Stephen Fishbach's 'Survivor' Blog: Tasha's Original Sin and Abi-Maria's Tremendous Transgression

Fishbach will be blogging his experiences from Cambodia

Photo: Monty Brinton/CBS; Inset: Monty Brinton/CBS

Stephen Fishbach was the runner-up on Survivor: Tocantins and has been blogging about Survivor strategy for PEOPLE since 2009. This season, he will blog about his experiences in Cambodia as a competitor on Survivor: Second Chance. Follow Stephen on Twitter @stephenfishbach.

"Just because we’ve said what we’re doing, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to happen." –Jeff Varner, Survivor: The Australian Outback

“Hell is other people,” according to French existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre – and probably also Survivor contestant Tasha Fox.

In Sartre’s classic play No Exit, three sinners are forced to endure eternity justifying their wickedness to each other. On Wednesday night’s episode of Survivor, Tasha endured an eternity of Abi-Maria’s wickedness.

Tasha’s original sin was one of necessity: At Angkor, she recruited flip junkie Abi-Maria to establish a majority on the crumbling tribe. Now she’s paying the price in endless conversations keeping her new ally in line.

Immediately after Angkor returned from Tribal Council, Abi ambushed Tasha talking to Woo and called her out in front of the entire camp. I can’t overstate what a tremendous transgression this is of Survivor alliance protocol. If you need to have a forthright conversation, you discretely pull your ally away from the rest of the group or arrange a rendezvous by the water well. You never, ever, ever put your ally on blast. (Times 50 more “evers.”) Survivor success is based on trust and secrecy – both of which are shattered by a public confrontation.

Later on, after the tribe lost immunity, Tasha was again stuck in an interminable Abi moment, trying to bring her around to the Varner vote. Tasha wins the Fishy for doing what nobody else has been able to do – she kept Abi-Maria from flipping and convinced her to vote out her ally.

One of the best moments of the episode was also one of the smallest. When Varner was whispering to Abi by the water well that he missed his #AbiTime, Tasha was standing right there with them, patiently listening. She knew that letting Varner have free access to Abi could upend her plans.

Sometimes the best strategy on Survivor is a strong defensive game. If two people are never alone together, they can never ally.

But while we’re so used to just dismissing Abi because she’s Abi, consider what she actually said. Abi tried to argue that Varner was loyal and Woo was actively targeting her. Those things are both true! Woo has voted against Abi twice, as Abi keeps reminding us – and on Survivor, there is literally no more active sign of hostility than a vote at Tribal Council. I would be frustrated, too, if my alliance weren’t willing to eliminate my enemies and demanded instead that I vote out my friends.

Plus, Abi should be suspicious of Tasha’s arguments in defense of Woo. After all, Woo and Tasha played together in Cagayan, and Tasha was the only person to vote for Woo to win. Those bonds run deep. Abi was merely asking Tasha to respect her concerns; the dismissive way that Tasha told Abi she’d consider Woo “if that is what will make you sleep at night” should have been a red flag. Abi could clearly feel her leverage slipping away.

At Tribal Council, Varner and Woo both gave stirring defenses for why they deserved to stay in the game. They both promised everlasting and undying loyalty to the new tribe. But Tasha knew that Varner was the more dangerous opponent. He’s super smart, plus he had a wounded foot. Ultimately, the tribe voted out the lame brain.

For the last four episodes, Varner has been like a character in a video game – leaping from platform to platform before his foothold disintegrated. But with an injured foot, Varner couldn’t leap any longer. His platform came out from under him, and the game caught up.

I am sure we will see him again soon.

At Bayon

While Angkor was at Tribal Council, Bayon was playing “Celebrity.” You find ways to pass the time on Survivor. We would lie in the shelter at night playing word games or sharing our highs and lows. Jeremy and I would greet each other in over-the-top British accents: “Stephen, my good man!” he would say. “Jeremy! Good day to you, sir!” I would respond.

Winning the Immunity Challenge was a major bonding moment for Bayon, especially because we beat the indomitable Takeo machine. The challenge itself was a grueling test of will. By the end, we could barely see from the sweat dripping down our faces, could barely lift the heavy blocks and, as soon as Jeff Probst declared we had won immunity, we raced for our water bottles.

Afterward, we celebrated our team effort. Each of us had carried our weight in the challenge, and we all solved the puzzle together. We laughed about our setbacks and minor challenge kerfuffles – like when I thought Kimmi had gassed out and was resting on the puzzle but actually she was holding up an entire side of the structure. We mimicked Kimmi’s constant refrain of “SPENCER! LEFT!!” (best ejaculated at full volume in a strong Kimmi Long Island accent), which for whatever reason was the single most repeated instruction she shouted from the caller’s chair. We rolled our eyes a bit when Monica attempted to join in on the war stories by talking about how essential her cheerleading was from the bench.

It felt like we were coming together as a highly functional team. At one point, our chicken flew its coop; I now know that’s because Jeremy released it in a gesture of charity and mischief. In a struggle we called Nerd vs. Bird, the entire tribe picked up our implements – nets and baskets – to recapture our precious Juicy J (watch the whole ridiculous scene here).

Survivor is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration, and that’s largely because of the humidity. Even on clear days, we would wake up in the mornings drenched from the moisture in the air. Staying hydrated was a constant struggle – but vitally important. Trips to the water well also were an opportunity to strategize and have private one-on-one conversations.

By week two, the elements and malnutrition start to take their toll not just on our bodies but our minds. You start to lose your mental acuity. I would start sentences and not remember how I had intended to finish them.

That’s one of the biggest unacknowledged challenges on Survivor. How do you play an impossibly complicated game as you slowly lose your ability to think clearly?

I was getting nervous, too, that our tribe hadn’t yet been to Tribal Council. I’ve written and podcasted so much about Survivor, and I’ve seen so many winning teams self-destruct: Timbira, Galu, Tandang. The only opportunity you truly have to affirm trust and build an alliance is by voting together.

I liked my tribe a lot. But I wasn’t sure I trusted them.

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Survivor: Second Chance

airs Wednesdays (8 p.m. ET) on CBS.

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