All Star Survivor:  Pre Game Power Rankings
Written by Mario Lanza on 01.22.04

"I would hope you'd support who we are, not who we are not. These individuals have made the choice to work, the choice to sacrifice, to put themselves on the line twenty three nights for the next four months, to represent you, this high school.  That kind of commitment and effort deserves and demands your respect. This is your team."
-Coach Norman Dale, Hoosiers

Opening Statement:

I decided to start my column with that quote in response to complaints I have heard on the internet about the All Star cast selection.  Not on Survivor-Central, specifically, but just in general on other Survivor message boards and such.  So there is my response.  And I promise never to complain about any of the cast members this season, nor will I say that any of them don't belong.  Heck, I'm just excited the producers got so many big names to come back and play as it was.  I never expected to see Colby on Survivor again.  Or Tina.  Or Richard.  I thought the three of them, in particular, would say no if they were asked to come back.  In fact I thought that pretty much ALL of the winners would say no if they were asked to come back.  Because really, what does a guy like Richard Hatch have to gain from coming back and playing Survivor again?


The only thing that can happen to Richard this season is that he will lose a good deal of his reputation and his prestige when he winds up getting booted.  And the same with Tina.  And the same with Ethan.  And probably even more so when it comes to Jenna Morasca.  So I give the winners all big props for coming back and giving everyone else a chance to get one more crack at them.  It probably won't be pretty, none of their stories are likely to end well, but they were all good sports for coming back and agreeing to play again.  And you know I am especially talking about Richard.

So in short, kudos to the casting department for getting so many good players to come back.  You did a great job and screw anyone who bitches about this seasons' cast.  Boo hoo.  These are the All-Stars.  This is our team.


Wow!  Just typing that phrase nearly sends a chill down my spine.  Because it is here.  All-Stars is actually here.  The real All Stars! 

I had my doubts over the past couple of years that an All-Star season was ever going to happen.  To be honest, I really didn't think that something like that would ever see the light of day.  And I know they talked about having a Celebrity Survivor a couple of years back, but if you think that out logically there is no chance in hell a celebrity version is ever going to happen.  No celebrity (at least no celebrity who cares about their public image) would EVER play a game that is this selfish and nasty, and that forces you to reveal your true nature... on camera... under stress... with the potential to look like an asshole.  I'm sorry, but no.  Okay, maybe Corbin Bernsen and Stephen Baldwin might sign up to play, since they are both reality whores, but that would be about it.

But All-Star Survivor, well that is something that is completely different.  And while I thought that something like that would never happen, I always knew that if it did happen, it would turn out to be a pretty kickass season.  In fact, to be honest, this is exactly why I proposed the idea of writing my S-C All-Star stories two years ago.  Those stories were basically my way of saying, "Look CBS, All-Stars would be a killer idea.  And if you don't do want to do it, then I will do it.  Screw you for letting me beat you to the punch here."  That's right, you heard me right, my stories only came about because I was mad there wasn't a real All-Stars.  And I wanted to steal CBS' thunder.  Sometimes I can just be a little spiteful like that.  But seriously... I have written and been involved with three All-Star simulations now and every one of them (I feel) has gotten progressively stronger and more fun to do.  The entire concept of All Stars playing Survivor has so many different variables and so many new possibilities, that I can almost guarantee we will see stuff this season that we have never seen on Survivor before.  And I can tell you flat out (from experience) that this season is going be amazing.  There will just be so many subplots going on.  It will be impossible to keep track of who you are rooting for and who your favorites are, and what you think is going to happen along the way.

We will see old alliance partners and friends now being forced to choose.  Do they stay with their old buddies?  Or do they go with a new All-Star alliance?

We will see people... who have become friends outside the game through Survivor media events... now try to carry that relationship over into the game.  Did they make an alliance before the show?  Did they know who they were going to be competing against?  And was that pre planning an advantage or a disadvantage?

And then we come to my favorite.  This is the variable that people always remember about my All Star stories:

We will see old grudges and hostilities bubble up, with people possibly wanting revenge for what had been done to them in the past.  Will they try to avenge past wrongs during All Stars?  Will they be vindictive?  Will someone like Jerri seek revenge against Tina?  And what about Tom against Lex?  Or Rob Cesternino against Jenna Morasca?  Will people be targeted simply because of who they pissed off in their previous season?

