Stephen Fishbach Blogs: Sharing an Idol Clue Can Build Trust on Survivor

updated 09/27/2012 AT 8:00 AM ET

originally published 09/27/2012 AT 8:50 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

“The Hero tribe had plans to look for the hidden immunity idol as a group. But the best thing for me is to make sure I know where it’s at. This is Survivor, and you don’t know what these other people are thinking around here.”
– JT Thomas, Heroes vs. Villains

It’s always fun to watch a tribe self-destruct. This week, Russell Swan and his team of misfits continued their free fall into Survivor ignominy. But whenever a tribe falls apart, it sets up the opportunity for great strategists to rise. Or at least they can try to salvage the pieces.

Russell’s Tribe
The water cooler gossip at Matsing is that Malcolm has been seen cuddling with Angie. “It’s a booby trap,” says Roxy, delighted with her joke. (You get it? Boobies??)

Oh Malcolm, you were a golden boy – what happened? Creating a flirtmance is such an easy way to become a target. Malcolm knows he’s screwing up: “I kept having to remind myself, don’t get booty blinded,” he says. (Teehee. Booty.)

But whom Malcolm canoodles with wouldn’t matter if Matsing could keep it together for a challenge. For some reason, this tribe of diminutive ladies can’t win a sled-pulling contest. And, after Russell issues one of the most inspiring, generous, sportsmanlike speeches in gaming history, they’re forced to vote someone out. If only they had cookies!

Denise wins this week’s Fishy for her savvy decision-making. She reaffirms her bond with Malcolm and votes out Roxy – who was doing none of the tribe’s work, but almost all of its complaining. Denise can now be sure she’s safe next time Matsing goes to tribal. And there will be a next time.

Skupin’s Tribe
On the yellow tribe, RC’s got everything under control. She built an alliance with
Mike, Pete, and Abi; she brought in Artis as a disposable fifth; and Lisa just keeps alienating herself further.

(Note to Lisa: If you’re feeling isolated from your tribe, the solution is not to then go sit by yourself on a well.)

But when RC shares the immunity idol clue with Abi, everything falls apart. Suddenly RC’s erstwhile ally starts freaking out that she’s getting bamboozled. “I just don’t know if I can trust RC,” Abi says.

I’m actually a fan of sharing the idol clue. There are very few ways to build real trust on Survivor. You can tell someone you’re in an alliance – but will they believe you? Sharing an idol or a clue is a concrete way to make yourself vulnerable, and thereby establish a real relationship. RC’s thinking along the same lines. “I shared the clue with her, and that should be proof enough that I really trust her,” she says.

The important thing is who you share the clue with. RC’s mistake was making an alliance so fast off the boat. It’s all fine and dandy to hug your new tribe hello. But if you’re pinky swearing on day one, you might find yourself committed to a hot-head Brazilian lunatic.

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