Survivor: A Struggle to Balance Friendship and Strategy Leads to a Game-Losing Misplay

Stephen Fishbach was the runner-up on Survivor: Tocantins and a member of the jury on Survivor Cambodia: Second Chance. He has been blogging about Survivor strategy for PEOPLE since 2009. Follow him on Twitter @stephenfishbach.

“You’re gonna have friendships. You gotta cut off those friendships. You gotta string people along and bam! Throw them a nice slider. Mr. Freeze is in the house. Even though it’s about 110 out here, I’ve got my skates on.” — Brian Heidik, winner, Survivor: Thailand

It can be difficult on Survivor to know when to make your perfect move. But Laurel Johnson knows for certain the time for her to turn on Domenick and Wendell is right now.

“This is probably the last shot of getting them out without them playing their idols,” she says. “Seven is the last chance to get these guys … and get myself to where I need to be in the end.”

She has a group of people around her eager to make the move. And she’s got a perfect situation to do it. With Chelsea out of the game, voting with Donathan, Kellyn, and Angela wouldn’t put her at the bottom of a new alliance. That foursome could seize control.

But Laurel doesn’t spend this episode figuring out how to make her move. Laurel spends it figuring how not to make her move.

“They’re two of my best friends out here,” she tells herself.

“I’m going with the smart move rather than the big move,” she says later.

After the confusion around her immunity win, she argues that, “I’ve been thinking I want to get Wendell out of here. But I want to do it the right way.”

Laurel is offering every excuse she can to justify not doing what she doesn’t want to do.

WATCH: Jeff Probst On ‘Survivor’ Spin-Offs & Why He’ll Never Compete: ‘My Mouth Would Get Me Voted Out’

Maybe it is considered bad manners to vote someone out in an impolite way. But this is Survivor, a game for a million dollars, where lots of rude things happen, and I think Laurel knows that.

Survivor can surprise you with the deep bonds you make. Everybody watching the show insists that they’d play a ruthlessly cold and calculating game. Then when you show up on the island, suddenly you’re huddled together in the rain, relying on the body heat of the people around you just to stay warm.

And yet Laurel’s case is so particularly frustrating, because she is such a fan, and she does know better. And because she has Donathan in her ear, begging her to make a move.

“I feel like if we just keep playing it too safe, that we’re just going to be in a bigger pickle at the end,” Donathan says, for what feels like the hundredth time, and what probably really was the thousandth time.

I felt for Donathan this episode, as he slowly lost his mind to paranoia. I was going a little crazy myself, watching people trip over themselves to hand either Wendell or Domenick the victory. …read more

Source:: People

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