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Strategic Overview of Survivor: Hobson’s Choiceby Jeffrey D. Sadow -- 10/31/2003
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Well, at least some of the analysis proffered last week remained valid after the Outcasts stormed back into the game. There’s not a whole lot that can be conjectured without knowing the two returnees, but at least we can analyze the situation as if six days had passed and each tribe won immunity once.
Had the twist not occurred, Darrah, Osten, and Tijuana were dead people walking (absent a string of immunity wins for one of them) as explained last week (see above link). Osten’s withdrawing, practically speaking, gives the females a new lease on life. Nothing is guaranteed, for it depends upon who comes back (for example, Nicole will look very dimly on Tijuana) but, suffice it to say, having a chance is better than having no chance.
On the other island, Rupert and his women (Christa, Sandra) reasoned out what needed to be done in the short term and got rid of Shawn. Twice he had flitted between alliances and he was too dangerous to be given additional future opportunities, as explained last week. Jon has tried to do the same but more obnoxiously, making him a perfect “disposable” (meaning he would lose against anybody for the final two) for the other three where he can be cut loose in the final four or, if someone has the skill, to take him into the final jury vote and thereby win it all.
Shawn’s chances would have improved had he swallowed his ego and allied with Jon. Now with two votes, at least they would have had a shot at picking off Christa to form a triad to beat Rupert and Sandra. Perhaps not, but by publicly distancing himself from Jon, he ended all chances. Divide and conquer never fails.
Also making it difficult to further outline future strategy is not knowing when the merge will actually occur. Each tribe seems to have 3+1 alignments with Jon and Darrah, to coin a phrase, as the outcasts. Things could get quite interesting if the merge happens immediately, especially since the two returnees will enjoy immunity. In fact, they will hold immense power within the game
Most likely the pair, who we may assume can attempt to play together temporarily given bonding that probably formed at the Losers’ Lodge, will pick one of the triads, and then maybe pick up one of the singletons to form a 6-4 majority for at least one turn. (Recall that the impetus will be for forming a six-person minimum winning coalition since nobody wants the possibility of having five and thus likely facing the Purple Rock O’ Death).
Once it’s made into a 6-3 game, then the pair could defect and be on the winning side in a 5-4 vote. If the pair plays smart, they bust each triad in turn. Because Jon fits the disposable mold for both tribes better than Darrah, the initial jump should be to bust Morgan’s triad (let’s say it’s Andrew out), and the next to bust Drake’s (let’s say it’s Rupert gone). Another jump back then could take out another Morgan (let’s say Ryan O.) leaving something like a 1 (Darrah) + 1 (Tijuana) + 2 (Christa, Sandra) + 1 (Jon) + 2 (Outcasts). Yet another jump could bust the last remaining dyad and suddenly the only thing stopping them is if the last four gang up on them. Of course, this plan gives them ample opportunity to add to their coalition for insurance.
Speaking of which, because he appears as the pariah to both tribes, Jon has the most to profit from this arrangement. It may be hard to believe, but he might actually be smart enough to see where this is headed and offer his services early and surreptitiously to the pair. Better, he could find another singleton and increase his value – Darrah or the last survivor of the Morgan triad might be his best bet.
Until we know who the returnees are and when the merge occurs, all of this is speculation. But if this is the case, Rupert and his women might have made a Hobson’s choice their last tribal council: in the scenario outlined above, either Shawn because of his demonstrated skill, or Jon because of the implications of his disposable nature, by teaming with the Outcast pair, essentially bring Rupert and his women’s chances to extinction. More than ever, the folly of voting out Michelle becomes clear for, had they not done so, both Shawn and Jon could be out of the game, and Rupert and his women sure could use a solid ally right about now.
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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