There’s a movie. It’s called The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh. It is a fairly terrible movie, and I cannot in good conscience recommend that anybody — man or woman, adult or child — watch it. I mean, the lead actor is none other than Dr. J. As in the NBA player. That’s kind of a red flag right there.
And the plot may be the dumbest idea ever put on film, as a basketball team — under the spell of late-’70s disco-astrological nonsense, no doubt — decides to stuff its entire roster full of zany misfits who all happen to be born under the same astrological sign of Pisces. (Unclear if those, like myself, born on a cusp could join the team.) Naturally, they go on to win the championship.
The movie is all kinds of awful. And yet I love it. Watched it a million times as a kid. Wore out my VHS tape. Because kids watch stupid crap they are too stupid enough to realize is stupid. Seriously, my entire childhood was spent watching re-runs of Rerun on What’s Happening!! and The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh. Did I ever bother to question why What’s Happening!! had two exclamation points and zero question marks? Of course not! I was too busy worrying if Raj and company were going to get busted for bootlegging the Doobie Brothers concert with a tape recorder that was roughly the size of Texas. SPOILER ALERT: They got busted. They also got busted for scalping Stevie Wonder tickets, if I remember correctly. Man, those guys were always getting into some shady concert shenanigans back in the day.
Never in my wildest dreams did I think anything Fish-related could get me excited as that all-Pisces basketball team. But then I watched Wednesday night’s episode of Survivor. Ladies and gentlemen, hold the doofy circus music. Tell any small-to-midsize tree branches daring to be chopped to back off. Purge those images of premature-celebrations and not being allowed to touch the immunity idol out of your head. Because Stephen Fishbach went from zero to hero this week.
Now, I’m not going to tell you that Stephen made a great move in deciding to flip on Kelly Wiglesworth. Was this just an extension of his Joe obsession because he could not take out his real target, so he took out the person who was emerging as a close ally instead? Perhaps. I’m not sure this move improves his position in the game at all. May even hurt it… significantly. But Stephen knows all too well from his last time when he got skunked at final Tribal that he needs to make moves if he wants votes at the end, and he was able to pull one off here.
And not only did he pull it off, but he convinced his biggest ally — Jeremy — to make the move with him even though it would appear to be a seriously bad play for Jeremy. While Stephen needed to do something, Jeremy is already seen as the leader of the tribe and the one pulling the strings. We’ve heard several people say this. When you are in that position, your best move is to keep things exactly as they are. Just ask Tom Westman in Palau, or Boston Rob in Redemption Island, or Kim Spradlin in One World. They were seen as running large alliances and were rewarded for their efforts with million dollar checks.
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Not only that, but Jeremy has two hidden immunity idols. The fact that he could play these would also cement his position as a gamer and improve his credentials at the end. Jeff Probst always says that “you have to make big moves,” but not if you’re Jeremy. At last not here and not now. So the fact that Fishbach got him to make a move that was not in his best interest is pretty impressive.
But this wasn’t even Stephen’s best play in the game. That would be his beating Spencer for the “Steal a Vote” advantage. To recap, in the middle of the immunity challenge, Jeff Probst dramatically cut a rope and a bunch of buoys popped up. Jeff then said the first person to jump off their weird triangle balancing station and swim over and touch their buoy would win an advantage in the game. Nine people froze. Stephen and Spencer did not, but Stephen was quicker to dive in and nabbed the advantage, which it was later revealed would enable him to steal a vote from another player. (More on that later.)
Why was that a smart call? Because NO WAY IN HELL was Fishbach going to win that challenge anyway. It just wasn’t going to happen. So why not just go for something else that can help you in the game later? Yes, there is the potential downside of sticking out and making yourself more of a target by gaining the advantage, but when people don’t know what the advantage is (and they don’t) then it makes them more likely to wait it out and let it get used before they act. (What if it’s a complete get-out-of-jail-free card and their blindside gets completely overturned? You want to risk that?)
NEXT: Joe takes a shower