All Star Strategy #3:  Stingray Eats Shark
Written by Mario Lanza on 02.13.04

"I don't think it's right to even question her motives. We don't know what she's thinking or how she's feeling. So I say we just support her decision and go from here."
-Rob Mariano

First off, this is going to be a short column this week because, frankly, I don't really want to write about Jenna leaving the game. You see, my own mother died from cancer not more than a month ago and I found the end of this episode a little difficult to watch. It hit a little bit too close to home for me. So please forgive me for just skipping this week's commentary altogether.

But I would like to say one thing before I move on. And that is this. Jenna's decision to quit will inevitably be compared to Osten's decision to quit last season. I am sure that some people will debate the way that CBS handled the two exits, and why they portrayed one of them as good and the other one as bad. And that is a perfectly reasonable debate topic. I am sure that some people will question why Jenna was even out there playing Survivor in the first place, and if she should have come back to play again when her mother was sick. And again, that is a perfectly valid topic to debate. But if people decide to just trash Jenna and kick her when she is down, then screw you. She got enough of that during the Amazon. Give the girl a break for a while.

Okay, soapbox mode off. On to this week's episode.

This week's episode was significant for obvious reasons, and it was quite strong from start to finish.  In fact, in many ways it reminded me of the Mike Skupin fire episode in Australia, and not just because of the ending. The reason the two episodes reminded me of one another is because for the first 40 minutes they were both very light hearted and fun. This week's episode was the most fun of the All Star episodes so far and (up until the ending at least) was by far the least serious. And if you remember the Australia episode about Mike, that one was also very light hearted and fun for the first forty minutes. It had my favorite Survivor challenge of all time (Nick leading Kucha in the blindfold challenge)... and then lots of cocky Jeff Varner talk... and then it culminated in one of the two most emotional and sad and touching moments in the show's history (along with, well, Jenna's exit tonight.) So yes there were a lot of parallels between the two episodes, especially in the structure and the ending and the tone.  Tonight's episode was like watching the Mike Skupin episode all over again.

Moving on to the tribes...

Saboga is an interesting tribe right now because they are more or less being edited as "the good guys."  Which is hilarious because any tribe with Jerri as "a good guy" is just ironic as hell.  But you can see that they are now the plucky Survivor underdogs. Chapera might have started the game as the underdogs, but Rob M. and company are in no way the underdogs anymore.  Everyone knows that they are now the dominant tribe. So that means that Saboga has picked up the slack and that they are now the plucky underdogs.  Should Saboga go to Tribal Council next week, it will be a very interesting vote.  Ethan should be the obvious common sense pick, but it would really decimate this tribe to lose him in the challenges right now. I honestly don't know what they would do if it actually came to that.

Mogo Mogo aren't the underdogs or the dominant tribe. They are just "that other tribe."  And they are also coming off as "the good guys," at least if you exclude Richard from the equation.  Lex and Colby are proving to be best buddies, which shouldn't have surprised anyone. Those two should be tight for the entire season; despite their outward differences they are cut from the exact same mold.  And you hate to start talking about Jenna's quit as being as a factor in this game, but her departure really kind of screws this tribe a bit.  Because Jenna quit, the Mogo Mogos will suddenly go from a happy little non strategic family to a tribe that will have to start talking about the vote. And that is a bigger blow than you might expect, remember what happened when "the game" was suddenly introduced into Rotu?  That tribe completely fell apart.  So I think that things will start to change around Camp Mogo Mogo.  Richard is still obviously the biggest target, but by this point he has almost started to convince me that he has a shot at sticking around.  I'm not exactly sure why I think this, but I think it is because Richard is starting to convince himself of this too.  You can just see it in his eyes.  The guy is actually starting to get his mind into this game now.  He is starting to believe in himself.  Butch Lockley would be proud.

Chapera continues to be the Rotu of this season.  They are virtually unstoppable and they know it. And I expect this will probably continue for a while. Rob M. and Amber rule the tribe, and Big Tom will just jump on to whatever side the votes may fall.  If Chapera were to go to Tribal Council, the first target will be Sue or Rob C.  But I don't think either one will go home anytime soon. Chapera is just too good at what they do.

~~ Weekly Notes ~~~

* This is a great time to be a reality TV fan. There are a ton of great shows on TV right now that are all top notch quality, and it is hard for me to follow them all. Survivor and the Mole are my favorites (as always), but I have also been impressed by The Apprentice (which is great), the Surreal Life, and my new guilty pleasure favorite, My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiance. If you have never seen My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiance, you are seriously missing out on one of the funniest TV shows of all time. And I don't even have time to follow shows like American Idol or Average Joe or the Bachelorette, which have also been big hits. Jeez. By the way, as my wife pointed out to me this week, this is not only the golden age of reality TV, it is also the golden age of distinct laughter on reality TV. Here is our list of the best distinct laughs in reality TV history:

1. Kathy Vavrick-O'Brien (haw haw haw)
2. Emmanuel Lewis (from Surreal Life #1)
3. Steve Williams (the Big Fat Obnoxious Fiance)
4. Tammy Faye Messner (from Surreal Life #2)
5. (tie) Rob Cesternino/Mike Skupin (the giggle-snort-laugh)

Please email me if I have forgotten any other good ones.

