"I've never been more impressed by Cochran than with his stone-faced performance at Tribal Council," Fishbach writes
Credit: Monty Brinton/CBS (2)

“It’s a little hard to be living with people for 32 days and have these relationships and what you think is trust, and then find out they’ve been lying to you the entire time!” – Andrea Boehlke, Redemption Island

We’ve been waiting for this moment all season. With antagonists Malcolm and Reynold twirling their mustachios from the jury bench, the remnants of Stealth R Us have to turn on each other. For 33 days, the Favorites have coasted in their easy majority, kept in lockstep by Phillip’s relentless drumbeat. With only seven players left, who will take the reins?

The episode came down to an amicable power struggle between Cochran and Andrea. Cochran wants to protect his bestie Dawn and ensure he’s part of every alliance. Andrea wants to keep her boy toy Eddie and take out the adorable Brenda.

The real battle, however, is which of these two strategists will shape the final three.

Who you face at the finals is as important as how well you played yourself. It doesn’t matter how many brilliant moves you made if the person to your left is just a bit more likeable.

Moreover, the people you sit next to are part of the story you’re telling. There’s a big difference if you’re in the finals with the ally you dragged to the end – or the underdog you couldn’t stop.

By preparing for the endgame now, Cochran and Andrea are showing admirable foresight. But only one of them can win.

For Whom the Boehlke Tolls

Andrea came into the season desperate to get out of the shadow of Boston Rob. She hated being dubbed one of “Rob’s Zombies.” In response, she overplayed. She was more excited by big moves than patient strategy.

Did you notice the way she grabbed the hidden idol from Erik’s hand? Cochran claimed Erik “gave” it to her, but to my eyes it looked like petty theft. The moment was metonymic for her entire season. Too aggressive – and very easy to notice. She wanted all the power in her hands, but once it was there, she didn’t know how to use it.

Take, for example, how she “casually” brings up the idea to keep Eddie. “We” can control him, she tells Cochran. By “we,” though, she clearly means “I.” And why suggest a blindside of either Dawn or Brenda, instead of just choosing one? She shows she’s willing to turn on anybody – not the best quality in an ally.

Did Andrea really fear Brenda as a threat, or did she subconsciously want to be the only cute girl? Earlier this season, Andrea targeted Corinne for the sole crime of flirting with Malcolm. Watch out, ladies of Survivor 37: Andrea vs. Andrew Savage!

Revenge of the Nerd

Cochran, on the other hand, knows exactly how to blindside someone. He tells Brenda and Dawn that Andrea’s out to get them. Then they decide to take her out.

I’ve never been more impressed by Cochran than with his stone-faced performance at Tribal Council. Cochran knows that Andrea has hair-trigger paranoia and an idol in her pocket. When Jeff asks him about her idol, he knows one word could set her off.

But Cochran’s answer is perfect. He offers up that Andrea only has a few tribals left to play her idol. Superficially, it’s a dangerous thing to say. It reminds Andrea that if she senses any danger, she might as well play the idol now. But because it raises such a dangerous prospect so cavalierly, it has the inverse effect of reassuring Andrea.

Imagine if Cochran had insisted that Andrea wasn’t in any danger. That could have been a red flag.

Cochran wins the Fishy this week for his perfect answers to Jeff’s probing questions. By taking out Andrea, he also eliminates his biggest threat.

But is he now the game’s #1 target?