Winning Survivor is no mean feat and is not accomplished purely by luck; it takes some strategy, some social graces, and a certain level of physical ability can be necessary. These three components must be, in some fashion present in a contestant in order to succeed at the game. Fans debate over which winners played the stronger game based on these three key elements, but it can be quite tricky to have an absolute ranking; some fans place greater emphasis on the strategic side, where as some look at the social maneuvering of the player in question. One winner that is often regarded as one of the worst is Amber Brkich, she is seen as a coattail rider who never really branched out to formulate her own gameplay and latched on to Boston Rob, literally and figuratively. In today's feature article American Ozlet Anthony Rossi takes a closer look at Amber's game in All-Stars and whether or not she is an underrated winner.
A role of being an Ozlet for Survivor Oz, we must submit rankings of the seasons and the winners. This year I placed Amber at 10th. After my re-watch of All-Stars I really started to appreciate the sly game that she played that season. My article here is a look at the game she played and why she deserves more respect as a game player and whether or not she even deserved a spot on All-Stars.
Is She an All-Star?
Amber’s start on Survivor began on the second season, The Australian Outback. On her first attempt to attain the title of Sole Survivor, she formed solid bonds with most of her tribe mates and secured her position in the necessary alliances. She made it well into the jury phase and landed in sixth position. This begs the question; did her performance this season warrant a second shot?
It’s a tricky question to answer, because it depends on the season that she was to return for. As much as it pains me to say, I don’t think that she should have returned for All-Stars. All-Stars is a season that should be reserved for the best of the best and the most notable players. Based off that fact, Amber was neither one of the best or most memorable from the Australian Outback, let alone from the first seven seasons. I am not trying to say that Amber was completely unmemorable or she was a terrible player, but she didn’t have many major standout moments. I feel that Amber merited a return, but on a non All Star season. Regardless of whether you think that she warranted a return, she was asked back and she came to compete and in the end made a big turn-around.
The Season Itself
Survivor All-Stars was the first season to feature returning players and it caused a lot of debate. One could argue that this season changed the nature of the show with the increased sense of gameplay and deception. This season harbored a lot of bad feelings, because it pitted friends against one another forcing hard decisions to be made and as a result hurt feelings. Due to this fact, the season is vastly different from the other returning player seasons, because it was the first time doing something like this. At this point of the show, the players haven’t had to grapple with playing against people they know. As the show progressed, returning players have been able to set aside personal feelings, but in the early days this was a major struggle. With Amber winning this season, she deserves some credit for being able to overcome that additional obstacle.
Her Game in All-Stars
I do understand that Amber is often overshadowed in this season, because she is surrounded by some of the biggest names to play the game at this point. However, I don’t entirely blame the editing, because a certain level of personality is needed when it comes to gaining airtime. That aside, Amber was quite a smooth operator and this started right from the get-go. Right from the start, she is able to recognize that this is simply a game. Amber does deserve credit for playing All-Stars differently than most of the others this season; although she has real personal connections with these people, she is able to separate the personal connections she has made in the real world from the strategic decisions of the game.
As she progresses throughout the game she is able to manipulate people by using her strong personal associations with them to then stab them in the back later in the game. Amber shines throughout the merge phase of the game as she manages to betray others after making those connections from the switch and then received their votes in the final tribal council.
Her Connection to Boston Rob
Boston Rob and Amber formed this strong bond right from the beginning and at first what appeared to be a serious showmance blossomed into an island romance. This is a big deal as there was no major couple to play in the game before these two and no real couple after (an exception can possibly be made for Jon and Jaclyn). These two were clear targets, as they would most likely not vote each other out, but that was never a major issues as Romber had such a strong vice on the other players. The key factor that separates Amber from Rob is her ability to use this relationship in a strategic manner. Amber utilizes her bond with Rob to cover the fact that she is also backstabbing her friends that she made alliances with.
Amber recognizes Rob as an explosive individual that has caused a lot of conflict, which took a lot of heat away from her. She admits in her final tribal council speech that she came to play and win and did not alter her choices based on her relationships prior to entering. Amber has no remorse or no regret for her actions but she recognizes the hurt feelings that the jury has and sympathizes with them. Her attitude toward the jury members is vastly different from how Rob addresses them. This further highlights the fact that she uses him to take the heat.
The Tribe Switch
One of the most impactful moments of this season that focuses on Amber is the tribe switch. Most would say that it looked like the two tribes were headed for a merge, but it turned into a tribe switch. In a strange turn of events, the tribes just seem to switch camps with the exception of Amber. She winds up on a tribe with all the previous Mogo Mogo members. The major negotiation with this switch is the deal that Rob makes with Lex to save Amber. Many credit Rob with the play to save Amber, but at the end of the day Amber needs to save herself. Rob may have initiated the change in Lex’s mind, but it was the way that Amber approached the scenario that really sealed the deal. There is a funny scene in this episode showing Amber begging Kathy to stay in the game and even though this is more for comedy’s sake than anything else, it demonstrates that Amber is not laying down and dying but is truly fighting to stay alive.
Do I think she is the best winner? No. Do I think she played a flawless game? No. Is she the worst winner? NO! Amber is one of the quieter winners, but she was quite a smooth talker. She was able to get herself out of a few tricky situations (not sticky, tricky). Amber’s relationship with Rob may overshadow her as a game player, but she is making these difficult decisions and is able to do so with more social awareness and as a result wins.
Do you agree with Rossi’s thoughts on Amber’s game? Does she deserve more credit than she gets from the Survivor fan-base? Comment below to let us know your thoughts!
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