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Strategic Overview of Survivor, Episode 3: The Gas House Gangby Jeffrey D. Sadow -- 09/30/2005
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This installment presented us with an interesting decision – and perhaps a clue to which way the wind is blowing, at least on Yaxha.
This tribe must face the fact that it probably cannot match the athleticism of Nakúm. Thus, for any physical challenges (and keep in mind that not all are), they likely suffer a disadvantage. The majority seems to deem physicality as an imperative, so the decision who to toss out set up a strategically-intriguing showdown:
And so Brianna gets evicted – given these choices and the goal of trying to stay athletic, she constituted the worst possible. Which is another way of saying, unless some of these folks are fairly dense strategically, that the “athleticism” argument served as a smokescreen for a hidden agenda.
Let’s look at the ages – Brianna is much younger than both Lydia and Amy. And which one person on this tribe would be advantaged by collecting older folks into an alliance? Yes, that would be the old spearchucker himself, Gary. With him being the oldest in the tribe where only three were older than 30, more than anybody he benefits by eliminating the younger players. Which is exactly what has happened now to the two youngest females, also now making males the majority.
As a stronger player, it always serves you to collect weaker players around you because, later in the game when they figure out to gang up on the stronger ones, they are less capable of winning challenges from a stronger player than if a bunch of stronger players also make it to that point. Lydia may be resourceful but she’s no threat to win physical challenges, and Amy’s injury now puts her in the same category, if even as capable as Lydia.
Gary has the good sense to hitch himself to Stephenie (and, vice-versa), and they seem to be protecting Amy as well because if “athleticism” had been the main criterion for voting, she would be gone. But these three need a fourth to run the tribe and, eventually, a fifth to assume the classic formation at the merge. Because Lydia also apparently has been protected, she could provide the fourth vote.
But she comes with baggage – the cocksure Brian and the rocket scientist Jamie have pledged allegiance to her. Six is too many and you don’t want it to come down to a 3-3 deadlock after the next elimination (in this scenario, Rafe). Thus the Petrol People (Gary, Amy, Stephenie; get it?) must decide whether to attempt to bust up the 36th President’s People (Lydia, Brian, Jamie – see what three college degrees will get you?) to grab Lydia or to pick up the remaining player, Rafe, to rule the tribe.
Logic tells us the latter is the best choice, but, if the LBJ coalition has any talent at all, they will realize the same thing. But whoever Rafe decides to throw in his lot with, he should understand (which he probably won’t) that it would be in their best strategic interest to use him temporarily to poach a fifth from the losing side. For the GAS gang, that would be Lydia; for the LBJ coalition, that would be Amy.
Which brings up another obvious point – this strategy is deliberately about getting rid of stronger players. Both groups’ ideal is to come to the merge with five players of their own choosing – and for the few remaining stronger players in this scenario, Gary, Stephenie, and (maybe if he shows soon he has grasped the coalescing alliances and acts accordingly) Brian, having the majority of their allies being weak so they can be outlasted towards endgame when challenges turn individual.
Obviously, the strategy carries risk because, as Stephenie and Bobby Jon well know, a tribe that loses too much gets beyond a point of no return and any formation of five they hope to bring to the merge may get gutted through continuous challenge defeats. Knocking off stronger players before the merge increases the chance of this occurring.
Nonetheless, it may be a risk both sides think they can afford, especially as the other tribe was battered physically early. History shows once somebody gets physically weak, it’s hard for that person to ever get back to full strength physically or mentally. That gives a guy like Brandon an advantage he might not otherwise enjoy (being the only Nakúm male yet not felled by disease or disaster) and allow Margaret to hang on longer as she seems relatively physically stronger in this environment (adding to her valuable medical knowledge).
However, on this tribe, the one who could really take command is Danni. She must have impressed the bunch with her athleticism during the immunity challenge and her attire is eye-catching. If she starts hanging out and talking sports with the guys, cussing with the best of them, she’ll quietly rise to the most powerful position in the tribe (while they fail to realize what she’s doing, addled by visions of her turning into a pizza and six-pack at midnight); if then she follows the linchpin of the Jenna Morasca pseudo-strategy and doffs her clothes at an important point in the game, CBS might as well write her the winner’s check then and there. But to this point evidence that she can think this strategically is as lacking as is her needs for liposuction or augmentation.
If you haven’t already done so, make sure to check out the other Episode 3 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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