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Strategic Overview of Survivor: In Lill’s Handsby Jeffrey D. Sadow -- 12/05/2003
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It wasn’t Christmastime in the Pearl Islands when this episode was shot, but a little tree-trimming occurred with the eviction of Christa. She was a preferred bootee because, despite her turning off some people which may have been useful for Burton if he faced her for the jury vote, she also was a far more serious threat than Sandra to win challenges. Burton has followed form not far from perfection to get here, a little out-of-turn perhaps in eliminating people necessitating some unnecessary risks, but it has met his goal of lopping off one-by-one the competing alliances. Now comes the most dangerous test.
Unfortunately, he set himself up poorly to pass it, which is quite simple: hold Jon and Lillian long enough, in order of preference, to send Sandra packing first, followed by Darrah. With his Outcast stigma, he needs to face neither of them against the jury. Both would start off with two votes for sure (their former alliance partners) and Burton with the stigma cannot afford to give those away. Jon remains the easiest target to beat for any player; whatever sympathy may come from his baseball-season-Opening-Day gambit will not affect the jury’s deliberations. Regardless, they will all see him as too manipulative, deceitful, and annoying. Lillian does not pose much more of a threat; she also carries the Outcast stigma and comes off as too passive.
Burton must take one of these to the jury, but he already did his cause damage by not finessing his way out of Lillian’s question about whether his promise of trying to take her all the way still held. He should have indicated that he would if he could, barring unhappy immunity challenge results. If she turns on him, this miscalculation could prove costly.
He has allowed too much doubt to form in her mind and a defection now, unless he wins immunity next, costs him the game. Jon will stick with him because Burton is the key to hanging onto Lillian. The guys’ interests are complementary until the final three, when it becomes essential to Jon for Burton to go home, Lillian being the only person he has a chance of defeating in front of the jury. At all costs, they must keep her from defecting.
They further damaged their cause by putting Darrah ahead of Sandra to keep. To this point, Sandra has shown little ability to win challenges of any sort. In fact, if there were one person out of the other 13 to bring as far as they could, she would be the best, given her utter lack of skill. But, while Christa and Sandra both remained in the game, it was a good move to cement Darrah’s vote to break them up by promising to take her into the final four. However, now they run the risk of her extending her immunity-challenge win streak to four, meaning sacrificing Lillian, and if it went to five, essentially she takes the million bucks.
(An aside: In the past couple of weeks I have speculated about whether Sandra’s vote for Rupert, as well as other actions since, denoted whether she possessed a degree of cunning far more than she lets on or whether it showed incredible ineptitude in the game. I’m now leaning much more towards the latter assessment. The judgment of anybody who thinks Lillian is a sure winner in front of the jury must be seriously questioned.)
Ironically, a Sandra immunity win next time helps the boys. Then they legitimately could lower the boom on Darrah – if they can hold Lillian. Sandra and Darrah’s mission is the exact opposite – peel away Lillian to blow away, in preferable order, Burton and Jon.
Interestingly, now the game rests in the hands of Lillian and Jon. For her, it becomes a matter of aligning with two people whom she cannot beat, or two people with one being a person she has a decent chance to beat. That person, Jon, needs to forcefully convince her that, barring a Burton win at the last immunity, he and she need to take each other to the jury.
In short, Burton, Lillian, and Jon need each other’s support far more than any other conceivable combination. By their own individual reasoning processes they should realize this and by their own actions they can ensure this. The chances of winning for each would be much worse if they broke up in the next three days.
But it is a very dangerous assumption to make, if the history of the series serves as a guide to future actions, that players will reason properly and act optimally to the degree necessary to win the game.
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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