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Strategic Overview of Survivor, Episode 10: Defection Perfectionby Jeffrey D. Sadow -- 11/24/2006
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Perhaps readers who enjoy the strategic aspect of Survivor as much as I do, as much as we have to wade through strings of episodes full of posturing and inanities by players with little clue about strategy or, worse, those who believe they think strategically but cannot, marveled at the all-too-rare beauty of this installment where clear, superior strategic thinking executed flawlessly maximized some players’ chances at victory, and one’s above all else.
The merge did occur and, given that, the ex-Aitu plan, driven by Yul, was the optimal one: find somebody to flip. But making the way it went down all the more elegant, Yul did it in a way that, while all of Ozzy’s, Sundra’s, Becky’s, and Jonathan’s chances increased substantially at winning, Yul’s was maximized dramatically.
Going into the merge, Yul had three goals for the next vote, in descending order of importance: (1) build a majority coalition, (2) keep the idol in his hands, and (3) disproportionately increase his chances of winning. It meant having to outthink several individuals who had shown some minor ability to think strategically – Parvati, Candace, Nate, Jonathan, and Ozzy – three of whom were enemies, one who was an ally, and another he had to turn from enemy into friend.
Consider the dynamics over at ex-Raro – Parvati, Candace, and Adam and formed a trio upon which they were counting on keeping Nate and Jonathan believing they were part of the controlling trio to make for a solid five-member coalition. This identified Jonathan and Nate as the most likely to defect. Obviously, in this situation either would do but Yul, thinking ahead, targeted Jonathan and took exactly the right approach to entice him. He knew Jonathan, courtesy of previous conversations and the defection, tried to be a strategic player (whether he is a good one is debatable) so he knew an appeal on the basis of strategy could hook him.
That was dangling the hidden immunity idol and, publicly, giving Jonathan the choice of whom to eliminate from the ex-Raro, while, privately, pledging they would head to the final two (which may cause him a bit of a problem down the road as he appeared to pledge that his ex-Aitu crowd would be in with him in the final four). He hooked Jonathan perfectly when Jonathan revealed teaming with the idol holder would be a powerful inducement for his loyalty. Further, Yul knew how to use a stick as well as a carrot, by saying Jonathan would be their target without his cooperation.
Consider next the decision calculus Yul launched into Jonathan’s head. Jonathan could have sandbagged them by saying he was with them, then run back to the ex-Raro gang and tell them Yul had the idol and to vote off somebody else, daring him to transfer it when one of the ex-Aitu women got five votes (to be honest, I’m still unsure whether that would be permitted, given Probst’s phrasing of its use in his instructions given at the vote.)
This question illustrates how Yul’s strategic thinking makes him a man among boys and girls compared to the ex-Raro reaction to Jonathan’s probing question about voting off somebody else than Yul. Those rocket scientists immediately dismissed the idea, making a classic error in the game – you must always assume the best play, not the worst, from your adversaries. It would have been so easy to shift the vote to Sundra just because of the chance that Yul had it, as she could not have it absent an unlikely gift of it. Is it conceivable that this answer cemented Jonathan’s decision right there?
But even Jonathan’s sandbagging that would have lead to an ex-Raro majority would have produced for him a suboptimal path to endgame. The fact was, he would be unable to break into the Paravti-Candace-Adam triad and would have to win immunity all the way to the end had he gone to five with them. Yes, this does mean he has double-crossed, in a sense, almost everybody that would be on a jury evaluating him, as opposed to staying put and only selling out some of them. But, the fact is he had to get in front of the jury first and his chances now are vastly improved.
This is because the ex-Aitu group is composed of two dyads (Yul-Becky, Ozzy-Sundra) of which now Jonathan becomes the arbiter. Since he has attached himself to Yul, in essence he becomes part of a secret triad that can be used to liquidate Sundra and, most crucially, Ozzy. This means Jonathan almost certainly makes it at least to the final four (and to the final three if Ozzy does not win the third- and second-to last immunities).
However, even as Jonathan acted rationally to make his position better, note the way in which Yul got him to accept this role strengthened himself even more. By getting Jonathan to personally align himself with Yul, in essence Yul has magnified the power of the hidden idol from one that has a one-time effect to something that conveys an immunity on him all the way to the final three. Follow the logic: they know Yul has the idol, thus they know a vote against him is useless and will bounce back to send off one of his opponents, thus, he remains invulnerable until almost the bitter end because no one will chance a vote against him even if they have the opportunity and numbers. And, the absolute gravy is that, barring potential Ozzy immunity challenge heroics, Yul heads into the final three with two people personally pledged to him who, if that holds, will take him in front of the jury and to victory regardless of who wins that final immunity challenge.1 2 Next-->
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