Stephen’s Survivor Strategy Blog: Russell Knows When to Hold ‘Em

Stephen’s Survivor Strategy Blog: Russell Knows When to Hold ‘Em
Monty Brinton/CBS(2)

11/20/2009 12:00AM

"The cowardice of the man who is bent on returning alive ... leads to capture." --Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Could somebody else do something smart, please? As much as I love Russell’s gameplay, I’m almost getting tired of talking about him. In this week's episode, he finds another immunity idol, convinces John to break ranks with Galu, and sends his nemesis Laura home. For keeping his alliance strong and breaking the opposition, Russell wins yet another Fishy.

The episode begins with Galu reeling from last week’s blindside and Shambo literally cackling with glee. She reports to Russell that Laura thinks he’s "ruined everything."

"I ruined everything? What did she think I’m here for?" he responds.



The comment is telling. Galu just isn’t prepared for the Russell insurgency. That night, the rest of Aiga sleeps while Russell goes hunting for the immunity idol. Seriously, , why are you sleeping? When Russell returns from reward with a clue to the idol, he again immediately starts searching. Galu is shocked that he’s "already moving." The question is, why aren’t they?

Once again, it’s the pros versus the JV squad. That’s equally clear in the two groups' approach to breaking the vote deadlock. Galu comes up with a backward idea to get Foa Foa to vote for John -- though they never mention this to John. When he finds out, he -- surprise! -- feels alienated and out of the loop.

Russell preys on that frustration and recruits John to flip on Laura. “Whoever does the switch, that’s how we know who’s on board. If they don’t do the switch, we pick a rock.”

What makes Russell’s move work is how steadfast the Foa Foa four are -- and not just Russell, but Jaison, Mick and Natalie all deserve credit. (Shambo is a kamikaze -- she’s voting for Laura no matter what.) If you’re completely committed to drawing stones, you probably won’t have to. On Tocantins, JT, Taj and I were ready to go to the stones if Spencer, Joe and Sydney stuck tight. Things never came to that, but that was largely because we knew that a committed alliance was more important than temporary safety. On Palau, the same thing happened. Tom, Ian and Caryn were ready to draw rocks to oust Greg; their total commitment caused Katie to buckle and vote with them.

Dave Ball has exactly the right attitude. “If I need to go to the stones, then I’ll go,” he says. “You gotta be willing to make big moves in this game in order to win.” A 15 percent chance of going home from the rocks is much better than a 100 percent chance if you end up on the wrong side of the numbers. Contestants fool themselves into thinking something will turn up to save them down the road. Like John says: “If I vote for Laura after the tie, I wake up on this beach tomorrow.” It’s that “wait and see” attitude that’s already cost Galu so much. John’s going to wake up on that beach in a much worse position.

When Laura’s torch is snuffed, the total dismay on Dave’s face says it all. By gaming harder than anybody else in Samoa -- possibly harder than any other Survivor ever -- Russell has led his group from an 8-4 deficit to the majority tribe. They've sown dissension in the Galu ranks, picked up an extra vote with Shambo, and caused John to vote against Galu. As good as Russell is, though, Galu is helping. Had Galu talked to John before making him their decoy target, maybe he would have stood strong, or they could have come up with an alternate plan. I said in my first blog that Survivor is a game of mistakes. Galu just made one too many. --Stephen Fishbach

Tell us: Did John do the right thing? Will Shambo stick with the Foa Foas now that Laura’s gone?Monty Brinton/CBS(2)

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