Continuing with my Survivor Rewind series, I decided to go back and watch season 6 of Survivor, Survivor: The Amazon. Set in the middle of one of the more vast and unforgiving wilderness locations in the world, The Amazon proved to be a fun season to watch, with a few really good twists, great characters from 1 to 16, and some brilliant, contrasting game strategies that highlighted the evolution of Survivor through its short, yet noteworthy run up until that point. The season featured one of the most intricate strategic game plans we’ve seen up to that point, with multiple players coming into the game with thoughts of alliances and backstabbing coming first and survival being an afterthought. In the end, we had a surprising underdog final two, with a winner most probably didn’t expect when the season began. While I think I could speak for a lot of fans in saying the winner was not the most desired champion of the group (at least not in a game sense), it ended up being a great show overall, and will go down as one of the more memorables season of survivor. Here are some of my thoughts on the season:
- From the get-go of season 6, it was clear that the producers of the show had decided that they were going to take the social experiment to another level. For the entirety of its run so far, Survivor had divided the tribes in half either by random assortment or by schoolyard pick, but for season 6, producers decided to see if another variable could play an intricate part in the game; gender. The cast learned as they exited the boat to go to their respective camps that they would divided by gender, the guys making up the Tambaqui tribe and the women making up the Jaburu tribe. It was a shock to the cast, and a bit of a wrench thrown into the game a lot of them were planning on playing. Both tribes initially struggled with age divides without the mixed gender tribes, as the young women like Jenna, Heidi, and Shawna lamented the way the older women looked down at them. Along the same lines, the men at Tambaqui were very divided as well, with the older guys like Roger and Butch looking down on some of the younger, more lazy guys like Ryan, and Dan, who ended up costing the men their first immunity challenge. The tribe divisions on this season really shook up the game in some big ways, and I thought it created just enough drama and intrigue to keep the beginning of the game from being too mundane. The men vs. women storyline would continue to impact the game even well after the tribes were mixed, which is a testament to the original idea by the producers; it worked out really well.
- Even though the men were very confident that they had a superior team to the women, immunity challenges results proved otherwise. The overconfident, cocky Tambaqui tribe lost two of the first three immunity challenges, and decided to get rid of the two of their least productive members, Ryan and Daniel. The women on the other hand proved to be at least competent as a team, if not maybe a bit dysfunctional as a unit at camp. The young group (Heidi, Jenna, and Shawna) proved to be less hands-on around camp, drawing the ire of the “more mature” women like Jeanne, Joanna, and Janet. Then there was Christy, who identified herself as deaf on Day 1, and struggled mightily to fit in with her tribemates. When it came time for them to vote someone off it ended up being accusations of smuggled food that lead to the tribe turning on Janet, eliminating their oldest tribe member. Then when they had to go to Tribal Council again on Day 12, wild card Deena decided to side herself with the younger women, who she felt she could better manage and manipulate, and voted out workhorse Joanna (leaving Jeanne on the outs, eventually to be voted out pre-merge). All was going pretty normally with the gender divided tribes up through the first four votes, and then the producers decided to throw another curveball in the game, something they hadn’t done before. Both tribes got a tree-mail informing them that they were to send their youngest members to an undisclosed location. It ended up being Jenna for Jaburu and Dave for Tambaqui who were greeted by Jeff Probst who let them know they were going to enjoy a feast and get a good night’s sleep on a bed before returning to their respective camps. The two got to mingle and talk about their experiences for the day, but were shocked to find out the next day that they were tasked to pick new tribes. It was a twist that shocked me, something I didn’t see coming, and it proved to be another fascinating step in the game, as Dave used information Jenna gave him to select Heidi, temporarily taking her best ally away from her. Dave selected Heidi, Christy, and Jeanne to join Roger, Butch and himself at Tambaqui, while Jenna selected Rob, Matthew, and Alex to join Shawna, Deena and herself at Jaburu. The tribe shake-out proved to be crucial going forward, as the new Jaburu tribe was able to form a very close bond, and used the ideas of old alliances to get forward in the game. The tribe switch in this season was one of the best I’ve seen on the show Survivor, it was random, surprising, and produced some great turns and strategy later on after the merge.
