Timothy Kuratek/CBS/Landov

The epic face-off between Josh and Jeremy that's been building all season gets extended

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November 06, 2014 11:40 AM

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.

“Once the merge happens, then the game starts. This is when Survivor really becomes Survivor.”
– Hayden Moss, Survivor: Blood vs. Water

Is Julie’s quit even worse than Na Onka’s?

In Survivor: Nicaragua, Na Onka Mixon set a new benchmark for bad Survivor behavior. She stole food, talked trash and quit the game with a clear path to the finals.

But at least in Nicaragua, the weather was terrible. Most quitters leave the game after being buffeted by the elements.

Julie left because she was lonely.

Julie couldn’t handle being away from her boyfriend (John Rocker) for three weeks. As Jeff Probst notes, children are away from their parents for a longer time at summer camp.

Alliance Face-Off

The silver lining to Julie’s quit is that we get to extend the epic face-off between Josh and Jeremy that’s been building all season.

The two strategic leaders circle each other with the respectful antagonism of Pacino and De Niro in Heat.

“If you take [Josh] out, it’s over,” Jeremy says.

“[Jeremy] is playing this game, and he’s playing it well. It just is opposite to what I’m doing,” Josh says.

Jeremy enters the merge with a tight core alliance of Julie and Natalie. Josh and Reed have Wes, Keith and Alec. In between are swing couples Missy and Baylor and Jon and Jaclyn.

Josh first makes a plea to his old ally Baylor, arguing that the couples need to stick together. Baylor wavers, but ultimately rebuffs him after Mama Bear Missy declares her loyalty to team Jeremy. “Get in the back seat and let me drive!” Missy exclaims.

So Josh starts making the pitch to Jon and Jaclyn, arguing that the couples need to stick together. But the self-described “power couple” is scared about jumping teams.

Fishy Award

Reed wins the Fishy this week for a blink-and-you-missed-it line that changed Jon and Jaclyn’s opinion. As the couple’s alliance is in a full-court press trying to convince Jon and Jaclyn to switch, Reed casually says, “Jeremy is big on taking out the couples.”

“Is he?” Jon responds. You can see the wheels start to turn. Shortly thereafter, Jon and Jaclyn decide to switch over to the couples alliance.

In great partnerships, one partner typically gets all the credit, and this season has largely been the Josh show.

There’s no question Josh is playing a masterful strategic game. By playing the nice guy role, he’s built strong relationships. He leverages the idea of a “couples alliance” to try to get the numbers – but also somehow manages to keep single player Alec along for the ride. He almost succeeds at guilting Baylor into an alliance.

But you can also see how much Josh and Reed collaborate. When Josh is trying to chat up Baylor, there’s Reed in the background, chatting up Keith.

They bounce ideas off each other. When Baylor rebuffs Josh’s advances, Reed assesses that “it’s because she’s here with Missy.”

Having a close confidante to discuss strategy can keep you grounded in a game that puts you through, in Josh’s words, “mental mind craziness.”

A true partner can also reinforce your big strategic plays. Jon might have had his guard up against Josh. But hearing the same strategy from a different player can make a compelling case.

It’s a terrible decision for Jon and Jaclyn to switch alliances. They would be at the bottom of Josh and Reed’s strong alliance, instead of at the top of Jeremy’s more fractured one. If they stayed with Jeremy, they could team up with Missy and Baylor at the final seven and make it to the finals.

But Josh and Reed convinced them to make a bad decision. That is the essence of great strategy.

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