Survivor: Sometimes the only winning move is not to play

Timothy Kuratek/CBS Entertainment ©2018 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Timothy Kuratek/CBS Entertainment ©2018 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved. /

Many are confused as to why Ron Clark didn’t use his Advantage Menu. Survivor isn’t about making big moves but using your powers to maximum benefit.

Few people have been playing the game since minute one in Survivor: Edge of Extinction. Realistically, the returnees have been working hard on both tribes, but especially in holding their tenuous power over at Kama, who hasn’t encountered true hardship yet due to not voting out a player. Ron Clark has kept his head on a swivel, although his tribemates wouldn’t suspect it.

You see, during the marooning, there were two advantages on the boat. One was a tribe reward that Joe allegedly received for Kama, although evidence of the advantage can only be seen in a behind-the-scenes feature. The other was a secret advantage clue that Ron Clark found, leading him to a never-before-seen Advantage Menu that gave him one of three options.

By the third Tribal Council visit, Ron could choose either to steal a reward from a challenge, earn an extra vote at Tribal Council or declare himself immune from the vote before the votes are cast. Once that third Tribal Council arrives, the Advantage Menu becomes powerless.

After that point, we didn’t see too much of Ron Clark on our screens, as Kama has been pretty hunky-dory with the exception of the “returnees + Aurora” alliance. In fact, Ron’s so secure in his spot that he’s leading the tribe in cheers and getting people to follow in his footsteps, showcasing his awesome social skills.

With episode 3 being the last time that he could use his Advantage Menu, I saw some confusion on social media about why Ron didn’t use any of his powers this week. It’s fairly obvious when you look at the situation on its face; you do not want to make a noise in Survivor unless you need to, and Ron didn’t need to make a noise.

Let’s look at the Kama tribe right now. Aurora aligned herself with Aubry and Joe, ostracizing her from the group at large in order to be on their side. The fact that we didn’t even see those seeds planted, yet it’s recognized as a tribal division, shows the power of perception becoming a reality. Becoming an outsider on a strong tribe is doubly disappointing in just how unnecessary it is and how much it impacts a player’s long-term game.

In a straightforward sense, Kama hasn’t needed to go to Tribal Council, meaning that two of Ron’s options for his Advantage Menu haven’t even been applicable to be chosen. Plus, the first two Immunity Challenges have given Kama a reward, as well, meaning there was only one opportunity Ron could have used his Advantage Menu reward; to steal the chickens.

However, in a vacuum, stealing the chicken reward from Manu presents too many risks for Ron’s own good. It means pissing off seven players in a game of 18 where (likely) nine players will be determining the fate of the show’s next millionaire. Pissing them off early puts a target on himself not only with the Manu players but those on Kama who deem him to be a threat.

Of course, nobody can know whether he would have gone to Tribal Council or not after losing the Reward Challenge, but the benefits of a time-limited advantage with options means that there’s less pressure on Ron to hold onto an advantage for too long and leaving the game with it staying in his pocket.

The Advantage Menu has much more value in adding an extra vote in a nine-person tribe or saving oneself from elimination than it does in getting three chickens and a rooster for a day before being swapped to another tribe. No good deed goes unpunished in Survivor, and providing a chicken reward for his tribe is way less valuable than having an ace up the sleeve if need be.

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One thing that smart players would pick up on is that the Advantage Menu has more power and knowledge beyond three Tribal Councils than the benefits provided in the game. For example, you can plant the Advantage Menu by cutting off the tag that says the power expires after three tribals, which is what Ron plans to do per a secret confessional.

Something he didn’t figure out is that by saying the power lasts for only three Tribal Councils, something is going to happen in the fourth “episode” of his Survivor: Edge of Extinction game. It would be reasonable to guess that there will be a tribe swap after the third Tribal Council, considering the suspicious nature of how long the power lasts.

Either way, Ron Clark was smart to hold onto his Advantage Menu heading into Survivor: Edge of Extinction episode 4, even if it didn’t give him a tangible power in the game. The security of guaranteeing safety at Tribal Council is such a bonus to a new player early on.

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Survivor is a strange game. Sometimes, the only winning move is not to play an advantage.