updated 05/15/2014 AT 3:00 AM ET
•originally published 05/15/2014 AT 10:55 AM ET
Stephen Fishbach was the runner-up on Survivor: Tocantins and has been blogging about Survivor strategy for PEOPLE since 2009. Follow him on Twitter @stephenfishbach. Erik Reichenbach is a Survivor fan-turned-favorite, a comic book author and artist. He placed fifth on both Survivor: Micronesia and Survivor: Caramoan. Follow him on Twitter @BloodyAmer1can.
“You have to weigh out your options at the end, and things aren’t always as clear as they seem.”
– Kim Spradlin, winner, Survivor: One World
Did Tony just make a brilliant move or a terrible one? I truly have no idea.
Just when you thought he was going to whip out an idol and save Trish, Tony instead turned on his top ally and voted her out. It happened so fast, you might have missed it. I did when I first watched the episode.
Wednesday night on Survivor: Cagayan, contestants balanced their strategic goals, their personal animosities and their plans for the final Tribal Council.
They also played the greatest game of Telephone in Survivor history.
Woo told Tony that Kass wanted to vote him out. So Tony told Kass that Woo had told him that she wanted him out. So Kass told Woo that Tony had told her that Woo had told him that she wanted to vote him out.
Follow all that? Survivor gets exponentially harder when you get down to five people. Just when you’re making your delicate endgame alliances and plotting your concluding maneuvers, everybody else is doing the same thing. People who barely spoke to each other for 34 days are taking long walks into the forest together.
It gets hard to control the flow of information – especially when you have four crafty competitors like Kass, Tony, Trish and Spencer, each of whom uses information as a weapon.
I also wonder if Kass just wants people to recognize her gameplay. Kass always wants to be the one making decisions, so it must be galling for her best move to be to follow in Tony’s footsteps. At one point she even actually says to Tony, “I want you to know that what I did is strategic.”
By stirring up Tony against Woo, she shows that she’s an active player – while not actually voting out her jury goat.
Kass stirs up Woo against Tony – aided by Spencer, who subtly eggs him on.
Spencer Uses His Words
Spencer has become the master of the casually dropped remark. As poor innocent Woo considers why Tony might betray him, Spencer nonchalantly adds that Woo has such a great reputation with the jury.
Later on, as Woo again agonizes over what to do, Spencer mentions that they have to vote out Trish if either of them wants a chance at the final three.
He drops these little remarks, as though in passing, that convince Woo that he can’t be Tony’s pawn anymore.
That leaves Tony with a difficult decision. Does he save Trish with his idol and vote out Kass?
While it was confusing to watch, I think I now see the brilliant logic in Tony’s decision.
Kass is the perfect jury goat. Even if the jury feels angry at him, they’ll never vote for her.
Meanwhile, Trish will vote for Tony and would never vote for Kass. Even though he backstabbed her, she might not actually know where the votes came from.
Tony Mends Fences
Meanwhile, by voting with Woo, Tony repairs their broken alliance and keeps around an athletic competitor who just might stop Spencer’s winning streak.
Tony gets the Fishy this week for a complicated move that maximizes his chance at the jury. But I think he might be in trouble next Wednesday.
Did you notice the parallelism between the way Tony and Spencer handled the immunity puzzle and the way they’re playing Survivor? Tony frantically moved pieces around the board, trying every combination. Spencer methodically studied, and made just a few moves.
Spencer came back from behind and won the puzzle. Can he pull the same trick in the game?