Stephen's Survivor Strategy Blog: Alliances vs. Friendships

Stephen's Survivor Strategy Blog: Alliances vs. Friendships
Monty Brinton/CBS (2)

09/23/2010 09:00AM

Coercion creates a reaction that will eventually work against you. You must seduce others into wanting to move in your direction. A person you have seduced becomes your loyal pawn. – Law 43: Work on the Hearts and Minds of Others

Mark Burnett cast some crazies this season. Survivor has never seemed so much like a soap opera. Na Onka hates Jud. Jud hates Na Onka. Na Onka hates Kelly B., but Kelly wants unity. Dan hates Holly. Holly throws Dan's shoes into the water then, overcome by guilt, admits it to the tribe. Chase loves Brenda. Brenda may or may not just be using Chase. Sash loves women and has dated more of them than you have. Jimmy T. just wants to be heard. And Jeff Probst is worried too many people may be hiding in trees.

In a week of dysfunction, this week's Fishy goes to two players who didn't receive much airtime, but made smart strategic and social moves. The smartest thing you can do at this stage of Survivor is build a strong alliance and stay out of the spotlight. As insanity descends on Nicaragua, Sash and Jill both work to build solid alliances in their respective tribes.

In addition to being the "Biggest Bachelor in New York," Sash is one of La Flor's savviest schemers. He laid careful groundwork to becoming a power player and recruits Na Onka to his minority alliance. "When the time is right, we can try and bring Brenda," Sash tells her. I love that line – "when the time is right." So very Godfather. It shows that Sash won't overplay his hand.



"It's important to try and make friends with as many people as possible," he continues. "Because you know it's a numbers game." Sash sees that there's only a thin line in Survivor between the social (friends) and the strategic (numbers). "Making friends" is almost more important than making alliances. People vote with you as much because they like you as for any strategy.

Back at Espada

Jill also is building social bonds. As the rest of the older tribe scrambles across the beach looking for the idol, Jill unravels the final ideogram. She decides not to get the idol for herself, but to use the information to build an alliance. "Marty's a smart guy with good ideas," she says. "So, I thought it would pay off to gain Marty's trust." Jill gives Marty the information and Marty runs off to uncover the idol. "I got the idol!" he celebrates, before correcting himself: "We got the idol. Do not forget, we got it."

I doubt Jill will forget. Using an idol as a focal point of an alliance is a great maneuver. You can play an idol once, but an extra vote is forever. If Marty and Jill can hang tough while the rest of Espada self-destructs, they could go very far.

While Jill and Sash work to form strong social bonds, Shannon relies on his alliances. At Tribal Council, he tries to guilt Chase into honoring his word, but ends up alienating the rest of the tribe. A physically massive player like Shannon would normally have safe passage into the merge. But because of the "old vs. young" twist, physical strength is less critical early on – and Shannon is the first person booted from La Flor.

Tell us: Who do you think La Flor should have voted out this week? Will the young tribe play the Medallion of Power next week?

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