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.
“In Survivor, I kinda learned, you be who you are, and you try not to be afraid of it.”
– Kat Edorsson, Survivor: One World
Ah, the dreaded swap. For torturous weeks you’ve been doggedly laying the groundwork for a long-term Survivor game plan. You built alliances. You won challenges. You voted out threats. You have a clear path to the endgame. Then all your plans are scuttled by the random draw of a new buff. Oh Survivor! Oh, life!
That’s what Vytas must have been thinking on Wednesday night, anyway. Following a blowout duel on Redemption Island where a furious Laura Morett smoked John and eliminated Brad, Jeff Probst made the contestants draw new buffs to determine new tribes. (Tyson asked that he be allowed to draw last, so that fate could decide his future. It was a perfect commentary on how little control the contestants truly have.) Vytas found himself isolated as the only man on a tribe of all women – most of them already firmly allied. Furthermore, their tribe was physically dwarfed by the New-Tadhana. Looking at the new tribes, everything suggested that New-Galang would lose immunity and Vytas would be evicted.
Galang lost – but it was Kat whose torch was snuffed. Why?
A Two-Way Fishy Split
Vytas gets the first half of this week’s Fishy for the way he cleverly laid low and ingratiated himself to his new tribe.
I love how mercenary Vytas was about divulging his past difficulties with drugs. In the season’s first episode, we saw him reveal his story of addiction and incarceration to build trust with Tadhana. When he became the low man on New-Galang, he trotted out his tale of woe one more time in an attempt to win over his new tribemates.
“When I’m a little bit vulnerable with women, it goes a long way,” he said. The first time he pulled this stunt, it seemed like a clever trick to build personal bonds that served strategic purposes. The second time, it looked downright manipulative. It’s a great quality in a Survivor player, though borderline sociopathic in real life.
Vytas succeeded so well that Tina and Monica were comfortable discussing his possible eviction right in front of him! Survivor contestants are like anybody else: They want to spend time with people they like, regardless of alliances. Vytas made it easy for the women to choose to keep him, once they realized Kat’s plotting against Monica.
At Tribal, Vytas turned the knife, and sent Kat home.
Monica also deserves half a Fishy for actually making the Kat boot happen. We saw less of her strategy than we did of Vytas’s, but it was old-school Survivor at its finest. She established a deep relationship with Tina, who alerted her to Kat’s plotting. She confronted Kat to gauge her trustworthiness. When she suspected disloyalty, she rallied a unanimous vote.
Kat had said about Monica: “When you have an alliance, don’t overstrategize. All that does is put heat on your back. You want to learn how to play Survivor? Shut it.”
Great advice. She should have taken it.
Over on New-Tadhana, Tyson was throwing shade on Aras. Tyson knew he’d be a huge target at the merge – he learned that in Tocantins – and wanted to focus as much attention on another alpha dude.
Whenever Aras chopped down a tree or touched the campsite, Tyson commented on it. “I just make it look like he’s bossing everybody around,” he said. The best part was, because Tyson’s an inveterate joker, it just looked like he was kidding.
Like the best Survivor players, Tyson is aware people’s perception of him, and uses that to his advantage. I worry, however, that Tyson is too focused on eliminating an ally – and one who could distract attention at the merge.