All Star Strategy #1:  Saboga, You Will Pay!
Written by Mario Lanza on 01.31.04

"The alliance will die, as will your friends.  Good, I can feel your anger.  I am unarmed.  Take your weapon.  Strike me down with all of your hatred, and your journey towards the dark side will be complete."
-Emperor Palpatine, Return of the Jedi

Wait, you thought I was serious?  You actually thought that Tina was going to win??   You BELIEVED me??  Bah.  Fools! 

Okay, that's enough.  We will get more to Tina later.  Because unfortunately it looks like I cursed her, just like I cursed Nicole Delma last season.  And it probably had something to do with my column last week where I wrote " So yes, I apologize in advance for all of my Tina Wesson love this season.  You will probably get sick of it."   Because if you are a regular reader of my column, you will remember that I used that exact same phrase... almost word for word... when I was talking about Nicole in Pearl Islands.  I hyped her in my pre season column and then she was voted out first.  So Tina, I apologize.  I am sorry I cursed you.  I somehow managed to jinx my all time favorite player.  So in your honor, for the first time ever, I will begin my column with a moment of silence. 

Here we go. Stop talking now, we are remembering Tina.

Okay, that's enough.  Rest ye well, Miss Wesson.  Hopefully you can roll around in your giant pile of money at home and that should help ease the pain.  And I don't mean to sound vindictive or anything, but Rupert can go rot in stinking hell.  That is all.

I'm just kidding about Rupert.  I hold no ill will towards anyone.  I kind of suspected that Tina might go early anyway, which is why I ranked her #1 in my power rankings last week.  She was my ultimate high risk/high reward pick.  I figured that if she did well, I would look like a genius.  And if she went early, well at least I got to rank her #1 at least once in my lifetime.  So it was more or less a tribute pick.  I just wanted to pay tribute to my all time favorite player, since as a former winner she would likely lounge around at the bottom of the rankings until she was voted out.  And the pre season column was the only way to do it.  But I can't say I enjoyed watching her get voted out.  I honestly thought that Jenna was going home, due to the editing.  They fooled me!  And how much of a lose-lose situation was that episode for me, seriously?  It was down to either my favorite player of all time (Tina) or the player who was my dark horse to win it all this season (Jenna).  Sheesh.  You just can't win.

Okay, I told myself my columns would be shorter this season, so I am just going to get right into the fun stuff.  I have organized my thoughts on the All Star premiere into a series of lists.  And since so many people have asked to see more of my wife Diana's comments, I gave her her very own section this year.  So for all the Diana fans, especially borderline stalkers like Jamie Evans of Iowa, here you go.  And please continue to stay at least 100 yards away from her, as per the court order.

------Episode one lists------

1. Things that I loved seeing on Survivor one more time:

* Jeff Probst almost falling off of a flying transport.  I loved it in Australia, and I loved it even more in All Stars.  I wonder how many takes it took before he stopped wetting his pants.

* Alicia's hat.  I got to meet her at the Thailand finale last year, and that was the exact same hat she was wearing at the time.  Hooray for Alicia's hat!

* Kathy's Laugh.  Haw Haw Haw.  And the fact that it was the first thing we heard once Mogo Mogo reached the island.  You gotta love the Survivor editors for stuff like that.

* Rob Cesternino's happy grin.  He couldn't have been more thrilled to be playing Survivor again.

* Rob Mariano's accent.  Everytime I hear it I still think he is faking it.  Boston accents always do that to me.  Okay, now talk in your real voice.  Seriously.

* The way Rob Mariano wears his buff.  I forgot about that!  He always wears it in that funky little X pattern on his elbow. 

* Richard's cockiness.  I see he hasn't changed much.

* Richard's penis.  Just kidding.

* Rudy!  Wow, seeing Rudy brings back a lot of nostalgia.  And he had most of the best lines of the night, too.  It's like we got transported back to July of 2000.

* Rob Cesternino winning the first challenge.  Okay, he didn't win the first challenge in Amazon but I will relish any opportunity to remind him that his team once lost to a bunch of girls.  I guess Rupert and Ethan are easier competition than Janet and Jeanne were, huh Rob?

2. Things that surprised me in episode one:

* Rudy Boesch is still funny!  I thought he might have been a one trick pony in Pulau Tiga but he cracked me up at least three times tonight.  It is good to see that the crusty old guy still has it.

* Kathy has tattoos.  I didn't remember that from Marquesas.  In fact most all of the Mogos Mogos have tattoos, everyone but Colby has them I believe.

* Sue Hawk more or less giving up on day two.  Come on Sue, we expect more from you than that.

* Chapera is the most athletic tribe in the game.  Seriously, I didn't see this one coming at all.  I underestimated how strong Rob Mariano is and I believe Rob Cesternino is in much better shape this time than he was last time.  This tribe won't be as big a pushover as people expect them to be.

* Rupert didn't dominate the first challenge.  I thought he would single handedly carry Saboga to at least second place.  Maybe Burton really WAS the challenge god on Drake like he claims that he was.