* Richard versus the shark was one of the funniest storylines in Survivor history. He bit a shark. The man bit a shark! We haven't seen that happen since Richard Kiel bit a shark at the end of The Spy Who Loved Me. By the way, the funniest thing about the shark bite scene was the fact that I read a news story that was exactly like that a couple of days ago. Some dude in Australia was bitten by a shark, and he had to drive to a hospital to get it removed. The doctors were stunned when he walked in to the emergency room with a sand shark still attached to his calf.  Oh, and for the record, doctors say that the best way to get a shark to let go of your leg is to pour fresh water into its gills. That works better than bashing its head in with a rock. Not that I've tried.

* By the way, Richard Hatch still gives the best Survivor confessionals. Forget anything I have written about this topic over the past six seasons. Richard is still the best.

* Not to pick on Richard too much, but it was funny how Mogo Mogo had to make their treehouse extra strong to accommodate their "250 pound naked gay fisherman."

* My wife Diana really enjoyed the scene were Alicia gave the smackdown to Rob C. and she called him a baby. She was giggling almost uncontrollably through that entire exchange.  Sorry, Rob. 

* There were a lot of good quotes this week. Here they are, my top 5 for the episode:

5. "He may not be impressive down below, but he's impressive in other ways." -Shii Ann about Richard.

4. "I can't tell if I like the front or back better." -Kathy talking about the Mogo Mogo shelter, although it was superimposed over a shot of Richard standing naked with his junk hanging out.  Ha ha. Well done, editors. That was great.

3. "Is it possible to call a gay man a stud?" -Colby's response to Richard catching a shark by hand.

2. "Sue's a hag from hell." -Tom.

And my favorite...

1. "How I made it to forty eight without Sue Hawk leading me by the hand is a mystery." -Tom.


This is a 39 day game, but we still have 15 players left.  How are they going to resolve that?  Something big is coming up, I can tell.

1. Tom Buchanan
Tom and Amber flip flop this week simply because Amber/Rob is a pair that people will want to break up in the game. But Tom isn't going anywhere for a while.  He is as safe as safe can be.

2. Amber Brkich
She is an obvious final four player, and she is definitely displaying some strategy this season (!), but pairing up with Rob this blatantly makes me wonder about her. And I still think she needs to buy a vowel for her name.  Maybe she can buy one from Shii Ann.

3. Kathy Vavrick-O'Brien
Kathy is looking good, she will be around for a long time. She may never be in any danger.

4. Rob Mariano
Probably the most powerful player in the game, but people are on to him and Amber already.  That is a big red flag.

5. Lex van den Berghe
Lex is in the exact same spot that he was in Africa. He is the tribe daddy. Break out the uber-spoon.

6. Colby Donaldson
Colby and Lex should be a formidable pair in this game.  At least, assuming they have Kathy in with them.

7. Rupert Boneham
Rupert has the best chance to win out of any of the Sabogas, but Saboga needs a quick turnaround for him to have much of a shot at all.

8. Alicia Calaway
Kinda stuck in the middle. We won't know where her loyalties are until Chapera actually goes to Tribal Council.

9. Jenna Lewis
Decent player still stuck on a weak tribe.

10. Shii Ann Huang
She could go home before Richard if Mogo Mogo loses. She has to be careful.

11. Jerri Manthey
Seems safe for now, but Saboga is still a black hole.

12. Richard Hatch
He would be lower in the Power Rankings but he is actually starting to show some value to his tribe. This is an absolutely crucial point in the game for him.

13. Ethan Zohn
I am really rooting for Ethan version 2.0 but he has a long battle ahead of him.

14. Rob Cesternino
Uh oh. Time to start working, Rob, you have been marked by both Mariano AND Alicia.  Bad times for you ahead.

15. Sue Hawk
Susie Q and Robasu, battling it out for last place. I still think Sue goes home first, but Rob needs to become allies with her (or somebody) quickly.

Prediction for next week's boot: I think Mogo Mogo starts to take a slide because of the loss of Jenna... and I think we lose either Shii Ann or Richard. My prediction is that the man of flame takes the walk of shame.

Mario Lanza is a 29-year old writer and programmer from Los Angeles. He is the lead author of the S-C All-Star Stories as well as Survivor: Okinawa (currently on episode 6!) He hates spoilers, so please don't write him if you have any. He also thinks Dennis Rodman is the Mole.