There are really SO many new variables when it comes to an All-Star season that I couldn't possibly get into them all.  So let's just say it will be a big wild ride and we will leave it at that.  This season will be something else.  Every boot will be huge.  And most every bootee will get some sort of a fan reaction.  It will be nuts.  It will be bigger and grander in scope than anything we have ever seen before on Survivor and... frankly... I am a bit worried it is going to ruin the next couple of seasons after this.  It might be hard to watch a "normal" season of Survivor with nobodies after watching a kickass season with All-Stars.  In other words, whatever Survivor 9 is going to be, it is going to have its work cut out for it.

Oh, and I can tell you right now that my All-Star stories are probably finished at this point.  There is just no point to writing them anymore.  Now that there is a real All-Stars there is just not much else I can do with the concept.  Anything I write at this point would simply be anticlimactic.  And of course it has always been a fun running joke that ideas I use in my stories often wind up popping up on the real show.  So let's just see if any of my All-Star storylines actually wind up happening on the real show.  In fact, from the one brief preview I have seen of episode one, it looks like we might already have one big similarity right off the bat.

Okay, one last item.  One of my goals this season as a writer is that I want to keep my columns shorter.  Yes, I know it.  It is true that I tend to be wordy.  This will actually be a pretty easy goal to pull off since I am also still in the middle of writing Survivor: Okinawa.  So no, unfortunately I just don't have the time to devote to writing a long All Star Strategy column every week. 

This pre season rundown will probably be the longest of any of my columns this season.  And I am warning you, some of my columns this season might be little more than only the power rankings.  I apologize in advance if I wind up doing that.  But I have been DYING to write an All-Star column for a long time now, and schedule be damned, there is no way I would ever pass a chance like this up.  I already know this season will be my favorite one ever.  No matter what happens, or who wins, or how it plays out, it is just awesome that we finally got a real All-Star season.

Oh yeah... and go Tina!


Okay, this is the fun part.  There is some stuff here that I have been waiting a long time to put in my column.  I have some juicy gossip about the players that I never really had a chance to write about before.  At least, I wasn't able to write about it when their respective seasons were airing.  Some of this is stuff I learned a long time ago but I promised to keep quiet about for a while.

Normally I use this section to go through the player bios and see what I can infer from them.  Will this person be a leader?   Is this person a good athlete?  Do I think they will be much of a strategist?  But with All-Stars it is going to be a lot different.  Because we already know these people!  We already know a lot about who they are and how they will play.  In fact I haven't even looked at most of the bios for the players this season.  Since I have already written for most of these characters in my stories (as well as gotten into their heads on how they would play Survivor a second time) I know some of them almost as well as I know myself.  And that is what is going to make this season interesting. 

Rather than try to infer things from the CBS bios, I will just tell you what I know about each player, and how well I think they will fare in All Stars.  Because some of these people will change their strategy the second time around, and some will not.  We know enough about people like Rudy Boesch and Rob Mariano to know that they probably won't be making any radical changes to the way they play Survivor the second time around.  Heck, I don't think those two could change strategy if they wanted to.

By the way, I have to add this last caveat.  For the most part I am just happy that I get to write about some of these players at all.  The reason I say that is because I first started writing my Survivor Strategy column during Africa.  I wasn't around that much during Pulau Tiga or Australia, back then I was just some random guy who hung around message boards at other (unnamed and clearly inferior) Survivor sites.  So I never got a chance to write a weekly column about Richard... or Rudy... or about my personal favorite player of all time, Tina.  So please forgive me if I am a little gushy about the Borneo and Australia players this season.  It is just exciting that I actually get to write about them in a weekly column for a change.  Especially when you are talking about Tina.  So yes, I apologize in advance for all of my Tina Wesson love this season.  You will probably get sick of it.

* Saboga Triba
aka Tina's Heartthrobs

First glance:  Wow.  Tina Wesson is paired with three guys who she will absolutely adore.  You couldn't have asked for a better tribe for her.  Jerri is totally dead meat and out of this bunch I suspect that Rudy won't last long.  And don't underestimate Jenna Lewis.  Remember she was on Eco-Challenge with Ethan already.

