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Strategic Overview of Survivor, Episode 6: Alliance Rouletteby Jeffrey D. Sadow -- 03/10/2006
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This week’s episode produced a number of interesting events with strategic implications. Let’s go in temporal order, which starts with the craziest one of all.
I’m not sure what I can add about Shane’s incomprehensible desire to exit his alliance but his inability to do so because his suffering tribemates won’t swear off swearing on his kid’s life (every time I hear him say this, I think, “poor kid”), except for two things. Primarily, you don’t get rid of an idiot, you use him until he no longer suits your needs. Shane shows every sign of being manipulable for strategic purposes, so he needs to be kept as long as possible.
Except… can somebody be truly this stupid, this ignorant, and, when it comes to strategy, so far out in space than even Dan hasn’t been there? If I knew nothing about Shane’s background, I think I’d be applauding him for the incredible con job he’s pulling on everybody, making everybody think that even Courtney can hold a coherent thought in her head longer than he can, that he nearly gets a hernia from inhaling a filtered cigarette, etc., all causing him to seem like a harmless lunatic – just as Matt intentionally did and Jan unintentionally in past series. People who appear flipped out go far because they’re seen as absolutely no threat and fully usable to others’ ends, and if this is what he’s doing, it is an inspired act.
His performance is just so over the top that it cannot be genuine. But, unbelievably, it probably is. No doubt the next series he does will be a reality remake of Lost in Space, not Crazy Like a Fox.
From the profane to the sacred, Terry made another strategic mistake with his acceptance of Dan’s ouster. The schoolteacher beat the astronaut in the puzzle game and Casaya correctly shielded Sally (Terry’s first mistake in allowing her to stay rather than Ruth-Marie). At this point of the game close to a merge, alliance strength becomes fairly meaningless, so in these kinds of decisions, you must lop off the person who is a larger individual threat towards the end of the game.
And, actually, Austin and Dan were pretty even-up as choices to go, with Dan holding the mental edge and Austin the physical. So for Terry, the deciding factor should have been loyalty and the fact is Dan was more loyal to him than Austin would be. He would have more power with a guaranteed vote always backing him rather than one which is merely solid, but will abandon him before Dan would have. As in the case of Ruth-Marie, it is not a large mistake, but that’s two, they add up, and, down the road, they could be the difference.
Most interestingly, however, is the strategic crossroads looming. Normally, having a 6-4 advantage in members, one could argue that Casaya’s Space Cadets (Aras, Shane, Danielle, Courtney) are in a demonstrably better position if they can secure a fifth vote such as Cirie’s. But these are not normal times, because Casaya isn’t anywhere close to being a normal tribe.
Bruce and Cirie don’t seem to be total strategic idiots and they have got to realize that either of them hitching their wagons to the Space Cadets is a recipe for disaster. The value of an alliance is its predictably, precisely the quality lacking with the Space Cadets. Particularly Bruce must know that he has no future with them and has nothing to lose by jumping to a solid La Mina alliance. Cirie must know also that he will jump and thus there is no upside for her to stick around and have to gut out a 5-5 deadlock. Ordinarily, this would mean that, if a merge happened immediately, La Mina actually probably would have the upper hand because of these Casaya defectors.
The wild card in all of this, however, is Sally (thus exposing the foolishness of dumping Ruth-Marie). La Mina no longer is in a position to offer a solid four-person group. Since Casaya picked Sally for exile, it shows they sense this, too. From Cirie’s perspective, there exists another problem – once attached to the men from La Mina, Bruce probably will stick by them to the exclusion of others, if it’s just Cirie coming over with him.
Thus, Cirie needs to create a situation, by taking advantage of the unstable nature of the Space Cadets, to make a coalition of her optimal choosing. This would entail using the weakest players both physically and strategically. Naturally, a certain guy who makes everybody swear on the life of his kid immediately leaps to mind as the ideal partner, but he may be too erratic to trust, and certainly he shows no capacity to even understand this strategy. Better would be to get Bruce (who, despite his fitness, will be less of a threat because of his age, and she can sell him on her intended grouping being less of a threat to his chances down the road) and Danielle and Courtney (who will respond to the same rap without Aras, as well as getting rid of the irritant Shane), who to her will be reduced threats compared to anyone else to be considered.
The real key to all of this for her, however, would be Sally. La Mina’s only gal also must realize that she is the fourth wheel on the men of La Mina tricycle and, unless she plans on winning the last couple of immunities, she has no upside in the arrangement. At the same time, a straight-up defection to Casaya gets her nowhere because the Space Cadets think they have numbers on their side. She will move only if a third alternative can be provided.
Cirie can do this, with Bruce, Danielle, and Courtney. With Sally, this is Cirie’s dream arrangement, collecting the weaker players in the game under her (unobtrusive) aegis. But she has to do this right, or she blows the game because of Terry’s idol. If she really is on the ball, she would assume that he has found it and thus must arrange it so the vote that cracks the Space Cadets also happens in a way that negates the idol.
Let’s assume there is general agreement in Casaya that Terry did find it. In that case, they must whittle down La Mina (who they think are four strong) to two before attacking Terry by possessing a 6-2 advantage, because then they could throw four votes to Terry and two to the other, force a tie, and then oust Sally if there is a revote, isolating Terry. So, Cirie must build her alliance secretly in this case, and get the two other men from La Mina to go out first (which should not be hard as they will be seen as bigger threats than Sally) and, when the 6-2 juncture is met, then cause a coup by letting Shane and Aras vote for Terry, but then by having Danielle and Courtney vote for Terry’s target (Aras maybe, which Sally will know, just as long as it is him or Shane) while the remainder vote for Terry. Terry “loses” 5-3, but it’s not Sally buts Aras who has the three and without any warning at all is gone (or Shane if Aras wins immunity).1 2 Next-->
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