All Star Strategy #4:  Don't Call Tina a Phony
Written by Mario Lanza on 02.20.04

James Bond:  Do you expect me to talk, Goldfinger?
Auric Goldfinger:  No, Mr. Bond. I expect you to die.


If you call Tina Wesson a "big phony," bad things will happen to you.  That is the lesson we learned in episode four of Survivor: All Stars.

In my pre season column, I made one point that I hope people will keep in mind after watching this week's episode.  Basically, before the season started, I wrote "the players in All Stars should be judged based on how well they did their first season, and not by how well or how poorly they did the second time around."  And I am glad that I wrote that now.  Because with the dismissal of Rob Cesternino... I feel that this theory is about to be tested.

Simply put, Rob Cesternino is one of the two or three most significant Survivor players of all time.  I don't think that is even up for debate.  He basically re invented the way the game is to be played.  He could really even be called "the father of Survivor" if you felt like taking Richard's ego down a notch or two.  In fact, in many ways, I feel that Rob was even MORE significant to the game than Richard was.  Well, okay, except for the pesky little fact that Richard came along first.

Sadly, what is going to happen now is that a lot of people are going to second guess Rob's place in the annals of Survivor.  I think a lot of people are going to say to themselves "man... maybe Rob wasn't that good.  Maybe we were all wrong about him."  In fact, you can tell that Rob is already feeling some of this sentiment starting to build.  In most of his post game interviews he has come off as a bit defensive.  It is as if he KNOWS that his reputation is going to take a big hit.  He seems to be going out of his way to say things like "I got put on a terrible tribe" and "They treated me like I was a former winner" and "I never had a chance."

And do you know what?  He is absolutely right!

Rob Cesternino was dead meat the moment he stepped onto that island.  And he was especially dead meat when he was placed onto a tribe like Chapera.  Because it is nothing against Rob as a player, but his strategy just doesn't work on a tribe with five worker bees.  It can't work.  His entire M.O. is divide and conquer... separate the weak and offer them strength... jump from alliance to alliance... always stay in power.  But the problem is that Chapera simply HAD no weak.  There weren't any Daniel Lues or Ryan Aikens floating around for him to play around with.  He was thrown onto a tribe with four workhorses (plus Amber) and that meant that Rob Cesternino himself became the weak.  In an instant HE became the weak one, the one who needed help to survive.  So really any strategy he tried on Chapera was pretty much going to be a wasted effort.  The tribe is dictated (as it always will be) by Rob Mariano.  If Boston Rob wants you in, you are going to be in.  If he wants you out, you might as well pack your bags and go home.  In fact Boston Rob even told us that, almost word for word.  Whoever Mariano picks to go home... well that is going to be the person who goes home.

It was no surprise that the Robs squared off early.  I don't think anyone expected otherwise, and I don't think many people predicted that Rob Cesternino would actually win that battle.  The showdown was pretty much inevitable, simply because the two Robs are too similar.  They are both schemers, they both use humor and buffoonery to hide their cunning strategic side, they both love to lie, and... most of all... their strategies both depend on them having sheep surrounding them.  They both NEED to have some clay they can work with.  There was no possible way the two of them could have EVER co-existed on the same tribe.  And since Boston Rob is a workhorse who is not only more charismatic but is also more useful around camp, who do you think the rest of the tribe was going to go with?  Especially when Rob C. was dead meat as an honorary "former winner" the minute he showed up there.

My prediction for Chapera was that Sue was going to go first, and she would be followed by Rob C.  In truth I probably just got them reversed, but Rob C. just never had a chance at all.  This tribe layout was TERRIBLE for him.  In fact, if you remember back to Amazon, there were times when Rob was in danger at the start back then too... simply because he is weak around camp.  His strength is simply not at the start of the game, and it never will be. 

Right now Rob Cesternino is hitting the interview circuit, defending his strategy, and telling the world that he never had a chance.  He is trying his best to salvage his legacy, knowing full well that a lot of nitpicky Survivor geeks will begin to second guess if he was actually ever that good.  But my point is that he doesn't have to do that.  Rob's legacy is secure and it always will be.  His brilliance as a player was evident when he went into this game on an equal playing ground with everyone else-- in Amazon-- when he wasn't treated like a former winner because he played against a bunch of strangers.  Which is the only way that true Survivor can ever really be played anyway.  You can only play Survivor with strangers.  Anything else is just basically an exhibition game.

The editing of episode four can make it look like Rob Cesternino was outplayed, or that Rob Cesternino was booted for being lazy.  But all you have to do is look at the Survivor Insider voting comments to see the truth.  Right down the line, the Chaperas pretty much all said the exact same thing when they voted for him--  "Rob, I didn't like the way you played last time and I don't want you to stick around."  "Rob, you're too smart and we can't have you here."  "Rob, I don't want to face you in the endgame."  You see, Chapera KNEW they would never let Rob Cesternino win this game.  Boston Rob KNEW that Rob C. was not a sheep, because he had seen him before.  And for that reason alone, Rob Cesternino, one of the greatest players in Survivor history, if not THE best altogether, simply had to go home. 

Don't let the editing fool you.  Rob never had a chance at all.  None.  If you can't take out Richard, you take out Rob C. instead.  That's just the way that All Stars is played.  The better and more famous you are, the more danger you will be in.  Just ask Tina.

