updated 10/18/2012 AT 1:15 PM ET
•originally published 10/18/2012 AT 9:00 AM ET
Stephen Fishbach was the runner-up on Survivor: Tocantins and has been blogging about Survivor strategy for PEOPLE.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter @stephenfishbach
“They’re so busy trying to get their own tribe members out right now. We’re like, ‘Okay, do what you gotta do, and we’ll come in later.’ ”
– Taj George, Survivor: Tocantins
Survivor wears you down. It’s day 11, and the contestants are totally spent. Their fat reserves are gone; they’re listless and starving; they’re beset by horrifying flies from beyond the gates of Hell. And the worst part is, the game’s not even one third over.
Wednesday’s episode was all about armor. Each of us, in our lives, puts on a brave face as we do battle with the world. When we’re weak, we turn to our loved ones. When we’re tired, we retreat into ourselves. But those aren’t luxuries you’re allowed in the ceaseless game-playing of Survivor. One of the major differences between good and bad players is who can keep their armor on even under that extreme duress.
“I’ve been so tough for a week and a half,” says Malcolm, who finally cracked a smile last night when he found the immunity idol. Malcolm’s the perfect example of a player who can endure the game’s highs and lows, and still keep himself in check. Witness how he finesses possession of the idol. Malcolm suspects it might be on the rice bin. But rather than alert his ally, he pries it off for himself, and only then shows Denise. He and Denise may be besties, but it’s an individual game.
That caution keeps Malcolm cool when he joins Tandang, and everyone rushes to greet him. Malcolm high-fives Pete, hugs RC, and lets the Tandang nuthouse work out its issues on its own.
Tandang’s like a crème brûée: beneath its tough exterior, it’s a gooey mess. For all their bristling abs, Tandang’s got problems. Malcolm’s arrival in camp brings everybody’s neuroses to the surface.