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Strategic Overview of Survivor, Episode 10: Winners and Losersby Jeffrey D. Sadow -- 11/18/2005
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Since there had been much talk about deep-sixing Jamie before, it could not have been a total surprise. However, his ouster rather than Gary’s marked a significant point in the game because of the clear winners and losers by it.
Judd lands on the loss side. Of the remaining players, only he didn’t know of the scheme. However, probably he wasn’t told because he was seen as Jamie’s biggest ally. Clearly now he is the choicest finals fodder so others would be foolish to send him off, particularly Stephenie who more than ever will need who has become her closest ally. In fact, he can count on going a long way now without Jamie around, even if Jamie’s departure means his chances of winning it all have sunk close to zero.
Obviously, Gary being around is a big winner, and, to a lesser extent, his ally Danni since now she has two votes of seven instead of one. But just as big a winner is Rafe, who perhaps has been the most consistently beneficially strategic person in the game. On his “side,” his biggest threat always has been Stephenie, who is handicapped by her second-chance status. Therefore, in order for her to win, she must bring other handicapped players with her to the end. Her dream lineup should have been to take Jamie and Judd to the final three, and either Lydia (first choice, but perhaps impossible given her bond to Rafe) or Cindy to four. Rafe was the one person she didn’t want to take because of his relationship with Jamie, affability, and increasingly-obvious threat potential.
By seeing Jamie off, who was perhaps the biggest finals fodder, she reduces by one the number of people she could beat in front of the jury and allows another she probably cannot beat to stay on. With Gary, she also allowed to stay the one person even more valuable to Rafe than Jamie. Thus, she is the biggest loser in this exchange.
Had Gary gone, Danni next, and then Cindy, at five Stephenie would have rallied the Thicknecked Twins to split Rafe and Lydia, then next time (unless an immunity win intervened) to dispatch the other. Of course, Rafe could have tried to do the same to Stephenie, but at this point he would have faced a Twins vs. he and Lydia showdown where he might have to dump her and then hope to win immunity to move on. In any event, with the Twins if it came down to Jamie’s preference of keeping Rafe and Judd’s preference of keeping Stephenie, the latter would win out because her second-chance status gave them a greater hope (even if twice nothing is still nothing) of winning in front of the jury.
So his choice was clear: since Rafe is a member of a dyad and Stephenie is not, it behooves him to bust up any other dyad that eventually will not help him to the finals so as to isolate her, and conversely this is something she should have avoided as long as possible so long as she could use Judd as an ally. But she didn’t, so the advantage has swung decisively in Rafe’s favor and away from her. Had he stuck with the plan, perhaps at six, but certainly at five, his odds of survival without immunity became nil. With Judd and Stephenie losing a third of their optimal alliance at the end, he can take charge.
He can because he already has inroads with Gary, who can bring Danni along, and he himself can bring Lydia into the fold. Their next target, barring her immunity win, only can be Stephenie, who should be made to pay for her blunder immediately. Cindy then goes next because Rafe will need to use Judd to get into the final three. At five, Danni must take a hike and then Gary will have outlived his usefulness at four, in the ideal scenario. At three, his immunity win or one by Lydia will put him in front of the jury against someone he can beat (Lydia would be smart if she won to take Judd but, fearing he might win against her, she would rather bring Rafe if she thinks she’ll lose to whoever). Only a Judd win at this juncture probably would keep him from the final two.
The consequences of this shift cannot be overemphasized. Had Gary gone instead, Rafe would have had the more difficult task of trying to bring over Judd and Jamie with Lydia to take control at seven, or even an even more difficult cobbling of him, Lydia, Cindy, and Danni. It would have been too risky for him to go to five with the original alliance minus Cindy, or to allow the Thicknecked Twins to stay together. This move absolutely clears the way for him to avoid both of these permutations.
For Stephenie to continue, simply she must prevent this fracturing of the group from continuing and find a way of preventing Rafe and Lydia’s defection. If she got Gary and Danni sent packing next, at five she would have to bring in Cindy. This would be an option for Rafe and Lydia too and in fact might be more likely that she goes their way, but from Rafe’s perspective Judd is much better in a final three than Cindy. Nevertheless, it goes to show that Rafe holds most of the cards now, and Stephenie has to hit big on the flop, Fourth Street, and The River to win this hand against him at five and beyond.
In fact, Rafe’s bigger competition may come with Gary and Danni. Despite his connection with Rafe, Gary’s best bet would be to take himself and Danni in league with his lodge guests and, assuming Rafe wished to join up at seven, convincing him to take out Cindy rather than Stephenie, then turn around and blot Lydia. At five, he then could use Rafe to expel Stephenie. Here, things do get trickier for him because he needs to bring Judd to the end with him, particularly if his secret gets spilled convincingly, to ensure a win, and this would be hard to do without alienating either Rafe or Danni (whichever had to end up in fourth, and then ideally he would use Judd to eliminate the other).
So the situation presented is interesting. Essentially, three dyads are floating about in a game of seven (Stephenie and Judd should patch things up quickly and re-bond if they know what’s good for them). The game becomes an exercise of which two dyads can bust up the third first, and then which dyad can better use the singletons left to ace the other. Advantage at this point goes to Gary, and Danni with him, because he can convince Rafe he’s jumping to his side first, then hop to Stephenie’s to bust up Rafe’s dyad but still retain Rafe to use him to bust up Stephenie’s dyad. Stephenie will feel bound to her present alliance and be unlikely to make a move, while Rafe does not have such a connection with Judd that he can use him as easily after busting his dyad to bust Gary’s.
So as crucial as this last tribal council was, the next will be even more revelatory. If Stephenie goes, Rafe takes command. If Cindy goes, Gary/Danni take command. If Gary or Danni goes, Stephenie (sort of) takes command. It’s now down to a battle of wits, but Gary’s position now seems strongest, followed by Rafe’s, then Stephenie’s, because Rafe and Lydia are the linchpins. If they stay, Stephenie profits. If they go, then it’s all up to whether Gary has the acumen to make the follow-up move; if he doesn’t Rafe takes the driver’s seat. Maybe after a season largely devoid of strategy, we’ll finally get some pretty good stuff.
If you haven’t already done so, make sure to check out the other Episode 10 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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