I’ve watched “Survivor” for many of its 23 seasons on CBS. I’m not a serious, can’t-miss watcher but I tune in to most of the episodes. The winner this year was Sophie, a 22 year old medical student from New York. Sophie is physically strong and intelligent so she did well at most challenges. Yet these assets alone aren’t enough to win a million dollars. A key component includes social skills and political maneuvering. Intrinsic in these is personality and the perceptions held by others.
Having studied personality myself, I was intrigued when the host prefaced a question with “Sophie, you’re a Thinker…” I had never heard a player labeled by a personality preference on the show before. I wondered if participants are given a personality test as part of the selection process.
“Thinkers” tend to hide their emotions, preferring to maintain a strong outer appearance. Sophie had been described by other players as being “hard to know” and “arrogant”. This is a common perception among non-Thinker types, and it is especially damaging to females who are expected to project a warmer, more emotional front. Yet, Sophie the Thinker, managed to win—and here’s the part that intrigues me— not just because of her physical and intellectual strength, but because she was forced by other players to show her feelings.
Thanks to Ozzy, a strong competitor who had no trouble displaying his emotions, Sophie was pushed into doing the one thing she would never have done on her own. In a very condescending manner, Ozzy cut down Sophie’s behavior and labeled her “a spoiled brat” at tribal council, making a common error people sometimes make, assuming that emotions hidden equals the lack of them. Sophie’s outer shell crumbled beneath the public criticism, and her trembling voice and tears revealed a person complete with feelings.
I think it was this exchange that also doomed Ozzy at the next immunity challenge. He had not expected to reveal a person with feelings inside that “spoiled brat”. I think he felt bad about it and knew he had over-stepped a boundary. Ozzy appeared rattled when Sophie caught up with him at the final immunity challenge. While Sophie kept her cool and figured out the puzzle pieces, Ozzy panicked when he realized she had found the first puzzle placement. Despite his initial lead in collecting the puzzle pieces, Ozzy seemed to lose his focus and finally just stood and watched in disbelief as Sophie completed her puzzle. Ozzy was voted out at the next tribal council losing his last chance for the final three.
In typical Thinker fashion, Sophie commented the next day that she felt she had been too emotional at the previous council and was planning to be “more logical” at the next one. Fortunately for Sophie, the jury members again spoke openly about their negative perceptions of her. Despite her brave attempt to keep it together, Sophie again dissolved into shaky voice and genuine tears. Revealing her emotions made her appear more human. The experience appeared to be just enough to put her ahead of the other two players who had their own list of infractions. There should be a lesson in there somewhere for anyone hoping to be the next million dollar Survivor.
- ‘Survivor: South Pacific’: Is Ozzy arrogant? Let’s ask him! – Entertainment Weekly (insidetv.ew.com)
- Recap: Survivor, South Pacific, Season Finale (arts.nationalpost.com)
- Survivor: South Pacific Finale recap: So close yet so far away (examiner.com)