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Strategic Overview of Survivor, Episode 9: The Unitby Jeffrey D. Sadow -- 04/14/2006
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First, a word of thanks to Cirie, who finally found the right description for Shane, aka The Unit. Yes, he is a cartoon character. Look for a cartoon visage of him to appear shortly on CBS Saturday mornings (with pants).
But other than that perceptive moment, once again the episode was filled with missed strategic opportunities. Hope flared when at one point Terry and Sally began to discuss the optimal strategy, as outlined in last week’s column. To summarize, one had to win immunity and, if Terry, he had to pledge the idol to Sally. Once that occurred, they would go and blackmail one or more ex-Casaya, telling them that unless they allied they would be picked off as the second-highest vote-getter at tribal council. That would prevent the ex-Casaya from banding against one of the six and allowing those five to use the play of the hidden idol as a way to neutralize it and lop off the least-desired member to make the alliance at the ideal number of five.
What made this strategy even better was the ex-Casaya, or at least the five not Aras, again ignored one of the cardinal tenets of optimal strategy: always assume your opponents will play optimally. They should have assumed Terry or Sally had the idol (and, unbelievably, it seems most of them did not). They should have assumed it would be played, meaning these five had to get together and sandbag Aras, of whom it’s becoming clear the five do not want to see go much further.
In this instance that would mean Cirie, Courtney, Danielle, and Shane going to him, claiming they want to manipulate the vote Bruce’s way just in case the idol would be played, and tell Aras to vote for Bruce because one of them will, too. The vote (they tell Aras) goes 4 to Sally, 2 to Bruce, and 2 to Aras (from Terry and Sally). The idol is played, then the revote goes 5-3 against Bruce. But, of course, the other vote for Bruce doesn’t come, so it really goes 5 to Sally, 2 to Aras, and 1 for Bruce, and Aras and the idol are gone unless it’s not played and then, better, Terry is gone. And this would have been the perfect thing to do, especially since the ex-LaMina were clumsily giving off every signal in the world that they were going to vote for Aras, who was precisely the person they should have tried to flip to counter this strategy.
Instead, the six assumed Terry would make the mistake (sorry, Cirie, as has been made clear above you were very wrong in saying Terry would not be smart to use the idol to save Sally; they could have flipped Aras and targeted you out of there) of not saving Sally. Again, in the end every move involving saving her could have been countered, but it was clear they were not even going to take the first step to prevent a premature cracking of their group so Terry and Sally well could have succeeded had they implemented this plan. But, guess what, as bad as assuming your adversaries would make the wrong move, they lived down to it.
(Naturally, it took another stupid strategic move even to get this point, the five laying down on the immunity challenge. Not only did it facilitate the realization of the one scenario that could have cost them, but it also should have been a signal to Aras he was going to be the first man thrown overboard. If they truly were committed to him, in his mind, they would have helped him. That should have made him very receptive to Terry if he had come calling but, just as naturally, he never did.)
This of course, brings us to another cardinal rule violation: never build your strategy on winning immunity if a strategic alternative (like clever use of the idol) exists. That’s because while you can control the latter, you can’t control the former. Yet that’s what Terry is banking on. But what makes that strategy so pitiful is, even if somehow he makes it all the way to be front of the jury, there is almost no way that he can win.
His problem is the way he has been winning, and his cockiness, is causing serious PR problems to potential jurors. In addition, he is coming from the minority coalition and is perceived as staving off execution not by good game play, but only by winning. He does have Austin’s and Sally’s vote pretty solidly. But even if he somehow gets there, perhaps the only one who will not feel cheated out of a place in front of the jury by him will be Bruce; in fact, they’ll probably feel cheated out of the victory as a result.
Let’s look at some history. Players feeling cheated act immaturely, with the prime example of most of the Gang of Four from Rotu in Survivor: Thailand denying Neleh the win because she outplayed them most directly and convincingly. Along the same lines, review Colby’s performance in Survivor: Outback, where it took a slew of immunity wins for him to get in front of the jury, yet Tina won because she was more respected for her strategy than Colby was for his challenge-winning. Note that respect is conferred for good strategy (and not even always then), but never only for challenge-winning abilities. And what really is a strike against Terry is he is from the “opposition,” which will contribute to feelings of being cheated by him. In short, it will be hard for him to win four votes if all he is relying on is winning immunities.1 2 Next-->
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