I know I am a little close to this topic since I am friends with Rob, but I would have said this about any great Survivor player who went home early.  That's why I wrote that stuff in my pre season column, I knew it would come up at some point early in the season.  In fact, this whole topic reminds me of something that  Stephen King once said in an interview.  A reporter was asking if he minded that so many of his books had turned into shitty movies.  Because over and over, his bestselling hit stories would always wind up being horrible movies.  So the reporter asked him, "Aren't you concerned that your work is being made into crap?  Don't you worry that the movies will ruin your books?"  And he just smiled and pointed to his bookshelf.  He said "A bad movie doesn't ruin the book at all.  The books are still sitting right there, just like they always have been, waiting to be read."

So yes Rob, you never had much of a chance.  You are absolutely correct.   But you still ruled in the Amazon, when it really mattered.  And when, let's be honest here, a Survivor season actually counted.  And if you want an All Star legacy, how about we leave it at this:  I have never seen a player mouth so many angry, disappointed f-bombs in one episode.  In your final episode you single handedly put Andrew Dice Clay to shame.  There, are you happy?  Although come on dude, I never said anything in the Andy Kaufman strategy about being voted out fourth.  Way to fuck up my strategy, asshole.  :)

Predictions for Next Week:

Saboga -  Jerri is suddenly taking a turn into "I'm sick and miserable" land, and this could single handedly save Ethan's bacon.  Oops, now I remember from Africa, Ethan doesn't eat bacon.  Just ask Tom.  But Jerri's downfall could be starting.  If Saboba goes to Tribal Council next week it is probably neck and neck between if they would ditch Jerri or Ethan.  Jenna Lewis is perfectly safe, of course, and Rupert should be fine.  At least, as long as he doesn't build the next shelter on a giant anthill directly under a wasp's nest.  I pick Jerri to go home next from Saboga.

Mogo Mogo - Ahh, Richard.  He truly is a great character and I think he is even MORE fun to watch the second time around.  He is proving that he was no fluke whatsoever last time, not as a player nor as a fun TV character.  Simply put, this guy is reality TV gold.  But that being said, at no point in this game has Richard ever actually made himself any safer.  He has yet to face a Tribal Council, and he should still be the prime candidate to go home should Mogo Mogo ever wind up there.  It will either be him or Shii Ann, with I guess longshot Colby being at risk as well.  Lex is safe for now and Kathy of course won't be going anywhere for a long, long time.  So my prediction for Mogo Mogo is that Richard will be voted out first.  And if that happens I think it will be a mistake.  I think voting off Richard prior to the merge would be a HUGE mistake.  It would simply be a selfish desire for revenge that doesn't do anything other than satisfy the collective egos of his teammates.  I mean, get rid of Shii Ann first, she doesn't do anything.  She doesn't catch a dozen fish a day.  But I believe Richard will go home next... and I believe it will be a mistake from which Mogo Mogo may never recover.

Chapera - I predict Rob C. will come back as an Outcast and make bitches out of all of 'em.  Just kidding.  Clearly this is Boston Rob (and Amber's) tribe.  Tom is just along for the ride, he will go anywhere the power might be.  And Alicia is probably their fourth, simply because she is easier to control than Sue.  It seems like a no brainer that Sue would be voted out next.

My Twist Prediction - Look at it this way-- there are 27 days left and 14 people are left in the game.  There HAS to be a point somewhere along the line where more than one player gets voted off.  It is something that has to happen-- unless two people quit of course.  My prediction for next week was going to be that the two losing tribes both lose a member.  But then... I swear, just ten minutes before I posted this... I saw a commercial for next week's episode.  In the commercial, Jeff says that "the tribe that finishes last will be dissolved."  So that could be the twist we are looking for.  And of course my wife will kill me if I don't mention that she predicted this before she even saw the commercial.  In any case, twists are always good and memorable, and next week's episode should be fun to watch.


Looks like we got some Chaperas ovah heah.

1. Tom Buchanan
Tom is rapidly becoming the most underrated Survivor player of all time.

2. Kathy Vavrick O-Brien
"Kittycat" is on a perfect tribe for her to succeed.

3. Amber Brkich
Will moan if she gets chocolate.

4. Rob Mariano
The best Italian left in the game.

5. Lex van den Berghe
"What's that one in the middle, Hatch?  Is that your bait?"  <-- the quote of the week.

6. Alicia Calaway
Still has yet to wave a finger in somebody's face.

7. Rupert Boneham
So much for his log cabin dreams.

8. Colby Donaldson
Colby should be ranked higher but the Insider clips (and the Jenna Morasca interviews) keep hinting that he is not very well liked out there.  Interesting.

9. Jenna Lewis
Still waiting for that video from home.

10. Shii Ann Huang
Did you ever notice that Shii Ann has a reputation as being "good at puzzles" but she hasn't actually won one of them yet?  She blew the "number of flags" puzzle challenge in Thailand, she "pulled a Daniel Lue" and re-asked someone about having a feather in the All Stars mixer challenge, and then Mogo Mogo just wound up sitting her out of the cube puzzle altogether.  Shii Ann is not a very successful Asian person.

11. Richard Hatch
Anyone who can stab a moray eel in the head is okay by me.

12. Ethan Zohn
Still trying to get his hackey sack back from that African kid.

13. Jerri Manthey
Panama isn't as bad as living with Corey Feldman... but it's getting close.

14. Sue Hawk
Still denies there was an alliance in Borneo.

As a special note, Survivor-Central would like to congratulate Jon Dalton (Johnny Fairplay) on the success of his new reality show, The Littlest Groom.  Thank you Fox, for helping Mr. Dalton find his one true love. 

Mario Lanza is a writer and all-around good guy living in Los Angeles.  He is the lead author of the S-C All-Star Stories as well as the Survivor: Okinawa project (currently on episode 6!)  And he hopes that Rob wound up making nice with "big phony" Tina in Loser's Lodge.  And yes I want details.