updated 12/12/2013 AT 11:45 AM ET
•originally published 12/12/2013 AT 11:30 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. This is his first season illustrating episodes of the show for PEOPLE.com. Follow him on Twitter @BloodyAmer1can
“Putting up with the people is the survival part, not putting up with the elements.”
– Rudy Boesch, Survivor: All Stars
Well, that was kind of obvious? Maybe last week’s on-the-rocks Survivor bender left the show with a hangover, because Wednesday night, a grouchy, tetchy episode led to a predictable end.
Hayden and Ciera tattled on Tyson for saying mean things about mommy Monica. All they accomplished was hurting poor Monica’s frayed feelings. The vets stuck together, and sent Hayden to Redemption Island.
The newbies’ timing couldn’t have been worse. Just three days earlier, Tyson put his life on the line in the Great Rock Draw of ‘13, so Monica was feeling particularly grateful. Plus, Hayden never made clear how blindly following him was superior to blindly following Tyson.
Here’s the thing about smack talk – it’s as much a part of Survivor as Jeff Probst’s hat. If you’re not analyzing and ridiculing your competitors, you’re not holding up your part of the bargain for being on television. When you’re on the island, the producers ask you to comment on the other castaways. You expect your tribe mates are also commenting on you.
A Good Try
So Hayden and Ciera’s accusations against Tyson were a real Hail Mary pass – and if I knew anything about football, I’d finish that metaphor by making it clear the pass fails.
Nevertheless, everybody deserves some credit. Kudos to Hayden and Ciera for never giving up. They climbed trees, won challenges and wounded the emotions of fragile women, all for a shot at another three days in the game. I love Hayden’s unstoppable salesmanship.
Kudos to Monica for handling the name-calling with grace and resilience. Plus, if Ciera and Hayden really do believe the Coconut Bandits have said such evil things, then it makes sense for Monica to go to the end with them!
A Fishy Award to Tyson for keeping his cool and letting the newbies rant and rave at Tribal Council. He never got into a “he said, she said” argument with Hayden and Ciera, which would dignify their accusations. He let them say their piece, then turned to Monica and asked, “Monica, do I tell you what to do, or do I ask you your opinion, and do we talk through it?”
Tyson doesn’t bark commands; he asks a question – just like he almost certainly does when he talks strategy. Here’s a pro tip. The best Survivor players know how to build consensus by making their allies feel included in the decision-making process. If you ask your allies what they want to do, you can still guide their thinking, but you also make them feel like they’re playing their own game.
And props as well to Gervase for keeping his ally Tyson levelheaded. When Tyson started fretting before Tribal Council that Monica might flip, Gervase assured him they could trust her.
Tyson’s chief problem in his previous seasons has been overthinking his moves and self-destructing. It’s natural for a cerebral player to go a little bit batty running hypothetical scenarios for 30 days straight.
A solid ally can keep you from going crazy with introspection. In Tocantins and Heroes vs. Villains, Tyson kept company with Coach – not exactly the most sobering influence. Gervase kept him grounded.
It’s a testament to the Blood vs. Water concept that even a predictable episode had emotional moments. Tina Wesson had to decide whether or not to eliminate her daughter Katie from the game at the Redemption Island duel.
After a perfunctory “Are you okay with this?” (Katie’s “It’s all right” made it abundantly clear that she wasn’t), Tina chose to walk through the gate, sending Katie to Ponderosa.
I wasn’t sure whether to applaud Tina for playing the game hard, or to condemn her for sacrificing her daughter.
Either way, I was moved.