I know what you’re thinking, “Hey Gordon, why is Stephen’s exit interview on your personal blog?” Well, there are some technical difficulties with the XFINITY blogs at the moment, so this will have to do.
Did the announcement of the return of the “Survivor” Hall of Fame break the blogs? Possibly.
What I can say is; we might be here for a little while. But that’s OK, cause it’s cozy. So, enjoy this nifty little chat and then be sure to cast your vote for the “Survivor” Hall of Fame Class of 2015.
Stephen Fishbach: Finally! I’m so excited, this makes it all worthwhile.
Gordon Holmes: Oh man, now I wish I hadn’t totally half-assed all of these questions.
Fishbach: I would expect nothing more from you.
Holmes: Nobody does.
Holmes: Here’s the truth. You and I are buddies, but I have my journalistic integrity to uphold. So, I’m going to hit you with a hard question right off of the bat…exactly how poopy were those pants?
Fishbach: They were not poopy at all! Here’s the thing, I…first of all…I took off my pants every time I left the shelter. I completely stripped down every time I left the shelter, which was something like 17 times that night at the height of the monsoon. So, the pants were very clean, they’re great pants.
Holmes: So, Abi’s nickname for you should’ve been “Poop-free Pants”?
Fishbach: (Laughs) Yeah. My pants were incredibly clean. Maybe “Clean Pants” would’ve been a better nickname.
Holmes: But then you lose that alliteration.
Holmes: Before the game, we talked about everyone having a little extra pressure due to the fan vote. But, it seems like you had some extra extra pressure due to your “Wizard” reputation from “Tocantins,” your People.com blog, and your “Know-It-Alls” podcast with Rob Cesternino on RHAP (“Rob Has a Podcast”). Now that it’s all said and done, do you think you lived up to your reputation?
Fishbach: (Laughs) Clearly not. There’s this inflated sense of my skills. I think that comes from the fans, I think it came from the players too. That really hurt me. Coming into the game I think people expected me to whip out my magic strategy powers and do incredible blindsides. But really, “Survivor” is a pretty basic game. You get the numbers, and you vote people out. But, there was this fear that really hurt me all game. I had a lot of trouble building up trust the entire game. And part of that was my fault. I’m going long, feel free to cut me off.
Holmes: They don’t click on this to hear my thoughts.
Fishbach: (Laughs) I was really emotionally burned out after “Tocantins.” And coming into this game I tried to keep a little bit of distance, for practical and emotional reasons. But also I remember Cochran on his season, he had told me that one of the reasons that he was able to do so well in the finals was because he kept everything strategic. He didn’t make it personal. And so, that was what I set out to do. But I think Cochran is such a confessional guy. He’s always confessing himself. So, for me to keep things strategic, being someone who people already perceive as being cerebral and strategic, was just going to really alienate me from people.
Holmes: The vote to get rid of Kelly Wiglesworth was a big move and you felt like you needed to make big moves to win in the end. However, by making a big move, you confirmed people’s beliefs that you were a serious player, and then you became a target. It was kind of a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t situation. Looking back, was there any other way to play that or were you just going to have to barrel ahead?
Fishbach: I think you’re absolutely right. It’s a tough spot for me. At that point at the final eleven, what is my path to win the game? On the one hand I have all my allies, Jeremy, Spencer…people I really trusted who could beat me. And on the other hand you had some people who I didn’t trust at all like Ciera, but who I could beat in the end. Somehow I had to work with the girls before they were voted out of the game. But, you’re right. Jeff Probst in his columns with Dalton (Ross) has said that, “Fishbach should sit back and observe.” My thought was I’d observe myself getting no votes at the finale. I had to be aggressive.
Holmes: Who is this Dalton?
Fishbach: (Laughs) Eh…some loser.
Holmes: Don’t bring that here.
Holmes: There have been a lot of comparisons made between Jeremy and JT. And watching it from my couch, he’s playing a really solid game. Ciera even said whoever goes to the end with Jeremy is going to lose. What was your plan for Jeremy going forward?
Fishbach: I hate to say it now that he saved me, but I knew I couldn’t go to the finals with him. For me to go to the finals with the person who was entirely responsible for me being in the game? I’d get negative votes. My thought was keep Jeremy around as long as possible. He’s my ally, he’s my friend, I trust him. And then at final four, take him out. I hate to say it, but I’d have to do it. Jeremy is a great meat shield. Everyone knows he’s the biggest threat to win. Which shocked me. Why was nobody else gunning for Jeremy? Why would they vote for me instead of Jeremy? I still don’t get that.
Holmes: If you could’ve mapped out the rest of the game, how would it have gone?
Fishbach: My fantasy was at final six I would flip with Kimmi and Keith. I’d use my advantage against my own alliance. And that’s part of why I misplayed my advantage. I got so attached to it. I had this shiny object in my hand. And I’d think of all the cool things I could do with the shiny object. I think that took me out of the moment and had me projecting forward a couple of votes out. I think that’s very dangerous. I couldn’t get past that to play the advantage correctly. I had this great idealized scenario in my head. My dream was to go to the end with Kimmi and Keith. And honestly, Kimmi could have beaten me in that scenario. Everyone loved Kimmi. She has this incredible life story.
Holmes: We do the Power Rankings here and you try to focus on who’s close with who. And if Joe gets immunity, who will they target? And then with no prior warning we learn that Joe and Kelly are besties. Then we learn that you and Kimmi are BFFs. It’s infuriating because they’ve never hinted at that before. Was the closeness of this alliance a product of you, Kimmi, and Jeremy staying on the same tribe through all of the swaps?
