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

Who holds the golden fleece after the merge?


If someone put a gun to my head and asked me to name my favorite band, I’d probably hem and haw and then answer Okkervil River. And if you asked me about the best albums of the Aughts, I would undoubtedly mention Okkervil’s amazing 2005 record Black Sheep Boy, an album that I literally still listen to in its entirety once every couple weeks.


So why am I talking about my former life as a music critic? Well, in this here space we’ve talked about social identity theory and group dynamics a few times, but what we haven’t discussed is the black sheep effect.


Essentially, the black sheep effect takes place once groups are formed. As we’ve talked about, people categorize themselves based on in-groups and out-groups. We talked earlier this season about how these dynamics play out across groups. And we’ve done that many times. Basically, people like members of their in-group better and think of the out-group as one homogenous group of people less worthy and awesome than themselves. But what about relationships within the in-group?


In the title song of Okkervil River’s Black Sheep Boy, singer/songwriter Will Sheff sings that “the black sheep can wear the golden fleece.” He’s talking about the mythological symbol of power and royalty; the wearer of the golden fleece gets to basically be king. That’s why Jason wants it so bad in the classic story. I don’t think the black sheep can wear the golden fleece in Survivor.


The black sheep effect argues that people think far more favorably of others within the in-group like them. They think of them incredibility favorably, far more than they would someone with similar characteristics they didn’t know. And they think tend to dislike less favorable members of the in-group even more than, say, a member of the out-group would.


So what does all this mean?


Black sheep


Well, the obvious reason Jessica went home this week is because the other alliance feared Joe or Cole might have an idol. So the Chrissy-led alliance accomplished their goal and that might be it. But I think they did more than that, which will lead to negative effects. How can that be possible?


Jessica was a core of the Healers. Everyone basically liked her. If the Chrissy-led alliance booted Joe or Cole last episode, the Healers alliance probably sticks together because Joe and Cole are the black sheep of the tribe. They are the people on the outs most, the people many in their own alliance dislike. If the Healers stick together, that’s good for the other alliance. It’s predictable and easy.


But, with Jessica home and only Desi and Mike remaining of the liked Healers, I think we see those two making alliances with other people not named Joe and Cole immediately. I think this hurts Chrissy especially. If you get rid of the black sheep, no big deal and you can Pagong away. Getting rid of Jessica? I don’t think it’s a good move.


With all that in mind, here’s what I think of the remaining players right now:





  • Mike – Because he doesn’t seem like a threat and continues making good relationships with people, I don’t think Mike is in a bad spot, even though some in his alliance most definitely are feeling scared right now. I mean, Ben eventually voted against Mike’s plan and still talked to him about it. That shows how well Mike is playing. And now, we can assume, Mike owns an idol that nobody knows about. That’s huge. I think Mike still remains a huge favorite to win this thing.

  • Chrissy – I know her alliance “won” this week, but the episode actually made me more down on Chrissy than anything. I think she’s starting to get cocky. And that’s not a good idea. She’s now a target and, soon, even people in her own alliance will want to boot her. Ben’s not far away and I don’t think Ashley and JP are all that close with her.

  • Ben – I wondered which way Ben would vote this week, but I think he made the right decision. He must have convinced Lauren too. To me, the way he tried to get Chrissy to stop talking to him and the way he convinced Lauren to make the right decision are two factors making me think Ben’s even better at this game than we might have thought.

  • Ashley – Ashley remains a stealth person to gamble on as a winner. She’s not doing too much, but we know she’s good in challenges, is smart and is not a target. And I honestly think she could pull Devon, JP and Desi her way to start taking out some fellow Heroes and Hustlers. That’s my guess.

  • Desi – Give it up for my fellow assistant professor. Desi winning immunity first would not have been my first or eighth prediction, but as each episode goes by, Desi seems in a better position. Yes, I know things don’t look good for the Healers, but Desi and Mike seem like the least likely to be targets over the next couple weeks. And by the time Cole and Joe go home, it’ll be a very different game.

  • JP – Oh, my, that’s right: My Winner Pick™ barely made it on screen this week. That means he’s not a target anytime soon. I go to bed every night thinking about JP pulling a Fabio and winning immunity all the way to Final Tribal. And, then, sitting next to him are people like Chrissy and Joe and Ryan, people who will upset enough castaways in this game that JP will receive votes. It ain’t happening, but a boy can dream, right?

  • Ryan – For the first time in what seems like ages, we saw very little of Ryan this episode. I think that made for a good episode. As I’ve written, producers so badly want us to believe that Ryan is a great player, but every time we’re shown him playing, he makes amateurish moves. Well, this week he did say the merge vote will determine the rest of the game. I mean, yeah, that’s true on seasons that aired before Ryan was born.

  • Devon – I don’t know about you, but I was totally shocked with Devon this episode. Making moves. Talking to people. Mentioning strategy. Drinking a huge-ass beer. On an episode where one of my fantasy players went home, Devon moved on up in the world. He might be a legitimate contender. Probably not, but still…

  • Cole – People like Cole bother me. They seem so genuine when they apologize, but they always have to apologize. That tells you something. And, please, stop with the climbing analogies. I live in Boulder; I hear too many people every day make these kinds of inane analogies …


  • Lauren – I’m still trying to figure out how Ben convinced Lauren to make the right move. As per usual with Lauren, it seemed like she was dead set on sticking with the Healers. Good for Ben for making her understand she would have been No. 6 out of 7 in that alliance. Of course, I don’t think it matters. Lauren is not adaptable enough to win this game. You heard it here first: There are going to be points this season where Lauren can radically change the game and we at home are going to be supremely frustrated that she never makes a damn move.

  • Joe – I believe it was Dalton Ross who wrote after Joe’s first idol play that there was no way in hell a player like Joe would use his idol on anyone else. Dalton was sure proven right this week. That was a dumb play by Joe. You either don’t use the idol or you play it for someone else. There’s no in between in that instance. But, as usual, Joe thought he could outsmart everyone. Be bold, annoying and brash and everyone would vote for him, even with an idol around his neck. Um, no. I have a feeling Joe is shown the door this week.   


And so it goes, another Well … in theory is finished. A lot of folks say the merge episode lets us know whether a season will be, overall, strong, weak or mediocre. There’s some truth to that, but I’m of the mind that the first or second episode after the merge gives us a better idea. Why do I say that? Well, will this block of seven just vote off the remaining Healers? If they do, it’s a boring or, at best, mediocre season. If things start to get mixed up, well, I think we’re in for a good run then.  


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.