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