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Strategic Overview of Survivor, Episode 2: Dolly Madness!by Jeffrey D. Sadow -- 09/24/2004
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Two episodes down, and, arguably, each sex's most prominent piece of eye candy is out. The most perceptive moment shown in the episode came at the very end, where evictee Dolly admitted that she didn't have the most strategic mind out there. From the way she took a position potentially of great power and managed to throw it all away in a matter of hours, I'd say she made an understatement - although she wasn't the only one whose actions demonstrated the same.
Just like the men, the women seemed to have split into older and younger alliances. But unlike the men's older alliance, which at present holds an unimpeachable 5-3 advantage, the older women were one fewer than the younger. Here, Dolly's equivocation made her stumble into a potential long run in the game.
Recall that one has to be in a group of five to maximize chances to run far in the game. That will get you to the merge and, on the chance the other tribe fails to follow that strategy and leaves itself fragmented (or, by many losses, too reduced) into fewer, will get you no worse than sixth place. For a strategic singleton, the goal in a larger alliance of five is to produce a 2+1+2 configuration and choose one dyad, the weaker of the two in terms of physical and mental skills. If that singleton's five is the last five remaining, one deft move puts you in the final three, and another puts you in front of the jury, likely to win.
Dolly' opportunity was fantastic, because she got thrust into the chance of being a queenmaker, given the outstanding prospect to choose the optimal path. If she thought about it, her instincts were correct in jumping to the older women. While the elders are persistent, they do not appear to be good strategic players as their actions demonstrated in reference to the vote, and they are older. This is a group one could work over well behind the scenes, and brings a decided advantage to a younger female when going into a merge. Look at it this way; at a merge with men, is Dolly going to appear more charming and attractive to those men, attributes she could use to influence them, with four other women roughly equivalent to her alongside her more than she would among the older crowd?
Further, among the four older women, Dolly should have attached herself to the weakest physically, Scout, and (it's looking like) the weakest mentally, Twila. Weaker players are always the best to carry, if one gets that chance, because the only way they can threaten you is with the one thing they have already promised not to use against you, their votes. Weaker alliance, weaker sub-alliance, Dolly should have without any hesitation joined it to make it strong in the one way but the only way that ultimately counts, a voting majority.
Instead, Dolly's hesitancy and final rejection of this option took away her great opportunity, but it did not necessarily mean the end of her stay would come. That took two other less-than-brilliant strategic moves to engineer. The lesser of the two was the elder alliance's decision to dump Dolly. This was unwise because she was the only known quantity from the younger alliance even contemplating switching. Why not aim at a bigger threat from the younger, instead of axing a potential ally who, given her flightiness, might have still voted with your side?
Still, this would provide only four votes against her with five potentially against the elders. So it took an even bigger mistake to send Dolly packing, and that was Eliza's vote against Dolly. What was that going to get her, voting against her own alliance? Singlehandedly she took her group out of power and basically ensured her own demise.
That's because her situation is much different from Dolly's. The shepherdess negotiated her way to familiarity with the elders, and could command fealty from them because she bargained with something they needed, her vote. In short, she would have been accepted as an equal, even it she joined their group a couple of days after the original members formed it.
But Eliza, out of nowhere, threw her vote away with no promise of reciprocation, and permanently alienated herself from the young'uns. The elders will see it as a gift without strings and will feel no obligation toward her. If they're smart, they'll encourage her to cross over to give them a 5-3 advantage - she has little choice, with the reception she'll get from the young'uns (if they find out) - and use her until she's not longer needed. It will take a string of good fortune for Eliza to make it to the jury if she switches; if she doesn't, she won't make the merge.
This worked out for the older women perhaps better than if Dolly had gone with them. Faced with a 4-4 vote as part of a group which may dislike her because of her disloyalty, Eliza has every incentive to jump to the elders. They can take control and dispose of her later. In particular, Leann needs to thank Eliza for her cluelessness.
I suppose it wouldn't be Survivor without some self-inflicted wounds. But this time we got a two-for-one, Dolly and Eliza both, changing game possibilities dramatically.
If you haven’t already done so, make sure to check out the Episode 2 recap:
Jeffrey D. Sadow is an associate professor of political science at Louisiana State University in Shreveport where he teaches, among other things, classes in international politics, international organizations, and diplomatic history. He has published in the area of gaming simulations in international politics.
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