"One of my main objectives in this game was to create interpersonal relationships as soon as possible."
– Shambo, Survivor: Samoa
Is it a good thing that John Rocker was voted off Survivor?
Oh sure, we were all rooting against him. The hotheaded pitcher was a larger-than-life villain, with his history of bigotry and his neolithic machismo. He told Natalie she looked like a man and threatened to punch her. When his girlfriend, Julie, beat him in a duel, he griped that he lost to a girl.
But Rocker also gave us so much TV gold. Remember last week, how he took Val's incredible lie at face value and let her talk her way out of the game? This week, he tried to save face with Jeremy, by blaming his alliance for Val's departure – right in front of them.
Rocker's struggles with "strategery" may have tickled our funny bones, but the rest of his tribe was less than amused. The younger members on Coyopa seemed scared about being associated with the loudmouth, and provoking the wrath of the invincible Hunahpu. "They were really gunnin' for me and Baylor," Jaclyn says, completely misunderstanding things.
For tribe mastermind Josh, Rocker's hot head and erratic gameplay were already liabilities. When Josh learns that Rocker has an idol, and that he's targeting Josh's ally Baylor, Josh decides to eliminate him.
"I don't want to be an ally with this person because they stand for so many things that I'm against," he says. Josh convinces Wes and Alec that Rocker is dangerous, and together with Jaclyn and Baylor they vote him out. And there was much rejoicing.
Josh wins the Fishy for the easy way he gets the rest of his tribe to do his bidding. It was crazy how quickly he turned Wes against their former ally. Alec only protests a little about keeping the tribe's strongest player.
Josh never has to really coerce anybody or make a hard sell. That's a testament to the way he has established himself at the center of his tribe. Everybody trusts and likes him.
But Josh's charm is so subtle you can hardly articulate it. Witness when he and Keith are on Exile, and Keith asks if they should share clues. Josh barely responds – he just makes a few diffident gestures. Suddenly he and Keith are all country mouse/city mouse. Josh engages with people in such a generous way that they can't help but connect with him.
"I think it's so cool to be able to hang out with people from a different walk of life," Josh says. "How else do we change? How else do we grow?" He is able to form strategic bonds with the other contestants because he's also forming real bonds with them.
At tribal council, when Jaclyn hints that some of the guys are on her side, Josh puts out that fire, too.
"I think some people are being told one thing, and some people must be being told another thing. I guess we're in a lot of discord, because no one has their stories straight," Josh says. Josh makes it seem like everybody is confused, so let's just move on, Jeff.
Josh's one potential blind spot might be Baylor, whom he regards as his key ally. Every one of his votes has been to protect their alliance.
The first vote was to disguise their alliance. His second vote saved her from Val. This vote protected Baylor from Rocker.
But from Baylor's perspective, Josh has allowed votes against her. "It's now a Baylor fight for herself game, not a Baylor rely on Josh game," Baylor says.
Josh may not recognize how alienated Baylor is. Hopefully that won't haunt him later.
Erik Reichenbach Comics