Swaney Strategy Blog – Kaôh Rōng Episode 5

For this week in Inside Survivor features, I’m pulling double duty. Earlier, I wrote “Next time on Survivor” for Jacob, where I followed up on some previous predictions and made some of my own. As per usual, however, I take this time to singularly focus on the strategic developments in the previous episode and how it can forecast what is to come.

Throughout the 32 seasons of Survivor, some incredibly unique characters have graced us with their presence. On three different occasions, fans have been exposed to Benjamin “Coach” Wade’s larger than life personality and proclivity for over the top stories and waterborne tai-chi. Another three-time player, Russell Hantz, revolutionized the game while forever changing the pretenses behind how a hidden immunity idol is used. Playing on three seasons, however, doesn’t make you a polarizing character. First boot Chicken Morris (China) and tribeless Wanda Shirk (Palau) left lasting impacts despite playing for three days or less.

And then, there’s Lisi Linares. If you’ve made it this far and have not yet seen her music video “Whitey Tighties” please stop everything you are doing, watch it (NSFW), and then take a deep breath and remember that you, hopefully, did not do something like this and post it on YouTube. Lisi the Survivor player was just as polarizing, with her antics and unfiltered thoughts landing her in hot water. In a relatively low amount of screen time, Lisi gave us so, so many gems. During her time in the game, Lisi tackled major life issues such as proper coffee brewing techniques, proper water shoe choice, why the early bird does indeed get the worm, and, my personal favorite, gravity.


While I could spend an absurdly long time talking about how funny Lisi was to watch as a character, her presence in the blog this week is for her stint on exile island.

After deeming that the original Moto tribe had dominated for long enough, the tribes were instructed to drop their buffs and enter into a schoolyard pick for new tribes. After all was said and done, there was a brand new Moto tribe, brand new Ravu tribe, and Lisi all by her lonesome. Instead of unevenly dividing the tribes (a problem that Fiji had to deal with from the onset of the season), Lisi lived at exile island for the next few days, eventually joining the tribe that lost the next immunity challenge. In a matter of minutes, Lisi’s emotional stock in the game went from very high to very low. Additionally, whether she knew it or not, her strategic stock also took a massive dip.

In the course of a 39 day season, 3 days at exile island is a massive amount of time to be away from your tribe. To put this number into perspective, 3/39 days is 1/13 or approximately 7.7%. If we apply this number to say, the approximate total world population of 7.4 billion, 7.7% would account for the 3rd and 4th most populous countries in the world combined (United States and Indonesia) at approximately 570 million people. Just like the game of Survivor, removing 7.7% of the population has massive consequences.

The interesting thing for Lisi is that she technically did not have a tribe that she was away from (insert witty “Lisi is a space cadet” joke). As new Moto and new Ravu joined together after the swap, they began making plans to move forward… without Lisi. In a short amount of time, Earl and friends were in the majority at Moto, while the Four Horseman entered into existence at Ravu. When Lisi rejoined the game and became a member of Ravu (effectively replacing Anthony), she walked into a situation where everyone else had mutual experience except her. This is not a situation unique to Fiji, as seasons like Tocantins and Cagayan have had people excluded from the initial stages of the game. Not being with a tribe, in Lisi’s case among many others, would eventually spell their demise.

In the most recent episode of Survivor: Kaôh Rōng, the tribes were swapped and a situation very similar to Lisi’s emerged. After the dust had cleared and each castaway had chosen a buff at random, Julia Sokolowski, the teenage sorority girl, drew the red Totang buff and earned a three day trip to exile. Like Lisi, Julia was part of an undefeated and seemingly tight tribe, but would be forced to join the tribe that lost the next immunity challenge. Through no fault of her own, Julia’s chances of winning the game are all but crippled.

Knowing that Julia would be the one to replace the person that was voted out, both tribes should have been either gunning to win or throwing the challenge. If we look back in Survivor history, tribes like La Mina could have used this strategy to great success – if they had decided to throw the challenge to gain Bruce they could have voted out a far weaker player like Ruth Marie and effectively crippled Casaya. Additionally, players like Dan and Terry (who probably leaned against a move like this due to their honorable personalities and careers) could have gained a massive numbers advantage by bringing in Bruce. In Kaôh Rōng, knowing that Julia was the one that would be replacing the next vote favored the tribe with a built in Beauty minority – Gondol.

Like we saw play out in “The Devils You Know”, the Brains on Gondol knew to target either Anna or Tai in order to avoid losing their plurality. Throwing the challenge would have especially favored one person when you look deeper – Scot Pollard. Scot, the lone Brawn member on Gondol, had the ability to pick a side and remain entirely unfazed regardless of the side he chose. If Scot went with the Brains, he ensured a 4-2 Brains+Brawn majority and could survive three votes before the majority has to cannibalize. The same situation presented itself if Scot joined with the Beauties and had Tai play the idol – he would have gained a 4-2 Brawn + Beauty majority with three tribals worth of security. In the end, Scot made the right move in siding with the Brains, while still including Tai (mostly for his idol). This move ensured that Scot remained in the majority, but also gives him somewhat access to two different idols.


Gondol – Scot, Julia, Tai, Peter, Joe, Aubry

Gondol lost a tribal council and a member, yet remains at even strength in terms of numbers. The downfall for Gondol is that all of the cards are not in their hands and are instead played (yes, I’m making a poker pun). From the point of view of the old Brains, they are sitting pretty: they have 3/6 members, a fourth in Scot, and an increasing majority. From the point of view of Tai, he’s in the minority, but will be protected because of Scot’s position with the Brains. From the point of view of Julia, she’s entering a tribe in a minority situation and needs to do absolutely anything to change the status quo. From the point of Scot, he needs to treat Julia like Alecia (keep reading) and ensure that she is undoubtedly the next one voted off. In doing so, Scot retains his majority status, access to an idol, and a pass to the merge while sitting pretty. If Gondol loses again, which I HIGHLY recommend they do, Julia is the next one out.

Chanloh – Cydney, Jason, Debbie, Neal, Michele, Nick

Chanloh left the tribe swap completely even: 2 brains, 2 brawn, and 2 beauty. As expected, two pairs of two quickly became four, creating a 4 over 2 majority situation, leaving the Beauties once again in trouble. The move by Debbie and Neal to choose the Brawn over Beauty makes perfect sense, as their 5 original remaining members will retain a merged majority over everyone if they keep picking off Beauties. The way that both the Brains and the Brawn played the swap was textbook. The Brains, Debbie especially, did a great job of quickly shoring up numbers through compliments and pull-ups. Both Cydney and Jason were great at the Cassandra Franklin “mhmm” strategy, agreeing with everything to the point where it materializes into an alliance. By taking the backseat to the Brains’ priorities, they are both sitting pretty.

The Beauties, on the other hand, are in a bit of trouble. Nick and Michele are seen as much more of a couple than Anna and Tai were. In order to successfully move forward, Nick or Michele need to begin getting very close to the Brains in order to send the other one down the river. This is why the scenes from the next episode, which shows Debbie semi-fawning over Nick, indicate to me that Nick will be quick to point out the old Beauty girls alliance and put a target on Michele. If all plays out like I expect, Chanloh will not lose the next immunity challenge, but if they do, Michele is the next one going home.


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.

  • Chad

    In the section on Gondol, you talk about how they lost a tribal council and a member. I don’t understand what you mean about losing a tribal council. Did you mean to say they lost a challenge and a member?