Stephen Fishbach's 'Survivor' Blog: Blindsides and Double-Crosses

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Stephen Fishbach was the runner-up on Survivor: Tocantins and has been blogging about Survivor strategy for PEOPLE since 2009. Follow him on Twitter @stephenfishbach.

"Most of the time you kinda need that social component. So when you don’t win, someone’s got your back – and they can take you to the end." –Brett Clouser, Survivor: Samoa

Survivor is truly a social game.

You can have all the great strategic ideas in the world. But none of it matters if you whistle out of tune or don’t know how to apologize.

Wednesday night’s Survivor was a testament to the importance of self-awareness and self-control. It turns out you can’t curse, insult people’s religion or walk around with your junk out and still win a game of influence and social politics.

In the evening’s first episode, the Blue Collar tribe finally went to Tribal Council. Shockingly, loudmouth Rodney (a sexist) and loudmouth Lindsey (who hates God’s beard) were the two up for elimination.

Mike, Dan, and Kelly made the terrible decision to vote out Lindsey. Maybe they trusted Rodney more. But voting out Lindsey alienated her ally Sierra. That’s a dangerous thing to do on Day 11 with a tribe swap imminent.

Their bad decision quickly bit them in the butt. A ridiculously mismatched swap put the strong people on the Blue tribe and the weak people on the Red tribe.

Even though Blue had strength, they lacked cohesion. Sierra quickly jumped alliances to the Handsome Guy Alliance of Joe, Tyler and Joaquin.

Weak Tribe

Meanwhile, on the Weak tribe, Max and Shirin were outcasts, though they didn’t know it.

“I’m very excited to get on with the game of Survivor. It’s the blindsides. It’s the double crossing. That’s really what I signed on for,” Max said. Little did he know he was the one about to be blindsided and double-crossed.

Max’s problem is that he’s more of a fan than he is a strategist. He was geeking out so hard about getting to play Survivor, that he forgot to actually play Survivor. Max and Shirin spent hours chattering about their grand plans. Meanwhile, the rest of the tribe was chattering about them.

I wonder if Max and Shirin were hurt by being on the same season. They provided each other a safe space to let their fan flags fly. But Survivor is never a safe space.

If they hadn’t so busy regaling each other with stories about how Cirie blindsided Shane Powers, they might have had the power to see they were about to get blindsided.

With Friends Like These

Both the Blue Collar and Max/Shirin alliances made the same classic Survivor mistake: They ignored their allies.

Watching the show, you may think you have to watch out for your enemies. But the really dangerous people are your friends. If you anger your tribemate at the wrong moment, go behind their back or simply don’t give them enough attention, they could turn on you. You’ll never see it coming.

When Shirin approached Carolyn about the vote, she didn’t engage her in a discussion or ask her opinion. She simply told her it would be Will – and then ended the conversation. Max and Shirin let Carolyn go off with the No Collars, assuming everything was under control.

Carolyn had a chip on her shoulder against Max – why? Because he was too naked? Because he was a cult leader? Because Shirin talked about monkey sex too much?

It didn’t matter. If they had paid Carolyn enough attention, she wouldn’t have had time to make new alliances.

The same was true of Sierra. Mike, Dan and Rodney all went off – and gaveve her ample opportunity to team up with the Handsome Guys.

Survivor requires constant vigilance and hard work. If you focus on your enemies – your friends could leave you with a knife in the back.

The Fishy

The Fishy this week goes to Jenn. She led her alliance and found an idol.

“I can screw up the game so easily with this thing,” she said.

Are her words foreshadowing a disaster?

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

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