Stephen Fishbach was the runner-up on Survivor: Tocantins and has been blogging about Survivor strategy for PEOPLE since 2009. Follow him on Twitter @stephenfishbach. Erik Reichenbach is a Survivor fan-turned-favorite, a comic book author and artist. He placed fifth on both Survivor: Micronesia and Survivor: Caramoan. Follow him on Twitter @BloodyAmer1can.
“The one time I thought I was safe? The day I went home.”
– Rupert Boneham, Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains
Something’s rotten on Survivor.
You got a whiff of it when Aras went off by himself to meditate, leaving the rest of the tribe behind to gossip and plot. You could sniff it when Vytas smirked in self-satisfaction at Tribal Council.
Tina smelled it, too. “Vytas is so much like his brother. Their honesty and sincerity. They reek of it,” she said. Reek was the right word – but it wasn’t honesty she smelled.
It was the stench of smug.
The Baskauskas brothers have been giving off a certain rank odor. And while they’ve won a barrel of Fishies between them, those fishies are starting to stink.
Survivor is like great classical drama. Its fundamental narrative, which drives almost every season, is hubris and overthrow. Someone is overconfident; he acts like a jerk; his hopes and dreams are dashed. In Euripides, you get your head ripped off by the Bacchae. In Survivor, you get your torch snuffed by Jeff Probst. Same difference.
This season, it’s Aras and Vytas whose pride looks like it’s coming before a fall. Aras led Galang, and now Tadhana, with a mixture of visualization and good vibrations. Vytas snaked his way into Tadhana, and now Galang, by sharing his story of redemption. On a normal season, either one might slither his way to the endgame.
But two Baskauski make one big hippie target.
Tyson wins his first Fishy for taking aim. He assembled a group of five that have all lost their loved ones. Let’s call them the Unloved. Knowing that there’s nobody else out there, they must cling to each other.
“We know we can trust each other, because we don’t have anyone over there that we can trust more,” said Ciera.
The Unloved are like a supergroup of Survivor players, each bringing his or her own special ability. Tyson’s the ringleader; he’s also got super athleticism. Hayden is able to smooth-talk his loved one, Kat, into basically eliminating herself from the game. Caleb overthrew Brad Culpepper. He also has the power of Beard. The always astute Ciera has Invisibility. She’s somehow slipped by as a target almost every Tribal Council. And then there’s Gervase, who has the gift of superhuman smack-talk.
Can the Unloved take down the dominant Baskauski? Everything could change at a merge.
Another Boneham Bites the Dust
The Baskauski may be safe for now – but hubris found a more immediate victim. Laura Boneham had started to feel comfortable. And as soon as you drop your guard on Survivor, you make mistakes.
After the immunity challenge, Laura B. blurted out to Vytas that the women decided he was next to go. That horrified Tina, Monica and Katie, who felt Laura had violated their trust by speaking up without consulting them.
It’s a common phenomenon. Someone who’s been on the outside suddenly feels like they’re in with the cool crowd. They don’t know how to use their newfound popularity, they start acting bossy, and they alienate their new friends. As it goes in high school, so on Survivor!
Still, you’d think Survivor has been part of Laura Boneham’s life for long enough. It’s been 10 years since Pearl Islands. How many seasons has she seen? She should know you never want to be the leader. Yet there she is, gloating that she did take a leadership role, and “hopefully I’ll get some respect out of it and the women will look up to me a little.”
It’s a testament to how deep those old insecurities can run. Laura Boneham could have laid low. But she thought for an instant she could be Rupert – and paid the price.