Ethan Zohn -  Ethan seems like he is in a good spot here.  He has teamed up with Jenna before and we know that Tina is nuts about him.  But on the downside he does have the stigma of being a former winner, and (unluckily in this season) I think the guy is nearly incapable of making enemies.  Ethan could face a serious handicap in this game as a former winner who is not only likable but who is also a good athlete.  Right off the bat he is a going to be a HUGE threat.  I think Ethan will do well... but he will probably be in danger from the very first minute of the game.  By the way, I know the hardcore Survivor strategists will disagree with me vehemently about this, but Ethan is still by far the most popular and best-loved Survivor winner of all time.  My wife is still in love with him, and he hasn't been on TV in more than two years.   That type of popularity will either work for him or against him in an All Star season.  I guess we'll see. 

Jenna Lewis - I expect great things from Jenna this season.  And I know I have said this over and over before but it really needs to be mentioned again.  The first season players should be judged COMPLETELY differently than players from other seasons.  The players in Borneo had no idea what they were getting into.  Half of them didn't even figure out it was a game show until it was far too late.  And I think Jenna was a prime example of this.  I think she could have been a fantastic player in any other season.  After all, she's spunky, she's competitive, she's kind of vicious (read the Burnett book, he talks about how the producers all expected her to be the villain that season).  Oh yeah, and plus she is a bundle of energy who is a hard worker and will be useful around camp.  I saw Jenna once at a Survivor event and she had so much energy she was practically bouncing off the walls.  I don't think she ever slows down.  Oh, and as a bonus, Jenna also appears to be charismatic and likable in person.  She kind of reminds me of a younger Tina.  Add in the fact that Jenna will never be seen as a threat by anyone in All Stars and I can almost guarantee she is going to do well.  Above all else, I am really glad that Jenna got to play again.  One of the original Survivors (and a Pagong at that) finally gets a chance to write herself a new Survivor legacy.  Jump on the Jenna bandwagon now, she is going to be around for a while.

Jerri Manthey - Ah yes, Jerri.  When we last saw her she was blonde and she was sharing a tent with Emmanuel Lewis on the Surreal Life.  I have to say she is a heck of a good sport to be coming back, though, because you know she really has the cards stacked against her in a game like this with her kind of  reputation.  Now, as for how well I think she will do on Survivor the second time around, I have always sensed that Jerri had a problem with the fact that she came off as the bad guy in Australia.  She and Richard (among others) seemed stunned that they were seen as the villains of their respective seasons, because it had never really crossed their minds while they were playing that that's how they would come off on TV.  So I would imagine that Jerri has a lot to prove this time around.  She is going to go into All Stars with a desire to show the world that she isn't that bad and that she is correct that it was all editing the last time around.  In fact, out of everyone here, I don't think that Jerri is actually coming back to Survivor to win.  I think she is coming back in an attempt to change her image.  So for that reason alone I will be rooting for her.  I would LOVE to see Jerri get far and to come off as a hero.  I think the Survivor world kind of owes that to her.  I mean, she seemed perfectly nice and normal when she was on the Surreal Life, so how hard could it be?   We'll see.  Jerri probably won't win the game, but All Stars will make or break her image for the rest of Survivor history.  Is she truly a bad ass bitch, or was she just the victim of editing like she always claimed?  Only time will tell.

Rudy Boesch - Rudy!  Wow, I am stunned that they dragged him back out onto an island.  I mean, I know Rudy was optimistic about playing a second time, but I always figured he would back out of it if the producers actually gave him the chance.  I always figured the guy was all talk.  But no, he is back, he really came back.  One of the most popular and memorable Survivors of all time, and he is playing again.  And best of all for him, there are no queers on his tribe this time around, so he should be happy.  But seriously, Rudy was beloved at the time and he will probably be beloved again.  It will be great to see him in action one more time.  The only difference I see is that, this time around, Rudy KNOWS that the audience loves him. He didn't know that last time, because his popularity showed up after the whole thing had already been filmed.  So I expect that Rudy's humor and his one liners will be a little more forced this time around.  I think he will be playing more to the cameras this time, and for a guy as awkward as Rudy that might be tough to watch.  And as much as I like Rudy, you really can't discount the fact that he is 76 years old now and that he aint getting any younger.  Realistically, I expect he won't be around in All Stars too terribly long.  Oh well.  I will be rooting for Rudy... but not in a "he has any chance to win" kind of way, that's for sure.

