Swaney Strategy Blog – Cambodia Episode 7

In Survivor: Cagayan, the rivalry between Kass and Spencer was born when Kass voted for Garrett at the second tribal council. It was truly cemented when Kass once again flipped on Spencer and voted out Sarah directly after the merge. By the end of Cagayan, it was very, very clear that Spencer and Kass did not see eye to eye.

Two episodes ago on Survivor Second Chance, we saw the rivalry between the two take a dramatic shift, as Kass chose to stick her neck out in order to save Spencer. Following the merge, the Orkun tribe was absolute chaos. After the dust had settled, Kass was in the crosshairs and the very likely target of elimination. In a way that only the Survivor gods could have ironically set, Spencer seemed to be the fulcrum vote deciding whether Kass would stay or be voted out. An interesting conundrum arose: does Spencer “owe” Kass?

This idea of reciprocity in Survivor is the focus for this week’s edition of the Swaney Strategy Blog.


Before Rice Wars and the overly dramatic “I feel like it’s getting the best of me” speech in Heroes vs. Villains, the Rob Mariano we all knew was trying to establish himself as a cutthroat player who would do whatever it took to win.

“…if you can.”

With those three little words, the real character of Boston Rob was born. Following an unpredictable tribe swap (with some noted post-game controversy), Rob asked Lex to save his ally and future wife, Amber. After Lex had made good on the promise, he expected Rob to uphold his promise and work together. Rob, on the other hand, had no intention of keeping his word. If Lex kept Amber, Rob had his number one ally still in the game. If Amber had been voted out, Rob activated Alicia in her stead. All to be said, Lex played no part in Rob’s post-merge strategy.


In a game full of promises and trust, how far does a favor actually go?

Using Jonathan Penner as a leverage vote, the Aitu Four had taken control of the post-merge game in Survivor: Cook Islands. Knowing he was on borrowed time, Adam made a deal with Yul – if Jonathan goes before he does, Adam will vote for Yul at the Final Tribal Council. Later at tribal, Penner gets voted out, prompting Adam to vote for Yul on the jury, which was arguably the vote that secured his victory over Ozzy.

In two starkly different situations, it becomes clear that favors and big promises can work well in the short-term for those in the minority, while they can be massively influential in the long-term for those in the majority.


If we re-examine the Woo blindside, it becomes even more apparent that Kass’ strategic thinking was well justified. The flaw behind this move was that nobody could have expected a 13-person merge. Had this situation been a more standard twelve-person merge, it is likely that both Kass and Spencer would be working together in the majority.

As this game progresses in the merge phase, smart castaways will remember that this will be a very large jury – one that requires a lot of clever maneuvering to remain on their good side. If I were somebody like Jeremy (clearly in the majority and making decisions), I would start working on gaining the jury votes of Ciera and Abi, who seem to be clearly on the bottom. As we saw with Yul, one promised vote could be the difference between $100K and the title of Sole Survivor.



Keith Nale – I’m still surprised that Keith of all people is on this list. Keith is nominated this week not for what he has done, but for what he didn’t do. While comfortably in the pocket of Kelley Wentworth, Keith flipped over to the numbers of the old-Bayon majority. His execution of the “anyone but me” strategy is subtle, yet incredibly effective. No one thinks of Keith as a threat, which, like his last time playing, is a successful path to the end-stages of the game.

Kelley Wentworth – Like Keith, Kelley was part of the five-person Ta Keo alliance that quickly disbanded after the merge. Rather than staying loyal to alliances, Kelley is staying faithful to the majority regardless of who is in it. Her ability to maneuver through alliances and the social game is going fairly undetected.

And the winner of the Swan Award is…


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.