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?

6 thoughts on “To Reward Yourself or Benefit the Many”

  1. I think that when you do what you believe to be the right thing, you do it without hope or agenda, so I applaud Brenda’s choice and believe she made the correct one.

    Do they still have immunity challenges on Survivor? If so, Brenda’s mistake seems to be not kicking ass in the immunity challenge. In my opinion, anyone who participates in Survivor these days without extreme training designed around previous seasons of immunity challenges is making a mistake.

    • Trev–They do still have immunity challenges on Survivor. Brenda came very close to winning (she’s been good in challenges), but Dawn beat her in the end. A lot of the challenges these days are endurance challenges, like “stand on this narrow board for as long as you can without falling off.”

  2. I thought this when I was watching last night. Brenda is kind of screwed either way: she can give up her reward and be “too nice”, or not give up the reward and not “deserve” to win. I believe this happened in a previous season back when they used to give out cars (I don’t remember which one) where the person who won the car was given the option to keep his car, or give everyone else a car. I think she kept it because she figured everyone would still vote her off even if she gave them cars, and was labeled selfish and voted out that night.

    Even if you are looking at it from a gameplay perspective (instead of a “what is the right thing to do” perspective), giving up the reward pleases 4 people and angers only one, so that’s what is the most beneficial. I felt worse for Dawn because she lost her reward but doesn’t even get any benefits from that sacrifice because she had nothing to do with it. Also it was a cold move by the producers to have the party out in the bay where Brenda and Dawn could see and hear everyone else having fun.

    • Yeah this felt borderline cruel tonight. I think because Brenda had just given a speech about being humble, she had to choose the group thing. But seeing as how she wasn’t super close to those people, that was rough.

      Also, can we just discuss how Dawn has a full-fledged panic attack about her mother-effing retainers (another time she owed Brenda and swore to never go against her) but doesn’t seem to even blink an eye about voting her out? I was shocked by that.

      But in general, winning reward challenges at the end of Survivor sucks. I think I would probably try not to win the loved one thing, specifically for this quandary.

      • Emma–I had forgotten about the retainer incident. That’s a great point–how could Dawn vote out Brenda after that? Sure, it’s a game, but Brenda didn’t retrieve the retainer as part of the game. She was simply doing the right thing, as Dawn should have done.

    • Dawn–Ah yes, I remember those car giveaways. They always provided an interesting dilemma. It almost seems like a lose-lose situation. Perhaps the only viable solution is to purposely not win the challenge and hope you benefit from the reward.


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