Survivor – What’s Your Path to Win?

Watching this season of Survivor brought me to a weird conclusion about games in general. For those unfamiliar with Survivor, each week someone is voted out, but there are items which can grant you immunity if you find/earn them. During this season, one of the players, Bruce, made the decision to trust someone and opted not to play his immunity idol… and was promptly voted out. Now, this isn’t the first time something like this has happened in the history of the game. In fact, there have been many times where the players have commented no matter what, they weren’t going to be dumb and go home with the idol in their pocket.

In the past, I would have definitely been railing against this player… why on earth wouldn’t you play this idol if you had any inkling you were next to go? I’m pretty sure I have done just that while watching past seasons.

Yet, this time something else occured to me. What was his path to actually get to the end of the game and win?

Just because you can make a move in any game doesn’t always mean that you have to make it. In fact, I’d argue that doing something because you don’t want to look stupid not doing the thing is likely just avoiding failing versus actually trying to win.

Let’s say that at 8 players left, he plays the idol and makes it to 7 players… isn’t he just as likely to be the number one target next time? Yes, he’d have an opportunity to win a challenge (which he had done twice already) to protect himself, but if he doesn’t do that… he’s toast.

How does Bruce get to the end game?

Image by Erik from Pixabay

To get to the end game means not using the idol at 8. He has to put his trust into someone at some point. And the path he needs to take requires him having that idol in his pocket at least one more vote. If he survives the vote at 8, then he can now use it at 7 if he needs to. However, the thing is, if he survives the vote at 8, then the game has likely pivoted more in his favor anyway. Suddenly, he may not be worth the bother anymore. There may be someone on the other alliance who needs to go first. There may be a bigger threat. Or, given that he wasn’t well liked… sometimes those people become assets as you assume no one will give someone who annoys them 1 million dollars.

Obviously, no matter what game you might be playing, you don’t want to get to a position where you are hoping for the narrow path to possibly win, but I believe it can be a good exercise to employ. When you win, how does that most likely occur? In Poker, it may be getting someone to pay you off on a big hand or it may be getting someone to lay down a big hand. In Magic the Gathering, it might be a series of counter plays where you find a window to play a threat and protect it at all costs.

Once you can start to see how the win comes, you can craft your strategy to get there better than if you are just allowing variance to control your fate. And that may mean taking an unorthodox line of play, knowing that yes you might not be successful, but at least you didn’t let the game dictate to you. At least you took as much control as you could.


John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at

About John McGuire

Writer of comics and novels. In 2006 his first short story "The God That Failed" was published by Terminus Media in their debut comic Evolution Book 1. Since that time he has had stories published in Terminus Media's Evolution Book 2 and Evolution Special, Kenzer and Company's The Knights of the Dinner Table, and Four J Publishing's The Burner #3. Currently he is eagerly awaiting the digital publishing of his first creator-owned comic The Gilded Age #1 to be published online as well as his first novel The Dark That Follows later this year.
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