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Strategic Overview of Survivor, Episode 2: Information Pleaseby Jeffrey D. Sadow -- 09/23/2005
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Something often not sufficiently realized by contestants in and viewers of Survivor is the role that information plays. This episode attested plenty to that.
From what we’ve seen to date, Gary holds a number of assets to go far in the game, but his Achilles heel is his past celebrity status as a National Football League quarterback. As long as he can deflect this information from becoming attached to him, he stays in the game; otherwise, his opponents’ envy of him will emerge and cause his ejection.
This gives anyone who has this information powerful leverage over him. At any given point, the use or threatened use of this information gives its knower a decisive advantage. She either could use it to preserve her own self at his expense at some crucial point of the game, or perhaps use it as blackmail material to force him to ally with her and guarantee a supporter (until he no longer suits her purpose; then she could discard him). It is not to be used lightly.
So, rocket scientist that she appears to be, Danni throws it away. Instead of waiting for an important moment in the game, she lets out the information at a time that does her next to no good, in a way where it can be considered trivial if unbelievable. What could she possibly have hoped to gain by telling the opposition tribe this, in the middle of a competition?
Far better would have been for her to sit quietly on it. Her position cannot be helped by letting this knowledge out until she and Gary were on the same tribe. If they both made it together to a merge, she either needed to approach him immediately and threaten to spill the beans unless she had her full support and then burn him with it when it gave her maximal gain, or remain outside of an alliance with him until a point where her alliance was in trouble or the scales even, and then let the information out.
Instead, not only did she squander it, she probably neutered its value. By letting out when she did, she let it go in a much less convincing way so that Gary had a much better chance of deflecting that information. Picture a situation many days later, say where there’s been a merge and she and Gary are on opposite sides with the two alliances even. One quiet, convincing word to Gary’s partners would reveal his past and that he was a liar about it, which would guarantee at least one of his allies to flip, if not more.
I must hand it to her, she obviously knows her sports considering he last played in the league when she was in college and he was not a star, and she still recognized him better than a decade later. But she clearly does not know strategy and looks, as Morgan’s departure showed, will get you only so far without some strategic skill.
For Gary, if this was going to come out, it came out in the best way possible. Coming in such an offhand way, his deniability is plausible, particularly since the presence of an ex-NFL quarterback in the game seems so implausible. As for his squad, this revelation will serve as a true test of their abilities. The strategically smart player will not let this go, precisely because it would be such a tremendously odd comment for somebody on the other team to make. Because it was such a huge mistake by Danni (that is, if she were trying to play mind games with somebody in a mud pit, is there a comment more bizarre and ineffective than that, therefore meaning it must be true?), the bright player will hang onto this and use it later in the game against Gary the way Danni could have.
Information also proved important in Morgan’s ouster, not as much keeping her in the dark as in the behind-the-scenes jockeying to oust her in favor of Lydia. Viewers got a good clue that Jamie and Amy aren’t very sharp tools in the shed when it comes to evaluating players. At this point of the game, a player who is a hard worker and adept (as Lydia showed with her fishmongering skills) is more valuable that one who is perhaps better athletically. This is the kind of player you want to carry deep into the game, using her abilities until she no longer is worth it, and then she is an easier mark in an individual challenge. Given there are plenty of people around to help win challenges involving the whole tribe, it’s unimportant to boot somebody who is marginally less physically capable (and did Lydia not do better than a few others in the reward challenge?) but who contributes significantly in other ways.
Yet Jamie seemed bent on wanting Stephenie out and Amy campaigned for Lydia’s removal (perhaps because they are of similar ages yet Lydia has proven herself more useful?). Also count Rafe as a strategic neophyte for desiring “unity” instead of thinking about doing what it takes to win which may not include the idea of “unity.” If the other players (Brian, Brianna, Gary, Lydia, Stephenie) are smart, they will isolate these three and turn themselves into a solid bloc of five heading into the merge.
On Nakúm, besides Danni revealing herself as a strategic lightweight, Judd did himself no favors in the long term. He showed that he was a hard object to move but his thinking that Blake should go next displayed a poor grasp on the strategic situation. If anything, he should do his best to protect Blake since players so ill so early in the game rarely become threats to win challenges (nor stay very long). He should focus on getting rid of somebody who contributes marginally in a team effort presently, but who could be a serious physical threat after the merge, such as any female except Margaret. He can carry a weak Blake until he no longer needs the protection closer to endgame.
On this tribe, essentially the young guys should stick together and take Margaret as a fifth vote (and nursemaid). Once (if) they get the upper hand at a merge, they then can discard her at their leisure.
If you haven’t already done so, make sure to check out the other Episode 2 columns already posted:
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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