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Survivor: Thailand - It's Brian's Game to Loseby Jeffrey D. Sadow -- 12/10/2002
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Going , going ... Pagonged! RNO's editor correctly called that Helen would miss her chance to take control of the game (which I had discussed in a previous article) and now we're left with Chuay Ghan's Golfing Group (Brian, Clay, Ted) plus Helen and Jan.
It makes things pretty simple for the only player who really has halfway outwitted, outlasted, and outplayed, Brian, giving him control of the game. While Clay has out-deceived, Ted has out-worried, Helen has out-envied, and Jan has just been out to lunch, Brian, as deftly as an actor in a porno moving quickly from one eager, willing woman to another, has seduced all but Jan into thinking he wants to take them to the final two. His strategy, from what Mark Burnett lets us see, has lulled Clay, Ted, and Helen into the mistake often seen in history in states' dealing which each others: supplanting reason with emotion. For example, does Helen really think that Brian is going to throw over the remainder of the Golfing Group that he's hung with for so long just to reward her? Only if Brian suddenly loses his strategic compass, even if indications from his previous behavior suggest otherwise. But what else could she be anticipating given her failure to execute six days earlier? Every rational consideration points in the direction that he will stick with the horses that got him this far. Assuming Brian does keep his head, it's very simple for him and the Golfing Group. Unless she wins immunity, first goes Helen as she is a greater threat to win challenges than their next target, Jan. Every member of the Golfing Group should favor this, for each in his own mind probably believes that if he doesn't win the final immunity, whoever does would take him to the jury.
Brian, of course, has the best shot of either being a tag-a-long or winning and choosing his opponent. In the latter instance that would be Clay, who has done an excellent job of poisoning others against his candidacy to win. Right now, as long as he plays it cool, Brian could win a jury vote against anybody. He will lose the votes of two of the three he has seduced (feeling scorned by him), but the Sook Jai on the jury will respect him for his play and deliver him their votes.
The one, huge risk he runs is to keep the balancing act going another six days. If somehow he becomes careless or somehow everybody else puts it all together about his seductions, he'll be the next one off. Otherwise, it now seems quite predictably Brian's to lose.
But what if a female makes it to the last three because of an immunity win? With Helen it does not matter for she or the other male would still take Brian. Jan is so unpredictable that only if she won the final immunity would Brian not be safe.
However, if Brian fumbles this away, then viewers might be in for a great treat. If the others catch on to him and toss him out in three days, expect the males and females to battle each other and go to a tiebreaker. If the guys win, Helen's gone; if the gals, Clay (because of Helen's antipathy, even if Clay is a lesser threat). If at least three days pass before they get wise (with Helen gone) it doesn't matter, for unless Jan wins the final immunity she'll be gone with Ted and Clay heading to the finals. Still, barring this unlikely circumstance, Brian seems almost a certain object of jury deliberation, and given his control of the situation he appears likely to drag Clay with him. Unlike Survivor: Marquesas, where some players displayed strategy similar to what goes on in the world of international politics, these contestants have operated largely bereft of strategic thinking.
Even so, this version has illustrated one enduring truth, that one must separate emotion from strategy. While Clay lashes out, Ted grinds, Helen envies, and Jan does whatever Jan does, Brian lets little genuine emotion enter into his game. Perhaps this should have been expected given Brian's previous (let's be generous) acting career, where he had to display one apparent emotion on screen which probably bore little to do with his actual emotions at the time. As state leaders must ignore emotions when calculating their states' best interests in the world of international affairs, in relationship to their game so must successful Survivor players.
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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