Stephen's 'Survivor' Strategy Blog: Loyalty vs. Strength

Photo: Rob Kim/Landov

“In some cases, the emotions and passions of the combatants are excited to such a degree as to be with difficulty restrained and confined to the political road”
– Carl von Clausewitz, On War

Okay, I was wrong. Maybe the Zapateras are morons. They choose loyalty over strength with challenges left to go. Then, on day 18, when any idiot is wondering what color the merge buff will be, they choose strength over loyalty.

It’s just when loyalty matters most on Survivor! With David basically laughing in their faces, the Zapatera – 4? – oust Sarita. A tribe can go into the merge down numbers and win, but only when its members trust each other.

Just imagine what might have been. The Zapateras merge as a cohesive unit of five. Alpha males Mike, Steve and Julie flatter Phillip with talk of manly things. Then all of a sudden the mean girl Ometepes are exfoliating from the jury bench.

Kudos to David for not arguing for himself. “I didn’t even go around to anybody and plead my case this afternoon,” he tells Jeff. Normally Jeff condemns that refusal to scramble. (Think of Brenda’s boot last season.)

But David’s success is clear proof that there’s no one right way to play Survivor. The Zapateras are obviously suspicious of lawyers. David would only hurt himself by ejaculating fancy-worded arguments that Ralph won’t understand.

Well, keeping David fulfills at least one of Steve’s goals. The tribe will finally “come together.” At Loser Lodge.

Phillip Coaches His Tribe

This episode Phillip took his season-long homage to Coach one step further, into rank imitation. Frankly I was a little disappointed to see Phillip quoting Miyamoto Musashi and The Book of the Five Rings, then calling Matt a samurai warrior. Survivor already has that guy! Former federal agent, the Stealth R Us alliance, and gorilion were working so well for you!

Phillip, of course, doesn’t really mean any of the nasty things he says about Boston Rob. He’s like a teenager, fantasizing about taking revenge on his dad and eating all the crispy rice he wants. He’ll show them!

Like any redheaded stepchild, all Phillip really wants is to be loved. As soon as the pretty girls tolerate him for a few minutes in the flush of victory, suddenly he feels all warm and tribal again. Gorilla or a lion? How about a pussycat.

Rob Rules the Roost

The Fishy this week goes to Boston Rob because, really … who else? The only other person this season even playing an acceptable game of Survivor is Matt at Redemption Island – or maybe Andrea, who is doing her best to keep her mouth shut and bide her time.

Rob knows that he’s the biggest target right now. So in one fell swoop of psychological jujitsu, he tells his tribe … that he’s the biggest target. “I want everybody to know that the target’s on me, so that they feel safe,” he says. By acknowledging the issue, Rob defuses it. Then he riles his alliance further against Phillip.

Phillip is to Ometepe what Russell once was to Zapatera – an easy antagonist to unite against. Just like the dystopian government of George Orwell’s 1984, Rob realizes that a state of perpetual war is the best way to unify his team. The Zapateras could take some lessons. (And if you give them four seasons, maybe they’ll learn some.)

But as blog reader Todd Gaines points out, Rob always seems in control – until he isn’t. He ran his tribe on Marquesas until they swapped. He dominated All Stars, but lost the jury vote. And he was King Villain on the Villains tribe, until he faced an even more villainous villainy.

Rob is running the game – for now. But with the merge next week, he’s about to face some new challenges.

For more Survivor analysis and other random Tweets, follow Stephen Fishbach on Twitter at @stephenfishbach

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