After going over those first two rules, one thing we need to discuss as the third is to be flexible. Sure, a player may have made an early alliance, but that alliance doesn’t have to last the whole game. A key strategic point is one I put in big, bold, red, highlighted letters:
You cannot simply tie yourself to one alliance and hope that it survives!
Time after time after time, we’ve seen this happen. Cook Islands, China, Micronesia, Pearl Islands, and so on. You need to have a backup alliance or side alliance (or more than one). Everybody needs to recognize this necessity! Yes, sometimes staying with a single alliance is the right thing to do if you can make it work and especially if you’re the one in control. But you can’t just latch on and pray – though sometimes that is the way to make sure you get second or third place if you’re brought along by the eventual winner.
We can find a good example of the proper way to keep many options open just last season, in Game Changers. In a web confessional, Sarah said her tactic was to get in good with everyone. She saw people still sticking with the same groups even though the game had changed and thought they were fools to not venture out and try to pull in new people. Some people were comfortable with the three or four they had and wanted to ride it out, which she realized was good for her because she was in each of those groups and was, therefore, able to decide which way to go. She similarly told Rob on the red carpet that a lot of players just want to work with one group, while she was willing to work with everybody.
Just last season, we saw Wendell and Domenick making good use of their flexibility. A big reason that nobody flipped on them was that they all thought they were going to the end! Before the finale, Sarah Channon (who has written many articles for both Reality News Online and RHAP) hit the nail on the head by tweeting that Domenick and Wendell’s greatest strength was their ability to build multiple trusting relationships across factions and coordinate as needed, and everybody else’s weakness was the failure to do the same.
Going back further in time, a couple of people who did this well were Parvati and Russell. Parvati was almost always in control of what was going on, and thus was able to choose her final opponents. The same was true of Russell on Samoa, and he made some good choices – if only he had been better at reading the jury and playing the social game, he could have capped off his strategy with a win. He maintained a great deal of flexibility in the early game by making alliances with just about everybody, so when the tribe leaned in a certain direction, he could either try to sway them back or cut off the target and move on to his next ally.
Another aspect of having good flexibility is that if you see that the majority is leaning another way, make sure you’re part of that majority. You need to have your finger on the pulse of every member of your tribe. Indeed, those are the exact words Sophie used at the South Pacific reunion to describe what she was doing from the beginning. She told me, “I definitely felt like all the time I knew what was going on and nothing ever happened that I didn’t want to happen. I always felt in control of the game.” It’s not easy, but it will help keep you around. Usually it means you should do more listening than talking.
Again I point to Parvati’s performance in Micronesia. When I asked her what she saw on TV that surprised her, she laughed and told me, “I knew pretty much everything that was going on all the time. I was very good about being everywhere at once.” That’s precisely what a good player needs to do. Each time, Parvati was the blindsider, never the blindsided.
While the bulk of this rule deals with strategic flexibility rather than personal, it’s true in other situations as well – especially in the early game. As Rudy famously said in the beginning of the very first season, “I gotta fit in, not them, you know there’s more of them than there is of me.” For example, if your tribe wants to build a shelter in a certain way, you should just go along with them, even if you know it’s the dumbest idea ever. If you argue, you stick out. And sticking out early is a good way to get voted out early.