John Carroll was the leader of a six-person alliance that was dominating Survivor: Marquesas — right up until the moment it became a four-person alliance.
|We’re counting down the 30 Moments That Shaped Survivor, events that happened on the show that helped create and evolve the game and the series that we know and love. Go here to view the criteria we are using to determine what qualifies for the list. And since these posts are covering the first thirty seasons of Survivor, there will be spoilers for various Survivor seasons.
Why It Matters:
From the beginning of Marquesas, the Rotu tribe dominated tribe-based challenges. And just as in sports, winning was hiding any problems. Rotu was the self-described “love tribe”, setting up massage trains and picking up the slack for team members that weren’t feeling well. They were like a well-oiled machine, efficiently dividing up camp duties and decimating the other tribe.
But John Carroll didn’t come to Marquesas to have a camping trip with some strangers; John Carroll came to kick ass and slather himself in oils. As you can see from the picture above, he was already halfway there. For the other half, he enlisted the help of three of his Rotu tribe members: Tammy (the Dawn to his Cochran), the General (the loyal follower), and Zoe (the…Zoe).
Of course, the Rotu Four alone weren’t enough to control the game in a ten-person merged tribe. They added Paschal and Neleh to be the fifth and sixth wheels and give them the numbers to control the vote. And for at least the first vote, they did— the Rotu Four (plus two) took out Rob Mariano in the first post-merge vote. You may remember Rob Mariano from such Survivor seasons as “That one where he sold out Lex for a stack of greenbacks”, “That one where Tyson kinda blew it for him”, and “That one where CBS took no chances that anyone else might win.”
After the alliance flexed its muscle and voted out Rob, the writing was on the wall. The Rotu Four had succeeded, and John was was giving confessionals about Neleh and Paschal supporting his victory and calling them his “two free passes.”
The next order of business on John’s inevitable march to victory was voting out Sean Rector. The only way Sean could save himself was with an immunity win. In a seemingly fortunate coincidence, the immunity challenge was one that essentially made it impossible for Sean to win immunity: the coconut chop. When John goes up to make the final chop that will deny Sean an immunity win, he gives him a parting gift.
There was just one minor flaw in John’s plan. It was a little thing. Surely nothing would come of it, because the Rotu Four was solid and Paschal and Neleh were on board and the next three votes would be easy. In fact, the votes were so obvious that the Rotu Four took them out in order in the coconut chop challenge.
Strategically, once Sean was eliminated, it no longer mattered who won immunity. But the Rotu Four decided to demonstrate their loyalty by not targeting each other until they absolutely had to. The one problem with that? Neleh and Paschal thought they were members of the Rotu Six, not bottom-of-the-totem-pole fodder. The challenge made the pecking order clear.
After the challenge, Neleh and Paschal discussed whether they were willing to accept their position in the Rotu alliance. The answer? Nope. A few hours later at tribal council, a new pecking order was established.
There are a lot of moments that descend from this one, depending on exactly how you categorize the fall of the Rotu Four. Was this the template for the underdogs to overthrow the favorites? Because that’s a narrative that has appeared again:
Or maybe this is just about not accepting your fate just because someone tells you that you’re going home, and that even when you say yes to an alliance you should always be on the lookout for a better deal than the one you’ve got.
Regardless, it taught us that even when the game looks bleak, things can change. Just one lucky break (even one that, for Sean, seemed like an incredibly unlucky break in this case) can be the difference between a march to victory and a swift boot. For future Survivors, the lesson was that you should try to exploit every opportunity, and every tribal council you survive is one more chance to work your way into a better position.
What Else Made the List?
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John is the co-host of the Purple Rock Survivor Podcast. He can get loud too, what the fuck!
Favorite seasons: Heroes vs. Villains, Cagayan, Pearl Islands, Tocantins, Cambodia