By People Staff
Updated November 06, 2009 12:00 AM
Credit: CBS

“Those who were called skillful leaders of old knew how to drive a wedge between the enemy’s front and rear. … When the enemy’s men were united, they managed to keep them in disorder.” –Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Are you freaking kidding me, Galu? Did you miss Survivor: Tocantins? I’m almost insulted. The bold-print lesson of last season was that tribe unity is much more important than any internecine feud. Pick the other team off first, THEN turn on each other. But Galu can’t wait twelve days to tear itself to pieces. In a madcap episode where fully half the players are targeted for elimination, Erik ends up going home — all thanks to soft-spoken Natalie. For finesse so subtle that Russell didn’t even believe it had happened, Natalie wins her first Fishy Award.

When the tribes merge, Foa Foa knows they need to make something happen fast. They’re down dramatically in numbers, and ripe to be picked off one by one. Russell’s game plan is for each member of the tribe to target a few members of Galu and try to make inroads. That’s what we did in Tocantins — in fact, I think Russell may be stealing my material almost verbatim. Let’s compare. Here I am, explaining how Jalapao succeeded: “We each selected a few members of Timbira who we thought we might connect with … and we would always stick together.” Now here’s Russell, issuing Foa Foa’s marching orders: “If we all stick together and all focus on somebody different, at least one of them’s going to work.” I’m not sure if I should be flattered or sue for plagiarism.

Still, it’s a good strategy and pays big dividends. Russell works his charm offensive to perfection and manages to seduce Shambo and John into voting for Laura. “I’m here to play this game, man, and you’re the only one here that can do it with me,” he flatters John. “It could be me and you at the end.” Did he just make another final two alliance? Yes he did!

But when Laura wins immunity, Russell flounders to pull something else together. His aggressive style of play works when he’s the one giving orders, not when he has to beg and cajole. But watch Natalie work her sweet magic. While Russell is off flashing his idol at anybody who will look at it, she worms her way into Laura’s confidence. Suddenly she’s talking strategy with the Galu girls, and Erik’s name just happens to come up. “Think of it this way,” she reassures Laura and Kelly. “Galu still has plenty of . Plenty. I’m telling you all — he is going to wreak havoc.”

The seed of doubt proves to be more powerful than even a Russell seed (whatever that is), and Galu turns on Erik. Give credit to Dave Ball, who almost can’t believe the tribe is splintering. “The plan should be just vote Foa Foa and shoot em down,” he says. But even he ends up voting for Erik. Only Shambo — who I was sure would be the tribe turncoat — stays strong and votes for Jaison. In a moment that was either touching or hilarious, she can’t even recognize who the “Erik” is that Galu wants to get rid of.

Foa Foa has fractured Galu’s tribe unity, and now there’s no way to get it back. Trust is broken, but Galu doesn’t seem to care. “Some members of Galu just want to go down the line — Foa Foa, Foa Foa,” John says. “They’re playing junior varsity Survivor.” Only time will tell if he’s right — maybe next week, Galu finally takes out the puppetmaster. But my money is on the crafty, scheming, subtle and — most importantly — unified Foa Foa four. Game on. –Stephen Fishbach

Tell us: Do you think it was a mistake to vote out Erik? Or will Galu regain its team spirit and vote Russell our next? Who else made good moves at the merge?CBS