Sylvain Gaboury/PR Photos; Montry Brinton/CBS
Stephen Fishbach
October 13, 2011 01:00 PM

“When you decide to attack, keep calm and dash in quickly, forestalling the enemy.”
– Miyamoto Musashi, The Book of the Five Rings

Jim’s right – it’s funny how personal a strategic vote can be on Survivor. I remember on Tocantins how obsessed everybody was with voting out the “Dragon” Brendan, because he was rich, athletic and good-looking. This season, there’s a new Dragon – and he’s got luxurious hair and vicious aim with the Hawaiian sling.

Does anybody doubt that Jim, Cochran and Dawn are working through some high school issues by undermining Ozzy? Cochran is tired of feeling like he’s “viewed as one of the girls.” Dawn was furious that the tribe patriarch wouldn’t let her talk strategy. And was Jim – the nerd at the cool kid’s table – jealous that Elyse was Ozzy’s “omen” and not his?

But just because it’s personal, doesn’t mean it’s not strategic. By voting out Elyse, Jim upends Savaii’s hierarchy and establishes himself at the tribe’s center. He also wins his first Fishy Award.

According to Jim
Last week, I said Jim was jumping the gun by targeting Elyse. Allow me to eat some crow.

Jim masterfully uses Ozzy’s declaration that Coach should backstab Albert, to convince Keith and Whitney to flip. After all – by the transitive property of Survivor, if Coach should backstab Albert, doesn’t that mean Ozzy should backstab Keith? “I’ve got a piece of fear that I can plant in Keith,” Jim says.

Keith, for his part, is quick to flip. He was already nervous about Ozzy’s power. But Keith and Whitney decide to throw their votes away on Dawn. Way to go, guys. If there’s anything people respect, it’s refusal to take a side. (See also: Benjamin Wade in Heroes vs. Villains.)

Flipping to Jim’s team is a horrible decision for Whitney and Keith. They move themselves from being in the inner circle of a dominant alliance to being the disposable cannon-fodder for Jim, Dawn and Cochran.

But taking out Elyse works perfectly for Jim. He now has an alliance with Dawn and Cochran, and another one with Whitney and Keith. And Ozzy is no bigger threat to flip at the merge than, say, Dawn would have been had Jim voted out Cochran.

In fact, Ozzy will have less room to maneuver than Dawn would have, as nobody wants to ally with a giant challenge threat that could win his way to the end.

Jim sidelines his biggest threats and places himself at the head of a physically weaker alliance. Not bad for a day of dragon-slaying.

At Upolu, Brandon Hantz is frustrated that he’s facing “prejudice” because of his last name. Is “Hantz” a protected class of citizen? Brandon resolves to shatter the glass ceiling that’s kept Hantzes from winning Survivor for seasons immemorial.

Meanwhile, it turns out Albert does more than snore. He’s Benjamin’s right-hand man – and he’s worried that makes him a target. So Albert goes looking for the immunity idol, which makes you wonder: it’s day 13, and nobody’s found the idol yet? When Albert has trouble finding it, he loops in his closest allies, Sophie and Benjamin.

I’ve always felt that sharing an idol with allies is good strategy. The idol can save you for one vote, if you’re lucky. But a unified alliance can control the game.

On the other hand, do you remember on Nicaragua when Jill told Marty where to find the idol? Ultimately that “team” idol helped save only one team member’s skin.

The best move, of course, is to find the idol with a group – and then keep it. If the groups thinks it’s theirs to share, they won’t want to blindside you. But it will still be in your pocket.

So it sucks for Albert, but ultimately it’s Benjamin who finds the idol. Albert was searching in trees, but Benjamin knows that if you want success on Survivor, you need to pray.

“I’m not running the show,” Benjamin says. “But at the moment … pretty close.”

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