* Rob Cesternino was never once mentioned as a target during episode one.  Not even once.  This one shocked the heck out of me.  Is he really that charming that people forget about him?

* Rudy was the first player to strategize.  I didn't think he would be so direct about it, but he asked Rupert for an alliance the very first time they met!

* Rupert is playing an overly strategic game.  I expected he would go in pretty much the same way he went in before (aka, a bull in a china shop) but he really seems to have learned from his mistakes.

* Ethan had a little bite to him, particularly in the way he voted for Jenna.  I don't think he is quite as soft and gentle as people think he is.

* Tina was voted out. :(   Although I did expect it early on in the episode.  Her first few comments just led me to believe that she was going home.  But then as the episode developed I started realizing, dang it's going to be Jenna, not Tina.  And I fully believed it would be Jenna all the way up until the votes were revealed.  Oh well, I guess I was wrong.  So much for my dreams.

3. Things that didn't surprise me in episode one (or things I predicted in my pre season column):

* Amber was the last person to speak in the episode.  Well, duh.

* Tom and Rupert wore the exact same clothes in All Stars that they wore in their last seasons.  I believe it is in their contracts now that they can never change clothes.

* Rob Mariano was the golden boy/alpha male of Chapera.  You could see it before the season even started just from the layout of the tribe.  It will all start and end with him.  He is their Heidik, just like I predicted.  

* Rupert is worried that he is the "new guy" among all the established Survivor veterans.  He worries that he won't fit in.  Again, something that I predicted almost word for word in my column last week.

* Tina was voted out.  :(  Okay I said I was surprised by her boot earlier but for most of the episode I had a feeling of dread that she was going home.  It was mainly because of the "whenever I die I will have a ton of life experiences" confessional.  That one had doom written all over it.  Winners don't say things like that on Survivor.

* Jenna Lewis turned out to be a cutthroat little she beast.  Yay!  One of the predictions I was most sure about and it turned out to be true.  She will play this game harder than anyone else out there, I can almost guarantee it.  The first season players (especially the Pagongs) never get any respect and nobody ever takes them seriously and she knows it.  She is going to be out for blood this time.

* Jerri changed her strategy and is vowing to keep her mouth shut.  Again, something that I had her do (almost word for word) in our Alaska story.  She has definitely learned from her mistakes of the past.  At least, for now.

* Lex seems to the respected leader and the voice of reason on Mogo Mogo.  This doesn't surprise me at all.   Everyone loves Lex.

* Tom Buchanan is still funny.  Once you get used to his accent again, he never fails to crack me up when he speaks.  He might be the funniest player they have ever had on the show.  I would rank him alongside Rudy, Sean Rector, and Rob Cesternino as the four funniest.

* Rob Mariano and Alicia Calaway got in the first fight.  Like you couldn't see that one coming a mile away.

* Rob Mariano and Amber Brkich are very tight.  This was another prediction I made that looks like it will be true.  These two will be solid.  Good news, Rob now has a replacement Sarah.

* Sue is an outcast on Chapera.  That one seemed obvious to me.  This just isn't her type of tribe.

* Mogo Mogo turned into a boys-vs-girls club early on.  But luckily I think they will all rally around the "vote for Richard" strategy for now, so they may have saved themselves for a while.

* Ethan is playing the "if you take a winner to the final two, you will win!" strategy.  This is a great way for a winner to approach an All Star season.  I don't know if it will work for him or not, but he is smart to at least try it.

4. Things that made me laugh in episode one:

* The love theme playing in the background when Rob M. was talking about how Amber was beautiful.  Awww.  I wonder if Amber reminds him of Sarah's boobs.

* Anything Richard said or did.  He just doesn't give a crap anymore.  It's hilarious.

* Kathy's laugh.  Sorry but it is infectuous, as always.  When Kathy laughs, everyone else does too.

* When Sue Hawk was bitching about Mariano and Rob Cesternino had this big old grin on his face standing next to her.  You just knew he was dying to start messing with her.

* Richard called Colby "honey" at one point.  That was probably a first for the Colbster.

* Rudy just came out and bluntly asked Rupert for an alliance.  God bless Rudy and his lack of tact or subtlety.

* The sheer number of "down the bikini" camera shots sprinkled throughout the immunity challenge.  I wonder if Tom Buchanan is editing the episodes this season. 

* "Jenna, your big mouth might bite you in that big old butt of yours."  -Ethan casting a vote for his ex girlfriend.

* "Richard was the king back when he was playing against a bunch of sheep."  -Lex

* "Well it looks like I am again on the buffoon tribe."  -Rob Mariano

* "What do I look like, Magellan?"  -Rudy

* When Ethan accidentally called Rupert "Ruprecht."  If you don't know, Ruprecht was a character from the movie Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (played by Steve Martin).  He was an idiot man child who drooled, who loved to bang on pots and pans, and who had to be locked up in a room for his own safety.  Luckily Ethan quickly corrected his pronunciation of Rupert's name, but it made me laugh the first time he did it.

