By People Staff
Updated December 01, 2020 06:29 PM
Credit: CBS

“O divine art of subtlety and secrecy! Through you we learn to be invisible, through you inaudible; and hence we can hold the enemy’s fate in our hands.” — Sun Tzu, The Art of War

So there are two tribes in this game. I thought Galu was just the group that Foa Foa lost to in the challenges. Last night, they proved there’s a lot more happening in Samoa than the Russell Show. In an action-packed episode of hidden idols, wild chickens, and some fine bocce sharp-shooting, the strategic standout was bartender Erik, who subtly set himself up as a tribe powerbroker. No fireworks, fancy nicknames like “puppetmaster,” or property damage — just good strategy. I’m sorry, Russell, your streak’s broken. This week’s Fishy goes to Erik.

Erik starts the episode by buttering up Shambo to get the clues to the hidden immunity idol. He figures that the idol will be in the same place at Galu as it was in Foa Foa. Incredibly, Shambo tells him. Bad move, marine. Showing the idol to build an alliance is smart strategy. But giving the clues to find the idol for themselves is suicide. See Leslie Nease’s elimination on Survivor: China. They don’t need you, and you know too much.

Unlike Russell, who started climbing into trees in the middle of camp, Erik takes a subtle approach. He distracts the rest of Galu by sending them off on errands. “I can get doing things… while I stay home and find the immunity idol,” he says. At Galu, that mostly means assigning places to nap. While the rest of the tribe snoozes, Erik digs up the idol.

But Erik’s real genius is the way he handles the strategic scramble before Tribal Council. Unlike Russell H on Foa Foa, who tries to dictate how everyone should vote and think, Erik lets the rest of the tribe do the talking. “Okay boss, talk to me,” he says to Russell S. That’s how JT and I played the game last season. Let talk, and they will tell you their plans. When Russell says he’s voting for Monica, Erik says, “my mindset’s pretty much the same as yours.”

But Erik then goes over to Kelly, John, and Dave to test their waters. They tell him they’re targeting Yasmin. He responds, “We could do that because we have numbers.” He’s a part of whichever group he’s talking to. While the two factions prepare to go to war, Erik is a member of both groups — shuttling information, trying to build consensus.

When that consensus forms, you almost can’t believe it’s Yasmin. OK, so she doesn’t “perform around camp.” This is Survivor, not the Swiss Family Robinson. Who cares who’s picking the coconuts? It’s a numbers game and immunity is everything. Monica lost the challenge for you, !

But trust me, camp life matters. You really are surviving on Survivor: you have to build your own shelter, make a fire to keep warm, and frequently just freeze out in the rain. You’re always exhausted. So if someone is napping under the palm fronds while you’re hunting lizards, you’re going to resent them. You’re going to want them gone. It’s a social game.

That’s something Yasmin just didn’t seem to get. “These … are not being true to themselves,” she says in her final words. “They’re tiptoeing around each other. They’re full of crap. It’s just crazy.” Subtlety and secrecy — that’s not crazy, that’s game play. And right now, Erik is the best one playing on Galu. — Stephen Fishbach

Tell us: What did you think of the dynamics at Galu? Did they make the right choice? Which tribe is playing the more strategic game?