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Last week, we Outwitted. Today, we Outplay.

In every episode of Survivor, there is a contest to win an “immunity idol.” This highly coveted prize means the winner cannot get kicked “off the island” (i.e. voted out of the game). Early in the game, immunity is granted at the “tribe” level. The winning tribe goes back to their camp while the losing tribe goes to “tribal council” where the tribe is required to vote one person off the island.

Then, when the game gets down to 12 or so people, the tribes merge together and rather than tribal immunity, the contests have a single winner and that person receives individual immunity.

As you can imagine, players go all out during these contests so they are guaranteed to be safe at the next tribal council.

That is one way to outplay on survivor – win immunity challenges.

On the island there are also hidden immunity idols. A player who finds one can use it to stay protected at tribal council as well, but they have to be used before the votes are counted.

But here’s the thing. Hidden immunity idols require a player to sneak off by themselves to look for them. It can take hours of searching and other players notice if you’re away from camp for long periods. In one season, a former marine would go out in the middle of the night to look for hidden idols while the rest of the players were sleeping. This is no small task as you are undernourished; physically and emotionally exhausted, and are searching in the dark. Spoiler alert, in that season, he went on to win despite attempts to vote him out several councils in a row. By that point, he knew everyone was gunning for him so he spent every spare moment looking for an idol and if I recall correctly, he found one three times in a row (don’t hold me to the exact number).

The point is he played harder than everyone else and eventually it paid off.

Also, if you find an immunity idol, you have to figure out when to play it. And to know that, you have to be on top of another aspect of the game.

The social game.

In real life this is called emotional intelligence or EQ. In future posts I might take on the whole EQ ethos, and the false promise it makes, but not today. Today we are staying focused on Survivor.

In the simplest terms, the social game is how well a player can form connections and bonds to other players. Those bonds are important to progress in the game. You have to have people you can rely on. People who are loyal and won’t vote against you. Alliances are formed and these alliances can carry you all the way to the final vote for the winner.

If you have a hidden immunity, you need to be strong in your alliances so you don’t get blind-sided and voted off while the idol is in your pocket, which happens all the time. On the other hand, people will play an idol to protect themselves and not receive a single vote. It’s called flushing the idol out.

So, you have to be able to read the non-verbal cues, you have to listen to what people are saying and what they are not saying. As Kenny Rogers sang, “You got to know when to hold ’em. Know when to fold ’em.”


Dr. Jeff

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