* "I aint never heard so much crybaby titty-sucking in all my life."  -Tom

* The burning man at the end of the challenge was a ripoff of one of my favorite horror movies of all time, The Wicker Man.  It's a great movie, go find it and rent it!

* "Hey Navy Seal, was it wise to drink unfiltered water?"
  "Why, because it was a member of the opposing team who did it?"
  "Yeah."    -Jeff and Rudy

* And my favorite funny moment of the episode... was one that I am guessing very few people caught.  But if you have it on tape, go back and watch the immunity challenge.  Just before they start the challenge, Richard drops his pants and he stands naked.  And the funniest thing is to watch Jenna Morasca's reaction behind him.  She turns around, she sees Richard's naked ass staring her in the face, and her whole body just slumps.  She SO doesn't want to see that right now.  She then rolls her eyes and lets out a big sigh.  Too funny.

5. Diana's comments on episode one:

* I remember noticing this back in Australia and I noticed it again tonight.  Every time Tina talks, she uses the word "whenever" when she should be saying "when."  She says "Whenever Colby took me to the final two" or "Whenever we lost the challenge" or "Whenever I kick the bucket."  She always uses the wrong word.

* It was nice that Rudy got himself a surrogate Richard this time around.  Hey look, Rupert has a beard too!  Let's make an alliance with the bearded guy!

* At the immunity challenge, the teams were first introduced to one another and Ethan was chewing on his fingernail.  He looked nervous and it was very cute.

* It was nice to see Rupert wearing pants for a change.  Then again it was canceled out by seeing Richard not wearing pants.  I guess on the pants scale they cancelled each other out.

* We saw Tom dance a few times tonight but I hope we see him dance with a feather in his butt again.  It's just not the same without the feather.

* I wonder if they let Colby bring his Schick Quatro Razor as his luxury item.  It has four blades!

* In Mario's stories he always points out that Jeff doesn't want to get his hair wet.  But at Tribal Council, Jeff's hair was soaked.  That made me laugh.


Well Tina has come and gone and frankly I am thrilled that I listed her at #1 last week.  I always said I would pay tribute to her and that was how I chose to do it.  And since I only had one chance to write about her I am glad I did get that one chance.  But that being said, the power rankings are more based on fact this week.  The game starts now.  Here we go.  Who is the most likely player to win the game right now?

1. Amber Brkich
That's right, scoff at me for doing it, but here she is.  Get used to it.  She will be here all season.

2. Lex van den Berghe
I think he will be around for a long time.

3. Tom Buchanan
Tom should surprise a lot of people this season.  He may be one of the best players the game has ever seen.  Do WE all underestimate him the same way that the other players do?

4. Rob Mariano
This is his season right now.  This is the chance at Survivor stardom that he never really got.

5. Rupert Boneham
Wow, he is almost under the radar right now.  He has really turned things around.  It will be interesting to see how his game develops.

6. Kathy Vavrick-O'Brien
She seems adept at blending in with both the males and the females on Mogo Mogo.  She should be around for a while.

7. Colby Donaldson
I still think Colby's likability will overcome the threat he poses as an athlete.  Everyone seems to like the guy.  He and Lex should get along great.

8. Rob Cesternino
Rob is doing a great job of laying low for now.  But man, Mariano is gonna be a tough opponent for him to crack. 

9. Alicia Calaway
I think she will do well, but she and Mariano will have a Sandra-Jon relationship for most of the game.  Hopefully it is a fun one.

10. Shii Ann Huang
Right in the middle for now.  I want to see more of her strategy first.

11. Jerri Manthey
She is doing surprisingly well, plus she has Jenna as a shield to hide behind for now.  But Saboga seems like the doomed tribe this season so I don't see Jerri winning the game.

12. Jenna Morasca
The former winner stigma is going to be tough to shake. 

13. Ethan Zohn
He is the next to go on Saboga unless Rupert wants to keep him around.  Unfortunately, Ethan's fate is more or less out of his hands at the moment.

14. Jenna Lewis
Man, she is playing hard, just like I expected.  But she is playing a bit TOO hard.  It is possible that she will do well this season, but she needs to tone it down a notch first.  No one has ever won the game on day three.

15. Rudy Boesch
Strategically, he is in a wonderful position.  But physically, I think he is doomed.  No way can his old body hold up under these brutal conditions.  I think he will be a mercy boot sooner rather than later.

16. Richard Hatch
Well his strategy is unique, that's for sure.  I'm not sure what it is yet, but it's unique.

17. Sue Hawk
Wrong tribe, wrong attitude, wrong season.

My boot pick for next episode:  Richard (or Sue).  Unless Rudy dies, of course.

Mario Lanza lives in Los Angeles with his ever-quotable wife, Diana, and their two small children.  He is the lead author of the S-C All-Star Stories as well as Survivor: Okinawa (currently on episode 5!)   He hates spoilers, so please don't write him and tell him if you have any.  Please just leave him be.