Stephen Fishbach admires Malcolm, Eddie and Reynold for the way they took down their boss, Phillip

By Stephen Fishbach
Updated April 18, 2013 09:10 AM
Monty Brinton/CBS (3)

Stephen Fishbach was the runner-up on Survivor: Tocantins and has been blogging about Survivor strategy for since 2009. Follow him on Twitter @stephenfishbach.

“Early on in this game, I made myself the villain.”
– Phillip Sheppard, Survivor: Redemption Island

Oh lucky day! The Specialist has been neutralized!

In a way, all of us has a Phillip to face. For some, shyness might be their Phillip. For the Three Amigos, their Phillip is an overbearing former federal agent (?), who wants to vote them off Survivor.

But as sure as their names are Malcolm, Eddie and Reynold, on Wednesday the Amigos conquered their own personal Phillip – who also happened to be the actual Phillip!

Amigos, Amigos Everywhere
Wednesday night, we finally saw the Three Amigos as god intended them: no catty dominatrices, no 40-something New Yorkers. Just three handsome bros, winning challenges, finding idols and bro-ing down.

How amazing was that tribal council? When Stealth R Us was at their most overconfident, the Amigos took out their boss. First Reynold wins immunity; then Malcolm finds another idol; then at tribal council, he whips out BOTH idols?

Have we ever seen such chaos? Nobody even listened to Jeff as they tripped over themselves to formulate a plan.

No question – the Three Amigos win the Fishy this week for a move that will go down in Survivor history.

They Really Don’t Have a Plan B
The move was beautiful. But was it brilliant? Since this is a strategy blog, I want to split some strategic hairs.

Like the Three Amigos of the movie, Survivor‘s Amigos are great at putting on a big show. But can they fight with real bullets? If this week’s tribal council was excellent theater, there was something a little hollow about the performance. As much fun as it was to watch Stealth R Us scramble, the Three Amigos may have missed an opportunity.

The Amigos knocked out Phillip – but they expended an immunity necklace and two idols. As everybody noted, they’re still at the tribe’s bottom. Will Phillip’s departure really shake up Stealth R Us? I’m not so sure.

In the movie The Three Amigos, the Amigos only triumph when they stop trying to fight El Guapo on their own and mobilize the villagers of Santa Poco. Survivor‘s Amigos needed to build alliances, not win one vote.

Why didn’t the Amigos try to use their leverage before tribal council? They could have gone to Erik or Brenda and said, “We’re immune tonight. Unless you team up with us, you’re going home.” What about Andrea? Every time her name is even mentioned, Andrea has a Dawn-esque breakdown. She’s already flirt-mancing Eddie. What wouldn’t she do to save her neck?

At a minimum, the Amigos shouldn’t have admitted they were targeting Phillip. They gave Stealth R Us an easy out. Had they not said who they were voting for, Stealth R Us would have had to turn on itself. By exposing the alliance pecking order, the Amigos could gain new allies next week.

Moreover, if they hadn’t admitted their target, then each member of Stealth R Us would be more incentivized to vote for another member of Stealth R Us, so that they themselves were not the target. The Amigos might be free to not play their idols. It would be risky. But it also would be a way to turn a big stunt into an enduring game shift.

There’s always the selfish question. Should Malcolm have kept that second idol for himself?

Using Their Brains
Of course, it’s easy to Thursday-morning quarterback. Phillip’s exit could shake up the game. Will Andrea flip to the Amigos? Could Sherri or Erik?

The Amigos’ move was big and bold and beautiful. They managed to take out the season’s big villain when it looked like curtains for one of them.

No, they did not die like dogs. They fought like lions.