Fishbach: Out of the gate, I couldn’t stand Kimmi. She’d toss around the shelter a lot, and then, you’re right. We stayed together and we got really close. Kimmi and I got incredibly close. Closer than Jeremy and I were, although in a different way. She was my number one out there. I 100% trusted Kimmi. I knew Kimmi would never do anything to screw me over and I’d never do anything to screw her over. Our interests were aligned in that way. Whereas I could see Jeremy screwing me over. And even Kimmi, Kimmi wanted Jeremy out.
Holmes: Why was Kimmi left out of the Wiglesworth blindside?
Fishbach: She was being pulled over to the Wiglesworth side against Jeremy. We needed to vote Wigles out because she was pulling Kimmi away from me.
Holmes: Kelley Wentworth is another San Juan del Surian who’s having a hell of a run. At that point in the game, did you have an appreciation for how well she was pulling the strings?
Fishbach: No. I still give Joe a lot of credit. For some reason I think he isn’t coming off as strategic as he really is. I think Joe and Spencer are doing great. And Shirin when she was talking to you compared Kelley to Arya Stark. I think that comparison is so on the nose. She tries to stay as unobtrusive as possible, stay out of the way, then pulls out her sword at the right moment. You see her there and you’re like, “Whatever.” But, seeing her on TV I can see what a great job she’s doing.
Holmes: And thank you for the perfect segway into our word association segment of the morning…
Fishbach: Just to be clear; this is paragraph association, right? I don’t have to do just word?
Holmes: A word, a sentence, a paragraph, a haiku, a limerick. If you want to say it, I want to hear it. Let’s start with Kimmi.
Fishbach: Kimmi was my best friend out there. I think she’s playing a good game for Kimmi. She’s being strategic, she’s being thoughtful, she’s working hard around camp. Kimmi could win it all. And that’s not me saying “Oh, anyone can win!” Like, Abi can’t win. Kimmi could actually win it all.
Fishbach: Jeremy is an amazing human being. He’s playing an awesome game. He’s a stellar friend. I think his idol play is perfectly emblematic of who he is. He played his idol for me, it was an aggressive move, it was a strategic move to save his alliance, and it was also a personal move. The fact that he can accomplish all of those things just shows how great he is.
Fishbach: I love Savage! There’s all this Savage rivalry from the show. We butted heads, that’s because we are different people with different frameworks for how we live our lives. But, what I love about Savage is that he’s always completely emotionally honest. If he thinks I’m the devil, he’s going to call me the devil. That’s great. What else can you ask from a TV character?
Fishbach: I think Joe is underrated. Underrated as a player. His looks and his hair and his challenge prowess are appropriately rated. But, his strategic game is way better than people give him credit for. He’s great at relaying information from one side of the isle to another. And part of the reason I went out was Joe got information from Kimmi. I had told Kimmi we wanted Abi out. Kimmi tells Joe, Joe tells Abi. The best Joe anecdote that I have is that the day I went home, Joe told Abi to go crazy on the beach. The fact that Joe was using Abi to distract me was so smart and such a cool move. And it was so effective. I might’ve seen the blindside coming had I not been dealing with Abi all day.
Holmes: Alright, we’re running out of time. Let’s tighten these up. Kass?
Fishbach: Kass is great, smart, amazing welcome at Ponderosa. A really wonderful woman.
Fishbach: Another underrated gamer. Such a great social game. You’ll believe anything she tells you. She’s awesome.
Fishbach: She’s playing a great under-the-radar game in the truest sense of the word where nobody is targeting her, but she’s building up an impressive resume.
Fishbach: Kelly was a great person to have around camp. She was a really nice person. She picked up the strategy part of the game a little too late.
Fishbach: What can you say about Monica? I don’t know. She’s great! I love Monica.
Fishbach: I wish I had more time for Tasha. I don’t get all the Tasha hate. I think the people who were not in her alliance, didn’t feel the Tasha love. Tasha was really good at always checking in with her alliance. At Tribal Council she would make eye contact with every single person who she was planning to vote with. That’s a really important thing. Everyone is super paranoid at Tribal. And Tasha was good at being reassuring. She’s such a positive person. She was so nice to me. She’s one of the people I came out of the game hoping to have a relationship with.
Fishbach: Again, underrated. I think he knows exactly what he’s doing.
Holmes: Let’s finish with Abi.
Fishbach: Outside of the game, Abi is wonderful. I’ll leave it at that. But, I think you forgot someone.
Holmes: Didn’t I get everyone you were on a beach with?
Holmes: I had Spencer in my notes. Reporter fail!
Fishbach: The most important one of all! Spencer was my blindspot in the game. You have to trust people in “Survivor.” But, you want it to be a strategic trust. I said to myself, “I’m going to make the strategic decision to trust Jeremy.” You have to trust people, and if he chooses to screw me, I’m done. With Spencer I made the emotional decision to trust him because, it’s Spencer! From the “Survivor” community! RHAP! I considered him a friend. As a result of that I saved him a few times in the game. I did not see it coming. And that’s not to say I blame Spencer for doing what he did. I just wouldn’t have thought that he would flip in that moment. Obviously, I was wrong.
Holmes: So the lesson you should take from all of this is; don’t ever trust anyone from the RHAP community?
Fishbach: (Laughs) Especially Cesternino!
Any Questions? Drop me a line on Twitter: @gordonholmes