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Strategic Overview of Survivor: Jon the Puppetmasterby Jeffrey D. Sadow -- 11/21/2003
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This time, Burton pulled the trigger. Off goes Rupert, new alliances form, and the biggest target now goes on Burton’s back.
Some interesting attitudes about the game got shown. First, from what we could tell of Darrah’s reaction to the offer from Burton, Lillian, and Jon, it seemed as if she, and probably Tijuana, never once thought to approach them about saving their own skins. It also seems as if Lillian may prove rather shaky as an alliance partner with all of her guilt and self-doubting.
Most curiously, Sandra made what could have been, and possibly could still turn out to be, a huge mistake by voting for Jon rather than the agreed-upon target – with Rupert and Christa – of Darrah. Two explanations present themselves for this action.
In the scenario which sells Sandra short, she could have believed that Darrah already had five votes against her and Rupert only three, and she got so upset at Jon that out of spite she voted for him. By this logic, Darrah still goes by a count of 5-2-1. Of course, this option means she is an idiot in the game, for one never knows when your side will need a vote, particularly since she overheard Jon and Burton talking and might have foreseen the mutiny. So she should have had reason to suspect the vote well could have been four against Rupert and that her vote was absolutely needed to help prevent a dissolution of their coalition.
Or, perhaps she wanted Rupert out also. We know she had been thinking of a putsch against him for days. Perhaps her performance at the immunity challenge was not so inept in “accidentally” causing most of Rupert’s damage in hitting his territory in the blow dart game. Perhaps her animosity towards Jon at tribal council and subsequent vote was a cover to make her appear vengeful and willing to waste a vote. Similarly, her pumping up of Rupert there was designed to try to keep him thinking positively of her. And her vote she may have hoped Christa and Rupert thought came from somebody else, but if not, then she could explain to them how she thought Darrah already had five against her so hers wouldn’t matter.
This scenario would argue that she thought perhaps Burton and Jon had flipped to lock a potential vote at four each. By her throwing a vote at Jon, she still ensured Rupert’s dismissal without directly implicating herself. If true, we’ve now seen an absolutely cunning side of Sandra heretofore unknown.
It also indicated that she knew she no longer could get mileage out of her alliance with Rupert and now she is much more of a free agent than previously believed. A fascinating configuration now exists.
Now three dyads float about, Darrah and Tijuana, Sandra and Christa, and Burton and Lillian, with Jon the happy-go-lucky singleton who resides fairly securely in the last dyad’s orbit. For Burton to keep going he must, for at least one turn, with two being better, keep the other two dyads from uniting against him.
His chances are spotty of succeeding. Had he taken out Christa last time, this time he could have taken out Rupert, meaning then he, Lillian, Sandra, and Jon would have gone to the final four with him and Lillian turning against the other ex-Morgans (note that he would have a sure ally with Lillian and two singletons because the latter could not afford to cooperate with the three ex-Morgans because any defector, once the ex-Morgans pared some people, would himself get pared). That is, he could have had a very stable alliance at least to four (particularly since Jon, who sees Lillian as his weakest opponent in the final two, would be reluctant to not help carry her).
But now, instead of two coalitions fighting it out, where he could be pretty sure of being in the dominant one, there are three. A majority of the remaining six Lilliputians, having taken down the giant Rupert, may have acquired a taste for Burton’s blood as well. They may believe this action optimal because of Jon’s unpredictability. Already he has provided crucial votes to both dyads. Each may believe they can oust (depending on immunity) Burton and then Lillian with the other dyad’s help, and then win over Jon to take out one of the other two in the other dyad, then either take out the remaining one and Jon, or to use the remaining one to take out Jon and then take out the remaining one. Either way, that dyad heads to the jury vote unless the third person wins the final immunity challenge.
In the next three days, if Burton can keep his dyad intact with Jon on the side, given the fact that each sees one of the other two as an ideal person to take to the jury, the three almost assure themselves of being the last three. But, if the other two dyads send either Burton or Lillian packing first and the other cannot win the next immunity, power passes into the hands of everybody’s lovable best friend, Jon.
For his part, Jon probably would figure that, if he couldn’t take Lillian, it would be best to go to the jury against Christa or Sandra. Not only has these women’s outspokenness earned them some enmity, but (1) each would have only two sure votes, the other’s and Rupert’s (and Sandra maybe not Rupert’s, if he figured out what she did at his last tribal council), (2) Burton’s enmity against getting kicked out of Drake might lead him to retaliate against a member of its dominant alliance, and (3) despite his presumed uniting with Sandra and Christa to boot them out, Darrah and Tijuana still might be grateful enough for carrying them further in the game to vote for him. In addition, perhaps they could carry Ryan with them, and/or Jon could wheedle Lillian to support him.
Thus, in the next three days, the game could go in two directions. It could be a final three of Burton, Lillian, and Jon; or it could be Christa, Sandra, and Jon or one of Darrah or Tijuana. Only one name appears in both futures. Largely by luck, Jon has moved into the best position in this game to reach the jury. Now we can see if he is as good at the game as he is lucky.
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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