Monty Brinton/CBS(2)
People Staff
October 16, 2009 12:00 AM

“Just as water retains no constant shape, so in warfare there are no constant conditions.” –Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Survivor sucks in the rain. You’re miserable and cold. Your clothes are drenched. Your wood is too wet to start a fire. And you have no idea when it’ll stop. But bad weather doesn’t just cause discomfort — it also stops time on strategy. It’s suspicious to take a stroll in a tsunami, and you’re too miserable to move anyway. So in a strategy-lite episode with no big moves, the elements played the deciding factor in Ashley going home. This week’s Fishy goes to the rain.

While the weather stopped any smart strategy, it couldn’t stop stupidity. This week, I want to talk about the biggest strategic blunder: the way Galu is isolating Shambo.

Every season, there are who nobody likes and nobody talks to. I just don’t get it! Even if you don’t like them, they still get to vote. If you can find these , they will stick by you to the end. In my season, I approached both Taj on Jalapao and Erinn on Timbira because they weren’t friends with anybody else. They ended up being two of my closest allies.

On the other hand, as Timbira learned in Tocantins, you isolate these outsiders at your peril. The Galu girls are acting like the cool kids in a teen movie: they’re not letting Shambo sit at their table. “Isn’t it so nice here without her?” Laura says. “We could just sit here and chill.” In the immortal words of China’s James Clement, “They’re not trying to win a million dollars, they’re trying to win a high school friend contest.”

Russell S just makes things worse when he sends Shambo to Foa Foa, forcing her to miss out on the steak reward. Did you not hear her cooing last time she came back from the yellow camp? He explains that “she had to pay for that chicken” she lost. “This should clean her slate. But she had to suffer some consequences.” The so-called “Good Russell” seems to have gone crazy with power. While he was initially skittish about leadership, now he’s meting out punishments like it’s judgment day.

When Shambo returns to the tribe and the girls can’t even muster a hug or a hello, you know trouble’s brewing. “It’s a game,” says Monica. “She shouldn’t take it personally.” But actually, it’s a personal game — and if there’s a merge or a swap, you need your team to stay tight. I’m betting that when the tribes mix, Shambo is going to sell out Galu in a big way. They’ll have nobody to blame but themselves.

At least Russell H remembers that it’s a social game. He’s noticed that Liz may be a little too savvy for his liking. When she starts trash-talking Ashley, Russell tells Jaison and Mick, “She’s trying to spread little seeds to grow in ’s heads.” Russell’s familiar with that strategy because that’s exactly how he plays. In fact, that’s precisely what he’s doing here — planting seeds in the guys’ minds about how Liz plants seeds in other ’s minds. “I gotta be the only mind game player here,” he says. When Liz figures out that he has the idol (and seriously, is she the only one who doesn’t know?), Russell realizes she has to go.

But because of the downpour, he doesn’t get the chance to make a move. The big lesson this episode is how much strategy depends on circumstance. Foa Foa sits in their shelter, trapped in their thoughts, and nobody can scramble. So default boot Ashley ends up going home. Way to go, weather. — Stephen Fishbach

Tell us: Should Liz have been booted instead? Who’s playing smart on Galu? And seriously, how disgusting were everybody’s hands?

Monty Brinton/CBS(2)

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