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Strategic Overview of Survivor, Episode 12: Outside Inby Jeffrey D. Sadow -- 12/08/2006
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Well, a week after I praise Yul for his steadfastness in keeping Jonathan around, he goes next. How many times must it be said, when you have a knife at the throat of your enemy… the ex-Aitu members had it at Adam’s throat, and pulled it back. Jonathan’s ouster does damage Yul somewhat. He had the personal loyalty of Jonathan and either was forced to let him go or did so willingly (actually, I couldn’t read who he voted against, so I’m not entirely sure). If he willingly let him go in order to curry favor with the ex-Raro gang, he has to realize that by allowing two rather than one of them to go forward, it increases the chances one of them will end up against him in front of the jury and he will not get any of the votes he had hoped by this move, and in the process probably losing Jonathan’s vote. Regardless of his motives, this makes Yul’s once relatively-smooth path to jury evaluation more dicey.
To review, the ideal alliance structure heading to endgame in five, and the favored person in that is the one not only who has the dyad partner but who also can rely upon a third ally among the five. Yul was in that position, with Becky and Jonathan on his side. Without Jonathan, things suddenly are up for grabs within the alliance, now apparently balanced at four.
Balanced in numbers, perhaps, but unstable. With an alliance of five, unless one of them won immunity at six, there was no way Adam or Parvati would have any input into the final machinations leading to the jury. Now, Jonathan’s removal has expedited the process and one of them will have a say. In essence, the each of the four have ceded power to that remaining ex-Raro person who will decide which of them no longer will stay.
The only way for this not to happen would be if the last one (let’s say it’s Parvati) did not win immunity then and all the others voted her out. Yul would not object to this at all, because then at four he’s in the final three for sure as he holds the hidden immunity idol and, unless Ozzy then wins immunity, he’s gone and Yul stands a tremendous chance of winning the final immunity challenge against Becky and Sundra to go in front of the jury.
But because that is the inevitable logic, there is no way Ozzy would permit this to happen. He would have to create a crisis at five and force Parvati to choose. It would be tough for her, since Ozzy is the best at challenges and Yul second, but she probably would see Yul and Becky as more formidable than Ozzy and Sundra. Yul would then have to burn the idol to stay in the game, either on himself or Becky. He should not risk the blackmail strategy – vote with him or he’ll vote against you and you’ll be sent home by blowback – because at this point the stakes are too high to risk a doublecross; Ozzy should be targeted as long as he doesn’t win immunity because he would be a major threat as the end looms large. (The same is accomplished if he or Becky wins immunity; the hidden idol is given to the one of them who did not). Then, at four, he remains protected and can bring Sundra back into the fold to vote out Parvati – unless Parvati wins immunity and suddenly he is at risk of a tie vote. If so, this means his best bet may be to give up Becky, but he loses the chance at three to have her take him in front of the jury with her if she won the final immunity, meaning he’d have to do it himself.
If it comes to this, his best bet is to break up Sundra and Ozzy by getting the former to vote against the latter. She might be willing to do it precisely because Yul has the idol as she knows a vote against the Yul-Becky duo would be wasted and only would put her at risk. Parvati’s vote then becomes neutralized. But, all along, the incentive for whomever the three others than Yul and Becky are still there will be to break that dyad up. Yul’s job is to convince them that the idol will be used in a way that prevents any other member from creating a stronger sub-alliance (at best, only one that is equal), and so the rational move would be to join his sub-alliance. As long as he can go to four still holding the idol, he is in great shape. If he has to burn it, getting rid of Ozzy in the process is imperative because then he would have to win immunity on his own either to not be vulnerable to a tie situation at four, and then possibly win it again at three because he will be the first targeted if he loses immunity and the numbers (i.e., Becky)
The situation is not unmanageable, but now more variables exist than if he had kept Jonathan in the game, with less certainty of his survival. His problem is now that Ozzy can launch a counterattack at five, especially at that point if Ozzy wins immunity, whereas with Jonathan in the game at five success by Ozzy would have been virtually impossible. If so, Ozzy can force the idol to be burned and go to four with an even chance against Yul.
Further, if Ozzy won immunity at five, instead of voting against Yul, an intriguing play would be to vote against Becky and dare Yul to save her. In terms of numbers, it would not be a total disaster for Yul to give her up because he would retain the idol and be assured of making it to three. The problem is he would have to win immunity at three to prevent being sent off, whereas with Becky beside him he would still go in front of the jury if she won it at three.
The least optimal path for Yul to follow is to keep both of the ex-Raro bunch around another turn, even if it means keeping Ozzy. He cannot permit such a tight duo to continue to exist because that will be too tempting for Sundra to defect at five and then create the dilemma whether to save Becky if she doesn’t win immunity. If he does, one of that pair must be targeted and then at four Sundra must be convinced to return to the fold – but that would be impossible if the ex-Raro guy or gal wins immunity and then Yul might be exposed to trying to win a tie vote. If he lets Becky go, the same must-win situation for him at three would exist.
All other things equal, Yul still clearly has the strongest position, with his chances only somewhat reduced to get in front of the jury, and maybe only has lost one vote from it… but maybe all other things aren’t equal. Evidence now seems to indicate there will be three rather than two people in front of the jury, with nine jurors (with the historical schedule confirming, because if the past pattern is followed, the final episode would air, as it never has before, between Christmas and New Year’s Day).
If this is the case, it would appear the contestants don’t expect this which, is too bad because it might alter strategies completely. (It would be unfortunate because in a game of this nature there must be some rules that players always can count on, especially ones covering its aspects at the end; otherwise, strategy is devalued, luck is valued as random rules become more important than skill, and nobody who enjoys the strategic aspect of the game wants to watch this.) In a way, it actually increases the strength of Yul’s position because he would fall into being in front of the jury under almost any scenario unless he chose to save Becky at five if necessary, so if a situation comes up where he is in a position needing to save Becky and does so and then this happens, it will be a shame.
Yul also has a strong position in front of the jury, no matter what goes down, with one exception, if one of the ex-Raro makes it through with him, delivering three votes already to that person. Under all of the scenarios above, about the only way that could happen (for him, an unfortunate combination) would be if both of them made it into the final three, but can be prevented if he does not take out Ozzy next. With the ex-Aitu players remaining, he would have to be the favorite over anybody because of the respect he commands. His challenge is to leave the second-to-last tribal council with Becky alive in the game and immunity unused. Even a three-way final appears to leave him as the favorite. A particular combination of ex-Raro and/or Ozzy immunity wins can put him in jeopardy and send him home just short of the finals; a string of Becky and/or his immunity wins will win him the game.
If you haven’t already done so, make sure to check out the other Episode 12 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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