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Stephen's Survivor Strategy Blog: Show's Savviest Recall Facing the Endgame

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Rob Kim/Landov

The ice-cold way that Sash, Holly and Chase cut Jane’s throat on Wednesday’s episode of Survivor was the perfect example of how loyalty and friendship get tossed in favor of risk assessment when it comes to the endgame.

I know from experience that having to turn on your alliance can be heartbreaking. All those things you dreamed about together from day 2 are coming true – but only for one person.

Rather than award a Fishy, I thought I would ask a few of Survivor‘s best strategists – JT Thomas, Russell Hantz, Todd Herzog and more – what their endgame experiences were like.

JT Thomas, winner, Tocantins; 10th place, Heroes vs. Villains
While watching the latest episode, I thought of how pumped I was to see [my sister] Adriana [when she visited]. When she left, I thought – “I’m going to win this for my family. I’m going to win this for Adriana.” It gives you the spirit to play as hard as you can. After the family visit, then it’s all cutthroat.

Russell Hantz, 2nd place, Samoa; 3rd place, Heroes vs. Villains
Season 19, I was in full control. I brought whomever I wanted to bring to the end. The next [season], I had to manipulate the situation. I knew Parvati wanted to get rid of me. So I got rid of her numbers [by voting out Danielle]. If she didn’t have numbers, and couldn’t see in her mind how she could get to the end, she would stick with me.

Rob Cesternino, 3rd place, Amazon; 15th place, Survivor: All-Stars
Time slows down as you start counting down the hours and talk about how weird it will be to sit on a couch or buy candy or just have a cell phone. However … there aren’t many more moves to be made. For the most part, your bed is made and the only thing that can change … is the outcome of the immunity challenges, which you just sit around and wait for.

Yau-Man Chan, 4th place, Fiji; 18th place, Fans vs. Favorites
The end-game is the beginning of the individual game. Until then, it’s all about alliances, cooperation and power. But that all changes – it’s every player for him or herself; every other player is a potential adversary. Players with high “social IQ” will have a definite advantage over the last few weeks.

Jonny Fairplay, 3rd place, Pearl Islands; 20th place, Micronesia
For me personally, I played the endgame early. I brought the two biggest lumps of crap possible [Sandra and Lill] to the end. I had programmed everyone to believe that Lill could beat everybody, and also that I couldn’t beat anybody. But the final three challenge happened to be a challenge that was Lill’s specialty. So she got to choose, and she didn’t want to give me the chance to win.

Ken Hoang, 5th place, Gabon
The endgame is hard because you have to get rid of people knowing that ultimately they will decide if you win a $1 million or not. You have to think … do I really want to win the $1 million or do I just want to make it to the end and get second place?

Todd Herzog, winner, China
The honest truth is that, after day 5, I knew I was going to the end. The biggest possibility at the end was that Denise would turn on me, but I used reverse psychology on her. I pulled her aside and said, “I trust you more than anything. I really appreciate everything you’ve done for me. You’ve been such a role model for me.” I mean, I’m not going to lie, I’m a little sh–.