- As the cast merged at the final ten, it became pretty clear who the power players in the game were, and what the plans were for the end game. While guys like Roger and Dave from Tambaqui were keen to use the numbers of men vs. women (6 to 4) to their advantage, the Jaburu alliance of Alex, Deena, Rob, Heidi, and Jenna stayed strong, and decided to target Roger, who everyone felt was hard to deal with and possibly sexist. With Matt and Christy along for the ride, Roger was voted out, and then Dave after him. This alliance proved formidable in the game, but also lead to a lot of false security and delusions of grandeur, a common problem within the game of Survivor. Deena thought her superior leadership skills and assertiveness had in squarely in control of the game, stringing along Rob for a final two and Jenna and Heidi because they were young and gullible. Alex felt in charge because his interpersonal skills were seemingly superb, as Jenna, Heidi, and Rob all considered him a good friend in and out of the game by the time they got to eight. As history showed, it really ended up being Rob Cesternino, a 24 year old computer projects coordinator who had the best strategy of anyone in the game. He kept solid relationships with everyone he played with in the early going, and followed the ebbs and flows of the game to get to a great spot at the merge. What set him apart, and ultimately got him ahead in the game was his ability to keep side alliances. He quickly turned to Matt at the merge, a guy he saw as a physical threat, but a strategic liability, and heavily influenced his game play by feeding him information. Once Deena got too cocky in her leadership position, Rob used his closeness with her to feed information to both Matt and Alex, who quickly turned on her once she had turned on them. He then used Matt to bring in Butch and Christy in an attempt to flip the game upside down, voting out Alex, who made the classic mistake of telling his ally where he truly ranked, and bringing the numbers to the perceived outcasts. Rob’s move at seven was one of the more brilliant strategies I’ve seen play out in Survivor; he adjusted his end game to fit the changing times and moods, something we’d rarely seen go down that late in the game as of that point in Survivor’s history. He continued to use his relationships with Matt and Jenna to get to a final three with them, but he was unable to seal the deal in the end. Still, Rob should go down as the strategist of the season, and he’ll be remembered for his witty and hilarious confessionals throughout the game (and also for his amazing reality TV website, Rob Has a Podcast). He’s one of the better players to play the game in my opinion, even if he came up just shy of the Final Tribal Council.
- Jenna Morasca had a very interesting path to becoming the Sole Survivor of Survivor: The Amazon. She came on to the show with a story, albeit not the most compelling one ever. She was the young, skinny, pretty model who was going to be pigeon-holed as the flirt of the cast. From the minute they started in the game, we got to see her narrate the story a bit, talking about how she was perceived by the older ladies in her tribe, and just discussing her struggles in the game. The producers kind of made it clear to keep an eye on her, and they were right to. She contributed to one of the most infamous moments in Survivor history when she and Heidi agreed to get naked and jump off their respective podiums in an individual immunity challenge for chocolate and peanut butter. It was one of those classic stand on a podium for a long time challenges where Probst likes to entice people off with temptations, and Jenna was quick to tell Jeff what she would do for her craving. It was a fun moment for the show, and a nice publicity grab for the franchise too, but it did show Jenna’s M.O. just a bit. Despite her protests to the contrary, she was all about using her feminine charm and good looks to her advantage to get far in the game. She played the game the best way she knew how, but when Rob turned on their alliance, she actually turned her game up a notch to preserve herself, and she sort of became a challenge beast. Jenna went on to win immunities when her back was against the wall late in the game, saving herself after Heidi was voted out, and winning her way into a seat at the Final Tribal Council, taking Matt with her instead of Rob who surely would have beaten her for the million. I wouldn’t go as far as to say Jenna is one of the better winners Survivor has ever seen, but she sure was an interesting player throughout, someone who stayed fairly honest and true to herself in a deceitful game, and someone who always kept things interesting. Jenna wasn’t my favorite player in the game, and while I’m not even overly convinced she should have gotten the votes over Matthew, I do respect that she played her own game, and won in a very different way than anyone else had before her. Jenna will go down as one of the more intriguing winners of all time, the femme fatale who outmaneuvered everyone around her on her way to the title of Sole Survivor.
Survivor: The Amazon turned out to be one of the most fun seasons I’ve gone back and watched to date. The tropical rainforest backdrop was a great setting for a game filled with snakes and sloths, gamers who knew strategy and were able to form alliances, and those who were merely along for the ride. This season gave us some great memories, like Jenna and Heidi stripping for chocolate, Crazy Matt and his machete, and Rob’s witty confessionals, including his famous Casey Kasem impression at Tribal Council. The twists in the season really worked greatly for the game and enhanced the game play in a way that couldn’t have come to fruition otherwise. The gender divide really exposed the game and the players in a special way, making them cognizant of factors that shouldn’t have impacted the game, and the surprise reshuffling of tribes was exciting and set up a wonderful post-merge game where so many players had a real shot at going deep and winning the game if things fell their way. I really liked this season and its characters a lot, one of the better seasons I’ve watched in terms of entertainment value. While I would have preferred to see Rob pull off the win, I think Jenna is a fun winner for the show to have, someone who brought something different to the game and found a way to last ‘til the end with her confidence and integrity intact. Survivor: The Amazon is a season I would highly recommend watching (or re-watching) for any fan of the series, it’s good game play, and above all, it’s excellent entertainment!