Rupert Boneham - Okay, Rupert is an interesting choice for this season.  To begin with, Pearl Islands was still airing while All Stars was being filmed.  So he will be BY FAR the least known of the players this season, in fact some of them might not even know who he is when they arrive in Panama.  I can just imagine somebody like Colby looking at this big bearded hippie in a tie dye and thinking "Wow, Peter Harkey really put on some weight."  Although I'm not really sure if this unknown-ness will be an advantage or a disadvantage for ol'  Rupert.  My gut tells me it will be a disadvantage.  I think some of the "Survivor alumni community" might feel like he doesn't belong and that he isn't really one of them yet.  Because it's true, really.  On day one of All Stars, this is the first time that Rupert will be meeting most (if not all) of these people.  But this isn't the only thing (or even the biggest thing) that makes me worry about Rupert's chances. The bigger thing that troubles me about Rupert's chances is the information that has come to light in recent interviews.  In short, a few Pearl Island players have claimed that they couldn't STAND Rupert when they were on his tribe.  It seems like a good number of Pearl Island castmembers (the Drakes especially) are upset at what they claim was a completely fabricated character that the producers made up for television.  They claim that "TV Rupert" wasn't the real Rupert at all.  This is a very interesting issue, and now we get to see if it is actually true or not.  Was Rupert really as dominant and likable as we saw on TV?  Or was he a surly outcast who was edited to look good just so that Pearl Islands would have a superstar?  Very interesting.  In any case, I don't think Rupert will be around too long this season.  He's not really an alumnus yet and I doubt he will be treated as one.  To the All Stars, he is just some random guy who is crashing their season.

Tina Wesson - Yay!  Okay seriously, this is a big deal for me to be writing about Tina.  She is still my all time favorite player and, in my mind, she is the single most well rounded player that Survivor has ever had.  I don't think I could say a bad word about her even if I wanted to.  In fact if you go back and you read the "All-Star Hawaii" story that I worked on, you can see it was basically just one big tribute to Tina.  At least that's the way I tried to write it.  Anyway, I rooted for Tina almost from day one in Australia and she was one of the best confessional givers the show has ever had.  She is that perfect mix of tough and nice, plus (and this is what makes her dangerous) she's a tiny little woman with that deceptively sweet accent.  It is just great to see her on the show again.  Out of all the winners, I think that Tina is the only one who has a chance to repeat.  Ethan is too much of an athlete and a threat, Jenna Morasca pissed too many people off with her attitude, and Richard is... well... Richard.  So if you want to see a past winner repeat (which I admit is unlikely), Tina is about the best bet you have.  And really, if you look at her tribe, she couldn't have asked for a better group of teammates.  She and Ethan have been buddy-buddy for a long time.  I know she was a big fan of Rudy.  And if Rupert really is mister hunter-gatherer-protector-of-his-women like we saw on TV, then she will love him as well.  I can't see her and Jenna Lewis having problems with one another, those two are so similar they will be like peas in a pod.  And then we have Jerri.  Ahhh yes, Tina's old nemesis.  Jerri.  Or as I like to call her, dead meat Jerri.  If you look at Saboga this way, you will see that Tina has a team stacked almost perfectly for her to succeed.  And yes, she has the "past winner" stigma working against her, but she is still well liked and very popular among the alumni.  And despite the fact that I have never ever had a chance to talk to her (boo!), I have heard that she is one of the biggest draws when she shows up at fan events.  She is a good tribesmate, she is a hard worker, she is a strong (but not an intimidating) player, and I imagine she will probably do pretty well.  And of course I have always vowed that if there was ever an All-Star season I would rank Tina #1 in my pre-season rankings, so there you go.  Tina has returned and hopefully she will still be talking about Dur-ee-toes.  Get ready Tina fans, cause the accent is back!

Saboga Summary:  They look like a strong tribe.  Ethan and Rupert are studs in the challenges and the females are all athletic too.  But there is only one player here who can really be considered a favorite to win.  Jerri and Rudy and Rupert all kind of have a "dead meat" vibe about them (for different reasons) and Ethan and Tina are both former winners (and thus they are probably doomed).  This leads me to believe that Jenna Lewis will waltz past all of them with very little opposition.  I expect her to be the last Saboga standing and to do quite well in All Stars.  She could be our winner.

