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
“I’m out here playing for one million dollars. Never trust me.
– Russell Hantz, Survivor: Samoa
You knew the second that Laura Morett started talking about how much she trusted Aras, she was in trouble. “Aras is someone that I completely, explicitly trust in this game,” she said. I don’t think I felt that way about anybody, ever, in my 39 days of Survivor – and I honestly doubted Laura M. felt so certain about Aras, either. More likely, she was trying to convince herself that everything was hunky dory. Deep down, she knew she was in danger.
The episode started at Tadhana, where Vytas was confronting trust issues of his own. Caleb shocked everyone with his vote flip: Vytas didn’t trust the guy anymore, but he did need to woo him back to the dwindling 5 Guys alliance – which was down to just three guys. It was almost embarrassing, the way the once-Machiavellian Vytas extolled the virtues of Caleb’s perfectly exfoliated skin. Caleb basked in the praise – but did he believe it?
Lucky for Vytas, Tadhana actually managed to win a challenge. They couldn’t beat the Returnees in jousting or puzzle-solving, but they could win a slip-and-slide/ring toss. You got the sense that the producers were starting to feel sorry for the hapless newbies, and that apple-bobbing and Pin the Tail on the Donkey were next on the docket.
For the first time, the Returnees had to prepare for Tribal. But it was a drama-free afternoon. The majority alliance had locked up the votes, and everyone assumed they were secure. Tribe outsider/nuisance Laura Boneham was the presumed target.
To deflect attention, Laura B. tried to stir drama, muttering incoherent threats to Kat about Monica and Laura M. I watched that scene three times and still couldn’t entirely understand everything Laura B. mumbled. Kat, similarly perplexed, gamely nodded and smiled.
Laura B. should have just stayed quiet and hoped that somebody would see her for what she is – an unthreatening floater to drag to the end. With her transparent rumormongering, Laura B. risked incurring the ire of the entire tribe.
Fortunately for her, Aras realized that keeping her, without family or allies, was a better decision than booting her. “Easy votes are often the dumbest votes in this game,” he said. Aras realized that the best allies are the ones without connections; if they could eliminate Brad Culpepper on Redemption Island, Monica would be a much more secure member of their alliance. And that wasn’t likely to be something that Laura B. could accomplish.
But what about puzzle queen Laura M.? Not only did she have a good chance of taking out Culpepper, but she was a strategic threat who already had bonds on her tribe with Kat and Monica. Her daughter, Ciera, was still kicking on Tadhana. Eliminating Laura M. kept the benign Laura B. in the game and also eliminated a very real threat.
Aras wins the Fishy this week for masterminding the blind side.
As clever as Aras was, I also want to give Tyson credit for not coming up with the crafty idea. In both his past seasons Tyson ruined his game by overthinking his votes. Rather than take out the obvious person, he wanted to settle scores (against Brendan in Survivor:Tocantins) or build side alliances (with Russell in Heroes vs. Villains). The results were catastrophic.
This time around, Tyson stayed the course; he proposed Laura B. and let his allies overthink their plans. As Aras himself admitted, “People on my tribe know that I’m playing the game. The more that I try to manipulate the vote, the more danger I put myself in.” Tyson avoided that stigma while reaping its benefits.
That’s true for now. But will he move against Aras next episode?