Sowing Your Wild Goats or: How Do You Solve a Problem Like Abi-Maria?

Everyone knows that the best person to sit with at final tribal council is a goat. In Survivor, of course, a goat is someone who won’t get any votes to win. However, the modern era has seen a trend of people picking out their goats too early and choosing them poorly.

After seeing two episodes (and being one of like three people who still hasn’t looked at how the new tribes shake out), I worry that Varner has gotten too attached to a bad goat. We’ve already seen what poor management of Abi-Maria can do to one’s game. Thirty-nine days is a long time to keep someone that volatile on your side; it’s an ever-present risk to the success of your game. Let us take a look back through the successes and failures of those who attempted to tame a wild goat, shall we?

The cliff represent their ability to play Survivor.
The cliff represents their ability to play Survivor.

The most valuable trait in a goat is not unlikability, but predictability. People look to Boston Rob and Phillip as a prime example of bringing a goat to the end, but the real lesson there was Natalie Tenerelli. Phillip is not to be dealt with by amateurs. Just ask Francesca how aligning with Phillip from the beginning works. But as a fourth time player like Rob? Well, then you probably have the experience and the skills to take the chance.

The trick with a Phillip type, as Rob realized, is to make him feel important. Phillip thought he was Rob’s right-hand man, so he had no reason to rebel. This method is also seen in Survivor: Amazon when Rob Cesternino keeps Matthew in line by creating the “chain” of information. The lesson from Cesternino is also to not teach your goat too much about the game, or they may throw a challenge to avoid feeling obligated to take you to the end.

Oops, did I drop the headdress? Sorry, Rob!
Oops, did I drop the headdress? Sorry, Rob!

It’s also important to make sure your goat is actually a goat. Take Russell Hantz: Not only did he completely misjudge the importance of the social game in taking Natalie to the end (goats don’t have good social games), but in Heroes vs. Villains he doubled down and thought picking a “goat” that hates his guts wouldn’t bite him in his stupid ass.

Pictured here: the stupid ass of a goat.
Pictured here: the stupid ass of a goat.

While we all bow down at the altar of Queen Sandra now, you can almost see how Russell might have thought she was a decent person to sit next to at the end, at least early on in the game. Sandra’s first win was at a very different time in Survivor history. One of her arguments at final tribal council in Pearl Islands was that Lil voted all of them out! In modern Survivor, that’s often used as an argument for the winner. But Russell made several miscalculations:

1. How much people hated him (this also affected Parvati, but at least she knew Sandra would win).

2. How much game Sandra really has.

3. It was mostly Heroes on the jury, Russell, what did you think would happen?

The game is flaaaawwwwwed.
The game is flaaaawwwwwed.

Getting attached to a goat too early in the game leads to inflexibility, another dangerous trait to have in Survivor. No one knows this better than Sherri Biethman, who went from cultivating goats to becoming one herself. Early on in Survivor: Caramoan, Sherri states that she wants to use Shamar as her Phillip. The problem is, Shamar wasn’t interested in coasting his way to the end, or in Survivor at all. He was pretty interested in getting sand out of his eye.

I'll have you know I had a seriously scratched cornea and required surgery on my hoof.
I’ll have you know I had a seriously scratched cornea and required surgery on my hoof.

After losing her goat and being swapped with her opposing alliance, Sherri had the options to change things up multiple times, but couldn’t bounce back from losing Shamar and ended up clinging to the real Phillip and the other favorites, ultimately becoming a goat herself.  As Sherri seemed to be one of the few actual fans on a fans vs. favorites season, you’d think she’d have known better.

The Internet is a weird and magical place.
The Internet is a weird and magical place.

Sash was in a surprisingly similar position in Survivor: Nicaragua. Of course, remembering that would require remembering Nicaragua, and we here at Purple Rock wouldn’t wish that on anyone. But Sash thought he had the perfect goats in NaOnka and Purple Kelly. Would Sash have won in the end against NaOnka and Purple Kelly? Absolutely. But he was unable to keep them happy enough to stay in the game. He probably could have convinced Purple Kelly to stay if it weren’t for NaOnka quitting. And that’s why you don’t want a strong willed, unpredictable goat. They’re not going to behave rationally. They’re not going to act in their own best interest, much less yours.

NaOnka out!
NaOnka out!

Now who else can be described as strong-willed, unpredictable, irrational, and unlikely to act in your best interest?

Left, you. Right, Abi.
These goats?

It’s Abi-Maria! So sure, you could drag Abi-Maria to the end as a goat. But it would require near constant baby-sitting, checking in, and appeasing. And something could still go wrong! Her instability is one of the reasons Tandang imploded in Philippines, and she was irritating enough that no one on the other side was willing to work with her, even knowing that she would be easy to beat in the end.

My advice to someone in Varner’s position: There will always be another goat. Try to find something a little more domesticated.

Awww, like this one!
Awww, like this one!
Emma
Follow me

Emma

Emma is the token chick of the Purple Rock Podcast. She has watched the show continuously since the second episode and is pretty sure she's never seen the pilot.

Favorite seasons: Heroes vs. Villains, Micronesia, Cambodia, Cook Islands, China, Philippines

Favorite players: Courtney Yates, Parvati Shallow, John Cochran, Cirie Fields, Yul Kwon, Kim Spradlin
Emma
Follow me
  • Max_Jets

    I also don’t think Varner really needs a goat. Everyone loves him, he’s super charismatic, and he’s already building a case for himself to win. The “goats” in One World weren’t really goats, but they might as well have been when they were sitting next to Kim. He would probably do fine taking a number of different people to the end.
    Also, Cow Animorph? A+

    • Kemper Boyd

      The best players make everyone look like a goat. Kim took the most deserving two people with her to the end and still won.