* Mogo Mogo Tribe
aka The Men of Mogo Mogo

First glance:  Holy testosterone, Batman!  Only the alpha-est of the alpha males were picked to be on this tribe.  And that means that the males should rule the roost.  Well, okay, even if Richard might as well not even unpack his bags.  And since the females of Mogo Mogo are a bit weak (at least physically) it leads me to believe this team will be incredibly dominated by the males.  Hey Lex, that won't be much of a change from Africa, will it?

Colby Donaldson -  If ANYONE deserves a second chance at this game, it is definitely the Colbster.  I am so happy he is back and I would like to see him win over most anyone else in All Stars.  Yes, even Tina.  And the reason for this is simple.  I think that Colby did a wonderful thing back at the end of Australia.  He chose to honor a pact with his friend rather than take an easy win against Keith.  And to see the amount of crap he has taken over the years because of this choice, man, it is just sickening.  That was one of the last pure moments of goodness and nobility on the show, back in the days when Survivor was as much about ethics and perception as it was about winning the money.  In fact, Australia always seems to me like it was the straddling point... it was the season midway between the naivete of the first season and the cutthroat nature of the Africa season.  Colby's decision to me is one of the defining moments of the franchise, and because of the timeline of exactly when it happened it is something that will never happen again.  Remember, Colby was always among the more ethical and noble of the players.  Just look at how close he was to his mom.  So I think his actions with Tina and his decision to take her to the end defined his character PERFECTLY.  I mean, that was Colby.  That wasn't a mistake that he made, that was just Colby.  And Colby keeps his promises.  Unfortunately, yes, it is true that over the years he has been ridiculed over and over for that decision.  He has been ridiculed so long and so completely that by this point a lot of people forget the show was actually different back then.  They are judging his decision by modern Survivor standards, and that is just silly.  Anyway, I am just rambling now, but suffice it to say I am thrilled to see Colby again.  He was probably one of the harder Survivor alums to get to agree to come back (he has always tried to move his career beyond Survivor) so it was a big score that he agreed to come back and play.  I hope Colby does well and, just to shut up his critics for a change, I hope that he wins.  But please remember that, win or lose, he still aint no Hershey Bar.

Lex van den Berghe - Lex is an interesting person for me to write about, because I have had some interesting connections to him over the years.  First off, I knew of Lex before he was ever cast on the show.  You see, I attended Santa Clara University between the years 1992-1996, and my French professor was a man named Dr. Christian van den Berghe.  He was Lex's father and he was the dean of the modern languages program at SCU for about two decades.  And I always remembered that name, van den Berghe, because it was so unique.  So when the cast for Africa was announced, I saw a "Lex van den Berghe" in the cast and it immediately piqued my interest.  It caught my eye because I remembered Dr. van den Berghe once mentioning that he had a son named "Alexis."  So I looked at Lex's bio and, sure enough, I realized he was indeed the same guy.  Lex was the son of my French professor! 

Anyway, Lex also attended Santa Clara, about ten years ahead of me.  And his contact information was listed in the SCU alumni directory.  And since SCU alumns are a small, tight-knit community I knew I had to write to him.  So after Africa ended I got in touch with him and we began a long correspondence.  As I expected, it turns out that Lex is a great guy, and he is a huge fan of the show.  I actually got to meet him at a Survivor event in 2002 and he immediately recognized me and introduced me to his wife, Kelly.  And let me say right now that Lex is COMPLETELY different in person than he was on Survivor: Africa.  In real life he is incredibly laid back and he is very, very gracious.  He is always among the more visible and popular Survivors at the fan events, and he seems to be very well liked by just about everyone.  As for his cutthroat image on the show?   I think the stress of the game just tended to bring out his bad side.  We will just say he is a bit competitive and leave it at that. 

