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.
Erik Reichenbach is a former two time Survivor Fan/Favorite and Comic Book Artist. Follow him on Twitter: @ErikReichenb4ch.
“There’s only two people in this game. People that don’t do anything and get voted out because of it. And people who do too much and annoy everybody and get voted out.” – Dan Foley, Survivor: One world
The woods are quiet on the Hustler beach.
Nobody shouts at the crabs anymore. Nobody freaks out over octopus-shaped rocks.
There’s no one crashing through the underbrush, looking for the idol within view of camp.
Patrick the Human Tigger has bounced his last bounce.
Didn’t the Hustlers read last week’s blog?
Last episode, when the Hustlers faced a choice between Simone and Patrick, they eliminated Simone, and we laid down a general rule: when you’re faced with a difficult decision, take out the person who blends in. Keep the obvious target.
This week, the Hustlers make the opposite call. They keep Lauren and vote out Patrick.
The issue is that the Hustlers are already projecting forward to the coming merge. Two players down, they’re imagining themselves like the Brains tribe in Cagayan – a small cadre, quietly fading into the background while the other tribes implode.
“For whenever the merge comes, we need to be best suited going forward to socially discern which group we can fit into,” Ryan says.
Patrick does not fade into the background.
But it’s not like the Hustlers are at that big a numerical disadvantage. They’re down to four members – compared to five on the Heroes tribe and the six Healers. Typically the tribes that fade into the background are more significantly reduced. The Brains were down to 3; Jalapao was down to 3; in the Philippines, Matsing was down to 2.
Moreover, in contemporary Survivor, you know there’s at least one swap before that merge. Your numbers will get shuffled; new alliances will form. And if the Hustlers are targeted by a bigger tribe, Patrick could be the one absorbing that vote – rather than Ryan or Devon or Ali.
What’s more, it’s not like Lauren is exactly a rock-solid ally. Alliances are based on emotional connections, and as a as the tribe’s “old lady” (again – she’s 35), Lauren hasn’t been fitting in. Devon says it: “She doesn’t fit in with the other tribe members.” Lauren herself says it. But there are plenty of people on the other tribes for Lauren to connect with. Why, Chrissy on the Heroes tribe is a grandmotherly 46.
The Fishy this week goes to Lauren, for her relentless campaign to discredit Patrick. Even before his challenge flub, she reminds the Hustlers how Patrick said he only trusts “most people.” The phrase may seem benign – even obvious – to us watching back at home. Who really trusts everybody? But that’s how Survivor works. Tiny slips of the tongue take on outsized meaning.
After the challenge loss, Lauren works her way around camp pitching her plan to eliminate Patrick. It’s never clear how much this kind of jockeying actually affects the tribe’s decision – but in this case, it did seem like at least Ryan appreciated Lauren’s outreach.
Meanwhile, Patrick doesn’t do himself any favors. He’s so certain that he’s staying that he practically gloats. He smirks all the way through Tribal Council – until the votes come in. Blindsides aren’t quite so funny when it’s your torch that’s snuffed.
What’s incredible about Patrick is he sees his antics as endearing. He pitches himself as a perfect person to make friends on opposite tribes. “I can make people feel loved and comforted,” he says. Patrick is all of us: deluding ourselves that our flaws are really our virtues.
But he also shows an openness to others’ opinions and a willingness to change. Maybe Survivor will be a perfect experience.
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On the Healers tribe, virgin Jessica is mad. She thought she was unique when Cole told her about the idol. So special, he deserved a kiss. “My lips don’t go near other people’s cheeks very often,” she coos.
Unfortunately, Cole’s lips are a little looser. He shares his idol news with the tribe’s two other women, Roark and Desi.
Jessica thought they had something special!
In theory, Cole’s plot to blindside Joe is good. “The idol is unpredictable, especially in an unpredictable person’s hands,” he says. And he doesn’t even know that Joe’s paranoia is directed towards him.
But Jessica is right that it’s way too soon to share. For all Cole knows, he and Joe may not even see Tribal Council until the merge. It would be so easy for Roark or Desi to switch sides in that time and give Joe the heads up. Cole’s own strategic interests could change.
“Secrets are really powerful in this game,” Jessica says.
Moving forward, Cole may find that her lips are sealed.
Meanwhile, on the Heroes tribe, Ashley is hungry for JP’s giant fish.
“That’s a good size, JP,” she says, ogling his big catch.
Ashley’s problem is that Alan has put so much attention on her relationship with JP, that she can’t get close enough to power couple.
Meanwhile, Chrissy and Ben are doing a superb job of listening to everybody and staying out of the spotlight. On an episode with so many questionable decisions, their simple strategy stands out.
Survivor airs Wednesdays (8 p.m. ET) on CBS.