Judge and Jury – Should the Jury be Sequestered?

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Another Monday has rolled around and with it comes another Survivor Oz Feature Article! This week, Ozlet Nick Chester, the number one man in New Zealand, is back to bring you an interesting article on the history of the Jury. Nick discusses why he thinks the Jury should be sequestered and brings some interesting insights and facts about why the Jury should be sequestered. Don’t forget you can have your say below by posting a comment with your thoughts!

se·ques·ter

verb (used with object)

1. to remove or withdraw into solitude or retirement; seclude.

2. to remove or separate.

In Heather Smith’s article “How important is the jury system?” a number of aspects about the Jury system on Survivor were discussed. Heather talked about human emotion being important to the decision making process on the Jury. I would say it is the most important aspect of the game, and can end up meaning that the best player doesn’t win.

One area that wasn’t discussed was how rational a Jury is, or isn’t. After spending anywhere between eighteen and thirty-eight days playing Survivor, being sleep and food deprived and with at least some perceptions about other players, a person goes through what must be for many a humiliating experience of being voted out, and joins the Jury with plenty of emotional baggage. At the time of being voted out, a juror’s perceptions of those left behind is entirely shaped by their own experiences, which are in theory complemented by returning at each Tribal Council to witness what transpires for the remainder of the game. In addition, they are also given the opportunity to question the Final Two or Three to “gain information” in order to make a vote.

In reality, this doesn’t happen at all. The vulnerable and hurt Jury member goes to ‘Ponderosa’ and can spend up to two weeks in the company of other hurt people, some of whom have an agenda. A whole other political game plays out amongst Jury members who have an axe to grind and nothing left to lose. They know for sure that the winner won’t be them. This is fertile ground for bitterness, revenge and lack of logical thinking to triumph over sound decision making on the ultimate winner of the season.

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The Survivor: Redemption Island Jury.

Although it hasn’t really been confirmed officially anywhere, it seems that Juries in early seasons were tightly controlled, forbidden from speaking about the game. I’m sure this wasn’t one hundred percent effective but the producers saw a need to stop Jurors from talking openly about players left in the game and what deals had been made with each other. Production seemed to believe that a jurors vote should be based on their own interactions with players inside the game. It’s unclear exactly when this changed but it has certainly become apparent to dedicated viewers watching the ‘Ponderosa’ clips found online that once the game reaches the Jury stage, talking about the game isn’t off limits. In fact, its encouraged to make better entertainment for the Ponderosa clips. These often show jurors talking openly about the remaining players with each other and how they will vote.

You could argue that this is a well established facet of the game, and a good player will know how to manage it. But can you really manage it? To some degree it can be controlled, if you know how people are likely to react to being voted out. Antagonising players who are on the outside is sure to leave them bitter and after revenge when the “power shifts” (as Jeff says) to the Jury at the end. Over promising and under delivering to alliance members is also likely to send people to the Jury in a bad mood so should be avoided. A good player can manage the Jury to some degree. Also an understanding of how jurors think is important. For many jurors, the decision on who to vote for in the end comes down to who they feel comfortable ultimately winning their season, and what they want their vote to say about them personally as a player and juror. This is why a player who makes “big moves” often loses to a more under the radar player who may have been incorrectly viewed as undeserving.

But even the best player can’t control every situation, and allowing jurors to openly talk with little in the way of checks and balances can lead to problems. What stops bitter jurors from spreading lies about a particular player they don’t want to win? Those players left in the game don’t get to see what is being said about them and respond to it until the Final Tribal Council, by which time the damage is often done and it’s too late. There are a lot of examples of this and here are just a couple.

The Final Tribal Council of Thailand is an uncomfortable experience as issues of racism are raised by Big Ted, specifically regarding Clay. His question seemed to completely confuse Clay and was apparently based on things Ted heard second hand from other jurors after his part in the game was over. As Jeff discusses in the Reunion Show, Helen gives Brian a lot of grief for basing his decisions on hearsay, but some jurors seem to do this to Clay as well.

South Pacific offers another example. Whilst we are led to believe that Coach lost the game because he refused to own up to his duplicitous behaviour, it’s more than a little fishy that all five of the Savaii alliance voted for Sophie. To believe that they didn’t all decide to vote the same way prior to Tribal Council is naïve in the extreme. It seems blindingly obvious that they took their cues from Ozzy, knowing that regardless who the rest of the Jury voted for, they had the majority and would decide the winner prior to the first question being asked to the Final Three. Perhaps they would have all voted the same way even if sequestered, but making the Final Tribal Council a trial by consensus as opposed to a true cross examination of each player’s game makes the whole process a farce.

