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Strategic Overview of Survivor, Episode 4: Brother, Can You Spare a Clue?by Jeffrey D. Sadow -- 10/08/2004
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By now, the typical viewer of Survivor: Vanuatu probably wishes it were possible to go to Eliza, John, and/or Brady, and ask, "Clues for a quarter?" in order to become an instant millionaire.
The two guys showed exactly why one of them became the next casualty when they wasted their breaths to the camera complaining why they, the youngest and probably most athletic, were getting voted off. To state the obvious for them, physical strength isn't important at all when going up against a tribe of women. Any single guy, even bionic Chad, still is physically stronger than even the most athletic Yasur member. So why should an older guy needlessly allow younger guys to stay in the game up to the point when it becomes every man for himself, advantaging the latter? Even the oldest guys theoretically can defeat the women physically.
The presence of youth and vigor also has no correlation with intelligence, and here a problem appears to be emerging within the elder male alliance. Lea continues to ride in an excellent position, but may take a fall at any moment because, as annoying as Rory may seem, Lea must recognize that this guy is the lightning rod he needs to carry as far as possible and must resist the temptation to dump him at first convenience.
More seriously, the perception that Lea runs things appears to be spreading which will cause problems for him and Chris. The latter needs to calm down the former, but not too much. To use a past scenario, if he can paint Lea as Lex and himself as Ethan, as Rory can take a lot of arrows as an irritant, Lea can take the rest as the perceived leader, and Chris can enter endgame as a secure and popular figure. If Chris can keep Rory around (primarily by reassuring Lea) and Lea from being seen as taking too much charge of things, he will have the best shot of anybody to take home a million dollars. What he does not need to do is foment controversy, as he did by pointing out the Lea/Rory conflict to others (although he did cleverly deflect away accusations of his leadership).
But perhaps mostly troubling for the elder males as a whole is they are defaulting to Lea's theoretical view of the game, that it's "war." To think that this parallels war shows a fundamental misunderstanding; in reality, it's "statecraft," of which war is just one part. I have argued from the very beginning of the series that it most closely represents the anarchic environment in which the world's states exist. And while power projection through the use of force, war, is an important element in the array that makes up state power, diplomatic strategy is at least as important if not more.
Still, to this point, the elders are making the right decisions. Keeping Brady would not have been one, and John now is a dead man walking.
Down the coast, the scary thing is, Eliza's latest dense behavior actually is not as bad as her utter strategic incompetence shown in the previous couple of days. Here, the worst she could muster is total oblivion to her own hypocrisy when she belittled Lisa for abandoning the young'un alliance, only a short period after she had switched back and forth between two alliances in two days, the first time for the exact reason she berated Lisa, lack of trust of another player. Can she possibly alienate anybody else? Lashing out at everybody one time or another is a good strategy if you want to make it to the merge because an alliance will carry someone objectionable until it gets the upper hand or is defeated, but then will dump her as soon as it has the numbers to do so. And you have to be a member of that majority which she no longer seems to be after holding open the door and inviting Lisa to replace her.
At least harmony seemed to improve after the arrival of Da (Not sure if I spelled it right, sorry my Bislama is pretty much limited to "Mi stap drinkim Pasifik" and "Bae mi drinkim Pasifik agin" - if anybody knows what I'm saying here, they'll know exactly why it's so hard for me to remember it correctly). He did everything but lay out a landing strip for John Frum. With a real man in camp for a change instead of the boy John they sent back to Lopevi the day previous, any of the women who learned these skills well may have a good selling point for their continued survival when it comes to a merge.
Or a swap, as it now appears will occur. This gives John, Eliza, and Julie new life. But it ultimately may not have that much of an effect. In essence, as of now elders outnumber young'uns 10-3; you'd pretty much have to get all the young'uns on one tribe for them to have any shot at outlasting the elders in that one tribe. With such a preponderance of elders, on both new tribes they will quickly realize what is going on and will hang together so they won't get hung separately like they'll probably do to the young'uns. In short, this upcoming twist may have little impact in the near term. However, the dynamics that form may have a serious impact in the long run.
If you haven’t already done so, make sure to check out the other Episode 3 columns already posted:
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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