Monday, April 17, 2006

Survivor Panama Episodes 7 to 9 Thoughts

Apologies for no report for the last two weeks.  Work/real life combined to form an insurmountable hurdle to getting it completed.

But to be honest, it was also getting difficult to write about this part of the show.  We knew that La Mina is getting Pagong-ed.  And as soon as Nick got voted out, we knew the order in which they would be targeted:  Terry, Austin, Sally.  All that was left was to see how the immunity challenges went to determine who would get voted off when.

So when Terry made his last-ditch effort to switch the game up two weeks ago, I was a bit thankful.  Not so much because I thought it would work, but because it gave me something to talk about:  Terry's non-challenge play.

In the pre-merge part of the game, I thought that Terry was playing the game on a basic level. He made his final four alliance pretty quickly and stuck to it until he wasn't able to.  He also did a good job in making Sally feel welcome so she wouldn't really think about flipping post-merge.  My issue is with how he played the game post-merge.

When the merge occurred, La Mina was in the minority.  So they went about trying to get 2 people to flip to their side and become the majority.  Which is all well and good, but La Mina was bargaining from weakness, not strength.  All they said was "We think you would enjoy our company more than your teammates", which while enticing to some members of Casaya, wasn't worth throwing away a sure final six finish on something that could improve them to final five, but at a price of getting the boot sooner if the switch did not work.

So Nick gets voted out, and La Mina is still under the mindset of "get two people", which they have been forced into now.  And they come up with a brilliant plan based on Shane's lie to Terry:  get Bruce to flip and offer Danielle the immunity idol if she flips to them.  Getting Bruce to come on side isn't too difficult - his switch is conditional on Danielle anyway and it's a lateral move with the potential of becoming a whole lot better.  And to be honest, Danielle had a tough decision in front of her.  On one hand, she could stick with her original alliance and make it to the final 6 and hope that the final 6 splinter in the right method.  On the other, she was being guaranteed final 5, and more than likely final 4.  But with that came the more than likely possibility that she would not win the game, because the jury would be filled with people who would be angry with her betrayal, and people who were going to vote for somebody in their alliance.  So I can understand why she said no.

The thing is, with Terry's Hail Mary attempt to flip the game, he has ensured that he needs to win a lot of challenges to make the final 2, let alone win it.  Revealing to Sally and Austin that he has the immunity idol is one thing - they are on his side and could help to come up with a plan to use it best.  But revealing it's presence to Danielle and Bruce only works if you know that they will flip to your side.  Should Danielle say no, then your last trick is gone.  Casaya can plan on you using the immunity idol when you don't have immunity and actually vote somebody else out.  Once they knew that the Hail Mary failed, Terry went into self-preservation mode (which is why he didn't give the idol to Austin so that Aras left).

What should he have done?  Well, I don't know to be honest.  One thing that has become very obvious is that Bruce is either oblivious to the fact that he could be the first Casaya member to get voted out or Bruce knows that he won't be the first Casaya member to get voted out and isn't interested in a deal that puts him in the same position on a different tribe (inherently weakening his position).  In both cases, the only way to convince him to switch would be to offer him something better than he already has.  And everybody else in Casaya seems to be comfortable in their position as well, so I don't know if it would be even possible to get somebody to flip.

So, what I would have is this:

    ·       After the merge but before the immunity challenge, I would have offered Bruce a guaranteed final 4 spot to flip along with the opportunity to choose who would get voted out (and thus not be on the jury).  If he asked how I would deal with the deadlock, I would just say something to the effect of "I've got it under control", leaving the hint of the immunity idol being found, but nothing firm being stated.  I'd also be buttering him up and playing the "who do you want to work with" angle.  I would need to know before the immunity challenge started whether he was on board or not.  If I hadn't heard anything, I would assume that he wasn't on board and operate under plan B - play for the win in the immunity challenge. Once I won, then I would try to get somebody to flip.  When that proved to be pointless, I would let Nick be sacrificed - it's unfortunate, but you have to save up for a shot later on.

    ·       Once the final 9 was reached, I would be looking out for me and me alone.  I wouldn't try to get somebody to flip, I'd be looking to make it to the final 8 with one of my teammates and the immunity idol.  That means that I would need to win immunity again.  It also means that I would have to sacrifice Austin to make it.

    ·       Now that I'm at the final 8 with the immunity idol and a teammate (let's call the teammate Sally), I would hatch a plan:  If I win the immunity challenge, then I would give the idol to Sally.  Otherwise I would keep the idol.  When it came to the vote, I would make sure that Sally and I voted for the same person - Aras.  And when the non-immune person gets voted out, they would use the idol and then Aras would get eliminated.  From there I would have to take my chances that the alliance fractures and then Sally and myself become more important.  All it would take is two people to feel uncomfortable and all of the sudden you had a final four alliance.

Of course Terry took another approach - the "I'm going to win every immunity challenge possible and let Casaya blow themselves up" approach.  Nothing wrong with it, so long as he doesn't lose two immunity challenges.  But with his hail mary and subsequent flaunting of the immunity idol, he's given up his one ace up his sleeve: being able to choose who will get the boot.  A smart player (like Aras) will put votes on whomever he wants to leave after Terry.  Ultimately, if Terry manages to somehow make the final two, he should probably win the game.  But if he doesn't, he might want to review what he did post-merge.

With that said, here's the latest rankings:

    1.      Terry (last list - 1)
    2.      Aras (last list - 4)
    3.      Danielle (last list - 2)
    4.      Cirie (last list - 6)
    5.      Bruce (last list - 9)
    6.      Courtney (last list - 8)
    7.      Shane (last list - 10)

Who goes this week?  Doing some math, Bruce is "in trouble", and somebody gets taken out on a stretcher.  Hmmm...Bruce doesn't get voted out, but can not continue.  Does he make the jury?  I don't know.

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