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Stephen's Survivor Strategy Blog: Curse of the Swing Vote

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Monty Brinton/CBS (2)

“It is always better to make your opponent come to you”
Law 8: Make Other People Come to you – Use Bait if Necessary

Pity the poor swing vote. Everybody wants to be your best friend – but only for one tribal council. And if you don’t tread lightly, they might vote you out instead. Christy in the Amazon, Dolly in Vanuatu and John in Samoa all fell prey to the curse of the swing vote. Remember their names!

Sash wins this week’s Fishy Award for setting himself up to make swing vote history. He finesses a solid position in the majority alliance and secures a final-three promise from Chase. Only time will tell if he’ll translate that into victory.

The episode starts with Sash isolated between two alliances: the Guys (Dan, Jud and Benry) versus the Dolls (Holly, Jane and Chase). Sash is well aware of his position as the odd man out – both its leverage and its risks.

He maneuvers between the alliances to put himself back in control. “The next tribal council, I’m definitely playing the idol,” he tells everybody. “I think the idol right now may be putting a target on my back.”

If you really think Sash is concerned being a target because of the idol, I have a spa in Nicaragua I’d like to sell you. What Sash is actually communicating – in the nicest way possible – is that the two sides can’t vote him out. They’re going to have to make him an offer. Even if Sash had not won immunity, I doubt he’d have played that idol.

When the two sides come calling, it’s an easy choice. For one thing, Uncle Dan looks like he wants to give Sash a pair of cement shoes. For another, facing Fabio and Benry at the final four is a lot more daunting than going up against two inspirational mother figures – and Jane. And even Holly and Chase know they can’t take Jane to the finals.

The problem for Sash may be that everything is going too smoothly. He’s becoming over-confident . “I am in complete control, and I can’t wait til the final tribal council to win my million,” he says. What do they say about pride, and what it cometh before?

That sense of entitlement leads Sash into making unnecessary power plays. What good does tricking Dan into voting for Fabio accomplish? At this stage of the game, contestants need to start counting their votes, not alienating them.

In fact, every indication is that Sash’s Machiavellian maneuvering is catching up with him. I gave Sash credit for axing allies Brenda and Marty when the situation demanded it. But people are beginning to notice that Sash’s friends have a short life expectancy.

“People … are crazy if they [trust Sash] after what he did to his own right-hand girl … and to Marty,” says Dan.

Chase, by contrast, is the anti-Sash. Compare Chase’s real affection for Jane and Holly with the saccharine scene when Sash tells Jane that she’s “like a second mom.”

While Sash is all cold-blooded throat-slitting, Chase plays with his heart – wherever it guides him. If this were a Disney fable, Chase would save the day by stumbling on a magic talking frog. But since it’s Survivor, Chase almost sinks his alliance when he chooses to take Jane instead of Sash on reward.

Fortunately for Chase, this turns out to be a sincere growth moment. “I’ve been a little flighty throughout the game,” he realizes.

The question is – is it too late for him to change?

Tell us: Who should have been voted out?