Stephen Fishbach was the runner-up on Survivor: Tocantins and a member of the jury on Survivor Cambodia: Second Chance. He has been blogging about Survivor strategy for PEOPLE since 2009. Follow him on Twitter @stephenfishbach.
Erik Reichenbach is a former two time Survivor Fan/Favorite and Comic Book Artist. Follow him on Twitter: @ErikReichenb4ch
“All the threats that are around, I would like to keep them around, because they are shielding me.”
— Tony Vlachos, Survivor: Game Changers
Poor Simone. You knew her days were numbered when she started talking about her aquadump.
Contestants on Survivor talk a lot about their gastrointestinal wellbeing during the game itself. I unfortunately know the bathroom habits of every one of my former tribemates. But on the highly-crafted show, winners don’t get the poop edit.*
Simone is struggling in the outdoors. As with anything on Survivor, it makes her a target. When the Hustler tribe goes to Tribal Council, they choose between voting her out and eliminating hopped-up human Tigger, Patrick.
It’s a classic Survivor conundrum. Do you take out the big personality who’s driving everybody crazy, or the subtle player who could be a loyal ally?
Let’s lay down a rule for the Survivor early game: When you have a choice between eliminating two people, always keep the more noticeable one.
You don’t actually have to do anything proactive to get to the end on Survivor. You just have to not get voted out. That sounds obvious, but the point is that, as long as there is someone in front of you in the line to be eliminated, you yourself will never be eliminated.
Patrick is like a kid hopped up on too much sugar. He can’t control his boundless energy, whether he’s saying too much at Tribal Council or shouting at crabs. He’s always going to draw attention to himself.
Simone, on the other hand, might skate through to the end if she makes it to the merge.
The Hustlers make the correct choice, and send Simone to the sanctuary of Ponderosa’s plumbing.
The Fishy this week goes to Ali, who has established herself as the center of the tribe’s web of alliances.
She’s Patrick’s number one buddy. When Lauren feels left out, she says, “I don’t want to be excluded so I’m trying to build a relationship with Ali.” Even best buds Devon and Ryan check in with Ali about the game plan.
“This game is all about handling different personalities,” says Ali.
That’s incredibly astute. If you can make everyone from the most devious strategist to the most hot-blooded firebrand feel good, they’ll keep you around – and they’ll vote for you to win.
On the Healers tribe, Cole and Jessica are off catching fish – and also catching feelings. The two have undeniable chemistry, as witnessed by their witty banter:
“This is the worst game of cat and mouse ever!” says Jessica.
“Yeah,” agrees Cole
“It’s really frustrating!” pouts Jessica.
“It’ll happen,” reassures Cole.
“I feel so disappointed,” says Jessica.
“Don’t!” insists Cole.
It’s repartee to make William Powell and Myrna Loy swoon. There’s only one hurdle to this budding romance: Jessica’s advanced age.
“She just turned 30,” moans Cole. “She probably sees me as some little kid.”
Do people over 30 even feel love?
WATCH: Shaun T & Andrea Boehlke’s Survivor-Inspired Workout!
Meanwhile, professional Tony Vlachos impersonator Joe finds a clue to the hidden immunity idol. The problem is, he can’t quite decipher what it means.
The faulty chain of logic that somehow leads Joe to actually obtaining the idol is kind of miraculous. First, he assumes the square shape on the clue must be a raft. Then, he assumes that Cole must know about the idol, because he uses the raft. So he interrogates Cole.
But bringing Cole into the equation actually solves the problem. Cole realizes the shape is the water well; he figures out where to dig; and then he has the wisdom to chop the clue off the tree.
Of course this is Survivor, so it’s not like Joe feels grateful.
“The fact that Cole knows that I have the idol could absolutely backfire,” says Joe. “It’s all about power and knowledge. He has too much knowledge.”
On the Heroes tribe, Alan is like the captain of the Titanic, crowing about what a great job that iceberg did at scraping the barnacles off the hull.
“My plan worked,” he exults. “I created some kind of suspicion. And a lot of times, suspicion gets you the results that you want.”
Alan likely did undermine JP and Ashley’s place in the tribe. The price he paid was his own position. Alan succeeded at destroying his own alliance.
Now JP is permanently traumatized by the phrase “power couple.” The SS Alan is headed for disaster. And the actual power on the tribe has shifted to Ben and … Chrissy?
Chrissy’s decision last week not to save Katrina was a contentious choice. But is there any question now that she made the right decision? After the explosive tribal (not to mention Alan’s strip search), everybody is turning to her as a mediator and a potential ally.
It’s a great reminder how quickly the game of Survivor can change. If you lie low, somebody else will inevitably make a target of themselves.
“Tribal council was really heated and angry,” Chrissy says. “Great for me, right?”
* Survivor historians correct me, but I don’t believe a winner has been shown complaining about his GI issues since Ethan Zohn in Africa, a very different era. Of course there’s a long history of winners puking – ranging from Brian Heidik to Tom Westman to Mike Holloway. But that requires a separate discussion about the cultural valence of puking vs. pooping.
Survivor airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET on CBS.