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.
“Once you flip, you’re a weaker number, because you’ve shown that you can’t be trusted in your alliance.”
– Lisa Whelchel, Survivor: The Philippines
Survivor is a game of big moves. Strategists know that if you want to make a compelling case to the jury, you can’t just coast to the end. You have to take control.
So why don’t more big moves happen? Why do people get trapped in the four and five spots, unable to seize the initiative? How does Tyson, an obvious boss, end up cake-walking toward the end with hardly a vote against him?
Witness the tragic tale of poor Hayden, the mastermind who might have been.
Hayden knows he needs to take ownership of the game. “We can sit on our hands and hope things work out. Or we can try to take action and do our own thing,” he said.
Hayden approached the three people he trusted most in the game – Caleb, Katie and Ciera. They were his original Tadhana allies, people he bonded with since day one.
Then Ciera ran back to Tyson and ratted out Hayden’s plot. Within a day, Caleb was gone. Now Hayden is the presumptive next target.
Therein lies the problem. If you say one wrong word to one wrong person, your whole game is ruined.
When Hayden and Caleb got caught, what could they do? In a tribe of seven people, they only had three votes. They approached Tyson and tried to shift the blame onto Ciera. Ultimately, however, the bros’ pact had been riven by distrust.
With an idol in his pocket, Tyson could take a risk and eliminate Caleb, a bigger jury threat than Ciera.
A Betrayal and a Flip
You have to wonder why Ciera made such a horrible decision as to turn on her Tadhana allies. If she joined up with Hayden, Caleb and Katie, she could go to the finals. Hayden and Caleb might split the votes, she could pick up the moms – and who knows, she could even eke out a win.
Instead, she stuck with the vets, even as it’s obvious to everybody that Tyson is running the game.
Ciera’s rationale was pretty thin: “These people haven’t played the game before,” she said. Never mind that Hayden has actually won a reality competition, while Tyson and Gervase have three losses between them.
Didn’t Ciera watch her mom’s season, when John Fincher flipped to Russell Hantz’s bloc and was voted out the next episode? Did she not hear tales from John Cody about how the exact same thing happened to Candice in Heroes vs. Villains? Or see any of the numerous other seasons where the exact same thing happened?
Here’s a pro tip: Nobody trusts a flipper. By flipping on your original allies, you earn their undying enmity, ruining any chance you have at their jury votes. What’s more, your new allies don’t trust you either.
“She’s too sneaky and too smart and too deceiving to be in the game anymore,” said Tyson.
If history is any indication, Ciera could be the next to go.
Here’s a question: What’s the actual difference between Hayden’s proposed move and Ciera’s? My thought is that Hayden was trying to rally his allies to unseat the kingpin. Ciera ratted out her friends, and moved from the bottom of one alliance to the bottom of another.
While Ciera destroyed her game, her mom, Laura, used the Redemption “duel” to advance hers. She gave Tina tips at the puzzle and blocked Vytas from seeing her work.
By keeping Tina in the game, she saved a weaker competitor for the next duel – giving her a slight edge at advancing another step in the game.
For that, Laura wins this week’s Fishy.