Stephen Fishbach analyzes the strategy that went into the final episode

By Stephen Fishbach
Updated December 20, 2010 10:30 AM
Rob Kim/Landov

“It is much more powerful to get others to agree with you through your actions.” Law 9: Win Through Your Actions, Never Through Argument

Maybe he wasn’t such a dumb blond after all.

Last night during the Survivor: Nicaragua finale, Fabio did more than go an immunity tear and sob his way to a million bucks. He showed at just the right moment that he was a savvy thinker with a great understanding of the social game. For becoming Survivor‘s youngest winner ever, Fabio wins his first Fishy!

Everybody thought Fabio was a goofball. But as he said during the reunion (maybe the only intelligible thing he said during the reunion?) he knew it. The most impressive part of Fabio’s game was that he had the discipline to wait until the last minute – until it really counted – to show everybody just how smart he was.

Oh, and he didn’t do it by just telling them. Fabio proved the point by setting his rivals against each other. During the second to last tribal council, he watched Holly, Chase and Sash squirm as he called each one of them out.

“Tonight, I brought the heat a little bit,” Fabio said after voting off Holly. “Pitting Sash against Chase lets the jury know that I really am aware of what’s going on.”

And, let’s face it: it’s hard to argue with any player who goes on an immunity run. Strategic thinkers can treat immunities as an awkward obligation – like a meathead cousin who shows up for Christmas dinner. But, as Fabio said, “Winning immunity is a huge part of getting to the end of this game.” Bob in Gabon and JT in Tocantins also won their way to the finale (and to the $1 million) due to perfectly timed immunity runs.

Did Fabio get lucky by having 3 immunity challenges in a row that he was good at? Sure. But at least half of Survivor is luck. Wasn’t it lucky that Chase got placed on a season with a woman from North Carolina? Or that Holly got saved by the tribe swap?

You can’t win unless you’re lucky, and Fabio did a superb job of making his luck work for him. When Holly asked him if he had done too little, too late, Fabio responded, “I think it was the best timing possible.”

There’s no question that Sash played the best strategic game this season. He and Brenda controlled every vote on La Flor. When the tribe turned on Brenda, and he was left as the odd man out, Sash joined up with the new majority and, like a Sashually transmitted disease, destroyed it from within.

But last night, the jury was pissed at the Sashuation. Jane called him a gutter rat, and Dan said he was a whiny little girl. Even strategy fetishist Marty called him a snake and voted for Fabs. What went wrong?

Sash’s major problem was he too unctuous. He was too willing to say anything to smooth over a situation at camp. (In many ways, he has the opposite problem to Russell Hantz, who is too much of a bully). Telling Jane she was like his mother, and then turning around and voting her out, is the perfect example.

Sash also dropped the ball in his jury answers. Winning strategists like Parvati and Todd backstabbed their way to the finals, too. But then look at how Todd flattered Jean-Robert, and Parvati flirted with Natalie. They tailored their jury answers towards making each questioner feel good about themselves.

Unlike those successful strategists, Sash’s answers last night were general. “I am remorseful I had to backstab nine people, but I hope people can see that what happened in the game is part of strategy,” he said in response to Brenda’s question.

Sash should be trying to win Brenda’s vote, not “nine people’s.” It’s easy to get caught in making big general statements about your game; I got lost in the same morass. But it doesn’t win you any votes. Literally.

So Team No Votes gets its newest member, Chase gets a chance to sing in front 14 million people, and Fabio will now start his production company and work to undermine the government. All in all, a happy ending.

Tell us: Did Fabio deserve the win?