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Strategic Overview of Survivor, Episode 9: Lies, Lies, Liesby Jeffrey D. Sadow -- 11/11/2005
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In strategic terms, this episode producing the first juror Bobby Jon was one of the most instructive ever, in terms of highlighting what not to do in Survivor.
To summarize the game situation: with a 6-3 lineup, members of the majority should be starting to contemplate how to get to the most favorable possible ensemble for endgame, while the minority must find ways to crack this coalition to stay in it. The latter may occur only with the sufferance of some members of the majority, yet only one member of the minority made any effort to introduce this – the victim himself, when he tried to plant seeds of doubt about Stephenie in the minds of the Thicknecked Twins.
For their parts, the Twins demonstrated just what strategic nimrods they are, through extraordinarily clumsy lies. Recall that information, which includes disinformation - lying, is the most key asset in this game. It is, of course, a double-edged sword because revelation of it erodes another major asset, trust, so deception should be used only for crucial purposes for high stakes, particularly when everybody around presently will serve on the jury or would be your opponent in front of it.
So what does Jamie do? He lies about Gary’s voting intention to his present alliance members, apparently in a bid to get them vote him off rather than Bobby Jon. That in and of itself was a longshot chance – but whether it worked, Gary did become the choice. This means that Jamie apparently had come to a rapprochement with Bobby Jon and saw them as a future troika.
If so, the others did not seem to see it that way, as there seemed to be consensus that Bobby Jon would be next (and they proved it by voting him out after Gary surprised everybody with the immunity idol). So where was this going to get Jamie? The fact is he would have to have been able to put together a wining coalition at eight for Bobby Jon to be of any use to him. He may have been thinking them plus Judd and Rafe, who he seemed to regard having been brought into his orbit, would from this coalition.
The problem is even if he felt supremely confident in the others’ loyalty, it’s still one vote short, ending at eight in a tie. When a putsch comes, it must be now or never because if it is premature, it collapses and its participants purged. Either he would have had to get Lydia aboard (possibly, given her connection to Rafe) or Danni (unlikely, given her association with Gary). Yet if he did try this, there was no sign of it. In short, it was wasted, and endangers his own standing if Gary figures it out and reveals that he never intended to vote for Jamie and can convince other members of the majority of that.
At least Gary doesn’t yet know of this. He does know about Judd’s mendacity and wisely is keeping it to himself until, presumably, an opportune moment. (Gary must be complimented for finding the idol in the face of this disinformation. It was brilliant to follow Judd out looking for it, and then read him – much like an NFL quarterback would do to a defense in deciding whether to audible at the line or if and where to lob a pass after taking the snap). Just like with Jamie, Judd took a big risk for very little return. It would have paid off only if he found it, and now Gary and Stephenie (who he stupidly told) both know him as untrustworthy and can expose him easily. Why not keep his mouth shut, sine there was so little gain to be had from lying?
But even he was topped by Stephenie. Not only did she commit a lie of omission by not outing Judd, she committed one of commission by not telling Gary he was planned to go. Again, where would that get her, especially if Gary did then get voted out? She would be immediately unmasked to Gary in that event. Unwittingly, Gary saved her from herself in this regard.
At least Stephenie’s mistakes seemed to stop here. Judd made yet another with his invitees to dinner. Stephenie is in his camp already (no doubt hoping to line up against him in front of the jury) so he wasted potentially ensnaring a jury vote by offering a seat at the table to her, already committed to him or his possible opponent. Much better would have been tabbing the likes of Gary, as this favor could be the difference in a jury vote for a million dollars. It was smarter to invite Bobby Jon, perhaps because he, like Jamie, was in the nascent stages of trying to gather resources for a coup.
To reiterate: all of these fibs had little chance to produce any substantial benefits for their tellers, and instead have much larger associated costs. The person at the center of all of them, Gary, however, did not exactly distinguish himself strategically in one way: why produce a throwaway vote to Cindy? He could have banked on the chance that there would have been confusion among the majority upon his revelation of the idol and they could have split their votes between Bobby Jon and Danni. By him voting the same as those two, and unprecedented 3-3-3 tie could have happened. Admittedly, on the revote there would be little chance that either Danni or Bobby Jon then would not have drawn all six of the majority’s vote, but you can’t stay if you don’t play. Another triple tie at trips would bring on the Purple Rock O’ Death and perhaps an unexpected ejection from the majority.
And, of course, in all of this excitement Judd and Jamie may well have lost Bobby Jon’s vote if one only makes it to the end. He would know he only could be voted out if they went along with the way the votes went. They should have thrown their votes in Danni’s direction, particularly if they had designs on uniting with Bobby Jon. If they really had some strategic acumen, when the decision earlier was made to go with Gary they should have argued for Danni as a backup choice so in case Gary had won immunity or come up with the idol they still could have protected Bobby John.
Now at eight, any underlying power struggle in the majority should manifest itself in the choice of who to send off next. Again, the majority really cannot shift at this point because there would need to be three defectors from it. So unless Rafe wants to abandon the Twins and make an unexpected, risky move to join Gary and Danni, this won’t happen (but if Rafe could do this, he may well end up in the final three with Gary and Danni’s help). Simply, Rafe will have gained the upper hand if he can get Jamie off (although he has complicated this task by giving Jamie the impression that he would not vote him off), while Gary going would favor the Twins (Stephenie has reasons for either – breaking up the Twins but making her more vulnerable in midgame, as opposed to keeping them and using them as a bulwark but then risking letting them go to far and ousting her at endgame.)
In short, at eight a tempo move should emerge, and then at seven a player or players with superior strategic skills will light the blue touch paper and dynamite the peloton. That is, if such a player exists which is yet to be shown this season.
If you haven’t already done so, make sure to check out the other Episode 9 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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