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Strategic Overview of Survivor, Episode 7: False Idolsby Jeffrey D. Sadow -- 11/02/2007
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Q: If you come back to camp and find that the placards on each side of your entrance gate are missing, and, further, one of the two is on the ground and, after ransacking the belongings of another tribe member, you find two similar placards although you can’t be sure that they are identical, would you conclude:
(A) Yours is not a hidden immunity idol because why would it be laying on the ground while the other placard has gone missing?
But it’s common sense, not wishful thinking, that enables one to win Survivor and so Jaime is out. And perhaps had she and Erik and Peih-Gee not labored under this illusion they might have woken up to some strategic sense and they would not have chosen the self-destructive path that they did, choosing to vote out Jean-Robert.
I’m going to have to have some help on understanding this one. It doesn’t matter whether they thought they could use an idol to blow back the vote onto Jean-Robert, or if they played it safe and did not, depending upon James and Frosti to go their way. The fact is, they needed a sixth vote to win with certainty this Tribal Council. And the easiest sixth vote to get was Jean-Robert’s, their target. It’s quite possible that had they picked somebody else as target, they could have talked him into joining them, which well may have brought James onto their side. That show of strength could have gotten Frosti as well, knowing James had the idol.
Instead, they didn’t even try to get the numbers and thus the best they could do was a tie, or foolishly to pin hopes on blowback. As a result, Erik’s and Peih-Gee’s position is worse, but not desperate because of the delicate house of cards existing over with the old Fei Long plus Frosti.
As I have watched Todd, I couldn’t decide whether his play was more like the overplay strategy of Rob C., who made too many moves and let himself get aced out of the game in favor of a swimsuit model, or Brian, who with an iron fist in a velvet glove got rid of people and then placed the blame on somebody else, allowing him to win the game. I now realize he’s doing both, which will get him farther in the game but is being done in such a clumsy manner that he will not win it unless he immediately realizes this and gets with the program – and even now it maybe is too late.
Todd’s problem is he is setting himself up not in the manner of Brian, who knifed “allies” in the back so smoothly they never noticed, or if they did, it was because he was guiding somebody else’s hand on the knife, but in a fashion where it is becoming way too evident that when the allies fall, they will feel a sense of betrayal at his hands and will stop him from winning before or during the jury phase. Brian won with one of the three great performances in Survivor history because he made everybody think he was their best buddy and none ever realized he was calling the shots to have them get rid of each other. All it would have taken was a little communication among the others and they would have figured out all the side deals he was making and he would have been gone at the next opportunity, but he had the skills to prevent that from happening.
Todd appears to be attempting something much the same, but his mistake is he is trying to make too many moves behind the scenes. The more of these one does, creating more linkages, the more likely it is one gets revealed. Already Jean-Robert seems to be onto this and thus indicates if all goes according to Todd’s plan, the crisis will occur at six after the ouster of Peih-Gee, Erik, and Courtney. Having her go at seven itself presents Todd with a major dilemma because while she must go then since she has done such a convincing job of writing herself out of contention that there will be no sense of betrayal of her part towards him (because she’ll naturally blame all of them for betrayal), she would be the person against whom he would most like to be up in front of the jury.
It’s at six that somebody will go who thought Todd promised them he would support for a longer stay, and to date Todd has shown no skill to make them think it is somebody else to blame. This very much redounds to the advantage of Amanda, who is becoming like Ethan was to Todd’s playing Lex – Ethan allowing Lex to take all the arrows and stayed standing longer to win it.
The most dangerous wild card to him is James, because of his idols. He’s got both, meaning another won’t go into circulation until he plays it, and unless something very clever is done, he’s not going to play either until the very end (presumably until five given it appears the asinine three-person final is in effect). If James is smart, he’ll loan one out (meaning he keeps it but will pledge it to somebody in case of trouble, and the smart play there is Jean-Robert who he would have a decent chance of beating in front of the jury). But James is not smart in game terms so whether this happens is another matter.
Todd has two hopes to get out of an increasingly unwinnable situation. One is that when the betrayals come, he can use James as an excuse, saying he would like to boot James but can’t. Still, that will work only for the first person and probably no more, and assumes (although not unreasonably) that James doesn’t get it in his head to strategically lever his position to knock out Todd first. Using James as an excuse can work across several ejections only if the second wish is realized, that the players in the game are sub-par strategists and won’t catch on which, again given the quality they have displayed for the most part so far, is not an unreasonable hope.
Even if it all works, Todd has one final problem. With three people going in front of the jury, it is likely if one is him, another will be Amanda. With just two, if he could find a way to get her out then, she will vote against him but that would probably be the only vote he would lose (and maybe not even then if the opposition is Courtney or Jean-Robert). But at three, he is highly unlikely to ease her out at four simply because she is seen as a kinder, gentler version of him. Either he’ll go or he will lose to her in front of the jury.
However, first things first. If everybody got their heads together, you might well see a Peih-Gee/Erik/Frosti/James/Jean-Robert combination come forward but the linchpin for it all would be James, since you know he as an ally isn’t going anywhere. But as long as James sticks to a Todd-led alliance, it will be very difficult for Peih-Gee or Erik to save themselves. If it plays out that way, the best move is at seven (he, Jean-Robert, Frosti, and Courtney). And if Jean-Robert knows his stuff, he needs to agitate to get James to go along with such a plan. But will it be enough, and when, to wake James up to the realization he either can stick with Todd and go far but not all the way, or make a move and possibly go all the way?
If you haven’t already done so, make sure to check out the other Episode 7 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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