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.
“I think one of the most important skills, especially out here, is just listening. Taking it all in, not saying much.” — Brian Heidik, winner, Survivor: Thailand
It’s day 4 on Survivor, and Boston Rob and Sandra are already going crazy with boredom.
When a guest shows up on their island, they can’t stop chattering.
“Where’d you go to school?” they ask Kellee.
“Married, single, kids?”
“Do you have any pets?”
“Have you guys eaten anything yet?”
“Have you made coconut popcorn?”
Can you imagine how boring it must be to spend 39 days on a Survivor island, and not even get to play Survivor? Survivor itself is boring! So many hours spent watching the sun inch across the sky. Imagine Survivor without challenges, without strategy, without blindsides. Sure, you get to gaze at a 30-foot-high wooden statue of yourself. But not even a reality TV contestant can think about their greatness for that long.
But wait! Rob and Sandra aren’t going cuckoo. This is all a test! It turns out that everything on the Island of the Ghost Extinction Idols is a test and Kellee must answer five impossibly difficult questions to win her magic prize. What was the name of the boat driver who drove her to the island? How many pounds of wood went into sculpting the collar on the Sandra statue?
Just kidding – this challenge is a layup. Remembering how many daughters Sandra has seems a lot easier than beating Boston Rob at fire making. But ultimately, Rob and Sandra teach Kellee a valuable Survivor lesson. Pay attention to everything. Never stop listening.
If only Jamal had been selected for the Island of the Idols! Maybe everything would have gone differently at Vokai. If Jamal had learned to spend more time listening, and less time napping, perhaps his plan would have played out.
It seemed so perfect. Jamal, Molly, and Jack had a “secret” alliance. (Secret in big quotes.) They were masterminding the vote, deciding whether to pick off interpretive dance artist Noura or anti-dance vigilante Jason.
“I think we’re really impressed with ourselves and surprised that we’re handling this so well,” Jamal says.
Survivor contestants! Never, ever, ever say that things are going well. It’s not that every time you say that things are going well, you’re definitely about to get blindsided. But if you say that things are going well, and if you are about to get blindsided – then there’s a 100 percent chance that you’re going to look like a dope on CBS prime time.
Because Jamal is so satisfied with his position in the game, he decides to take a nap.
Napping on the day of tribal council is just bonkers. The vote is never static! One of the big rules of Survivor is that people can’t blindside you if you’re always around. Being literally asleep at the wheel gives other people a chance to strategize. Moreover, it just broadcasts a cockiness, a carelessness, that’s bound to stir resentment.
Enter Lauren. “What are your feelings about Molly?” she asks Kellee and Janet.
“I think she’s a really smart player,” Janet says. “And I think she has the men in the palm of her hands.”
“That’s why Molly has to go first,” Lauren says.
Lauren wins the Fishy this episode, because she sees her opening, and goes from being sheep to shepherd. She rallies the votes against Molly and builds an alliance of underdogs.
At Tribal Council, Jamal tells Jason: “You’re playing from the bottom in a picture perfect way. The game you’re playing right now is not the game I have to play. It will be and I know that. But it’s not the game I have to play.”
That may come sooner than he thinks. Jamal, Jack, and Molly split the vote, but it’s Molly who’s voted out.
In the immortal words of Sandra: “Dang, they played her ass.”
(P.S. By the way, I wasn’t able to write a blog last week, but Elaine won the Fishy!)
Survivor airs Wednesdays (8 p.m. ET) on CBS.