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R.J. MacReady is a helicopter pilot for U.S. Outpost 31 in the Antarctic. Part of a twelve man crew, MacReady is the groups outsider. Seldom participating in social activities he takes to playing games of chess quietly in his cabin whilst also developing the starts of an alcoholic addiction due to his love of Jim Beam whisky. He also enjoys the company of an inflatable rubber girl doll from time to time (seen in deleted scenes).
MacReady takes control when the intruder organism infiltrates Outpost 31 but not for glory or for the good of the others simply because he is a survivor and is doing what he thinks best for himself to survive, which means he needs the others so he must also help them to survive. It is only towards the end of the film that MacReady truly understands what the intruder organism is capable of and realises that it may be in the best interests of mankind if no-one survives from Outpost 31. (something that the far gone Blair discovered from the very beginning.)
If anyone was likely to survive the intruder organism it would be MacReady as he never trusted anyone from the very beginning and so never had to learn the hard way.