"She's devised a foolproof plan to get to the end – and a foolproof plan to lose," Fishbach writes

By Stephen Fishbach
December 13, 2012 11:45 AM
Credit: Monty Brinton/CBS (2)

“You’re going to want to show that either you were the top villain or the top hero or the top something. You’re going to want to show you had the gameplay to get you there, and you even turned on your own to get you there. That is the game.”
– Rupert Boneham, Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains

Oh, Lisa. I don’t know why week to week I let you toy with my heart the way you do.

Almost every episode, Lisa announces her Survivor coming-out. She’s been passive – but she’s finally ready to take control of her destiny and make a big move. Tonight. Seriously. Right now.

Except it never quite comes together. The wrong person wins immunity or the right person makes a heartfelt appeal. “I could’ve played a great game,” Lisa told her brother last week, channeling Marlon Brando in On The Waterfront.

Lisa’s excuse for not voting out Denise is that she’s thinking about whom she wants to sit next to at the final tribal. And I know how hard those last few days can be.

The challenge of the end-game is that group decision-making gets shunted aside for individual decision-making. You need to think about what’s best for you, not what’s best for your alliance. Your erstwhile allies are making the same calculations.

Every tiny decision has impossibly complex repercussions. Skupin says it best: “Everything matters so much when you get down to the end game like this. And you have to consider every scenario if you want to come out on top.”

Just track Lisa’s thought process. She wants to sit at the end with Abi. But if she keeps Abi instead of Denise this week, Malcolm will be likelier to take Abi instead of her next week, because Denise is more threatening to Malcolm. Malcolm and Denise are likely to turn on each other, as they’re each other’s biggest competition for jury votes. So by keeping Denise, Lisa basically ensures that she and Skupin will make the finals. Get all that?

The problem with Lisa’s thinking is that she’s devised a foolproof plan to get to the end – and a foolproof plan to lose. Sure, either Denise or Malcolm will be gone. But then the other one will still be there to rake in the million. So Lisa and Skupin are guaranteed to make final tribal … along with someone who’s sure to beat them.

Lisa wins an anti-Fishy for her inaction. By taking out Denise, Lisa could give herself at least a shot of making it to the final three with Abi, and without a jury threat.

She might actually have been a contender.

Rupert Boneham on Survivor Juries
I asked America’s favorite player, Rupert Boneham, for his insight into what the jurors are thinking while they contemplate who to crown Sole Survivor. Rupert has served on more juries than any other contestants – on Pearl Islands, All Stars and Heroes vs. Villains. He recently ran for governor in Indiana; now, he’s once again mentoring Rupert’s Kids.

Do juries have a favorite going in?
Almost everyone in the jury goes in with the idea of who they hate least. It’s usually not a favorite as much as who you are least mad at.

Does the final tribal actually change the vote?Final tribal can change jury members’ votes. I’ve seen it work both ways. If you are good at explaining why you did what you did in the game, I have seen jury members change their opinion about you in the middle of tribal council. The same way, when you are pitiful at answering questions, I have seen people lose votes for their answers.

Do jurors affect each others’ opinions at Ponderosa?
At the Ponderosa, you are able to talk and interact with each other. But, when you start trying to influence votes, you can be sequestered in your own little area away from everyone else. The producers don’t actively police the jury, but will respond to complaints.

Note: Other jurors dispute the Ponderosa sequester.