A comparison to Russell Hantz saves one player and seals another's fate

By Stephen Fishbach
Updated May 08, 2014 01:30 PM

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.

You have to check yourself out, emotionally, or you’re not gonna make it in this game. – Chelsea Meissner, Survivor: One World

In the war between reason and emotion, which wins?

We all fall somewhere on the scale from cerebral Spencer to erratic J’Tia. What’s made this season of Survivor so compelling is that we have a cast of smart, strategic players – many of whom are also out-of-control hotheads.

Wednesday night’s episode started with Tony and Kass, two of the season’s most insightful players, behaving like bratty kids. Kass was mad that Tony left her out of his plan to blindside Jefra. Tony was mad that Kass was mad.

Kass refused to play with Tony anymore. Tony said fine, but if she wouldn’t play with him, then he wouldn’t play with her.

Are these 40-year-olds or 4-year-olds?

When Kass mistakenly thought she overheard Tony call her a “b––,” she decided that she would take her toys to her new friends, Spencer and Tasha. (Spencer and Tasha were also, incidentally, her old friends.)

Like many out-of-control kids, Kass needs to feel like she’s the one in charge. “I don’t want to be a cult member. I want to kill the cult leader,” she said. Kass has a huge chip on her shoulder about anybody bossing her around. It led her to flip on Sarah, and it leads her to momentarily flip on Tony.

“I like to have chaos and I like to have trouble,” Kass explained. But while Kass may tell herself she’s an agent of chaos, she’s really acting out of anger. She wasn’t such a fan of chaos when it was Tony disrupting her orderly plans.

Kass’s flip opened the door for Spencer and Tasha to recruit a new alliance. They approached the ever wide-eyed Woo about turning on his old allies.

Woo is such a great foil for all these aggressive strategists. He’s like the kid sidekick in a superhero movie: He just can’t believe all the crazy things happening around him.

When Woo got back to camp, however, Tony saw straight through his cover story that Spencer and Kass hadn’t mentioned his name.

Meanwhile, Tasha’s horrible lies weren’t any better. She pretended that she was so certain she was going home, she wasn’t even bothering to scramble. That trick might have worked for Caryn in Survivor: Palau but this is freaking season 28.

Seriously, who taught these players how to lie? You need to create an actually believable cover story. If Tasha wanted to act like she was going home, she should have acted like she actually thought she was going home – scramble, make deals, say anything.

But while Tony knew they were lying, there wasn’t anything he could do to counter the votes. He resolved to play his idol, but even so it looked like a split vote might send his right-hand lady, Trish, to the jury.

Then Tasha had a conversation with Kass to reinforce how much Tony needed to go. “He’s Russell Hantz,” Tasha said.

Kass quickly realized two things. One, that it’s far better to sit next to Hantzian Tony than likable Tasha. Even more important, she realized she now had the power to choose. That was all she wanted in the first place. Kass flipped again and voted out Tasha.

The Fishy this week goes to Russell Hantz himself (though Tasha has a solid claim for inspiring her own ouster). Russell’s gamesmanship and his brutal losses are so iconic that they’ve defined a certain style of play. A simple comparison between Russell and Tony completely changed Kass’s vote and the course of the game.

Love him or hate him, Russell’s still influencing Survivor.