Stephen Fishbach was the runner-up on Survivor: Tocantins and has been blogging about Survivor strategy for PEOPLE since 2009. Follow him on Twitter @stephenfishbach.
“Someone flips over that quickly to our side, it’s just as easy to flip-flop back.”
– Jerri Manthey, Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains
Wednesday night’s episode of Survivor presented us with two shocking possibilities.
Could San Juan del Sur turn out to be a good season? And could Jon Misch actually be a good strategist?
The game took a shocking twist during this episode – and thank God, because this season was long overdue for a shocking anything. Firefighter Jeremy, who looked like he was running the game after last week’s blindside of Josh, got blindsided himself by his own alliance.
The culprit: Jon Misch. Last week, Jon had sided with Jeremy after the frat pack snubbed his girlfriend Jaclyn. It looked like a new dominant alliance had formed – and that we were in for some snoozy “Scramble of the Week” episodes as Team Jeremy picked off Team Josh one by one.
This week: Reed rifles through Keith’s bag! Next week: Meat collector Alec and taco fanatic Wes come to blows over a roast beef sandwich! It seemed like we would be condemned to watch as Survivor‘s hard-working producers struggled to squeeze drama from a stone.
But how wrong we were!
With his wide-open face, boundless energy and goofy grin, Jon comes off like a golden retriever. You know he’s enthusiastic about Survivor. But is he good at it? Or is he just playing fetch with idols from Exile?
Yet episode after episode, Jon and Jaclyn have positioned themselves at the center of all the alliances. This week, Jon flips the game on its head. When Jeremy returns from Exile, he’s suspicious that Jon must have the idol and asks pointed questions to try to catch Jon in a lie.
Jon was never totally comfortable with Jeremy. The firefighter always seemed like an endgame threat. Now, Jon decides, “I need to do something and change the course of the game.”
Jon wins the Fishy for his Vlachos-ian double-dealing. He approaches Missy and tells her he has the idol. The idol can be a powerful tool to build confidence in an alliance. By showing Missy his idol, Jon turns her away from her oldest ally and tips the game into disarray.
But is it a good move? Disarray is dangerous, and Jon and Jaclyn are dancing a high-wire act by flipping and flopping.
Jon and Jaclyn knew they were at the bottom of both of the power alliances. They had a clear path to the final six – but not really any further. Now, by unseating both Josh and Jeremy, they have created their own alliance – one that could take them to the finals.
They’re also helped by the long-standing animosity among the other players. It’s hard to imagine Alec or Keith teaming up with Baylor or Missy – when Keith can only be bothered to talk to the women “in passing.”
The real dangers are Reed and Natalie, who can move between the groups and are both strong players. Reed exposed Keith’s idol and might have saved himself even without the total upheaval. Natalie showed she’s willing to leave it all on the field when she gave Jon her spot at the reward. The move was transparent and didn’t pay off, but it was bold nevertheless.
(Side note: I can guarantee you that Tocantins-era Jeff Probst would not have allowed people to swap places in their reward. Is anything up for negotiation now?)
Tony showed us last season that flipping alliances won’t necessarily get you Finchered out of the game. Neither Jon nor Jaclyn has Tony’s X-ray vision into people’s souls. But there are two of them – and their two brains put together could equal Tony’s one.