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Strategic Overview of Survivor, Episode 11: Zeroes and Heroesby Jeffrey D. Sadow -- 12/07/2007
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Unless there’s something going on that we don’t know about, as did James, it seems that Denise decided to play it safe rather than play to win. It would have been gutsy to force a 3-3 tie and foist a tiebreaker on Erik and Todd, but the fact remains that with her refusal to do so (and she even lamented that she thought it to be a mistake yet still did it), the dynamics point to Denise’s elimination at four – but only as long as Amanda is happy having Todd around, and vice versa, to three.
If so, Amanda and Todd know the almost universally reviled Courtney would be far better jury fodder than Denise, so they will work for her demise after a projected finishing-off of Peih-Gee. But even if Denise were to win that final immunity challenge, both still would likely have the upper hand over her. And Amanda must be gathering that Todd’s stock is falling, as his deviousness has not gone unnoticed and he doesn’t have the skill of a guy like Richard of Survivor: Pulau Tiga to win despite that. Therefore, she should stay put with the alliance – but only if she can trust Todd not to make a move a turn or two early.
Todd must be realizing he can’t win against Amanda, and probably not against Peih-Gee. Thus, his only choices for the final three are Denise and Courtney. Especially if Peih-Gee captures a consecutive immunity, he may wish to take her out – and vice-versa. This is the problem about Todd’s obvious devious nature: it induces paranoia in everybody at this stage of the game and creates a self-fulfilling prophecy which puts the devious player at risk.
So maybe Denise’s reticence at this stage was not a bad move, if she can be sure bloodletting could begin at five. After all, at six the only person lower than her on the totem pole in the jury’s eyes was Courtney, so no matter what path she took then and now, it appears second is the best she can do. Still, if she doesn’t make it to the final three she doesn’t have any chance, so she needs to get there with the most vulnerable players possible.
That would be Todd and Courtney. Granted, it’s hard to imagine someone who said her last vote was a huge mistake as she made it would realize this, so if Amanda divines the sequence of events to engineer such a final three, she must convince Denise that she’s not going to win as long as she and Todd are there, and then ask her who she would rather hand a million bucks to as a result of her next vote. However, if Denise does not foresee this, she must not enter into such negotiations at all.
This is because Amanda’s best strategy is play it cool and engage in no dramatics. She must play up Peih-Gee as a threat in the hopes this will keep the four unified and distracted from realizing she can cruise to the win by surviving two more challenges. It’s entirely possible because, give her and Todd credit, by intent or luck, they cobbled together an alliance of strategic zilches and useful idiots who either are satisfied to go with the flow and not win or don’t realize they are being used. If it is the case that Courtney (most certainly) and Denise (probably) are strategy-challenged, then naturally Denise’s vote at six was inane.
If so, the one thing Amanda cannot do now is draw attention to herself and away from the template she wishes to impress upon the zeroes that Todd is manipulative and Peih-Gee is dangerous. If Amanda strays from this script, she threatens to conjure an image of her as both. Only if she thinks she is in danger should she allow her superior abilities to be revealed, as then she will become a target. But a Peih-Gee immunity win would force her hand because then it becomes her or Todd.
True, under this scenario Denise might be going. However, it seems unlikely Peih-Gee would let it rest at that. She should know her only chance of winning will be to knock out either Todd or Amanda, preferably the latter, and with an opportunity at hand she should lobby to send one of them off. Better, she should announce who she is voting for, giving (if Denise is threatened) Denise every incentive to join with her. The temptation then should be too great for the one who is not the target to join with them to vote the other out.
So if Denise is more strategically inclined than we have been led to believe – and admittedly, we’ve not been given much cause to believe such – waiting at six was good if she senses the crisis coming at five as it avoids a tie situation that, if Erik had lost, would have capped her place at four barring a fortunate immunity win. If it’s not coming, like so many others this season she will have become a lamb led to the slaughter, or if it is and she chose right from the wrong reason, maybe the Deity did hear her plea for voting wisdom.
But assuming Peih-Gee can’t do it again, and Amanda’s best strategy is to lay low, does it benefit Todd to strike preemptively? The answer would be probably not, for Todd does not need to verify his reputation for manipulativeness even if it probably also would win brownie points among jurors for his willingness to try to control his own destiny. His problem becomes this is yet one more shout to the world that he confirms his deviousness, and this may cause Courtney and Denise to prefer bringing Peih-Gee in front of the jury if they believe it’s enough to make him a winner against them. Todd’s best bet may be to get rid of the threat where he doesn’t have to publicize his attempts at puppetry, Peih-Gee, and hope to use his ties to Denise and Courtney, which may be stronger than Amanda’s, to oust her at four.
Again, however, their presumed strategic denseness and acquiescence to play for second makes their reactions unpredictable, whether he makes a move at five or four. Which is, as I have pointed out previously on several occasions over different seasons, the greatest curse that the more strategic players must endure – the utter randomness of the decisions made by blockheads that lacks so much predictability that it becomes difficult to execute your own plan. Which means Amanda must hope to avoid having to step into the limelight, Todd must bide his time, and Peih-Gee, absent a repeat win, must wish one or both fail to follow these courses.
If you haven’t already, be sure to check out these other recent Survivor: China articles here on RealityNewsOnline:
When not watching for strategic elements in Survivor, Jeffrey D. Sadow is trying to teach about strategies inherent in international relations, diplomacy, governance, political campaigns, and lots of other neat stuff as an associate professor of political science at Louisiana State University Shreveport.
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