The show is "so self-aware, that any virtue is considered a threat," Stephen Fishbach writes

By Stephen Fishbach
Updated November 10, 2011 11:00 AM
Credit: Rob Kim/Landov

“When the enemy gets into an inconvenient position, do not let him look around, but conscientiously chase him around and pin him down.” –Miyamoto Musashi, The Book of Five Rings

It’s day 23 of Survivor: South Pacific, and this season has boiled down to one simple question: Which tribe is a bigger bunch of jerks?

On the one hand, Savai’i are all bullies. They had the audacity to try to vote out weakling Cochran, and were allegedly arrogant when they thought they had the odds. “They’re being nice because they have to,” whines Brandon.

On the other hand, Upolu is not much better. They belittle Dawn and “vilify” Whitney. Watching them stuff their faces with cupcakes and muffins was almost as gross as watching a Shambo and Phillip sex tape. The way Cochran struts around camp in Coach’s borrowed duds is symbolic of the entire tribe.

You kind of pray that Ozzy comes back from Redemption Island to wipe that grin off Coach’s face. “If I can be confident but not arrogant … ” says Coach. Stop right there!

Nevertheless, you have to give Coach credit for keeping his tribe united. Sure, it makes for boring television. When the only drama is whether it’s Jim the Rhinoceros or Dawn the Snake who’s being poached tonight, you kind of wish for bigger game.

But by making sure that Upolu acts as one unit, even in their decision to sit out the challenge, Coach ensures that no factions can spring up in his tribal alliance. He’s following Boston Rob’s example from last season – keep your tribe united by focusing on the outside enemy.

Coach’s problems are going to come when all the outside enemies have been eliminated.

That Old Savai’i Try

Dawn and Jim both at least try to gain an edge in an unpromising situation.

Dawn does her best to make nice with the Upolus. She preps Coach a special spot in the shelter, and works extra hard in the challenge so Rick can shovel down more pastries.

In past seasons, keeping your head down, working hard, and being nice could take you deep. That’s how Cirie changed her game up on Exile Island, for example. But Survivor now is so self-aware, that any virtue is considered a threat. In a game where NaOnka is an ideal ally because she’s so loathsome, being nice only makes you a target.

Jim also makes a few moves in his idiom – subtle strategy and eloquent speeches. His plea at tribal council, filled with talk of honor, warriors and integrity, would be guaranteed to lure a more naïve Coach Wade. Sadly, not Coach 3.0.

Redemption Island Rehab

Did anybody else think that Ozzy finally looks comfortable, now that he’s on Redemption Island? The roles of tribe leader and strategic mastermind fit him like borrowed clothes.

RI gives Ozzy the chance to turn challenge prowess into game strategy. Now he can do what he does best – fish, emote and kick butt at challenges.

“When people come through I’m going to treat them really nice and then I’m going to send them packing,” he says.

That’s a winning plan – bond with people who’ve just been backstabbed, then wish them bon voyage. If Ozzy can make it to the finals against a player who’s had to slit throats, he’ll be a lock for a million dollars.

He even catches “the biggest fish I’ve ever caught.” Clearly it’s a sign! Ozzy wins the Fishy this week for recognizing Redemption Island as the opportunity it is – to feed himself, rest up, avoid the game’s politics and prepare to win.