Stephen Fishbach sizes up the players set to win on Sunday night

By Stephen Fishbach
December 18, 2011 11:00 AM
Rob Kim/Landov

On Sunday, Survivor: South Pacific comes to its conclusion. The season’s been full of blindsides, big characters and some of the strangest strategic moves in recent memory (Ozzy asking to get voted out! Brandon handing over his immunity! Everything Cochran ever did!) Now there are six players left, three of whom will face the jury.

The phrase “bitter jury” is redundant. All Survivor juries are bitter. They’ve seen their hopes for a million dollars and reality TV stardom crushed by the three people sitting before them.

The question is – what are they bitter about? Juries all make their decisions on different criteria. JT, the winner of Tocantins, once said to me, “You have to make the jury feel good about voting for you.”

Sometimes, they can be unduly swayed by each other. There were rumors that Jane poisoned the Nicaragua players against Sash, and you can see how the Samoa jury festered in its anti-Russell bitterness at Ponderosa. If there’s one flaw in the perfectly constructed game of Survivor, it s that the jurors talk to each other.

Of course, it all can change in a final tribal speech – or if you’re sitting next to people even more hated than you are. How do the six remaining contestants stack up?

Coach: There’s no way Coach doesn’t make the final three. Nobody’s made a move against him all season, and he can play his idol at the next tribal council. Coach may have hurt some Upolans feelings, but Savaii should appreciate his gamesmanship. He needs to pull out a mea culpa like Boston Rob’s last season or Todd’s in China.

Albert: Albert got lucky this week that Brandon’s crazy. But he still has two more tribal councils to go before the final 3. If Albert does make the finals, will his jury management strategy of pretending to be everybody’s friend work? Hint: that strategy never works.

Sophie: Sophie is the season’s dark horse. For 35 days she’s clung to the shadows and clearly ingratiated herself to Coach as his wing-woman. As Albert said, she’s quietly amassed a Survivor resume of challenge wins and smart moves. She hasn’t pulled any dazzling betrayals – but that means she doesn’t have any enemies.

Rick: On paper, Rick actually seems like he could win. He’s the guy Brandon gave pizza to when he was thinking with his heart, not his head. Could a jury give Rick the biggest pizza of all? No, obviously not. If Rick had won, we’d have seen more from him this season than “he snores” and “dumb move.”

Ozzy: If Ozzy can make it to the finals, he wins. Not only does he have a jury of bitter Savaiians just waiting to vote for him but, as Sophie said, he’s fed and comforted every juror in his “pleasure dome.” Of course, if he does get back into the game, he still has to win two straight immunity challenges to avoid getting voted out. But when only a studio G like Albert stands in his way, that may not be so hard.

Brandon: Who would have imagined that Brandon was a jury threat? It just goes to show you that there’s only so many hours in a TV show – especially when half of every episode needs to be spent on “Coa-chi” and Cochran. If Brandon beats Ozzy and comes back into the game, a Hantz could finally win Survivor.

We’ll know tonight!