Monty Brinton/CBS
Stephen Fishbach
November 27, 2014 10:30 AM

“I think there’s a direct correlation between opening your big fat mouth and the idol having to get played.”
– Reynold Toepfer, Survivor: Caramoan

Poor Josh and Reed. Have there ever been two such near-misses in Survivor history?

At the merge, Josh had been set to lead his majority alliance to victory. He had orchestrated the perfect blindside of Jeremy – until Julie quit the game and the Meat Brothers alienated Jaclyn. Within three days, Josh went from the strongest strategist to the mayor of Ponderosa.

Wednesday night, lightning missed a second time for the Broadway Boyfriends.

Reed had organized a perfect blindside of his own. He convinced Missy’s dominant alliance to split their votes for Keith and Wes, allegedly to flush the idol. He then organized the bros for a counter-strike that would have eliminated Jon from the game.

The plan looked like it was going to work until a stray remark by Keith turned the vote topsy-turvy, caused two idols to be played and sent chicken nugget champ Wes to the jury bench.

He risked it for the biscuit – and lost.

ONE WEEK AGO: A Shocking Twist Turns the Season Upside Down

"I Say, Stick to the Plan"

So what exactly happened? At Tribal Council, when Jeff asks Reed about idols, Reed says that everybody suspects Keith and Wes have one hidden.

Reed is trying to hide his imminent blindside of Jon by focusing ersatz attention on Keith and Wes. The idea is, keep the Missy alliance feeling comfortable so they don’t suspect a thing. It would be a smart move with smarter allies.

But Reed’s remark spooks Keith, who gives Reed a pointed look that’s obvious to everybody and admonishes, “I say, stick to the plan.”

Keith has all the subtlety of a Shamar. Suddenly, the tribe breaks into cross-talk and whispers – with Natalie pointedly asking Jaclyn, “Do you trust him?” and Jaclyn saying “No.”

Keith wins an anti-Fishy for his remark, but Reed should have known better than to trust the tact of Meat R Us. That mistake is exactly what got Josh hashtag blindsided.

Earlier in the episode, Reed had said, “Sometimes I don t know if Keith understands exactly the intricacies of how this game is played.” Tribal Council is a nerve-racking time for anybody, especially fractious alliances that are planning a big move. Reed should have been focusing on keeping his skittish allies calm rather than focusing attention at them as a misdirect.

Everybody was already suspicious of him. After this missed maneuver, Reed is almost certainly going home next week.

TWO WEEKS AGO: Things Get Vulgar, and an Alliance Falls Apart

"Dude, Play Your Idol."

Natalie wins the Fishy this week for a series of great moves that have positioned her perfectly.

After her ally Jeremy was sent home, Natalie could have been an easy target or a bitter flipper. But she quickly reintegrates herself into the majority alliance.

One way she does that is by going idol-hunting with Baylor. Rather than skulk off by herself to find the idol, she brings perennial kid sister Baylor along for the hunt. She winds up with an idol in her hand and an ally in her pocket.

She also perfectly reads the Tribal Council chaos. After the tribes vote, she advises Jon, “Dude, play your idol.” Somehow, eager puppy Jon hadn’t picked up on Jeff’s warnings (“an idol could be a blessing and a curse, because you don’t want it to be a souvenir”) or the subtext of the chaos and whispers. Without Natalie’s warning, he would have been eliminated.

Natalie has done a great job all season of reading situations, and making just the right remark at exactly the right time. She rallied the Hunahpu girls to vote out Drew, volunteered to go to Exile to spend time with Baylor, swayed Jaclyn against Alec, and now has saved Jon.

She’s one of the best strategists left in the game – though this season, that’s not saying very much.

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