One Survivor contestant is costing the tribe rewards — and immunities

By Stephen Fishbach
October 23, 2019 09:00 PM

Stephen Fishbach has been blogging about Survivor strategy for PEOPLE since 2009. He is the host of the podcast Paraphrase, where he interviews writers about the openings to their novels. Follow him on Twitter at @stephenfishbach

“Predictable in this game is great.” — Brendan Synnott, Survivor: Tocantins

You can hear it in Noura’s wild laugh. There’s nothing so fun as being the dominant tribe after a swap. You get to lie back, while the minority tribe scrambles to please you. They do the chores, they beg for your mercy. After a stressful first few days, where every vote could send you home, suddenly you’re buffered from the dangers of the game.

But maybe the former Vokai has gotten too buffered, because the choice to vote out Tom over Karishma is baffling. In a game that’s filled with randomness, you want to decrease uncertainty, not increase it. Keep the steadfast Toms. Boot the “chaos is a ladder” Karishmas!

Janet’s diagnosis of Tom seems dead-on. He’s a straight-shooter, someone who’s not going to lie. The problem, she says, is that Tom is a team-oriented player. He’ll always be with his original group, he’ll never truly flip to Vokai.

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Honestly, Tom sounds like a fantasy of the type of guy you’d want to keep around. Someone who’s not going to go ping-ponging around the merge-making deals? If I ever play Survivor again, give me a tribe full of Toms! Survivor sages have waxed eloquent about the importance of predictability. “Predictability in this game is great,” says Brendan Synnott (talking about Coach). “Predictability really is everything,” says John Cochran (bemoaning Brandon Hantz). Better to have a known enemy than an unpredictable friend.

Survivor: Island of the Idols cast
Robert Voets/CBS Entertainment

The former Vokai think that Karishma is more likely to stick with them at the merge. But old-Vokai will have a numerical advantage at the merge no matter who they vote out now. They don’t need her as a number – and she could be dangerous later.

Meanwhile, Karishma is costing the tribe rewards and immunities. She isn’t a threat to win the game. But she is a threat to not be a threat. If she makes the merge, who’s going to vote her out? That means at every tribal council, there’s one fewer people between your neck and Jeff’s axe.

Erik Reichenbach

That said, no decision is straightforwardly good or bad on Survivor. (Or to quote Kellee, “There can be many truths that exist simultaneously.”) Voting out Tom breaks up the Tom-Dean pair, and there’s clearly no great love between Dean and Karishma. You want to keep your enemies fractious and feuding.

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(Meanwhile, keeping Dean is a no-brainer. He’s also isolated from the former Lairo tribe, and will be a big target at the merge.)

Karishma Patel
Robert Voets/CBS Entertainment

Kudos to Karishma for saving herself and convincing her new tribe to make a terrible decision. She formed personal bonds by opening up about her personal life. (She may have actually opened up more than she expected. People talk all the time about their romantic tribulations on Survivor, but you never think it’s actually going to make CBS prime time!)

Karishma made it clear to old Vokai not only that she wanted to flip. She said she had no connection to her past tribe. Indeed, the only true vehemence she showed was at tribal council, when Tom called her out for her mysterious benefactor who saved her at the last tribal council. “I swear to God I absolutely do not know who was in charge of that!” she exclaimed.

Karishma wins the Fishy for this episode. I expect to see her stirring the pot in many more!

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