I had high hopes for Anna. And, to an extent, she showed a good game at times, but before we get to theory, let’s put her demise in poker terms, something I’m sure she’ll appreciate (or mock).
So let’s say Anna is sitting at a table with some good and some mediocre poker players. She’s dealt a pair of kings as her hold cards. There a couple solid ways she could play such a good, but beatable, hand. First, she could downplay her hand subtly and try to trap other players, especially if an ace does not appear on the flop. Or, of course, she could show her strength through some aggressive betting. Both of these strategies clearly work a considerable amount of time, at least if my little experience actually playing and the hours I’ve seen that dude from Welcome Back Kotterannouncing are accurate.
But Anna employed neither of these strategies. In fact, I would argue, she did the worst possible thing anyone can do in both Survivor or poker. Now, I understand she wasn’t dealt a great hand in this tribe swap, but she made it considerably worse. Think about it? She gets put on Gondol and clearly Tai is a bigger target. What does she do? She makes herself a huge target, while also playing up the chance that Tai owns an idol, which would, of course, make her tribemates wary of voting for him.
Let’s delve into this with some theory. Today we’re going to talk about social exchange theory, which is a really weird theory in the sense that it comes from multiple disciplines in economics, psychology and sociology. But, it’s about communication, in a sense. Go figure.
Basically, social exchange theory describes the process by which we communicate, or, more specifically, form relationships. The theory argues that, intuitively, for every relationship we enter into, we kind of do a cost-benefit analysis first. Now, you can see how this theory is applied consistently in economics and business, but let’s think about it in terms of Survivor.
So before I enter into an alliance or try to make a relationship with, say, a new tribemate, I’m going to think about the benefits to this relationship. The other person does the same thing. Social exchange theory was actually developed by George Homans, a sociologist who studied small group processes at, where else, Harvard. And what would he say about Anna? I would guess he’d say that she entered into relationships with her new tribemates thinking a lot about how these relationships would help her, but not at all about what the others would think about her or what would benefit them.
What do I mean? Well, we know from the episode that the former Brains tribe looked at Tai as the biggest threat from the old Beauty bunch. If Anna just made relationships based on various characteristics like being young or nice or whatever, she might have stayed under the radar. But what did she do? She tried to make Tai look like a huge threat and, in the process, made herself look like the threat.
In poker terms, she had those pocket kings and went way overboard to project weakness. Bad idea. By constantly talking about how great Tai was, the other people really noticed how hard Anna was playing the game … the exact thing she didn’t want to project in that instance. And then, of course, she talked about Tai and an idol, another really dumb move since the Brains would not want their voting out of Tai to be foiled by him playing the idol. None of it made sense.
In terms of theory, Anna looked at making these new relationships as something that could help her, but she never, not once, presented why the other people could benefit from her. There was, in effect, no exchange.
Many other variables or thoughts are embedded into social exchange theory, but, I think, in this very simple application of the theory, we can see much truth. We all make decisions about how close friends are through, in essence, a cost-benefit analysis. What am I going to get out of this relationship? How much effort will I have to put in? When we buy something, we do the same thing. What’s the cost? Is it worth it? You know, $20 for a cup on lemonade isn’t going to happen if a door-to-door salesman knocks and tries to sell it to us, but if we’re wandering the Sahara … that might sound like a deal, right?
That was Anna’s problem. Her argument simply did not make clear why Tai should go instead of her. In fact, she made the exact opposite argument, implicitly, one that made her seem like a much bigger threat than she did prior to trying to establish these new relationships.
So now that we’ve delved into theory and you’ve survived, pun intended, my lame attempts at a poker anecdote, let’s talk about the remaining castaways, who are all in much different situations now. Can they win?
OK, folks, have a good week. Root for Providence College this weekend and then we’ll all talk next week.
Pat Ferrucci started watching Survivor when episode two of Borneo first aired. He’s seen every episode since. Besides recapping here, he’ll be live-tweeting this season from the Mountain Time Zone. Why? Because nobody cares about the Mountain Time Zone except when they want to ski. Follow him @patferrucci for Survivor stuff and tweets about anything and everything that enters his feeble mind.