Why ‘Big Brother’s’ master strategist Derrick should be on ‘Survivor’ next

09.24.14 3 years ago


Derrick Levasseur has masterfully controlled this season of “Big Brother.” When it ends tonight, following the premiere of “Survivor San Juan Del Sur,” Derrick will most likely be the winner. He should compete on “Survivor” next.

As one of the quieter members of the best Big Brother cast in years, Derrick stood out not for having an over-the-top personality, but for his impeccable game. Socially and strategically, he dominated.

First, yes, there's a small chance something could get in his way of winning: a bitter jury could vote for his opponent, or he could lose the final HOH competition. (“Big Brother” traditionally and stupidly uses a final HOH competition that's essentially random–the players have to guess answers to questions the jury members were asked–so it's basically equivalent to a dice roll.)

Still, even with the slim chance that he loses that competition, Derrick has created such strong relationships that he'll probably be taken to he final two by either Cody or Victoria. And the jury knows that he's played a better game than either of them.

Besides successfully disguising his profession as a police officer, Derrick has also skillfully manipulated the season's dominant alliance and others in the house. Mostly, he's done that by forming genuine relationships: showing true empathy to those who were being kicked around by other houseguests, and by creating one-on-one alliances that mostly remained hidden.

But he's also brilliantly set up other people to do his strategic dirty work, often convincing them to do something that will benefit him without making that obvious. Watching Derrick convince Caleb to take him to the final two was, for just one example, amazing. Derrick literally plays and manipulates other people with such subtlety that I'm left wondering if he's that good or if the others are just that naive and manipulable.

Other master strategists on the show have been far more theatrical. During his second time on “Big Brother,” Dan Ghessling held a mock funeral to save himself in the game; it was not only incredible television, but it worked, allowing him to stick around and eventually become the season's runner-up. Will lied to people's faces while telling them he was lying, and that surprising, brutal honesty worked in his favor.

Derrick played a quieter game, allowing others to outshine him in front of the cameras while easily playing them behind the scenes. Most impressively, Derrick has never been nominated for eviction, and no one has ever voted against him. It's likely the only votes he'll ever receive are those that will give him $500,000.

While his game has been strong, he's also playing on an entirely different level than anyone else in the house. That's why Derrick should go on “Survivor” next: to test himself and to entertain us.

The games are similar–people compete in challenges, get voted out regularly, and then face a jury of those they've betrayed–but “Survivor” would present a much different challenge to Derrick, who often seems to have almost effortlessly coasted through this season.

“Big Brother” may last longer, but “Survivor” is the more cerebral, more physically challenging game. The contestants live outside, are often miserable, and have very little to eat; there's no a/c, toilet, or shower.

“Survivor” has twists, but its primarily format makes the game far more wide open. No one is in charge, everyone has an equal chance to win immunity, and everyone without an immunity idol is vulnerable. “Survivor” has had people who controlled the game from start to finish, starting with original winner Richard Hatch, but it's a much harder game to control in the same way.

The structure of “Big Brother” elevates some people to positions of great power and visibility (the Head of Household) while it also prevents others from having a chance to save themselves (participation in the veto competition is usually left to chance). The summertime game also makes it relatively easy to discard stronger players (via a post-veto backdoor nomination) without giving them a chance to fight back.

I'd love to see Derrick's skills at play in a dramatically different context. Of course, as a past winner of a CBS reality show whose subtle, manipulative, relationship-building strategy is now well-known, he'll be handicapped by that recognition. Watching Derrick work under that kind of pressure would be fantastic to see how he'd leap over those hurdles and devise new strategies that worked both for him and for the game.

Season 31 won't film until next summer, and it's only a 39-day game, not a 3.5-month one, so he can spend the next year with his daughter and then take a few weeks to earn his family $1 million–and possibly earn us another master class in how to control a game from start to finish.

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