Regarding player choice and "choosing to fail," I have thoughts:
One of the rules I’ve seen in RPG rulebooks lately seems common-sense, but I’ve really, really enjoyed benefiting from it as a GM: “Say what your character is trying to do, then describe how they’re going about it.”
As a GM, I’ve had players do unfathomable things, expecting a solution to result from it, but I don’t even understand what they’re trying to do. “I climb a tree.” OK… “I look around.” Alright, there’s the sky. It’s cloudy. “Shit, OK, I climb another tree later on.” Alright, there’s more sky. The mountains are getting closer. “No sign of the Empire’s scouting force anywhere nearby?” OH! I see, sure, yes, farrrrrr in the distance you can see wispy streams of smoke, likely from cooking fires.
What I heard when I listened to that letter’s PC-being-unable-to-act-on-their-own-agency was actually the player saying, “I’m going to mess with this guy’s head. Maybe drown him a little.”
As you guys observed, the Player knew what they wanted to happen, but the Player-Character might have been taken aback by their own actions later on. But that was not the desire expressed clearly to the GM, as far as I could tell.