Survivor Fan Friction – Phillip Sheppard

Time for another Fan Friction, our series of essays where one of our columnists writes an ode to one of their favorite Survivor players while defending them against any potential naysayers (both real and imagined). With this entry, commenter The Sky is Falling ends the competition of “who is the most ridiculous player I could defend?”


Why He’s Great

Phillip is everything and I mean everything you could ever ask for from a Survivor contestant. He is so damn sincere, so earnest. I truly can’t get enough. —Jeff Probst

There are multiple ways to watch Survivor. Some of you like a strategist. Some of you like a social game player. Some like a hero. Some like a villain. Some like a challenge beast. Some like a ringleader. Some like to get loud, but I can get loud too, what the fuck! Some like the season to end without a winner (Kaoh Rong was so weird, you guys!) And some of you like a Kim Spradlin, who just annihilate the competition with ease.

However, in the outer realms of Survivor fandoms, there are those who just want an extra scoop of the crispy. These are the folks who thrive on spy shacks, llama talk, coconut phones, sassing Probst, driftwood Blackberries, stories about pygmies, hidden immunity idol makers (it’s just a fucking stick), chaos wanters, tuk-tuk drivers, and former federal agents? Sometimes you need a Specialist.

My argument is not that Phillip could ever win Survivor, he probably couldn’t at this point, but nevertheless, he belongs in the pantheon of great, unforgettable characters and would make it deep into the game time and time again. In spite of his eccentricities, or because of them, he is Survivor gold.

The comedy stylings of a Federal Agent?

Entertainment value (Phillip’s Playground)

Phillip is generally dismissed as just a goofy, unaware dude. But no, Phillip was a producer’s perfect storm. Turn the camera on him and he is comedy gold. For my money, his entertainment value is through the spy-shack roof. He brought it week after week. It’s not easy to remain a focal point all season long as a non-winner. This is particularly true when you are on a season with heavyweights such as BR, Russell, Cochran, and Malcolm. Let’s take a look at a few of the tools in his arsenal.

Stealth R Us

There’s also for the first time in 22 seasons a highly effective, and beauteous and glorious operation in effect, right now. And I am known as the specialist. My principle responsibilities: infiltrate and supplant inceptions into the former Zapate.. Zapetera tribe. We have here, Boston Rob, the mentalist. Principle responsibilities: to develop strategies for challenges and develop strategic alliances that are impervious.  Where’s Grant?.. The destroyer of aspirations, better known as the assassin. Principle responsibilities: to go out and compete, destroying any competitor. And I forgot to mention the three degrees, who are highly effective, formidable, agile, and have supreme abilities to focus their mind like they did today.

Phillip was often ridiculed by the rest of his tribe, especially in Caramoan, for the Stealth R US organization. But any decent player couldn’t ask for a better gift. Cochran knew this and BR knew this. It’s a great diversionary tactic, while you are rolling your eyes at him, he’s busy building allegiances and soaking up great confessionals and inspiring others to great confessionals about Phillip. Stealth R Us was really a great way for Phillip to deflect attention off of him while simultaneously making him the center of attention. I suspect this is a tactic adapted from Coach. No one that crazy would be a threat to win, right? So, Phillip gets tons of camera time while the rest of the tribe focuses on taking out deep threats earlier than normal.

Side note: A rewatch of Caramoan makes it abundantly clear that Cochran may have understood Phillip, and the game, better than anyone

Now, while Stealth R Us alone would be enough to cement Phillip as a HOF as a player, Phillip had way more up his sleeve than his secret spy organization. In no particular order, here’s a list of some of his other great moments: Spear crab hunting, Gorilla/Lion Tattoo, on point feather game, His great grandfather, the full blooded Cherokee Jessum Herring, , Franchezqua, Franchesqua, Fransisqua, Franquesqa, The Bushido Code, Operation Thunder Dome, “I lost that challenge on purpose”, BR Rules 1-3.

Phillips’ sheer number of confessionals alone tells you that he is a legend. Over two seasons, he had a total of 74 confessionals. For comparison, Boston Rob has the most ever with 209. Russell Hantz holds the single season record with 108 and 181 all time. Coach comes in at an honorable 167 and Sandra a measly 102. (Confessional side-note…Natalie White had only 15 confessionals and won her season. While diving in the wiki-rabbit-hole I also learned that Andrea has appeared in the most TC’s: 27 and has been voted against a whopping 36 times).

And how about that epic pink underwear…

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Ok, so the underwear was horrifying. Agreed.

By the numbers

How about these impressive stats?

  • Tribal council appearances: 20
  • Votes against: 22 (7th best all time!)
  • Total number of confessionals: 74
  • FTC Votes for: 1
  • Crabs killed with a spear: 0
  • Hantzes outlasted: 2
  • BR Rules written: 3
  • Visits from family members: 3 (Sister once, Cherokee uncle twice)

Haters Gonna Hate

He is just a goat

In my view, goat-awareness disqualifies you from true-goat status. In several exit interviews. Mr. Sheppard claimed that he saw the writing on the wall. There was no way to dismantle the impenetrable Ometepe alliance, so his only options were stealth and infiltration. Side with the winning team and sneak your way to the end, The ‘fake it till you make it’ gambit. Phillip created a new category of player, “The Intentional Goat” (See also Woo)/ Phillip’s strategy had a much better chance of success than the Hantz “burn it all down” strategy ever will. Had Phillip not played up his status as the perfect guy to sit next to at the end, he never would have even made the merge.

Sadly, it is true that FTC performance was weak. I think if he had spelled out this strategy at FTC, he could have won it all. The only way Phillip could survive was to turn himself into a goat.

He is loco and annoying

His strategy was to play for second place. Phillip knew exactly what he was doing. There’s no way a man could write a book or run a company if their real life personality was as off the wall as Phillip. It was all a ruse that he played up for entertainment. Related to above, he chose to act the fool and the villain. He was more concerned with entertaining the troops and being good TV than winning. Sure, he isn’t a typical guy by any means, but he certainly kept things interesting.

His low level annoyance and wackiness is certainly favorable to a brand of crazy and nasty and unpredictable we saw from Brandon Hantz and others like him. If you watch Phillips interactions with Brandon he is clearly aware of the situation and doing his best to get it under control. There were moments in both of his appearances where he was cogent, sane and aware (see the family visit, when he spent time with his sister, for one). Phillip was clearly aware of where different alliances in the game were going and working to stay alive in the game. In his own weird way he was just trying to bring some fun into the game.


Embrace Debate

So, I know most of you are still saying, “Nope, Phillip just sucks.” And that’s ok!

PRP Commenters after reading post.

As a player, Phillip might be a source of frustration to play with. However, as a viewer, where you come down on the Phillip question depends on the type of game you like to see. If you are primarily a complex strategy, vote splitting and sub-alliances, voting blocs, all day strategy talk type of fan, you’re gonna have problems with the Specialist. But there is room for both. In fact, to have a great Survivor season, both types of players are needed. I’m here to be entertained. Players like Coach, Russell, Phillip, Shane, Abi, Rupert, Randy, and Keith are the spice that flavors the game. It’s the crazy ones that make life interesting.