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Strategic Overview of Survivor, Episode 5: The Arbiter of Styleby Jeffrey D. Sadow -- 10/14/2005
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In international relations, certain suggested courses of action exist when a state is an “arbiter,” or one that by itself can make or break a winning alliance. The basis on which it makes decisions actually is simple: is it better off in its current alliance, or can it improve its position by switching to another? This is a concept Danni needed to know and act upon.
Because it is hard to argue that throwing over Blake, Bobby Jon, and Brandon would improve her position compared to hooking up with Amy, Brian, and Gary. Admittedly, when you say among your allies the brightest bulb is somebody who roots for K-State and loves Old Swill, that doesn’t exactly get you psyched.
At the same time, Danni easily could have manipulated this trio deep into the game, especially the dimmest of all, Blake. They were physically strong and she could have ridden them a long way. And, had she blackmailed Gary into a double-secret alliance with her, he could have further enhanced this quintet’s chance to storm close to endgame.
Bringing Gary into the fold was a smart thing to do, but whether taking Brian and Amy along with him is another matter. At a certain point, the move does make sense because, physically, the 20-something pretty boys can be threats towards endgame. But Danni will not be able to manipulate Amy and Brian as easily, even if they would be a better crew to have towards endgame. One must get there first, and it’s debatable whether Danni improved her chances by doing so.
Preferably, instead of shunning Blake, Danni should have entered into a secret alliance with him simultaneously with the double-secret Gary alliance. She could tell him he would need help against the pair of pretty boys down the road, and not to worry about the old landscaper. When things got to three she could tell Gary if he won the final immunity she had to take her or she would out him and destroy any chance he had of winning (and then do it anyway in front of the jury), and if Blake won con him into taking her by outing Gary (smarter players might not fall for it, but Blake probably would have).
This is not to say that Danni has made a major mistake; her position still is quite good as she has traded less manipulable for less dangerous allies in the cases of Amy and Brian (the former because of her physical infirmity, the latter because he thinks himself more clever than he really is) and Gary she can manipulate through blackmail.
Still, in the final analysis, she probably did put herself in a worse position, and it could come back to haunt her, especially if she does not follow through with forcing Gary into her orbit. This is because an alliance of five is better than four, particularly when you have the sub-alliance of three. Besides working on Gary, she must try to sustain the loyalty of either Brandon or Bobby Jon to take an optimal lineup into the merge.
Only time will tell whether eschewing four dangerous, but manipulable allies in favor of a half-manipulable, half-weaker group will prove to be a winning hand for Danni, but one thing indicating that she did not make the right choice is if she’s not up to the necessary machinations, Gary takes charge in this tribe, and he needs to start plotting his own strategy to neutralize Danni, which is much easier to do with Amy and Brian. If he can make to the merge he can try to reconnect with enough erstwhile tribe members to break whatever hold she may acquire over him, with Amy and Brian’s help.
If you haven’t already done so, make sure to check out the other Episode 5 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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