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Strategic Overview of Survivor, Episode 5: Pickers Can't Be Choosersby Jeffrey D. Sadow -- 10/15/2004
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Mark Burnett decided a switch was in order, so, in terms of how the players coped with the twist in strategy, let's separate the men from the women… uh, men from the boys… well, readers know what I mean.
In this situation, the two chiefs, not surprisingly the elders of the elders, when given the ground rules of the switching process, had to understand quickly that each had the same goal: to preserve existing alliances favorable to them. Thus, they had to realize that cooperation between themselves, rather than conflict, would maximize their chances of both getting what they wanted.
A tacit bargain would have to be made: the "picker" would have to agree to split the two tribes in a way that the "chooser" then could make an obvious, easy choice to reunite with the largest intact piece of his alliance. Note how an able picker will guarantee her own reuniting with the most numerous element of her alliance by giving the chooser every incentive not to pick her favored tribe by stacking the other tribe with people he favors. Of course, this requires some ability to figure out what the other alliance favored by the chooser would be, but that would not be a hard task: if it worked for you, it probably worked for them. Thus, if there is an elder alliance in your tribe, there's probably one in the other - certainly the dismissal pattern suggested this.
Interestingly, the chooser would have the optimal position, so Lea wisely chose that. If you are a picker and you try to rig one tribe especially to favor yourself, even with the incentive that the other will be rigged in favor of the chooser, stupid strategy on the part of the picker could put you in the wrong tribe and turn a secure position into a doubtful one. As chooser, even if the picker also acts strategically stupidly and composes tribes that shatter majority alliances, the chooser still gets the chance to make the best of a bad situation. But if the picker is smart, the chooser gets handed a good tribe.
But he needn't have worried, Scout followed through - mostly. Her one incomprehensible decision was to split Twila off from the others. She should have concentrated on putting as many of her three most reliable allies - Twila, Ami, and Leann - one on tribe as possible. It could have been done, leaving her least loyal ex-tribeswoman, Julie, on an elder-male dominated tribe not with Twila but with Eliza, a proven traitor (she did wisely let the newest convert, Lisa, choose her tribe, and gave every incentive to her to pick Scout's, which she intelligently did).
This way, the two least loyal members of her ex-tribe would have been removed and perhaps could have served as a cancer in the male-dominated tribe. Say Eliza and Julie, the two youngest women, had gone over and joined forces with John. At best, these three could have wreaked havoc with Lea, Chris, and Chad; at worst, John sticks with the guys and two of Scout's most disloyal compatriots would face possible elimination. This utterly bad move by Scout now isolates Twila, may well ensure Twila's demise, and could be the decision that costs Scout, Twila, and perhaps any of the elder women the game.
Lea and the male elders, and to a lesser degree John, are major beneficiaries of this blunder. It doesn't matter to them which women are there for them to pick off if possible, so it's a bonus if one of them is from the other major alliance. In fact, although throwing a challenge is risky business, this might have been the time to do it, as long as Lea knew he had John's support. John could have told him how Twila was a major part of the female elder alliance and she could have been picked off right then and there. The only reason this in and of itself can't be considered a blunder is, to repeat, the unintended consequences that often flow from throwing a challenge.
Instead, Lea has a small problem with his alliance down one with Travis' departure. But it's not a big problem because John no doubt would be more than willing to step into that role. As Chris has counseled and Lea admitted during the previous vote, adopt a strategy and stick to it; juggle things only when absolutely necessary (Rob C. from S6 would not have the Probst-inspired title, "best player never to win" label had he realized that). The women certainly are following that, so the men need, at the first opportunity, to boot Twila. Again, as risky as it may be, throwing the next challenge to accomplish this may not be such a bad idea, particularly with a merge likely to come within a week of game time.
As for the women, Scout has managed to collect a tribe now all of females who, at one time or another, have voted with her. Rory clearly is the next target. Thus, there also is a strong imperative for this tribe to throw the next challenge, not just to get rid of Rory but also to save Twila and to further deplete the male numbers. Next episode could very extremely interesting - both tribes may try to throw the immunity challenge (although maybe MB is one step ahead of us here and will stage another double-elimination again next time). So, to coin a phrase which, given performances of recent series winners who got there more by luck and others' blunders, is not entirely out of place in Survivor, let the worst men/women win!
If you haven’t already done so, make sure to check out the other Episode 5 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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