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Strategic Overview of Survivor, Episode 13: A Curse of a Different Colorby Jeffrey D. Sadow -- 12/09/2005
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It’s not the Curse of the Car, it’s the Curse of the Inferior Play that got Cindy sent packing. You don’t play like a cipher, going whichever way the wind blows, and win Survivor unless you’re lucky enough to have a Lil hand you the million bucks. This strategy depends on others making mistakes and one must never play like you assume others are going to make mistakes, because when they don’t, you’re gone. At this point, it appears that at least one of the remaining contestants seems to understand this.
I’m not sure whether I’m more impressed with the aplomb at which he deals with the other players to set things up correctly for his advancement, or with the deft hand that he uses to plunge in the knife into his chosen victim that makes that person (except for strategically-impaired doormen) almost feel good for doing so. But Rafe is closing in on one of the best Survivor games of all time.
It’s rather amazing. Stephenie points out that Danni is a bigger threat than Cindy, and not only does Rafe have the audacity to argue the contrary (let’s see, Danni is a babe who relates well to guys – a majority of the jury will be dudes – and was a high school basketball studette while Cindy already has two jury votes almost assuredly against her), but he gets Stephenie and everybody else to see things his way. So blinded are they that when Stephenie starts to agitate about Rafe being the biggest threat – which he is – nobody is willing to go along with her.
By dispatching Cindy, as long as he can maintain this illusion and other players honor commitments, only two things keep him from winning. One is Stephenie. Previously, I had argued Rafe should take out Danni next (because she’s his biggest threat and he could get Cindy to throw her vote to his side), but when she offered to take him to the final two, incredibly Rafe now has this explicit promise and an implicit one from Lydia that he’s going in front of the jury. Even if Danni should have gone next, it’s too good of an offer to pass up. As a result, all he has to do, assuming both keep their word (and indications of their game play to this point are that they will), is oust Stephenie next time and he is very close to winning it all and will if he ends up against Lydia.
The other thing that keeps him from winning, however, is if he faces Danni in front of the jury. That would be a crapshoot for him to be avoided if at all possible, and obviously he increased his chances of this happening by keeping her around and by gunning for Stephenie next time. His best solution, if he could manage it, would be (yet again) to allow somebody else to assassinate the victim, by having Lydia win the final immunity, as long as he is sure of her commitment. But, the very worst he can do is have a 50/50 shot if Danni were to win and take him.
And if he wins final immunity, leaving the knife firmly in his hand? Without hesitation he must use it on Danni. After all, he never really promised her take her all the way and even if she felt betrayed, it’s just one vote. Gary sees Lydia as weak, Jamie sees her as betraying him, Judd sees her as unworthy; Rafe (and probably everybody left) is not going to lose to Lydia.
So Stephenie is the major impediment to realizing this nearly-unimpeachable position for Rafe, and the numbers clearly are on his side to dump her next. The only thing that could mess things up for him would be a Stephenie immunity win next time. This would force him to purge Danni early, and then he no longer has a virtual guarantee to appear in front of the jury if Stephenie can make it three wins in a row. Almost assuredly, she would take Lydia.
Danni must know this, that he’s got the numbers on his side, and must hope anybody but Stephenie wins next time. Further, she must be willing to go back on her word and send Rafe off if she wins the last immunity. Even if on the jury Rafe complains that she betrayed him, its majority view on Lydia, her being a hanger-on, will give Danni the win.
Thus Stephenie’s task is easily understood, if difficult to achieve. She must win both immunities, and she wins the game. Danni must prevent Stephenie from winning next time, then win it herself (and if she has intended all along to remove herself as a threat in Rafe’s eyes and putting the onus on others by telling him she’d take him to the jury even if she didn’t mean it, she has displayed a well-played duplicity), and she wins the game. Rafe must keep Stephenie first, then Danni second, from winning immunity and he wins the game. It would take more funk to happen than all of Rick James, the Ohio Players, and Parliament put together in order to create the conditions to allow Lydia to win, who now almost is certain she’ll be in front of the jury.
No matter which path he takes, Rafe has done about as good of a job as anybody to set up the conditions to win, and no doubt such a performance would rank highly in the top performances of all time. If Danni can outfox him, hers assuredly would make the list. Stephenie’s is more marginal, having a made a couple of minor mistakes along the way but probably costing herself the game, absent immunity heroics, with the huge mistake of letting Judd be dispatched. However it turns out, this certainly is a refreshing change from recent series editions.
If you haven’t already done so, make sure to check out the other Episode 13 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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