updated 10/25/2012 AT 5:00 PM ET
•originally published 10/25/2012 AT 10:20 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
“This is a business trip, strictly. My attire is just beard and bathing suits out here. But I’m still in business mode.”
– Brian Heidik, Winner, Survivor: Thailand
Is Denise a cooler?
I’m sure you all remember The Cooler – that classic 2003 drama. William H. Macy plays a guy whose luck is so bad that evil casino owner Alec Baldwin pays him to bring down other gamblers.
Six episodes in, and Denise has been to every single tribal council. That’s a feat unmatched by any Survivor player ever. She’s even got that hangdog Macy look.
She’s certainly cooled off the once-ferocious Kalabaw. The red tribe went from edging out Tandang for victory in the immunity challenges to falling flat on their faces. Dana got sick. They’ve been to tribal council twice. The fish have fled their shoals. I’m waiting for Carter to burst into flames.
Kalabaw can only win when the Mephistophelian Jonathan Penner starts cutting deals. Even then, it’s just for reward. They get sandwiches – but at the cost of their souls. (And their rice.)
I was surprised that Penner negotiated that trade. He’s a veteran, so he should know that Survivor rewards don’t fill you with vigor. Sure, whatever soggy pizza that production can scrounge up or left-over sandwiches from a corporate team-building event momentarily seems like manna from heaven. But rewards really just remind your stomach what food tastes like. They make you hungrier.
And it’s enormously risky for Penner to promise he’ll get fish to replace their bartered supplies. If he succeeds, he’s only fulfilled expectations. If he fails – which he does – he’s painted a big red bull’s-eye on his forehead.
Kudos to Kent for not taking the shot. Down numbers, Kent has to make tough decisions to prepare for a merge. Penner will be a target, he’s got the idol, and maybe he has ties with Skupin. Denise could pull over Malcolm. By voting out Katie, Kent keeps his options open. That’s the hallmark of a good Survivor player.