Several weeks back, when the hit show Survivor premiered, this column paused to mull the presence of a consultant among the island contestants. Some members of the consulting community seemed annoyed with the results, and in one case even challenged me to a contest of strength and skill (a challenge that, of course, I ignored).
Well, with last night's episode, the "team"-focused part of the show seems to be over (the two "tribes" will no longer compete with each other but will merge into one group and presumably commence the all-against-all chapter of this contrived drama), and I think it's worth reviewing the performance of the Survivor consultant to date.
Obviously this fellow, Richard, has survived. He has also emerged as one of the most dominant personalities on the show, and not just because he apparently hangs around naked sometimes. As you may know if you pay any attention to management literature, the glories of team building remain quite the vogue in New Economy corporate America; a healthy part of the consulting business is all about helping achieve true team-ness. And in fact, Richard introduced himself by delivering a lecture to his teammates on this very subject. It's a little curious, then, that our consultant friend now stands out because he is the most conniving, backstabbing, and dishonest person in the cast. Or maybe that's not surprising at all.
Watching this play out has actually been sort of enlightening. While he's with the larger group, Richard goes on and on about his contributions to the team. But the only thing he talks about in the private interviews sprinkled through the show (aside from defending his occasional nudity) is his scheme to "form alliances," balkanize his group, and make sure his faction gangs up on some hapless demonized teammate. And when the show's host raised the subject of "alliances" with Richard in one of the group chats at the end of an episode before someone is voted off, Richard simply lied, mouthing a bunch of banalities about the team above all. In the end, the consultant-less squad seemed far more cohesive--and far less bitter--and, if anything, performed slightly better in team-centric activities.
Then again, Richard himself is still going strong, blithely explaining the machinations of his next plot in a manner that is almost impressive. He doesn't have much to teach us about team building, but maybe he does have an insight or two on cutthroat competition. Back in the real world after the completion of filming, Richard was reportedly accused of child abuse for allegedly making his adopted son run six miles a day and hitting him if he didn't. (He's denied this, filed a couple of lawsuits in retaliation, and has been quoted referring to the boy as "manipulative.") Anyway, whether or not he wins the million bucks, maybe he'll at least be able to raise his consulting fee.
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Photograph of Richard Hatch on the Slate Table of Contents by Monty Brinton/CBS/Reuters.