      • Other Scott

        I dunno, if they were more deserving they probably should have tried harder to get rid of Kim. Sabrina was definitely a likable person though who could have won a lot of seasons.

        • Kemper Boyd

          Sabrina was a smart, likeable person who was part of a power alliance, she could very well have won another season for sure. I really think Chelsea could have done very well on a season with no Kim.

          • Violina23

            Agreed, but everyone probably does better on a season with no Kim. 😉

  • Kingoftonga

    Controversial Survivor opinion: Rodney was actually very good at goat management. He immediately recognized Will’s potential as a goat and stuck with him until the end, and was quiet enough about it that it took the other players a few episodes to even figure out that Will was now Rodney’s closest ally. Rodney also had the instincts to act at the right time to reel in Dan as Goat #2.

    Of course, it didn’t end up working out. But for someone often described as a goat himself, Rodney sure was good at tending to his own flock of goats.

    • purplerockpodcast

      Yeah, it’s terrifying to think that as the Head Goat, Rodney could’ve gotten votes in that nightmarish final three scenario.

      • Other Scott

        That would have been a well earned win though. Are you a goat? Find goatier goats!

        • Doug Metris

          Exactly. That is what Tyson, Boston Rob, and Sophie all did. All of those probably lose to everyone except the 2 they were in the finals with (Sophie could maybe beat Edna I guess). So they were goats who took goatier goats to the end. Rodney would have pulled it off too without Mike’s insane immunity run.

      • Violina23

        Now I’m picturing Rodney as Head Goat in a Hogwarts-esque school for Goats… ordering the girl goats to think carefully about how they present themselves.

        • Barbara Anderson

          Well, until the Goat Carnival, of course.

      • Doug Metris

        Rodney was apparently very well respected and somewhat liked, and in fact might have even beaten some people besides Will and Dan (and he would have destroyed them). He would have had a shot vs Carolyn, Sierra, and some of the No Collar alliance too. Tyler and Mike are the only 2 he probably had no shot to beat.
        Against Will and Dan he probably takes every vote.

        • purplerockpodcast

          I don’t know about respected, but he did have a few people that liked him. And against Will and Dan he becomes the hold-your-nose default option.

          • Doug Metris

            His game play was respected, so in that sense he was quite respected. The others knew he played a hard game and essentialy became the leader of the large 6 person majority alliance near the end, and did that even after losing his closest ally Joaquim. In many ways he was more respected than Mike who had no real allies almost immediately after the merge, just not as liked. He also was upfront and honest with people (which is a large contrast to say Boston Rob or Russell who were duplicitious and manipulative in the worst way to the point they alienated juries).
            There is no question all he wins over Will and Dan. It wouldn’t even be close. Had Mike not gone on that immunity run that is exactly the final we would have seen and an easy Rodney win.

    • andythesaint

      Rodney was the leader of goat island.

    • Barbara Anderson

      Oh my gosh, that is fantastic! Also, look at who else was in his main alliance during the merge alliance? Carolyn, someone who was a strategic and physical threat yet had a not-so-great social game, and Kelly, whose two main claims to fame was being Mike’s left hand woman and getting whacked in the head by that plank. Yeah, Rodney could have won the game.

      • andythesaint

        I said it after the season and I still believe it: Rodney played the second best game of that season.

        • Barbara Anderson

          As much as I hate saying this, I agree with you. Rodney playing again would be fascinating as he was portrayed as such a hot head. Could he become the second incarnation of Boston Rob? Probably not, but Rodney is good tv, especially on his birthday.

  • Roswulf

    Aw, that last image is such a cute picture of Woo. Beautiful, adorable, predictable Woo.

    *Sighs dreamily*

  • Sad Lil

    Yeah! I totally would have won ‘modern Survivor’. *Sigh*, I guess I was just ahead of my time.

    • Sad Lil

      A visionary, you might say.

  • MrBurkesButtons

    Fantastic article, Emma. Goats make everything better! (Except San Juan del Sur.)

    • Kemper Boyd

      Goats are great if they are not the majority of the top 6.

    • sharculese

      But what’s beautiful about San Juan del Sur is that everyone thought Natalie was the goat. Jon and Missy wanted to sit next to her at the end and ask what the hell Natalie did. And she burned all of them for it.

      • Purple Rock Emma

        Oh man, Jon thinking he could use Natalie “accidentally” voting out Alec in front of the jury. That was some beautiful dramatic irony.

  • Other Scott

    I don’t want to think about Nicaragua for too long, but I don’t think Sash would have beaten NaOnka and Purple Kelly.

  • Kemper Boyd

    Goats present themselves. Someone who doesn’t seem like a goat on day 6 can well earn themselves that title by day 30. There is no need to try and protect your goat early.

    • Roswulf

      I’d only make an exception if you are a thoroughly unpleasant (yet self-aware) person. If you ARE a serious goat, you need to be sure that you have a path to victory late

      Someone like Rodney last year had to think about goat management early.

      • Kemper Boyd

        Yeah like tribe swap early, not day 6 early.

  • Scarlett3639

    Fantastic content and the pics and captions were the icing on the cake.

    To me, a good goat is a follower who at the end has no answer to the question “What did you do to get here?” They get to the end more or less by default because there was always someone more dangerous or obnoxious to vote out.

    • Purple Rock Emma

      Thank you!

      And I absolutely agree on what a good goat is.

  • Doug Metris

    Boston Rob would have lost to EVERYONE who made the merge on Redemption Island except for the 2 huge goats- Phillip and Natalie Shiterelli. He is indeed a masterful example of bringing 2 huge goats to the end and how to do it properly.