Swaney Strategy Blog – Cambodia Episode 3

“Go under that bus, Terry.”
–Kelley Wentworth

Throughout the history of Survivor, it has been clear that alliances are key, if not mandatory, for navigating to the Final Tribal Council. Even in the very first season, an alliance was the main path that brought the Tagi foursome of Richard, Sue, Kelly, and Rudy to the final four. The castaways on the first iteration of Survivor struggled to grasp the ethics and morality of alliances, but it quickly became commonplace.

Taking a trip into the Survivor time machine, I want to go back to the jungles of Guatemala. Ulong’s lucky losers Stephenie and Bobby Jon joined the Yaxha and Nakum tribes for a season that, according to many, was lacking. Ask those same detractors what they do remember about Survivor: Guatemala, however, and you will inevitably get a response that combines our favorite hotel doorman Judd Sergeant, nurse Margaret Bobonich, and her diagnosis of Judd’s “AYE DEE DEE.” For this edition of the Swaney Strategy Blog, I want to build upon last week’s idea of jumping ships but adding in specific instances after a tribe swap.

For those that don’t remember Guatemala, Judd and Margaret were both members of the Nakum tribe. While the two were at an afternoon picnic, with our favorite loud-mouthed cop Amy and not-quarterback Gary Hogeboom, the members of Nakum and Yaxha were switched up. Upon returning from the picnic mentioned above, Margaret and Judd were joined by the members of the new Nakum tribe: Brooke, Cindy, Stephenie, Rafe, Lydia, and Jamie. With a 4-4 split on old tribal lines, the clear-cut question in Nakum became, “Who would be the one to jump ship and break the tie?”


Very quickly, Judd was on top of a Mayan pyramid with Stephenie, professing his intentions of joining her faction. This move would make Margaret one of the next people voted out while propelling Judd to the end stage of the game. While tribal loyalty meant everything to Margaret, Judd viewed the tribe as a means to an end and aligned himself with people he got along with and related to.

The main question I want to investigate this week is “How are castaways supposed to value the initial tribal configurations?” To present the opposites of the spectrum, I want to look at Kalabaw and Tandang in Survivor: Philippines. Kalabaw was so overly sold on preserving tribal lines that anyone willing to flip was voted out. On the other hand, at the first moment, Tandang was ready to vote out their own members and create new alliances. Regardless of how it shakes down, one fact rings true – everyone values tribal loyalties at a different scale. In the case of Kalabaw, tribal lines meant everything. For Tandang, it was nothing more than a color and name on a buff and flag.

Original Bayon was never tested at tribal council, yet developed a strong bond as a tribe. Ta Keo had to go to tribal council twice, and there were evident splits between the beach and shelter people. As we start to look at the new tribal configurations of Angkor, Bayon, and Ta Keo, it is clear that old tribal dynamics are at play.

The first people to turn on their old tribe were members of Ta Keo, while the members of Bayon stuck together despite being down in numbers (specifically in the case of Angkor). In this case, the strong bond built between the Bayon members became a strategic advantage. While people like Kelley Wentworth likely gained an advantage from quickly distancing herself from Terry, she now faces the uphill battle of bonding with a tribe that already has working relationships with each other.


Here’s why I think that this was a good move by Kelley Wentworth. (1) the game is still young, with the first tribal swap occurring around a week into the game. (2) She was down in numbers. (3) She has an idol as a backup. (4) Terry is the only Ta Keo member around to be upset by flipping. Kelley created a shield in Terry Dietz while giving herself credibility and legitimacy in the eyes of the old Bayon members.

So, when is the perfect time to flip sides and how do you do it?

Be the first one to make a move. You want to prove that you’re making this move on your own volition and not out of desperation.
Before things go south
No one will believe a word you say if it’s clear that your back is up against the wall, and you’re having a conversation because you “have to.” Beat the situation to the punch by being proactive.
To the right person
You need to make sure that you’re presenting your case to the person making the decisions OR the person at the very bottom. Deciding which person to talk to depends on how the numbers fall and who is working with whom.
Sell yourself
Selling yourself might mean throwing someone else under the bus. More often, however, it means that you give someone an undeniable reason to keep you so you can aid his or her game. In a tribal situation, give a reason why you can win challenges. In an individual situation, give undeniable reasons of why you can help someone else get to the final 6/5/4/3/2.
Present another target
Flipping is great, but only if you can provide a target to deflect the pressure to. Present a case that provides someone with a better situation, which just coincidentally happens to have you in it.
Don’t burn bridges
Have the conversation in which you flip when it is the right time, but don’t be afraid to go back on it if it best serves your game. If the tides turn back in your favor, you’ve already laid some groundwork with someone that could be asking for your help later.

What Should They Do?



Just sit still! Whether your tribe wins or loses the next immunity challenge, you are safe. The only thing that can jeopardize that is if you try to change the current status quo. Let others make moves while you remain steady.






Have a sit down with Tasha. You have a working relationship with her from your time in Cagayan, so your foot is already in the door.  Remember, they still need the numbers. Give her a reason that you are the person that will be loyal to a fault and provide them with the number they need.



You were already in hot water after your antics last week. Let things cool down, only to heat them back up by throwing Abi under the bus. At this stage, it’s anybody but you, but you need to provide the majority with a reason to keep you. This reason very well might be that someone is more of a cancer. Perform at the challenge like your life depends on it.


