To Reward Yourself or Benefit the Many

Brenda and her father

Brenda and her father

This episode contains spoilers about tonight’s episode of Survivor. If you don’t watch the show or have already watched this episode, please proceed.

Let’s get this out of the way: Yes, I watch Survivor. I love games, and Survivor is the best game on TV.

A very interesting moral and strategic quandary occurred on Survivor tonight that I think you might enjoy. After winning a reward challenge, one of the remaining 6 contestants (Brenda) was prepared to receive a special reward with her father and one of the members of her alliance, Dawn, as well as Dawn’s husband.

Then Jeff Probst threw in a monkey wrench: If Brenda wanted, she could give up her reward (as well as Dawn’s) and give all four other survivors the same reward with their loved ones.

After pausing for a minute to let the question sink it, Jeff asked Brenda what she was going to do. Wiping tears from her eyes, she said, “Of course I’m going to give it to them.”

It was a moving gesture, and I applauded Brenda for it at the time. Unfortunately, because of the way voting works at the end of Survivor, Brenda’s kind action put a target on her back (it made her too likable, basically), and she was voted out at the end of the episode by the same people she had given the reward to (and Dawn, who was bitter despite being Brenda’s first pick to receive the reward in the first place).

Therein lies the quandary: By doing the “right” thing, Brenda was perceived as being too nice and therefore a frontrunner to win the million dollars, and she was voted out. Conversely, she could have chosen the wrong thing–to keep the reward for herself and Dawn–and the rest of the tribe would have either held it against her and voted her out OR perceived her as less of an end-game threat and kept her in the game. No one can say for sure what would have happened.

What would you have done?