For our assignment we chose the reality show Survivor of which we watched Season 20, episode 10 “Going down in Flames”. The groups present are the Heroes, Villains and Yin Yang, but our focus is on the Villains, with comments on the Heroes and Yin Yang. The setup is as follows: “Survivor” is a show in which two teams try to survive on an island, the “Heroes” and the “Villains” who fight head to head in a series of challenges on a deserted island. One or several players are eliminated each episode, to be chosen out of the team that lost the preceding challenge. In the end, one person will emerge victorious and bring home a total prize of $1,000,000. In the episode we watched, these two teams are merged to form one group, called “Yin Yang”, due to the diminished number of players after the progress of the season
We have reached a general consensus of the Villains-group. The Villains honor their name: they scheme and are generally untrustworthy, willing to put others down to get ahead. This can easily be concluded from their behavior and personal interviews during the episode. Moreover, at the end of the episode you can easily follow how they reached their goal with scheming and cheating.
The Villains consists of five team members. First of all, there is Russell who is the formal leader of the Villains and socially and politically very gifted. He has made an alliance with Parvati who has leading qualities as well and likes to get attention. Although Parvati and Russel both try to get rid off J.T., a member of the Heroes, they have different strategies which will be explained later on.
Sandra, however, has different objectives. She tries to get rid off Russell and in order to do this she is willing to betray her team. Then there is Danielle, who is supportive of Parvati and Jerri. Jerri is social person and not involved in scheming. He takes no part in politics. We have based
our impressions on what was made public about the members during the program and their behavior towards other members.
The goal of the “Villains” is to protect their members by making sure that someone from the “Heroes” is voted off by clever use of so called “Immunity Idols”, general slyness and cut-throat deals. We seemed to, again, all agree on this aspect.
For this episode, we found that Maslow’s generally outdated theory for the Hierarchy of Needs is applicable. The 1.000.000 dollar reward combined with the feeling of victory after times of competition and harsh selection, is the highest individual goal and can be considered as “Esteem” and “Self-actualisation", but can only be attained after having ensured that the team’s interest of protecting its members from elimination, which in turn requires a certain amount of social and political skills, is fulfilled to a certain degree. Protection of team members equals to Maslow’s Safety and Social need because it is foreseeable that as soon as the groups are merged to become “Yin and Yang” everyone will still be sticking to the old group formation. Thus, each member wants the majority of the “Yin and Yang” group, the future “In-group” to consist of his old fellows. Also, McClelland’s theory of needs deserves consideration as every individual has the need for achievement of being the winner of this game, the need for power to influence and even manipulate others in order to achieve and the need for affiliation. The need for affiliation is quite controversial as on the one hand it is necessary when trying to influence others and getting power them but on the other hand an affiliation too strong would decrease people’s willingness to backstab others.
As to their motivation it can be said that the direction is the same for everybody. Russel and Parvati share a high intensity but she has more persistence. She is a maximizer who keeps evaluating her schemes, whereas Russell makes a good scheme and then simply sticks to it.
What makes this team a group was an initially random event: They were placed together at the beginning of the season and made their alliances accordingly. In this episode a few characteristics show in particular: the strong commitment to their original team and not to the newly formed “Yin and Yang”-alliance, which is gets obvious looking at the general unease to vote out one of their former group members in the Yin Yang tribal council, and preferring to vote out a Heroes member. Secondly, the overall readiness to jettison ethics in social behavior. However, internal turmoil, consisting of a general lack of openness and the hatred of some members for another, causes the members to differ in strategy on the upcoming elimination.
Although four of the five members have the same goal, the differences in strategy between all the individuals cause the team not to perform at its full potential. Instead of coming to a general idea on how to play the game and whom to vote out, several ideas swarm around in the group, which aren’t really compatible.
The group members interact with each other trough conversations, body language and the display of emotions. There are no rules within this domain. It’s a social card game and at the end of the day you will see which player holds the best cards.
The team’s biggest strengths are their willingness to play a dirty game, because that is what’s required to win, their social and political skills and their commitment to each other. The team’s weakness is a lack of openness, communication and trust. Just a few team members trust the other team members. As an outsider, you do not even believe that the trust is true, because they are willing to play a game and do not let others be part of their plans. The proof for it is that J.T. trusts Russell, but he wants him out.
We all scrutinized the behaviour and listened closely to the personal interviews to find evidence of our first impressions.
We found that the members of the heroes’ tribe immediately considered Russel as the leader of the villain’s tribe which we attribute to the fact that Russel is the only male person in the villain’s tribe. Therefore, the heroes´ tribe members hold a positive prejudice towards men thinking they are more likely to be good leaders than women. There is also evidence of prejudice, discrimination and the use of stereotypes in Survivor. Sandra, a black woman, is not involved in any plans, she feels like a loner and thinks that all members are against her. Because of that, she tries to get in contact with the other team. Moreover, we could see that J.T. believes in a stereotype which makes him think that Russell is a good guy, because he is from Texas. According to his mind-set people from the South are always trustful and have their heart on the right side. We should mention that this trust made him get out of the show, because he trusted Russell.
We also found strengths and weaknesses in the group. Their most important strength is that they hold strong bonds with each other to defeat the heroes. This becomes clear at the “In and Yang” tribal council: Russell’s fidelity still lies with the villains. To accomplish their goal of defeating the heroes they are willing to get their hands dirty, for which they have the necessary political and social skills. For example, Russell convinces the heroes to vote Parvati out and gives her immunity at the same time in order to protect Parvati and to vote out JT with only a few votes. This proves to be an effective method. The teams’ weaknesses are their desperate lack of openness, communication and trust. For example, Parvati and Russell both make their schemes without letting one another know so that these very plans could have failed completely and have eventually succeeded due to luck only.
Their problem is that their common wish to stay one group suffers from the fact that nobody articulates this common wish openly which results in betrayal and conflicting strategies. Generally, the members do not always attribute good incentives to their fellows although they have them. We think that telling them what they could do better is very hard, because the general goal is not the survival of the whole group but survival as individuals. So advising the team members to communicate more openly would disregard the fact that such behavior makes them more vulnerable to backstabbing. However, since individual survival cannot be achieved without a certain degree of group survival being accomplished before, they have to find a better balance between these sometimes conflicting goals. From this point of view, we think that their strategy is already very good. What we mentioned above is the only thing we can think of to improve their strategy.