Stephen Fishbach was the runner-up on Survivor: Tocantins and a member of the jury on Survivor Cambodia: Second Chance. He has been blogging about Survivor strategy for PEOPLE since 2009. Follow him on Twitter @stephenfishbach.
“You have to think about everything. Are they a physical threat now? Are they going to be a threat later down the road? Or do they just flat out get on your nerves? It’s just not about tonight. It’s about every other night after this.” — Lauren Rimmer, Survivor: Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers
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You never want to be the guy in the hammock.
You see it almost every season. A group of contestants clustered around that one guy, who’s issuing commands while he sways lazily in the breeze.
Two days later? Captain Hammock, hoist by his own petard.
How did it happen so fast to Carl? Last week, Carl was the scrappy sidekick with the idol nullifier. Now he’s Don Vito?
“Who’s in charge of all the Davids?” Alec asks rhetorically. “Carl.”
“Carl is the godfather. He gives me orders,” Mike says. “Then we’re supposed to kiss the ring and head off to the beach.”
The Survivor godfather is a tricky role to play. You’re calling the shots, but you’re also in line for the bullets. You have to stay humble, to build consensus rather than give orders.
But psychologically, after a month of scrambling for votes, it’s really nice to sit back and have a moment where the other people scramble.
But that’s Survivor for you. As soon as you stop scrambling, you’re poached.
I’ve always been a big Carl fan. Who didn’t love the perfect nullifier play, the bing?
But I believe that Carl is the biggest threat in the same way that I believe that salads and wraps are a fantastic Survivor reward. Is anybody worried about Carl winning immunity? Is anybody worried about Carl winning the game?
Carl is the perfect person for the Davids to keep around, because he’s #DavidStrong, his godfather act focuses tribe attention, and he actually tells you what he’s planning. Predictable people are a gift from the Survivor gods. Why on earth would you eliminate one?
The only person who Carl is a threat to is Gabby, because he’s cutting her out of her own alliance and replacing her with Angelina. That’s why Gabby wins the Fishy award this week. She manages to save her ally Alison and take out her antagonist Carl.
Gabby also has an interesting point, that Carl makes the Davids seem like his foot soldiers. “We have to remove the godfather so that people know that we have agency in this game,” she says.
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Gabby convinces Christian and marshals Kara, Alison, and Mike – who I’m sure are delighted to see the Davids turn on each other. (It’s pretty impressive that it took the Davids only three days to turn into the complete clusterfark that it took the Goliaths a month to master.)
I have to also give a shout-out to Christian, who’s the episode’s real hero. And not just for his breathtaking immunity win, or his clever innovations in psychological torture. Christian is everybody’s comfort blanket. We see him calming Gabby down when she’s furious at Carl. He hugs Alison after the Alec blindside. He even consoles Alec during their epic immunity bout.
But I can’t give Christian the Fishy, because by his own analysis his two votes are self-destructive. Christian recognizes he’s a giant threat. He’s skirted elimination at Tribal Council at almost every vote since the merge.
Right now, for the first time in the game, he’s in a power position. He’s in the dominant alliance. For one vote, he has immunity. He has an idol in his pocket. To some degree, he can direct where the votes fall.
By taking out the two biggest targets on the beach, and breaking trust with Nick and Davie, he makes it that much more difficult for himself to get to the end.
“I’ve always believed that in order for me to survive I have to keep threats around or else I will be the only threat remaining,” Christian tells us.
I wish he had trusted his own advice.
Survivor airs Wednesdays (8 p.m. ET) on CBS.e