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Strategic Overview of Survivor, Episode 2: Imagine How Thrilled He'd Be to Have Been Eliminated by Someone Named "Metallica"by Jeffrey D. Sadow -- 09/22/2006
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Even novice viewers probably quickly figure out that somebody who decides he will “save energy” by doing as little work as possible in a way the rest of his tribe notices will not last long in the game. And in case they had any doubts, they now also know that somebody from New York who professes he found the woman of his dreams who probably doesn’t even remember he was in the game, whose cry of love made Jeff Probst look more shocked than if Julie had just told him she was forsaking him to pursue lesbianism, won’t go far in the contest, either. Roll it all up into one person and…
What makes Billy’s game suicide most remarkable is he might actually have had a chance to stick around. Cristina clearly does not take to Ozzy well and she seemed all raring to boot his frizzy hair out of the game, while Cecilia gave indications that she might go along with it. The former believed Ozzy too dangerous as a player (and uppity), and Cecilia might have been coming around to that attitude as well.
Actually, if either had any sense, they would do what J.P. is doing, rally around Ozzy and let him lead – until he becomes expendable. Up to that point, they’re much better off than with somebody whose plan was to use and wear them down for his own purposes. If you’re eventually going to get rid of somebody, get rid of the one who is a drain on you, and keep the one that can help you keep your strength up even if long-term he’s a bigger threat, because he’s better able to get you to the long term.
Even if Cristina hadn’t figured this out, Billy saved her from her own folly. She seemed to base her original decision as much on pity as strategy, thus showing us yet another way not how to play the game. But even she appeared to grasp that, while a zilch might be a good partner to carry far in exchange for his vote (Katie, anyone?), one that has trouble separating fantasy from reality is too unreliable to be used as fodder.
Nonetheless, she is in real trouble now. If Aitu loses again, with Ozzy and J.P. tight, Cecilia is not going to put her own game fate on the line to save Cristina with a 2-2 tie vote. Merge time cannot come too quickly for her.
In the meantime, how about a riddle masquerading as a clue: “Who would Terry be if he were smaller, younger, and Asian-American?” If you answered anything but “Yul,” your game intelligence might match Billy’s. Just as last season Terry used his athleticism, brains, and drive to go far (failing to win only because he lacked some strategic sense), Yul’s finding the hidden immunity idol with minimal clues shows he has what it takes to match and maybe exceed Terry’s performance. Becky would be foolish not to form a tight alliance with him and, just as Terry did with his pirates, Yul needs to take a similar tack with a reliable set of comrades. Cao Boi would be a good match because of his equal parts of wisdom and obnoxiousness that will assist any alliance yet make him very expendable towards the end.
On Puka, this would make Brad and Jenny the odd people out. From Yul’s perspective, Brad probably is the bigger threat and so he should advocate for his ouster if needed. Over at Hiki, Nathan singes on the hot seat. The “sisters” feel empowered after gaining fire on their own without a man’s help, and so if they lose another challenge, they’ll probably decide they can do without a man for anything until the merge; he’s another who must hope it comes as quickly as possible.
Finally, a rumble over at Raro seems in the offing between Adam and Jonathan. Which leads us to a final witticism: what looks like Courtney, talks like Courtney, dresses like Courtney, but only spends some of her time acting goofy? This departure by Jessica seems to have put her into Jonathan’s hard-working orbit and, by their reactions to the floor-building controversy, Candice and Parvati seemed to be on Jonathan’s side rather than Adam’s.
If Candice plans on using Adam, and if he plans on staying in the game, they cannot allow an obvious rift to appear between Adam and Jonathan without making their group a majority. Their best bet is to pitch a “pretty people” alliance to Parvati if they lose a challenge before the merge and send one of the workhorses, probably the male, packing.
These decisions should be made quickly. Unlike last season, when tribes of four were smaller and less workable because they started with an even number which dictated an early merge, a merge may be weeks off. It may lead to more temptations to throw challenges, which re-introduces the old debate about whether doing so is good play.
In this case, I’d have to argue it’s justified. The threat, of course, is that intentionally losing does weaken a tribe and could increase chances of future losing. However, the dynamics are different with four tribes. Throwing a challenge does weaken a tribe relatively, but the benefit passed on to the others is much more diffused when it’s three rather than one opposing tribe. With other tribes, one tribe does not directly benefit so much; three all benefit a just little relative to the one. This makes it easier for the defaulting tribe to come back. Given Billy’ selfish strategy that sought to harm the tribe for his gain, throwing the challenge probably was the optimal move.
If you haven’t already done so, make sure to check out the other Episode 2 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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