Stephen Fishbach's 'Survivor' Blog: One Bad Lie Destroys a Castaway's Game

Val makes up an unbelievable story, and Rocker buys it

Photo: Erik Reichenbach Comics

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 can lie to me, you can fool me, you can deceive me. Don’t insult my intelligence.”
– James Clement, Survivor: Micronesia

Lying on Survivor is a fine art. You drop a hint here and a tease there and let people’s imaginations run wild. The greats of the game fib their way to victory. In Heroes vs. Villains, Sandra dropped a “Sandra bug” into Russell’s ear, convincing him that Coach was plotting his ouster. On Survivor: Cagayan, Tony pretended he had an idol for every occasion. Then there’s Val, who made up what very well could be the worst lie in Survivor history. Val claimed that within just a few days of gameplay, she had found not one, but two idols. Not only is it completely implausible, but she also alienates a potential ally and ultimately, gets herself voted out of the game.

I’d like to step through this morass of badness, because from start to finish, this truly was one of the most astoundingly confusing and bad plays on behalf of basically everybody involved.

Val’s Lie

John Rocker makes an alliance with Val’s husband Jeremy on Exile Island, where they each swear to protect their respective women. They bump chests, high five, and spend the night bro-ing down (probably). When John gets back to camp, he tries to make good on his promise by approaching Val and telling her about his idol clue. Any thinking person would interpret this as an overture of good faith.

Except instead of accepting Rocker’s overture, Val lies to his face. She doesn’t say she has a clue, or that she has one idol – but that she has two different immunity idols, one found on Exile and the other at camp. She doesn’t offer any proof but only says that she’s using them to protect herself and Jaclyn – i.e., explicitly excluding Rocker.

Val’s terrible lie and alienating a potential ally was bad enough. But somehow, incredibly, Rocker believes her. And even more incredibly, Rocker decides to tell the entire tribe about his new ally’s two idols. He thereby convinces the tribe to split the votes on Val and Baylor and tells Val to play one of her idols or she’ll be voted out.

So Rocker both tells the tribe about Val’s idols and warns Val that he told the tribe about both idols. If you’re being generous, you could say that Rocker wisely flushes an idol while also protecting an ally but I’m not sure I’m that generous a human being.

Rather than see the danger and confess, though, Val decides to keep lying? Even knowing she’ll get voted out of the game, Val somehow thinks that lying will protect her. “This is like an Oscar-winning moment,” Val says. More like an anti-Fishy-winning moment!

Even after the split vote, Val never decides to fess up to her ally Rocker, and so is voted out of the tribe, no doubt still smiling to herself about her perfect Oscar-winning deception.

Marital Differences

Meanwhile, Val’s husband Jeremy is playing a superb game. Jeremy built a smart cross-tribal alliance with Rocker on Exile Island. (Kudos also go to Julie, for sending Jeremy to Exile to make an alliance with her man.) At camp, he’s also affirming his alliance with the women and letting Drew and John alienate the girls.

The Fishy this week goes to

Now hold up here. You came here looking for Fishies – and you’re proposing what exactly? Walk me through this from a negotiation standpoint. You’re the ones who want Fishies. My life is fine. So you come in, read this blog, and demand Fishies. That doesn’t work on I’ve got one offer for you: You’ll have to follow me @stephenfishbach to learn who gets the Fishy.

This is your final opportunity. Seize it if you want.

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