Three weeks into the game, some contestants are handling the pressure better than others

By Stephen Fishbach
November 14, 2013 09:45 AM
Credit: CBS (2)

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. Erik Reichenbach is a Survivor fan-turned-favorite, a comic-book author and artist. He placed fifth on both Survivor: Micronesia and Survivor: Caramoan. Follow him on Twitter @BloodyAmer1can.

“I hope you don’t cast your vote based on that you got your feelings hurt. I think it’s poor sportsmanship, and I don’t think that it relays who the true Survivor is. It just shows that you got your feelings hurt.”
– Tina Wesson, winner, Survivor: The Australian Outback

How epic is the Survivor gross-food challenge?

First, it’s fun to see people’s blech-faces as they try to shove wriggly worms down their gullets.

Second, the challenge is a metaphor for the game of Survivor itself. Can your mind overpower your body’s natural reflexes as you strive for a million bucks?

Survivor is all about control. You have to be able to control your tribe mates. But just as important, you have to be able to control yourself. Can you say just the right things and act in just the right way – even as you’re starving, exhausted and slowly losing your mind from the game’s constant pressure?

That’s why it’s surprising that Monica won immunity. She aced a competition for mental toughness, even as she unraveled.

All season long, Monica’s been getting on people’s nerves with her frantic gameplay. This episode, even after she won immunity, she was paranoid that other people were scrambling. Like they were stealing her signature move.

The remnants of Aras’s alliance – Vytas, Tina and Katie – weren’t sure how to react. They wanted to point out Monica’s low position in the tribe so she’d flip. But they also were simply irritated, and had nothing to lose by telling her off.

Even Monica’s alliance started to question her value when, provoked by Vytas, she changed her vote at Tribal Council. Monica wins a special anti-Fishy for a move that had no effect except to freak out her allies.

Pro tip for future Survivor players: Unless there are extraordinary circumstances, never, ever change your vote at Tribal Council.

Survivor is a game based on trust, but you have only one moment to prove yourself trustworthy: when you use your oversize Sharpie to scrawl a name on parchment. Players spend tons of time firming up the voting order. If you switch, especially in a delicate split vote, you could find your own torch snuffed.

“It’s simple. Don’t rock the vote,” said Gervase. That’s great advice, even if it does contradict two decades of MTV’s admonishments.

Island Exhaustion

Monica wasn’t the only one feeling the fatigue. Everybody looked a little exhausted after three weeks of Survivor.

Even Tyson was feeling it. He struggled all episode with whether to reveal his idol. If he did, he could stop the ridiculous facade of splitting votes and nannying Tina.

Tyson wins his second Fishy for keeping the idol information quiet – even if the secret interfered with his nap.

Tina was worn out, too. She had a mini blow-up after Tribal Council, yelling at Tyson that he just lost five jury votes. That outburst could be ideal for Tyson, who now might be perceived as less of a threat.

Tina was feeling guilty that her mistakes might hurt Katie. In a touching scene, she told Katie to make her own moves, although Katie-Bot had trouble processing the concept. “My mom mentioned that I need to have a game plan,” Katie said, as though this was news.

Meanwhile, Vytas scrambled. He pleaded with Hayden and Tyson for a reprieve. “Two days could lead to 12 days could lead to a million dollars,” he said.

What makes Vytas so great is that he’ll say anything or backstab anyone. Even as he told Katie they had to stay together, he plotted to vote her out.

How hilarious were Vytas and Aras at Redemption Island? They bickered like Pinky and the Brain after their plot to take over the world had failed. I hope Tina brought some harmony to the brothers.

If Tina loses the Duel, as seems likely, will it give Katie a chance to make a move?