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Did the South Pacific Jury make an individual decision to vote for Sophie, or were they guided by Ozzy’s bitterness towards Coach?

And of course there possibly the most contentious issue of Russell Hantz. I couldn’t really write a piece about bitter juries and not discuss Russell in Samoa. Let me be very clear: I don’t believe Russell could have won the game based on the way he played, regardless of the Jury being sequestered or not. Whilst he played a strong strategic game, he didn’t make the personal connections required to get enough Jury votes. But things should have been a lot closer than the seven-two vote. Take Dave Ball’s final words:

“Russell was born to play this game

A few days later, after spending time with a bitter Laura, Dave was not only completely against Russell, but trying to split votes to ensure Mick finished in second place ahead of him. I find it unfathomable to think Dave was not influenced to some degree by people who didn’t want Russell to win. If Dave had been separated form other jurors, he may have voted differently.

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Dave Ball left the game feeling he was beaten by a better player in Russell. Did the social game of the Jury change his mind?

When looking at the results of Jury votes, it could be argued that “group think” has taken over from individual decision making and would indicate that jurors don’t go to Tribal Council with an open mind, hoping to gain information to base their vote on. They go in a predetermined idea on who they will vote for. In the first thirteen seasons of Survivor, the winner has been decided by a single Jury vote on six occasions. In the most recent thirteen seasons, this has only happened three times, (and Todd’s win isn’t that close when you consider the votes against him were split between two people). The four most lopsided votes in history and all the unanimous votes have occurred since Survivor: Fiji. It seems probable that many jurors in later seasons have agreed prior to the Final Tribal Council who will win. It also seems pretty likely that players who were followers in the game are very likely to be followers in the Jury box. Separating these people and forcing them to make an independent decision on whom to vote for could have significant ramifications on the end result.

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It appears that over time, Juries have favoured one person much more heavily, as opposed to splitting votes which was much more common in earlier seasons.

Having a Jury sequester would undoubtedly make the game fairer. How much of an impact it would have on the end result is unclear but it’s unlikely to prevent the best player from winning, and gives performances at the Final Tribal Council a much greater meaning. Whilst there is no way to keep Survivor completely fair, allowing people with nothing to lose and potentially a chip on their shoulder to openly discuss people still in the game, with no right of reply for these people until final tribal council is well beyond the realms of fairness and should be discontinued immediately.

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Do you agree or disagree with Nick? Should the Jury be sequestered? Leave your thought’s below! 

About Survivor Oz (2110 Articles)
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5 Comments on Judge and Jury – Should the Jury be Sequestered?

  1. I agree with your article, however could these unanimous votes come from better gameplay or bringing a ‘goat’ with you to the ftc.

  2. Juries SHOULD be sequestered. Period.

  3. If a change is made and juries become sequestered, it’ll only lead to more controversy. People from previous seasons will complain even more about how if that happened in their season, they could’ve won, and people from upcoming seasons will complain that it cost them the game. As much as Survivor is in large part an evolving game, in this one aspect, consistency is more important. All this topic does is give people excuses.

  4. Interesting analysis and I agree there is certainly a lot of lobbying that goes down at Ponderosa. However, as you rightly point out – surviving players are aware of this – hence they can choose to incorporate this knowledge into their strategies… if one particular player (eg ozzy) is particularly vengeful and good at lobbying then Id argue the remianing players should know this.

    fwiw, I agree coach was robbed – however it could be argued he did not make strong enough connections with the savaii people, preferring to to maintain the cult like behaviour on his own tribe. Further – I believe cochran voted for coach (the only former savaii to do so) and this was the only savaii person coach made a really strong connection with…

  5. That was a great read. With the South Pacific jury as the person above mentioned Cochran voted for Coach and he was the only Savaii to do so based on connection. Ozzy made it clear at the FTC that he really disliked Sophie and I was sure Coach/Albert would of gained his vote but Sophie breaking down and explaining herself and how the experience changed her and really putting it all out there is a big credit to her win.

    Russell was never destined to win. Even the Heroes and Villains couldn’t stand him and Parvati lost that season due to association. He has Amanda syndrome. Just can’t seal the deal at the end.

    I think producers allow them to talk in order to create fireworks and drama when they can address them on Day 39.

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