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Survivor: The Amazon - Deena's Implosion and Rob's Chancesby Jeffrey D. Sadow -- 04/11/2003
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Famous last words:
Deena continues to play very well, and is on target to enter the Rich/Brian pantheon should she bring this strategy to fruition.I wrote this in my previous article because, to again use my own words, "Deena's plan now is to position herself as the singleton with the dyads Jenna and Heidi and Alex and Rob in the 2+1+2 configuration. It is the trickiest position to be in, with the most risk and reward."
Such a plan is difficult and requires great skill because, as a singleton, you do not have a reliable partner to back you up and the ability to take in the singleton to fend off the other dyad if it becomes hostile to you. The absolutely worst thing the singleton can do is to decide to bust a dyad early, because you are totally unprotected from the inevitable reaction. And Deena walked right into it.
Perhaps we should have seen it coming. To paraphrase what I wrote last time, "it [the spiral of silence] can lead to an overestimation of the majority's perception of its own strength. Deena ... need[s] to understand [her] grip may be more tenuous than [she] think[s]." Apparently she did not understand that and overestimated her own power. Also, "Deena's 'I am woman, hear me roar' kick continues to fuel a male/female split." Again, she should have cooled it with a Matt immunity win and gone for Christy's ousting to allay fears. Indeed, how big was that immunity win for Matt - had he lost the immunity, or maybe won the reward challenge which Alex won that got Deena onto her disastrous road of thinking about Alex as a threat, it might never have come to this.
But probably the biggest clue of her impending doom was that the 2+1+2 configuration Deena kept aiming for stayed in flux. You must commit early and stay committed because, at this stage, any sudden switches cast you either as an unreliable partner or somebody trying to be too clever. Deena managed to get her alliance to consider her as both. She had to choose either the Rich route - make your choices and stick with them through thick or thin - or the Brian route - keep everybody convinced that you're their best ally until it's too late for them. She did neither and paid the price.
So we now have (to paraphrase diplomats of failed regimes) a new ballgame, with both alliance leaders gone within a week of each other (and with it my model's predictive power - after this series is over, I'll do a post-mortem on it to see why it was so bad in predicting the finalists and winner after doing it so well for the first five series). Now the dominant coalition is 2+2 - dyads of Jenna and Heidi and of Rob and Alex, leaving Butch, Christy, and Matt on the outside.
But, miraculously, one of these outsiders, like a phoenix from the ashes, suddenly has a monstrously good chance of going far. A 2+2 coalition is inherently unstable because each dyad wants a singleton to take them to the final three at the other dyad's expense, to avoid the Purple Rock o' Death (PROD). Right now, the person by far with the best chance to slip in is Matt because of the happy accident that Rob, thinking he is playing Matt all along, suddenly needs him rather badly.
That's because, in a 2+2 situation (except when the dyads have a useful idiot they can play, such as Sean in the first installment), the looming PROD gives each dyad an incentive for one of its members to defect and sell out his partner to avoid the tie and be assured of the final three. Thus, the most vulnerable member of the four seeks a fifth. Otherwise, it's a matter of which dyad "blinks" first, and here that would be Alex. It wasn't his presumed partner Rob who warned him of Deena's desire to give him the boot, but the Naked Hotties dyad. He owes them big and must be suspicious of Rob's silence, and now Rob's lack of skill in being a poor man's Brian and his misplaced faith in Deena's abilities is coming back to haunt him.
Rob's only chance is to hang onto a dyad with Matt, and (1) for now serve as the junior dyad and hope to win back over Alex by the time it's down to five, or (2) take a great risk by getting Matt to pull in Butch and somehow to rope in Christy to form a Wretched of the Earth (WOE) coalition to send those four to the final four (and would give him and Matt an excellent chance of facing the jury). Rob's proven himself nimble on his feet, selling out people right and left in his votes to stay one step ahead of eviction, but to date he has shown little of the skill necessary to create a WOE coalition, so the first option looks to be his best bet.
Deena should take comfort that maybe she's gone, but her implosion has made this sixth edition of Survivor as entertaining strategically as the first and fourth. If only players would quit making big mistakes and come up with some equally big strategic moves, this one may turn out to be the best yet.
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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