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.
“I didn’t come out here and leave my family just to be somebody’s pawn. I came out here to win. So it’s time for me to make my move.” —Kimmi Kappenberg, Survivor: Cambodia
“Why does nobody take me seriously?”
It’s the battle cry of every teenager throughout history, stamping his feet at the dinner table and wondering why he has to do the dishes. Last night on Survivor, that same cri de coeur motivated high school student Will to flip on his alliance.
“They just tell me where to vote,” he complains. “They don’t take my input.”
Tribe mates just don’t understand!
Will is mad that Zeke, Bret, Jay and Sunday won’t let him strategize at the big boy table. But he’s actually asking a critical question. The end is in sight — but what is he going to say if he gets there?
Every single player left in the game has held countless strategic conversations and betrayed innumerable allies. But are they being acknowledged?
Will deserves a lot of credit for realizing that nobody is giving him credit!
However, Will’s decision to flip on his alliance is arguably worse than doing nothing at all. Flipping from one alliance to another is a terrible choice, even if it is a #BigMove. Your old alliance now hates you (and will never vote for you to win), and your new trust cluster doesn’t respect you either (and will likely vote you out next).
The best solution to Will’s problem is to try to start something new that you can brand with your logo. Kimmi Kappenberg (quoted above) had the right idea in Cambodia, where she tried to pull together a new women’s alliance at the final six. To be fair, it didn’t work and Kimmi herself was sent home.
Of course, you don’t actually have to have an amazing résumé to win Survivor. You just have to be at the finals with two people the jury hates even more than they hate you. Will’s best play here is to find two bigger goats than himself and try to subtly steer them into the end.
But you have to give him credit for trying something.
I’ve loved Ken all season, I’m starting to wonder if he exists in the infamous Handsome Bubble. He’s so good-looking, nobody can perceive his flaws.
Let’s just take Ken’s conversation with Will by the water. It’s vitally important for Ken to recruit Will to his cause, but in their heart-to-heart, Ken basically gazes at his own reflection.
“You’re one of the few people I’ve found in this game that is as authentic as myself,” Ken muses. Wow! Surely nobody is that authentic?
Will is so committed to his Big Move that he grits his teeth and endures Ken’s philosophizing. But when Will admits to Ken that he’s the target, Ken panics and runs for reassurance to Jay, who loops in Zeke. As everybody is about to finally have it out … Ken leaves the conversation. He walks away!
He thereby lets this pivotal conversation occur, in which his very fate in the game may be decided, without his presence.
Ken gets very lucky that Will is so dead-set on building his Survivor résumé. A more vengeful player might insist on eliminating him.
Adam wins the Fishy award for an episode that he dominated from start to finish. With his generous decision not to play the reward advantage, his heartfelt reunion with his brother, his immunity win and his idol play, Adam was the episode’s center point.
I was personally inspired by the fact that Adam was able to process the difficult news about his mother and still find the internal reserves to win the immunity challenge and play his idol on the right person. (Major hat tip to Hannah, for her uncanny read that she was Zeke’s target.)
To be fair, Adam’s idol play was actually irrelevant. Will did flip and vote for Zeke. That doesn’t mean it was the wrong move. Adam was unsure about where Will was voting and, with such high stakes, Adam made a difficult call.
Perhaps more importantly, even as Will hoped to make a signature move, Adam was the player in the spotlight. Will’s concern was his Survivor résumé. But tonight’s vote — and tonight’s entire episode — will be remembered because of Adam.
Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X airs Wednesdays (8 p.m. ET) on CBS.