Stephen Fishbach was the runner-up on Survivor: Tocantins and a member of the jury on Survivor Cambodia: Second Chance. He has been blogging about Survivor strategy for PEOPLE since 2009. Follow him on Twitter @stephenfishbach.
Erik Reichenbach is a former two time Survivor Fan/Favorite and Comic Book Artist. Follow him on Twitter: @ErikReichenb4ch.
“If you have a tight alliance with four people, five people, you can get all the way down to the end if you stick together. That’s how people get far in this game.” — Danielle DiLorenzo, Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains
It’s hard to find the perfect ally on Survivor.
Some people you can trust, but they’re such upstanding human beings they’ll smoke you if you go to the end with them.
Then there are the people you know you can beat at the end – but they’re so snaky you can never believe a thing they say.
And then there are the hapless allies who you can probably beat, and they’re relatively trustworthy, but they’re so clueless about Survivor that you have to hold their hands through every stage of the game.
So you’d think people would be tripping over themselves to ally with Bradley. He’s strategically smart. He’s been unflinchingly loyal to the Navitis at every vote. And best of all, he’s an expert at getting under people’s skin. No Survivor jury in the world is going to award this brash young law student a million bucks.
Bradley is the ally you dream of. And yet tonight on Survivor, his own alliance turned on him and voted him out of the game. It’s a move that doesn’t make any sense.
I always write that the only time you can actually prove trust on Survivor is in the voting booth. Chelsea and Bradley have established trust over three separate tribes, and voted together as part of the Naviti 5 on Malolo 2.0. For Chelsea, Bradley is the only ally she’s been with every day of the show.
Similarly, just last week, Bradley was telling Domenick, “You’re pretty much my closest ally out here.
On the other hand, Libby – the other possible target – has actively deceived Domenick and voted against his alliance when she turned on Morgan. Morgan’s parting words were “Don’t trust the cute blonde.”
“Libby is the devil in an angel’s body. Libby is out for blood,” Domenick said last episode. “Libby – no good. She’s got to go.”
The dichotomy is so stark between the loyal ally and the “devil” who’s “got to go.” And yet after Bradley is sharp-tongued at a challenge, Chelsea and Domenick turn on him.
“Bradley’s attitude and his short temper could be disastrous for me,” Domenick says.
I know how hard it is to play Survivor when someone has a bad attitude. I lived for 10 days with Abi-Maria scowling across the fire pit like she belonged on a cathedral wall. Negativity makes a challenging experience even tougher.
And it’s true that, in the scramble at the early merge, you want to work with people who you can trust to build solid alliances. If your ally ends up annoying people, there is a chance you might get ostracized by association.
But three swaps in, Domenick doesn’t realistically have to worry about Bradley somehow scuttling his game. Moreover, the contestants are at a major inflection point. As Chelsea notes, it’s dangerous to betray your original alliance right before the merge. The season has been dominated by the Navitis, and Naviti loyalty has been one of the major themes. Why risk alienating that entire group right before the most chaotic and decisive point in the game?
I’m struggling to come up with a good reason for Domenick and Chelsea to vote out Bradley. Maybe we’ll hear some detail in an interview or a deleted scene that will make sense of it all. Was Chelsea secretly trying to undermine Kellyn by eliminating her key ally? Does Domenick want to start an insurgency of Malolos to take power away from Chris?
Both Chelsea and Domenick seem like smart players. So I have faith that they’re making a better strategic decision than “Bradley was annoying today after the challenge and Libby wasn’t.”
Based on the information on our screens, however, it seems like a really bad play at a crucial moment.
The Fishy this week goes to Michael and Wendell for having the energy and the discipline to look for idols while their tribemates snooze.
It’s particularly infuriating watching the Malolos laze around while Michael digs under every rock and scrambles in the underbrush.
“He’s searching, there’s no doubt about that,” says Angela.
“He’s running through the jungle trying to find this idol,” says Des.
They know he’s looking – but they don’t do anything about it. It’s hard not to think of the arrogant alliance last season that fell apart to Ben’s idols because they couldn’t be bothered to babysit him. Yes it’s true that this season’s players haven’t seen Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers. They filmed their season before last season aired.
But they have had access to every other season of Survivor, as well as their own brains. There’s every reason to think Malolo will lose the immunity challenge. They’ve lost almost every other challenge and have just voted off one of their most muscular players. Why would they risk their spots in the game by giving Michael the chance to find the idol?
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When he does find the idol, it’s Eliza’s infamous “f—king stick,” which has now “fully matured” out of its awkward stickish adolescence into a real hidden immunity idol. Thank god we missed the angry teenage years.
Meanwhile, on Yanuya, Wendell finds my colleague Erik Reichenbach’s famous immunity necklace, that he gifted to Natalie Bolton. It’s a big week for Micronesia totems.
My only thought was how difficult it will be for Wendell to sneak that massive piece of jewelry into a tribal council for a big blindside. But Wendell’s a smart player. I’ve been wanting to give him a Fishy for a while, but he’s just been winning too much.
I have faith that he’ll be able to figure this one out.
Survivor airs Wednesdays (8 p.m. ET) on CBS.