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
“Promises come cheap in this game.”
– J.T. Thomas, Survivor: Tocantins
“You’ve got to dig deep!” Jeff Probst never gets tired of saying. It’s only day eight on Survivor: Philippines, but some of the contestants have nothing left to dig. Epic water challenges have pushed them to their physical limits. Brutal weather strains their emotions. And – deadliest of all – strategic plots and counter-plots have tested how quickly these castaways can learn the real game of Survivor. Who wins? Who loses? Who is this week’s savviest strategist? Read on!
The Fishy this week goes to engineer Pete, who has subtly asserted control of the Tandang tribe. Pete’s kind of a chameleon – he’s all things to all people. Is he a model or an engineer? A fool or a brainiac? “I’m like on surveillance,” he says. “I’m just sitting there and I’m listening. Because then I know what moves to make.” This week, Pete’s a mastermind!
Pete hung back in the early days of Tandang and watched RC bulldoze her way into an alliance. Now that it’s crumbling, Pete’s picking up the pieces. He cements his bond with Abi-Maria and then approaches outcast Lisa to win her trust. Why, oh why, do people ever ostracize someone on Survivor? You know it’s going to come back to bite you in the butt.
Poor RC – one day you’re King Koala and the next you’re thrown off the tree. It’s touching to see RC’s deer-in-the-headlights confusion in the face of Abi’s betrayal. “We gave each other our word. Our word is our bond,” RC says, even as Abi is off hunting idols with her new BFF. RC’s clearly been hanging around Skupin too much; she’s been transported to a different era of Survivor. Honor and integrity went out with the Hantzes. Now it’s all about four-fingered handshakes.
Pete’s problem is that he may lack short-term thinking. Why target Skupin, one of your challenge anchors, just eight days in? It’s a problem you see a lot on dominant tribes. They’ve got the end game all figured out, but they’ve forgotten it’s only week 1. And it’s a long month to the million dollars.
I worry for Tandang, I really do. It can be dangerous for tribes to never see Tribal Council. With no real way to prove their loyalty, they become fractious and petty. Then, at the merge, they focus on settling their internal politics and eat themselves alive. Look at Timbira and Galu, ye mighty and despair!
On the other end of the spectrum you have Matsing, who spends so much time at Tribal they may have squatters’ rights. Matsing really drew the short straw in terms of tribe strength and in such a physical season, that problem gets compounded every week.
It’s too bad, because Malcolm and Denise may be the best alliance in the game. They’re both social gamers, thoughtful strategists and physical beasts. They prove the strength of their bond this week, when Malcolm thinks with his upper head and axes showmance Angie.
If “Manise” (Denalcolm?) can make the merge, they could be in an amazing position. Like Jalapao and Foa Foa, they’ll be deeply bonded to each other, but appear nonthreatening to their opponents. I just wonder if Russell Swan will stick with them.
On Kalabaw, Penner tries to use the idol to build an alliance with Jeff Kent. Jeff hesitantly agrees: “If it means I gotta ride in your boat because you got some power and you got some knowledge on how to go forward, then I ride in your boat for a while.”
But I don’t think Jeff Kent likes being a passenger in someone else’s boat. I think he wants to be the captain of his own vessel.
Did Pete make a good move? Or should he have waited longer? Tell us in the comments below!