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Strategic Overview of Survivor, Episode 2: A Disaster Waiting to Happenby Jeffrey D. Sadow -- 02/10/2006
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Question: what has four airheads and says “Like, I need, like, a cigarette,” while doing yoga? Answer: Casaya, three immunity challenges from now.
If it wasn’t clear after the merge that La Mina had cleaned up both in brains and brawn, it became very much so as the audience witnessed Casaya’s dynamics. There’s nothing like putting together an alliance knowing practically zero about anybody else, among them a guy who changes his mind from minute to minute whether he wants to stay, another who blurts out his strategy and alliance within two days, and still another who played earth mistress a couple of days earlier. This isn’t an alliance, it’s a disaster waiting to happen and it will be only luck if it can stay together until the merge.
That’s not only because of the inherently strategically erratic members of it, it also is because this tribe is going to give Ulong from Survivor: Palau a run for its money as the losingest tribe in series history. Shane didn’t need to be wondering who would go next between Cirie and Melinda, he needs to worry what to do when, after their fifth immunity loss in a row, someone from his alliance needs to go and it’ll probably be him – if he hasn’t quit before then.
As opposed to watching the car wreck that Casaya appears to be, La Mina provides us with an interesting exercise in strategy. Three dyads have formed quickly – Dan and Terry, Austin and Nick, and Misty and Sally, with the young guys in the middle as potential kingmakers. If so, they have an interesting choice. From a physical perspective, the older men and younger women probably are of equal physical strength (although Terry’s performances to date may be changing some minds on that account) so they would be of equal value in winning challenges for the alliance. That being the case, age and experience tends to win out when it comes to strategy. Plus, Dan has been fingered for, at the very least, a rocket scientist, so the older guys might seem to be a greater threat down the road (the younger guys must think when it comes to the end, they would have the advantage physically over either other pair). So the younger guys should probably go with the females. But this is the better strategy only if they can keep their hormones in check and not allow their thinking to be clouded.
Regardless, if La Mina ever has to make a boot before the merge, Ruth-Marie must go next. The younger guys must leave in doubt as long as possible which way they’ll go because if they don’t send off Ruth-Marie next, they will signal their choice too soon and give time for the new singleton to unite with the Ruth-Marie and try to detach the preferred pair from the younger guys.
But the way things are going with the looming crackup in Casaya, they may never have this decision to make. Instead, it will be somewhat of a different one: they hit the merge with all members intact, where then they must get rid of any surviving Casaya members by holding together in effect their six-person alliance. By then ejecting Ruth-Marie, suddenly they are a vote away from a spot in the final four, and quite possibly in front of the jury. That would even more strongly favor them taking the women, as wisdom takes on an increasingly larger role the further down the line the game goes and the older men are more likely to have it.
If Casaya does blow up, Austin and Nick are in a very strong position. If so, it will be up to them to keep their cool, and by doing so one of them will be in good position to win the game.
If you haven’t already, be sure to check out our Survivor: Exile Island Episode 2 recap:
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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