It is rare that I disagree with you about Survivor. I think your observations of the game are almost always spot on. But in the curious case of Erik Reichenbach, I must throw my support behind Stephen Fishbach: the artist formerly known as Survivor’s Biggest Bonehead is playing an underrated game, and you ought to give him more credit.
I’m not just saying that because Erik was my original pick to win the season and I want my man to make me look good. Okay, it’s a little bit of that, but it’s a lot of what Fishy-Fishaaay spoke toward in this week’s edition of the Know-It-Alls, too: Erik is letting the game come to him. In my opinion, that’s about as solid a strategy as you can get on Survivor.
Erik began Caramoan on rocky footing, voting against the majority during Francesca’s history-making exit. A winning streak and a lucky break in the tribal swap kept him from having to make any moves until the merge. At that point, he had a choice to make: remain in Stealth mode, or take a risk with Malcolm and Corinne. He chose the former, and stayed true through Operation Snowfall. At the next vote, when Malcolm made his double-idol play and immunized his alliance, Erik was the only one of the tight seven to act in his own self-interest. He wasn’t willing to take a chance on what was essentially a purple rock scenario. He threw his support behind a sure thing, and wound up on the winning side of the vote.
This week, in a rare confessional, the Silent One shed some light on the driving forces behind his decisions this season. He noted that with Phillip gone, his options were wide open; he could stick with Stealth Were Us, or he could start fielding offers to become the fourth amigo. Whatever he ultimately decided, he would choose the path that’s best for Erik. This week, that path did not involve the Bros, but there’s no doubt that he at least considered jumping ship on the tight six — it just didn’t make sense for his game, so he stuck with X-SRU.
But who’s to say he won’t swing another way when the need arises? Erik is not on the chopping block next week — Reynold and/or Eddie are toast — and when it gets down to the seven, he’s going to have some (wait for it) wiggle room to make a move. Based on his actions so far this season, I’d bet money now that if there’s a shakeup at the seven, as there often is, Erik will be on the winning side of the deal.
So far, Erik’s actions are not that of a guy who doesn’t know how to swim. These are the actions of a guy who knows when to tread water and when to swim like hell toward the lifeboat. Erik is making conscious, deliberate choices to stay where the numbers are. His moves are not as bold or flashy as Malcolm’s, but they have proven more effective in keeping him alive this season. Is Erik’s strategy a brilliant one? Maybe not. Is it unprecedented? Of course not. But is it solid, sound, well-reasoned and respectable? I say absolutely.
At the very least, I feel like you can at least agree that Erik has improved dramatically since his last time in the game. Sure, Cochran is in the lead for the Most Improved Survivor award right now, and deservedly so. But compare Caramoan Erik to Micronesia Erik. Erik has always been a challenge beast, and he’s always been likable. But he hasn’t always been smart about the game. And even if he isn’t a Survivor genius yet — and even if he never becomes one — can you deny that his knowledge of the game, his understanding of how to advance without simply relying on immunity, has greatly improved since his first time around the block? Erik is not oblivious to his situation like last time. He is awake and aware that he’s in a position to take deep breaths, examine his options, and make self-interested business decisions. At the very least, this is a huge leap forward for a guy who was once little more than a doe-eyed super-fan, don’t you agree?
Now, before I wrap up, I’m going to get controversial on you … and rewind to Survivor: The Amazon. Don’t fire me.
Rob, you’re often (and rightfully) credited as the guy who popularized swinging from alliance to alliance on a vote by vote basis. On your season, you played with the numbers, working with different partners over 38 days to take out players you felt stood in the way of you and a million dollars. You took out one of your closest allies in the game, Alex, when it became clear that his priorities were no longer your priorities. You immediately reunited with the same women you had just betrayed, Heidi and Jenna, apparently going so far as to swear on your genitals that you would work with them to take out Christy — and you held up your end of the deal, keeping you and your genitals alive for another three days. So it happened before, and so it happened again, on and on and on throughout your time in the Amazon.
He’s not being nearly as aggressive or entertaining about it, but … isn’t Erik’s approach to the game this season pretty similar to yours during your season?
Look, Erik probably won’t win Caramoan. His invisible edit up until recently all but assures he’s not taking home the million dollar prize at the end of the season. Even if he was more present, I wouldn’t argue that he’s playing a better game than, say, Cochran or Andrea. But I really don’t think you’re giving Erik enough credit here, Rob. He might not be playing like Malcolm as Stephen suggested in Know-It-Alls, but he’s certainly no Carter like you posited, either.
Dare I say it, Rob … I think he’s almost, almost, playing like you!
CEO of Wiggles R Me