. First, helping Joe with the idol was a bad move. I know others disagree with me, but I’m not changing my mind on that one. And now telling everyone about the idol before actually losing the challenge … another bad move.

  • 4. Joe – Last week, I thought Joe played his hand perfectly. This week, not so much. The way he complains and tosses food out when folks are hungry … not good, man, not good. It’s clear Joe is becoming comfortable and that’s the worst thing that can happen on Survivor. Maybe the tribe swap will jolt him out of his malaise.

  • 5. Desi – I know we actually saw Desi speak this week, but I still wouldn’t bet money she’s on the island full time yet.

  • 6. Mike – This tribe swap could really help Mike. As much as editing suggested a Joe blindside if the Healers lost, I think Mike would have gone home. That would be bad since I think Mike could turn out to be one of the very best players on the island.   


All right then, let’s call it a column. I’m hoping the tribe swap helps get this season moving a little more swiftly. I liked this episode, but the season as a whole is still feeling a little flat to me. A good tribe swap might be all I need. Let’s talk in the comments.


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.