Do. Not. Flip. You got into the good graces of Tasha and Savage and can easily stay there. They need you as much as you need them. Don’t get rattled by others trying to strategize around you. You need to have a conversation with Tasha and Savage that clearly states your loyalty to them and prove your worth.



You’re in good with Jeremy, but remember how low you were on the old Bayon totem pole? Ride the good times with Jeremy, but set something up that will serve your endgame. In this case, befriend Spencer and work towards building a three- or four-person alliance that nobody would suspect. Monica and Kimmi are prime candidates, but only if you present the offer casually and not out of desperation.


You’re on a new tribe and have been given yet another chance. This is your time to ensure your safety for the short and long term aspects of this game. Befriend Stephen and Jeremy and throw Kelly Wiglesworth to the dogs.



Keep doing what you’re doing. In this case, you need to be a confident worker. People will approach you; just don’t jump the gun.




You’ve got your idol; take solace in that fact. Also, do everything in your power to ensure that you do not have to use it until the merge. Now that you’re away from your other alpha males, you need to create a power duo. Either Kimmi or Monica are people that are well served by a strategic partner, so don’t be afraid to test out the waters.


Step outside of your comfort zone and don’t be afraid to make some bigger moves. If Bayon wins out, you’re on the outside looking in. While it’s probably not the best thing to come out 100% guns blazing, it won’t hurt you to talk strategy with everyone individually. Don’t make any major promises, but do everything in your power to know exactly where you stand by knowing where everyone else’s head is at.


You are a strong person, so you need to promote that to the people that will listen. In this case, Jeremy thrives off of someone who is strong. Try to build something with Jeremy and Stephen (someone who will respect your Season 1 status) and for the love of all that is good, try to be positive and social.

Ta Keo


For my own personal sanity, please never do the “stir the pot” dance to the tune of your own ego stroking. Yes, a six-person tribe format is perfectly matched for your strength in challenges, but you need to make sure that you’re not overconfident. You’ve learned how to have a social game this time, but also need to start working on a strategic game too. Bond with Kass.  Nobody expects it, and it will pay dividends in the long run.


Keep throwing Terry under the bus, but only by pointing out the small things that he does which irk people. Your game is not served well by over-strategizing in a situation where you’re probably not going to tribal soon. Keep your acquaintances close, but your idol closer. The groundwork you lay now will be critical for the rest of the game.


The tribe dynamic says be relaxed, so by golly, that’s what you’re going to do. To build a FTC resume, you need to make some bigger moves, but the fourth episode is not the time for that. Read the situation and be the extra vote that someone needs to turn a minority into a majority.



You did a great job of revamping your game at Bayon, but this is a new tribe. Keep the target off of your back by laying low. You are in a great position, just don’t do anything major to compromise it. If things start to go south, however, you have the ability and social ties to bring in just about anyone.



You’re everyone’s favorite cabana boy, but you’re also a huge target and shield later on in the game. You need to forego that laissez-faire attitude and start having some strategic chats. In your case, befriend Ciera and informally create something with her and Kass. Keep Keith close, as he’ll be a solid number if you need it.



Just keep being the loveable Keith that you are. Nobody expects that you are going to be strategizing, so don’t surprise them. Now’s not the time for your big move. Keep working hard at camp and challenges and let the chips fall as they may for now.



TASHA FOX – Tasha stuck to her guns and loyalties this week, despite being down in numbers. She turned a minority alliance into a powerful duo that controlled the vote. Additionally, her actions set herself up well to survive Angkor into the next stage of the game.

KELLEY WENTWORTH – Kelley made the best out of a bad situation. She flipped at the perfect time, even though her tribe isn’t likely to see a tribal council anytime soon.

JEREMY COLLINS – Jeremy landed on a tribe with a numbers advantage, but actively worked to keep them. His finding an idol was bold, yet covert.

And the winner of the Swan Award is…


Tasha played for the future without compromising the current status of her game.

Disclaimer: Swan icon made by Freepik from

Shawn is 24 years old and lives in Virginia. After catching the first season by accident, Survivor has become his passion. A graduate of Washington and Lee University, Shawn has worked in many different jobs, including college volleyball coach, bakery assistant, organic farmer, bartender, and non-profit assistant. Above all, he is eagerly waiting for the day he can play the game he has loved since he was 8 years old.

  • Jeff

    I disagree concerning the advice you are giving to the Angkor tribemates. I think Jeff, Woo, & Abi would be IDIOTS not to vote either Savage or Tasha out next week. 3 original Ta Keo have been voted off. Bayon tribemates have to start going home! And Abi, Jeff, & Woo would be fools not to realize that.
    I’d put my money on Savage going.

    • Shawn Swaney

      While I don’t disagree with what you say, I honestly don’t see a world where the three ex Ta Keo members get back together. Beyond the loose bond between Abi and Varner, the three are not very close. While it’s by far the best move for them to reunite and eliminate Tasha and Savage (in that order) I decided to write towards what was realistic. Not saying that it’s impossible, but highly unlikely given the strategic prowess, o lack thereof, of Woo and Abi, who would need to initiate the reunion of the three ex Ta Keo members.