Stephen Fishbach was the runner-up on Survivor: Tocantins and has been blogging about Survivor strategy for PEOPLE.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter @stephenfishbach.
“I should’ve trusted my instincts from the beginning.”
Francesca Hogi, Survivor: Redemption Island
Oh, Franny – no! Survivor: Caramoan premiered Wednesday night with naïve fans and vicious favorites. After an action-packed episode of alliances and counter-alliances, Francesca became the show’s first-ever double-first-boot.
“I did make Survivor history,” she says.
There’s something wonderful about the Fans vs. Favorites concept. You have these wide-eyed baby giraffes stumbling with eager awkwardness up the Caramoan sands. Then there’s this squad of MMA fighters who’ve turned to cannibalism.
The fans ooh and aah at their tribe flag, and fight about how to make fire. Reynold, Allie, Hope and Eddie make a cool-kids alliance and gaze at their perfect reflections in the surf. The jilted girls back at camp make an alliance. Nobody has the numbers. This would be amateur hour on a normal season.
The early standout is Michael, who wins the First Fishy for the way he moves effortlessly between groups. He builds rapport with the Jilted Girls and keeps his options open with the Cool Kids; he also creates a solid side-alliance with Beardsly. Well played.
Things move a lot faster for the favorites. Cochran puts it perfectly: “There’s a lot of circles within circles of strategy … We’re not spending our first three days going, ‘Oh I have to go to the bathroom there? I don’t know how to open a coconut. What the hell’s going on?”
The best favorites are the ones slipping and sliding behind the scenes: Dawn, Cochran, Corinne, Malcolm. All four join the dominant alliance without making a lot of noise.
But the action’s driven by the three players from Redemption Island. They’re all just desperate to prove themselves outside of Boston Rob’s shadow. Phillip needs to be the alpha male. Andrea wants to be crafty. Franny wants to not be first off.
All three fail – to differing degrees.
Phillip actually does best. He’s got a list of rules and a roster of nicknames ready to go. He builds the dominant Favorites alliance, pulling in Andrea, Malcolm and Corinne. He takes out his biggest threat.
We’ve Got Problems
Phillip’s problem is that he learned how to be an alpha from a gorilla and a lion. Among humans, his chest-thumping comes off as bullying. He grouches about the direction of the shelter and traumatizes poor, gentle Erik. For now, he gets his way – but only because Dawn think he’s less of an endgame threat than Fran.
Andrea wants to be Sneaky. She tries to play both alliances against each other. That’s a great strategy – if people aren’t immediately aware you’re playing both alliances against each other. Erik and Brandon quickly become distrustful of Andrea’s double-dealings. (To be fair, Brandon may just be distrustful of her jean shorts.)
If Keystone Kops Erik and Brandon are onto you, it’s time to reevaluate. But it’s hard to be subtle when you’re a zombie. People can hear you shuffling up behind them and demanding “braaains.” Andrea almost gets herself voted out.
Lucky for her, Francesca does even worse. Poor Franny – all she wants is to just not be the first one booted. But her paranoia makes her scramble – and the scrambling draws attention.
In Redemption Island, Francesca was too vocal, too soon and trusted a highly erratic player (Phillip) who sold her out to the tribe alpha male, Boston Rob. This time, Francesca is too vocal, too soon, and trusts a highly erratic player (Andrea) who sells her out to the tribe alpha male, Phillip.
It’ll be interesting as this season progresses to see if everyone recreates their prior mistakes. Are human beings condemned to repeat the past – or can we change?
Find out next week on Survivor.