Stephen's Survivor Strategy Blog: Worst Season Ever?

Survivor: Redemption Island Recap - Elimination
Stephen Fishbach
Rob Kim/Landov

updated 05/12/2011 at 10:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/12/2011 10:00AM

"Together with chance, the accidental, and along with it good luck, occupy a great place in War." – Carl von Clausewitz, On War

Is this the worst season of Survivor ever? Rob's march to victory continues, and the only thing standing in his way is ... Ashley? Erstwhile opponents Matt and Andrea are too busy catfighting on Redemption Island to think about revenge. Even a big move like the Grant blindside seemed obvious. Was anybody surprised that Grant was voted out? After all, Rob had just taken over the show's airwaves to send him an apology in advance.

"Grant, when you watch this, you're gonna realize I never wanted to do it this way bud," Rob tells Grant and the 14 million other people who accidentally tuned in. Who but Boston Rob gets to use CBS to send personal messages? I can't wait for the finale – I'm half-hoping I get a shout-out of my own. "Loved your blog, bro, and thanks for the Fishys. Give me a call on your Sprint Palm Pre!"

Rob's mash letter to Grant was just one example of the way Rob has sucked the air out of this season. When Ralph is eliminated from the Redemption Island duel, it's Rob who gets a confessional. When Phillip antagonizes Natalie and Ashley about their binge eating (three spoonfuls of rice!?!), it's Rob who gets a confessional.



"One man should not have this much power in this game," Rob says. "Luckily I'm not an ordinary man." With great power comes great responsibility? It's like watching a Superman movie where the villains are a jaywalker and an illegal music downloader. Rather than a complex narrative with many different players, this season has devolved into a character study.

At least Rob's a rich character. I mentioned before how great he is at keeping his tribe in a perpetual state of war, focused against a common enemy. Now that Osama bin Andrea has been eliminated, Rob turns the tribe's focus against Kim Jong Ashley.

"There's something about her that's really sneaky," he tells Natalie. "There's something about her that I just don't trust," he says to Grant.

After planting the seed of suspicion in his allies' minds, he then earns his (obvious) Fishy when he turns that mistrust into a movement. "Grant wants to get Ashley out," he tells Natalie. "It doesn't make sense, I know." Not only does he pressure Natalie to vote out her friend, but he sets up Grant to be Public Enemy No. 2.

My favorite moment came when Rob confides to Natalie, "I can't stand what she's doing to you!" You can see the look of surprise and horror on Natalie's face – oh my God, she wonders, what is she doing to me? Rob's mock concern suggests to Natalie not just that Ashley untrustworthy. Much worse – she's transforming Natalie into someone Rob might not like!

"I'm so not going to lie," Natalie says. "This sucks."

Why does everybody want to go to the finals with Rob? Do they think he's a goat, after having masterminded all the eliminations? Or do they just not have the capacity for independent thought? Big ups to Ashley for having a mind of her own. Her immunity win, which temporarily scuttles Rob's plans, was one of the biggest things to happen all season. So Rob takes out Grant. Sorry, bro. It was bound to happen sooner or later.

This season really should be called Survivor: Rob. Is there any doubt left that he wins? If he does, it will be obvious, if earned. And if he doesn't – if Matt or Natalie or Grant slips in and takes the crown – it will be a travesty and proof that Russell Hantz was right, and the game is flawed.

Either way, I can't wait for season 23.

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