The week has rolled back around and Feature Monday is once more upon us. With only two weeks left to air of Survivor Cambodia, it's safe to say the real theme of the post-merge so far has been about voting blocs taking precedence over alliances. It seems like a no-brainer that this strategy will be the legacy left by the second chancers but just how new and revolutionary is it? Today Ozlet Ivan Orenlas takes a walk down memory lane as he looks at when are where the voting bloc strategy has appeared before and just how effective it has been. Read on to find out the history of the voting bloc.
There has been a lot of talk about voting blocs this season as an evolution of the strategic component of Survivor. It is an interesting concept and knowledge (or possibly mastery) of this strategy could be key in being successful in this game. However, as skilled as this season’s cast are, they can’t really be credited with the debut of this strategy. I’m sure they watched the previous seasons, but it would take a pretty big memory lapse to think that voting blocs haven’t happened before. I’ll take you through some other players and seasons where voting blocks were significant.
Early Seasons (1-10)
The first five seasons, though there were some blindsides and did include a huge power shift in Marquesas, were fairly straightforward. Alliances typically stayed together and knocked the outsiders out of the ring until they had to turn on each other. Kathy Vavrick O’Brien did have a few confessionals and moments where she considered the benefits of changing plans at certain points in the game, like at final 5 when she was at a crossroads between the Paschal-Neleh and Sean-Vecepia duos.
I would say the first example of voting blocs comes from Survivor Amazon, interestingly the debut season of Stephen Fishbach’s (who, from memory, seemingly has mentioned voting blocs at least 10 times in 3 or 4 episodes) partner in know-it-all-hood Rob Cesternino. In fact, possibly the whole merge of Survivor Amazon is characterized by shifting groups in power, though Rob himself would always be a part of that group until he was voted out by Jenna Morasca. First the men merge with a 6-4 advantage, but Rob, Alex, and Matthew shift to aligning with the women against Rodger and Dave. Then after Deena’s blindside, Rob uses Butch, Matt, and Christy to vote out Alex, followed by Jenna and Heidi helping Rob vote out Christy, then Rob going back to Butch and Matt against Jenna, and then Butch being ousted at final 4. It resulted in just the second Final Tribal Council where the two finalists game from opposite tribes.
The merge in Pearl Islands also opens up through voting blocs. It all starts with Jonny FairPlay recruiting two Morgans and two Outcasts to blindside by far the most popular Survivor at the time, Rupert Boneham. However, Sandra and Christ were able to bounce back the next vote. The rest of the game was a bit topsy turvy between the Morgan, the Drake, and Outcast voting blocs as well as Fairplay and Sandra’s ability to shift from various loyalties to survive. The chain of events continued to unfold with Christa, Burton, Darrah, and Fairplay getting their torches snuffed, at least three of those eliminations being in somewhat shocking fashion, whether to the players, audience, or both. Like in the Amazon, the final 2 consisted of one representative from each tribe. Though both Cesternino and Fairplay started these chains, they did not end up winning the game. Nonetheless, they made significant changes to how the game was played.
Mid Survivor Era (11-20)
From this era, the best examples are Micronesia and Fiji. Yes in China, Amanda and Todd relied on their Xuan Hu buddies to blindside Jean Robert and James, but the pagonging was still a big part of proceedings. Gabon did have its fair share of power shifts but that was more made possible by tribe swaps and poor alliance management by several players than strong moves.
In Fiji, Ravu never really had a majority alliance while Moto only visited Tribal Council once. This set the stage for an interesting swap and even more interesting post merge. Save for the Horseman pagonging, there was a lot of shifting going on. Mookie’s failed plan to blindside Stacey at 10, Stacey and Dreamz defecting to Earl and Yau-Man’s alliance, and Dreamz turning the tribe against Yau-Man only for Yau-Man to use his idol and send Stacey out made for an interesting second half to the game.
However, Micronesia is the more famous and likely notable example that has especially confirmed Parvati and Cirie’s status as two of the strongest strategic players in Survivor history. Whether it was Cirie’s gravitational pull for everyone wanting to be her ally and friend early on to Parvati covering her interests in the game by forming a side alliance with fans Alexis Jones and Natalie Bolton, both of them had plans A, B, and C when it came to voting. This allowed them to vote out the right players at the right time, especially when it came down to blindsiding Ozzy.
New School (21-30)
The voting bloc strategy appears more and more frequently in the more recent seasons, excluding Redemption Island, South Pacific, and One World which was almost entirely pagonging with clear pre-merge divisions on each tribe.
In Nicaragua, an eclectic majority alliance of Chase, Sash, Jane, NaOnka, Holly, Brenda, and Purple Kelly had few clear divisions or heads of power, with at least three members who had made key strategic decisions throughout the game so far. Both Alina and Marty were voted out despite them believing they had strong ties to keep them in the game. Then Holly started a movement against Brenda which resulted in her elimination, though the rest of the game wasn’t as chaotic. Nor was it predictable.
Dangrayne, the merged tribe in Survivor Philippines, had former Matsing, former Kalabaw, the main Tandang trio, and the Tandang outsiders. Those voting blocs produced some interesting Tribal Councils, from the beginning of the merge (RC, Jeff, and Artis subsequently voted out) to the end game. Though Caramoan and Blood vs Water were heavily dominated by returning players, there were a lot of shifts in plans such as the core of Cochran, Dawn, Andrea, and Phillip recruiting Erik, Brenda, and Sherri, as well as Tyson setting up the newcomers, Gervase, and Monica against Aras’s core alliance.
Seasons 28 and 29’s post merge game was characterized by flipping, especially from Kass, Tony, the Jonclyn couple, and Natalie. Those players saw opportunities to change the game and ultimately they got farther doing so than they possibly could have by sticking to one alliance. Survivor Worlds Apart had a plethora of duos and voting blocs: Dan/Mike, So/Joaquin, Rodney/Joaquin, Tyler/Carolyn, Rodney’s sub alliance, Mike’s Blue Collar Alliance, and No Collars (I know I left some out). Almost every Tribal Council had someone left out of the loop and that player wasted no time trying to turn things around. Even when Mike was the number one target, he managed to shape a lot of votes, ultimately blindsiding his former Blue Collar allies one by one for a White Collar vs Blue Collar vs No Collar Final Tribal Council.
Either in its defined form according to Cambodia or in a related form, the voting bloc strategy can be traced back as far as the pre All Stars era. However, even though alliances have occurred in every season, the nature of alliances has changed a lot since the first season. Survivor 31 may provide an evolution of strategy yet, it’s just not as revolutionary or novel as it may have seemed.
Do you agree with Ivan’s summary of the history of voting blocs? Will they be the legacy left behind by Survivor Cambodia? Are we seeing a real evolution of strategy?
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