So the final jury chose Chris as the winner of the season. Which made a lot of viewers upset, because he was also originally the third player voted out of the game. In most seasons, Chris wouldn’t even have gotten a Ponderosa interview. Hell, even Wendy’s chickens were bigger players at that point. But this season, voted-out players got two chances to re-enter the main game. Chris re-entered pretty late, meaning he only played the main game for about 11 days, whereas Julie and Gavin (the other two final players) played for the entire 39 days.
I wouldn’t normally look to Wardog as a source of wisdom, but I think he made a good point during the final tribal council when he said: “The theme is not on trial here. You three are on trial.” The final jury took place during a season in which Extinction Island existed. It did not take place in the fantasy season of some fans where Extinction Island did not exist. Chris should not be judged by the standards of that fantasy non-Extinction-Island season – he should be judged by the standards of this season.
And by this season’s standards, Chris played very hard and savvily. In his first 24 hours back in the main game, he made successful alliances with both Lauren and Devens. Lauren played her immunity idol for him, and Devens provided the other half of Chris’s own immunity idol. It would have been tough enough to convince them to do that if they were all working together, but Lauren and Devens were actually enemies. Then Chris made the bold decision to give up his immunity and take on Devens in the fire challenge, because he (correctly) realized that he had the best chance to beat Devens at making fire. Chris’s immunity also would have been worthless if Julie or Gavin had lost the fire challenge to Devens, because it was obvious that Devens would have been chosen the winner of the season.
However, some might argue that morality is not a matter of technicalities, but of broader truths. Yes, the rules of Survivor this season allowed players to re-enter the game, but that might not mean it was right in the broader sense of what Survivor should be. For example, even though it was technically true that Wall Street bankers who had destroyed the American economy in 2008 were contractually owed year-end bonuses, it was immoral in a broader sense. Similarly, the technicality of Chris being able to win by the rules of this season was less important to some people than the broader truth that a Survivor winner should play the full 39 days.
As in many cases, I think the morality here is actually a matter of degree for most people. A lot of people who didn’t like the Extinction Island idea might have been relatively okay with Devens winning, because he was only out of the main game for a few days. They were more upset about Chris because his absence from the main game was so long that it tipped into being unreasonable in their minds. So where would the dividing line between acceptable and unacceptable absences have been for these people? I suspect it would have varied depending on who you asked, despite most people framing their opinion in stark black-and-white terms.
People generally seem to be more flexible about their morality than they’re often willing to admit. This can sometimes have negative consequences, such as with people who claim that stealing is immoral but become more flexible when they have an opportunity. However, moral flexibility can also be good, because there’s always the possibility that our current beliefs are wrong. Without moral flexibility, it would be difficult for societies to improve. The United States would never have developed civil rights, Social Security, or Medicare. (Of course, a few people think those shouldn’t have been developed, but I am very much not one of them.)
See you next season!