Advantages aren't advantages

if you don't maintain a knowledge gap

Coming off a Survivor season where four people in a row left with idols, it’s time to put less power in the advantages themselves and focus more on the social and strategic games around them. Competitive reality TV shows always make a point of highlighting who has advantages. They lead us to believe that the power is in the advantage itself, but if your social and strategic games are good enough, you will either know where the advantages are or they’ll be played in your favor anyway. That’s why a strong social/strategic game is worth more than an advantage. In fact, one of the largest advantages of an advantage is in the knowledge gap it creates.

People are too obsessed with finding advantages and not enough with using their social and strategic games to navigate them. If you can’t find an advantage, focusing on other aspects of your game might even reveal its location. You can’t always control who gets what. You can control your relationships. Let’s look at a few players whose games helped them to not only navigate advantages but also to use or have them used effectively.

Cirie showed us this in Big Brother 25 when Matt had The Power of Invisibility to negate an eviction vote. Cirie’s relationship with him was so strong and her influence was so great that he told her about his power and it essentially became her power. They used it to save Jag from eviction, which would end up changing the entire course of the season and leading to Jag’s win. This was quite clearly Cirie’s move, not Matt’s move, even though she wasn’t technically the one with the power.

Let’s be real. It was her power (CBS)

In Big Brother 23 Claire won an advantage to change the nominations and become a secret HOH. Tiffany, the incumbent HOH, had an incredible relationship with Claire. They were strategically aligned and Claire kept Tiff’s nominations the same. Tiff didn’t know Claire had the power - until Claire told her - but Tiff’s social and strategic game kept her nominations safe. You might not even need to know where the advantages are if you’ve got enough allies because they’ll look out for you.

Another interesting example happened with Jesse Lopez and Survivor 43. Jesse made up the “Pineapple Zone”, a time when he and Dwight could be 100% honest with each other. Through the course of the season, this led to Jesse actually acquiring an idol purely through his social game. The threat of an advantage steal led Jeanine to give her idol to Dwight to hold, who in turn gave it to trustworthy Jesse, who voted him right out. Jesse actually found an idol through his social game, not by rummaging through the forest.

Shorter newsletter this week. We’ve been pretty heavy on strategy to start and that will continue, but we’re excited for some of our upcoming issues, guest writers, and mixing in some lighter content as well. Don’t forget we read the email replies and comments too!!

Jesse’s play illustrates that knowing where advantages are or who has them can be just as good. When you know someone has an advantage you have more incentive to either:

1) get close to them. In this case:

  • you likely keep yourself safe because the advantage holder won’t use it to hurt your game

  • you can influence where the advantage gets used, or even have it used on you or to your advantage

2) vote them the hell out. In this case:

  • their advantage leaves with them and you don’t have to worry about it

  • or if you’re really playing well, like Jesse voting out Dwight, or Sarah voting out Sierra in Game Changers, you steal their advantage, send them home, and no one knows you have an advantage. This is of course S-tier gameplay, and incredibly difficult.

The power of knowing where advantages are also brings up this point: keeping your advantages a secret is usually a good idea. Not only does telling people about an advantage sometimes put a target on your back, but it also gives them more info on how to adjust their game and outplay what should be your upper hand.

Just look at Maryanne pulling out her hidden idol in the 42 finale to cheers from the jury. By keeping it a secret and by using the info when it benefitted her, she was able to wow the jury. They praised her ability to keep a secret, an important skill in today’s game. The more knowledge you keep to yourself, the more information you have to make moves to propel your game forward while outmaneuvering others. If you choose to share the knowledge, you can do so when it most benefits you, like Maryanne.

So what do you do when advantages are often public, require teamwork to get, and you might have to utter a silly phrase to acquire? Let’s go to one of Parvati’s biggest strategic moments for the answer.

Parv playing an idol for Jerri (CBS)

It’s Heroes vs. Villains and she has this flashy move where she changes the course of the entire game by playing idols for Sandra and Jerri, who receives five votes, and thereby eliminates JT, who also receives five votes. People often focus on the fireworks at tribal council, but Parvati’s ability to navigate others knowing about one of her idols is key here.

She laid the groundwork for her move by navigating an imbalance of knowledge. The Heroes alliance knew about her idol, which should have put her at a disadvantage. Amanda tried to intimate to Parvati that she was getting votes that night, when in reality, the Heroes were voting Jerri. Parvati was able to lead the Heroes to believe she was playing her idol for herself, to deduce that Amanda was lying to her, and to identify that the votes would be going on Sandra or Jerri.

This is all because of Parvati’s amazing social and strategic game. Would it be a lot easier if no one knew about her idol? Absolutely. But as one of the greats, she was able to outplay the disadvantage of others knowing about her advantage. So if someone knows you have an advantage or idol, you have to think about what they think you’re going to do, and then do something else.

Sound complicated? It is. That’s why you keep your advantage a secret and that’s why if you know where an advantage is, it gives you your own advantage. Ultimately, the most advantageous position is the one where you have the most information, advantage or not.


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