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Strategic Overview of Survivor, Episode 12: When Ugly Prevailsby Jeffrey D. Sadow -- 12/12/2008
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What are we to do with these people, who play not to win, but to let “good” prevail? If Sugar had any desire to win or any sense in the world, there is no way she would have deliberately allowed two people who could beat her in front of the jury, Bob (later ratified by another immunity win) and Matty, to stay alive in the game, and to vote to send home somebody she could drub easily, Crystal. No doubt Shii-Ann Huang was watching somewhere, muttering, “stupid, stupid people,” at the end.
All Sugar did was take her chances of winning and eliminate from them the possibility she could win. Neither Crystal nor Susie, together against anyone else, could win over a jury, the latter because she has four sure votes by erstwhile allies against her, the former because she was seen as so inauthentic and annoying by that same majority. Those are the people you want to contest with you in front of the jury. Absolutely nothing strategic is served by sending one home. If Sugar felt she had to send a message, Ken was the one who should have departed because he could beat her. Besides being on the receiving end of this gift anti-strategy, what can anybody do up against this force for “good”?
Given this five, the biggest threat of course is Bob, who has three, maybe four, votes already on the jury. It’s quite simple: if he is allowed to advance two more spots, he wins. After that it’s Ken, who has Crystal’s vote and the admiration of the others as the only one who seems to have any capability to play strategically. If they have any sense at all, the remaining three must work to remove these two over the next two turns.
Whether they have any sense remains to be seen. Susie has been shown long on willingness to go whichever way the wind blows, but short on strategic smarts. And Sugar and Matty would rather see “good” prevail (although at least Matty tries to tie himself in with that) than anything else. It makes one wonder whether the jury could emulate the disposal of the immunity idol before the merge at the party, taking the million clam prize and just throwing it away rather than award it to one of these zilches?
If they had brains, Matty and Sugar would work towards this end. Whether they will, with Sugar breaking down in tears over the latest “injustice” perpetrated in the game, is another matter. (One would think Niagara Falls is a less-reliable source of water than Sugar if watching this series.) What she will do is anybody’s guess, but if Bob and Ken were smart she would be eliminated next just to bring some predictability and ability to make strategy to the game. Again, whether that happens is another matter.
Bob must know he still is considered the biggest threat and can only go through with certainty through two immunity challenge wins – but if he makes it, he almost certainly wins. Ken now apparently has lost his closest ally and he must put the onus on Bob at five and hope he can squeeze through at four, winning immunity if needed – but if he makes it without Bob around, he almost certainly wins. If neither makes it through, it becomes pretty messy with the only certainty being Susie won’t win with four sure votes against her.
If it is left to such an unsavory trio of Matty, Sugar, and Susie, Matty probably has the edge, for while he has shown little strategic ability, Sugar would have only Bob’s vote with certainty and by the remainder of the ex-majority now ensconced on the jury, it likely would be felt that Matty’s lack of guile was more deserving than Sugar’s erratic randomness.
Therefore, Sugar’s saving of him was extraordinarily irrational and at the same time suggested a troika of her, Matty, and Susie would emerge – which is perfect for Matty if only they can prevent Bob or Ken from winning both immunity challenges, including the crucial last one at four. Which, of course, would lead those who prize strategy to upchuck, because of those left, at least Ken showed some strategic acumen even as he made a couple of big mistakes, and at least Bob demonstrated he would try some far-fetched strategic maneuvers.
But with the crew of Matty, Sugar, and Susie, you have three people who basically floated along with barely any ability to think a turn ahead of time and never would have gotten as far as they did without extraordinary good luck. One would hope the prize goes to the best strategic players, but they have been sidelined, and if not in the next instance to those who tried to implement strategy even if not done well. The least deserving ones are those who don’t seem to play strategically at all – and they may be the three in front of the jury.
(And don’t give me some excuse that their strategy all along was to play turn to turn waiting on everybody else to make mistakes, either by choice or forced to by chance, because that is the worst strategy of all, to assume your opponents will destroy themselves or get taken out by bad fortune; the superior player creates his opportunities to eliminate his opponents and doesn’t rely on others or fate to make his breaks for him because the others and the fates may not comply.)
So watch the final episode only if you have a strong stomach and do so only if you are prepared to watch the strategic ugliness of someone rival, if not surpass, Sandra of Survivor: Pearl Islands as the least deserving winner of all time. For it seems unless dynamics change dramatically (and with Sugar in the game, that’s always a possibility), that’s what we’re going to get.
If you haven’t already, be sure to check out these other recent Survivor: Gabon 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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