Stephen Fishbach's 'Survivor' Blog: Fishy in a Pickle

The Survivor: Tocantins and Survivor Cambodia: Second Chance is blogging all season for PEOPLE

Photo: Monty Brinton/CBS

Stephen Fishbach was the runner-up on

Survivor: Tocantins and a member of the jury on Survivor Cambodia: Second Chance. He has been blogging aboutSurvivorstrategy for PEOPLE since 2009. Follow him on Twitter @stephenfishbach.

“I plan on making it as miserable as possible for everybody. I think if I can control how they feel, I can control how they think.” –Russell Hantz, Survivor: Samoa

Help me out here, folks. I’m in a pickle. After an action-packed episode that saw chaos at camp, threats of a super idol, and heart-breaking betrayals – I still don’t know who to give the Fishy to. A lot of strategy stuff happened. But was any of it good strategy stuff?

Let’s walk through the episode. At the end, you tell me who gets it.

Scot & Jason

The episode started with Scot and Jason fuming that they’ve been double-crossed. They decided to sabotage camp. “It’s psychological warfare,” Jason grinned. “Cut off all their ties. Mess with their minds. Keep ’em weak. Look for the cracks.”

They started small. They hid the machete and the axe (but apparently forgot the saw?) When the tribe woke up, it didn’t take too long to deduce the culprits behind the mysterious vanishing farm tools. Things escalated quickly. “I’m steaming, so I’m going to do something stupid,” said Scot. True to his word, he dumped a jug of water on the fire. So much for subtlety.

They started by emulating Russell Hantz. They end by acting like Brandon Hantz. You know things have gone off the rails when you’re playing like any Hantz, let alone the wrong Hantz.

The crazy thing is their divisive actions worked! By becoming so hated, they pulled over Julia, who sees two jury goats. Debbie got so fixated on taking them out, that she alienates her alliance, who turned on her. Scot, Jason and Tai remain in the game, they didn’t play a single idol and their opposing alliance turned on itself.

Things worked out exactly as they had hoped.

Scot and Jason aren’t strategic monsters, either, in spite of their aggro reputations. Look at the way they worked Julia at the reward challenge. They asked her polite questions, they made small talk. We may not like the way they play, but they’re definitely playing.

My concern for Scott and Jason is that by performing such transgressive actions they could be essentially ending their games. Survivor is a game with one winner and 17 losers. Would anybody vote for them in the finals now?

Still, the jury has to vote for someone. And if you actually count votes, Scot or Jason might not be drawing dead. Nick certainly would vote for his bros. Neal might choose a bully over a strategic nonentity. Cydney, if she’s on the jury, could see past their gruff exterior. Julia seems to have affection for them. Plus Jason would vote for Scot and vice versa. Other jurors might be more hurt by a stunning betrayal from an ally than bad behavior from their enemies.

But there was another way for the guys to handle Nick’s blindside. As we saw in Cambodia, just because a group votes together once doesn’t mean they’ll ever vote together again. Come back. Make nice. Say “Great blindside guys.” Pick things up again with Cydney, Michele and Julia.

But by going full J’tia, the guys radicalized the tribe division. I can’t in good conscience give them the Fishy.

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What About Julia?

Have we ever seen a 19-year-old bounce between alliances like Julia? She’s playing a smart, aggressive game for someone so young. Even after her tough night alone at Brawn beach, Julia quickly reintegrated herself and has voted with the majority every time.

The problem is, she’s just so transparent in her double dealings. Julia’s about as delicate strategically as Scot was in the immunity challenge.

Literally seconds after returning from reward, she asked the girls their strategy. Later, immediately after Deb suggested a split vote, she made up the lamest excuse in the history of lame excuses for why she had to talk to the guys – so Tai can “take care of his damn bird.”

Julia’s playing a dangerous game, and she doesn’t have the experience or self-awareness to fully play it. But by the end of the episode, she still found herself in the majority once again. Not Fishy-worthy, but decent play regardless.

So Aubry and Cydney?

Aubry and Cydney were the actual ones to lead the episode’s strategic action. They quickly noted that Julia was a double agent and wisely decided to neutralize her. That would have been a strong play. But when Julia won immunity and Debbie refused to go along with their plans, they decided to take out Debbie instead.

Aubry was right that you “need someone who is logical,” who you “know is not going to change course.” But at this point in the game, when things are so divided, loyalty is almost more important than logic. If Deb was guilty of anything, it was blind loyalty to her girls.

At least Cydney saved herself by voting for Deb. Aubry ended up in a worse position. She again betrayed Joe at Tribal Council. She took out one of her own alliance without even flushing the Super Idol. Worst of all, now she’ll be even more dependent on wishy-washy Julia for the numbers.

Aubry and Cydney managed to flip the game in favor of the guys.

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So what would have been the “right” move for Aubry? This kind of analysis is so tricky, without knowing all the specifics of what was actually happening on the beach. But why go with that down-the-line split vote that Debbie was proposing? Julia would have been forced to pick a side between the women and the men. If she did stay with the women, the Super Idol would be flushed and either Scot or Jason would go home. If Julia stuck with the men, the worst-case scenario would be that Cydney is voted out and surely Cydney is a bigger jury threat for Aubry than Debbie is.

Debbie may actually have had the best plan!


What about giving the Fishy to Tai? Tai somehow ends up best of all this episode. Even after voting for Jason last week, Tai managed to trick the bros into believing he voted for Debbie. He doused the tribe fire – but Scot got blamed. And at the end of the episode, Jason blundered and gave his idol to Tai too soon – so Tai has the Super Idol in his pocket!

I’m most inclined to give the Fishy to Tai or Cydney. But I’m open to other ideas. Let me know in the comments who you think deserves the Fishy. I’ll make the Reader’s Choice Fishy Award on Twitter before next Wednesday’s episode.

Survivor: Kaoh Rong airs Wednesdays (8 p.m. ET) on CBS.

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