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Strategic Overview of Survivor, Episode 6: What To Do with a Problem Like Judd?by Jeffrey D. Sadow -- 10/24/2005
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Two big questions emerged from this episode, both of which involve the two players that, to this point, have played the role of useful idiots.
First, there is Brian’s surprise departure, which throws a whole new light on the previous vote to send Blake back to booze and big boobs. There, it seemed that Danni had decided to throw her lot in with the less-physically capable, yet less-manipulable, Gary, Amy, and Lydia. But Bobby Jon’s vote for Blake remained an anomaly in what appeared to be a simple defection of an ex-tribe member from her former mates. Using that template, it could appear that Bobby Jon had got tipped and voted with the majority to curry favor with the presumably new majority. At the same time, it appeared to constrain Danni’s options: she now seemed pretty locked into her new alliance because a player who dances back and forth before endgame between factions quickly loses everybody’s trust.
But in light of the next vote, more plausibly now it appears that old tribal distinctions quickly dissolved and, in a very business-like fashion, first the tribe got rid of an irritant, and then somebody who was too clever for himself (I’ll repeat from a previous article, if you go into a game thinking you’re more clever than most anybody else, it shows you’re not). Blake’s mistake was, of course, being Blake, but Brian’s was he showed too much interest in the strategic aspect of the game, making him a target. The exceptionally clever player never lets on that he’s trying to manipulate the game. He either does like Richard Hatch (make everybody feel like they’re equally responsible for decision-making, even if he drives it) or Brian Heidik (seem like one of the gang but work on separate one-on-one relationships isolated from all others to get his allies to do his dirty work against each other).
In short, Brian turned out to be a useful idiot. He was insurance to get Blake out and was kept in the dark to prevent any chance of his trying to pull off a coup. Simply, Brian could have proven dangerous to keep and impressively it seems now all five operate on the same page evidenced by their ouster of him. If so, this gang would prove formidable to bring into a merge.
And, if Danni has been the driving force behind all of this, she is starting to play quite well. She has as part of an alliance: Gary who she can blackmail to get her to the end and then use his celebrity status to her advantage, a crippled Amy whose ankle will always make her a reduced threat but a solid vote, and with these two she can use them eventually to cast off the two young bucks Brandon and Bobby Jon but until then using their strength to carry her coalition far into the game. If now they can just keep it together until the merge.
Even if a merge happened the next day and they went into it down one, they would win because Cindy would flip to their side to get a chance to nail Judd, knowing they would have taken her out next before a merge. Which brings up the other question, about this useful idiot who Stephenie, Lydia, Rafe, and Jamie got to flip to break a tie and put them in control: why keep him around this time? Without him, they still have a 4-3 advantage so he could be dumped and they still maintain their majority status.
For one, such a move would have alienated Jamie from his allies. He and Judd seem to be bonding over brawn and boisterousness, and the other three still really need five votes heading into a merge. Also, for physical endeavors, Judd still serves as a useful pawn, as does Jamie. Finally, Judd would hand anybody the game, even Jamie, if he were up against them in front of the jury. In many ways, he’s just too useful not to keep.
However, Judd being Judd, he also presents a horrible dilemma for his calmer, cooler allies. He is useful only for those who at this point can use his strength and vote, and that does not include Cindy. Not only would she defect if there were a merge now, she would defect even if the other tribe lost a member before the merge; that is, she would defect even if it meant she forced a tie by doing so. Because Judd is so valuable for the other four of her tribe to keep, booting him and keeping Cindy is not an option because she’s a bigger threat down the road, and she knows that. Yet, if a merge occurs soon, simultaneously he’s their biggest problem too, because he costs them control of the game.
Assuming a merge occurs at 11, Cindy defects because she’s got no real future sticking with her tribe. If she were to vote with them, they go up 6-4, they make a tempo move to make it 6-3, and then they send her home. If she makes the other tribe the majority faction, the same may happen to her, but she will figure she has a greater chance to succeed over there because she perceives she has no chance with her current tribe. Even a promise by Stephenie, Lydia, and Rafe that at 6-3 she’ll be swapped into Judd’s place will not fly because Jamie will not go along with it and if the plan goes wrong one of them may be going home. At nine, she would have to be the fifth vote in the majority and Jamie will not permit that at Judd’s expense. So, there’s no promise they can make to her that she will find credible.
Thus, keeping Judd around is a bit of a gamble. If the total goes to nine at the merge, with two immunity losses by the other tribe, then the now-Nakúms minus Cindy would be in the driver’s seat. It’s a tough call – take a risk in the short run to be well set up for endgame, or give yourself a better chance to get to a more uncertain endgame.
Who would emerge out of this scenario is unclear. Keep in mind that the goal of Stephenie, Lydia, and Rafe is to bring Judd (preferably) or Jamie with them to the jury. At the same time, they do not want to get into a situation where they are in a final three with Jamie and Judd because that pair will stick together, forcing a final immunity win. At five, the winning suitor will have to find some way to split preferably Jamie off and then one of the other two losing suitors, because you cannot afford going into four with a pair-bond of Jamie and Judd.
Still, more clever still would be to split Judd and Jamie at six, on a 4-2 vote. The remaining Yáxha can be slotted into the place of Jamie, disposed of next, and thereafter one of Stephenie, Lydia, or Rafe could emerge. Was this the purpose of Rafe giving Gary immunity? Perhaps a signal reaffirming a previous bond that, whichever one might be in the majority, he could provide at least temporary protection down the road for the other in exchange for a crucial vote?
If you haven’t already done so, make sure to check out the other Episode 6 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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