But anyway there is a postscript to this story.  Last summer I was in the SCU library and I ran across a shelf full of old yearbooks.  And, well, since I'm nosy, I dug through them and I found some of Lex's old pictures from college.  I also found an article he wrote when he was DJ at the campus radio station.  And I thought, hey it would be funny to post this stuff on the internet for all his Survivor fans to see.  And then I thought, hey that's kind of a creepy thing to do, so how about not.  And then I thought, well hey, how about I ask Lex and see if he would give his permission.  I wanted to write him and get his permission and make sure he didn't mind that I posted all his college stuff.  So I wrote to Lex and of course not only did Lex NOT mind but he and his wife actually encouraged it.  Kelly thought this idea was great.  She said she got a kick out of seeing Lex's old pictures from college.  They couldn't have been nicer about the whole thing.  So anyway, yes I am a huge Lex fan.  He really got screwed at the end of Africa (when the producers screwed up the immunity challenge) but do you ever hear him complain about it?  No, of course not.  Lex isn't a complainer and he has never been a poor sport about anything.  He never once complained that the editors turned him into a villain because he's not like that.  I think Lex totally deserves this second chance and I hope he takes it and he runs with it.  He is also a great supporter of this website and he has been one of S-C's most reliable contributors for the last two years.  And for the record, yes, I am still scared of Lex's father.  He is by far the most intimidating college professor I ever had.  He would slit your throat if you messed up a verb conjugation.

Richard Hatch - I don't really remember Richard.  What season was he on again?   Just kidding.  It is unbelievable to me that Richard Hatch would ever come back and play Survivor again.  Actually, let me rephrase that.  It is amazing that Richard Hatch is willing to give one lucky Survivor player the chance to screw him over.  Seriously, who is going to win the Richard lottery this season?  Who will be the one responsible for his first ever torch snuff?  I mean, look at it this way, Richard has nothing to gain by coming back and playing again.  NOTHING.  He's not going to win.  He's not even going to get far.  All he can possibly do is lose and (probably) be humiliated.  So I give Richard a ton of credit for coming back and giving everyone one last crack at him.  Did he just need the money, is that what happened?  Did Burnett lure him back by stroking his ego and telling him it would actually be possible to win Survivor a second time?  Was Richard just turned on by the idea of being on a tribe with Colby?  By the way, that isn't a cheap shot, Richard really did drool over Colby all throughout the Australia season.  He talked about it practically in every interview.  Although I don't see a whole lot of good things in Richard's All Star future, it WILL be great to see him again.  I was always a Richard fan, and he really is the all-time biggest star in Survivor history (sorry, Cesternino.)  Even though he is going to lose, it is only fitting that he is a player in All Stars.  And for the record, in our Hawaii story it was Colby who ended up being the big winner of the "I screwed Richard over!" sweepstakes.  Let's see if that happens in real life too.

Shii Ann Huang - Out of all the contestants in All Stars, Shii Ann is probably the one who I really don't have strong feelings for, one way or another.  I have no idea why, but I have just never been all that attached to her.  However, that being said, she was clearly one of the sharpest players in Thailand.  And she happened to get nailed by a twist.  Well, I can't really say "nailed" because she was clearly on her way out of Sook Jai anyway.  They already wanted her gone.  I just hope she does a better job this time around of fitting in with others.  I do know there are a ton of Shii Ann fans out there (my wife is included in that group) so no matter what happens she will probably wind up being a fan favorite.  As a side note, one of the players in my Okinawan game is friends with Shii Ann in real life, so obviously I will be following her progress a little more closely this time around.  I don't happen to think Shii Ann will get very far in the game (remember, she wasn't well liked on Sook Jai and she isn't that great a camp asset to begin with) but she is here to play so you know she might stir up some trouble.  No matter what happens, when she goes down she won't go down without a fight.

Kathy Vavrick-O'Brien - Haw haw haw.  Sorry, that's the way I always write her laugh in my stories.  But she is one of a kind, to this day Kathy is truly one of the most beloved players in Survivor history.  She is also infamous for having perhaps the best story arc in the show's history, as she went from the bottom of the heap in Marquesas to the top of the world before Vecepia backstabbed her and ended her game in 3rd place.  And I can't really talk about her without mentioning that Kathy is one of the coolest Survivors of them all in real life.  She is one of the most accessible players in all of Survivor history.  I have heard story after story of how she will respond to fan emails and messages, and how she will always write back to you.  In fact, I even have some personal experience in this regard.  A couple of years ago Kathy actually helped me write one of my All-Star Hawaii episodes!  There was a point in one of the episodes where the storyline could have gone two different ways.  And since the story involved fictional Kathy making a decision, I decided what the heck, let's ask the real Kathy what fictional Kathy would do.  And Kathy was awesome about it.  She actually wrote me back a very detailed response about what she would do in that particular situation if it were to ever happen in the game.  I couldn't believe it!  So Kathy, thank you again for your help and for always being a fan favorite.  The audience will be behind you from day one this time around, and we apologize for not being there for you at the start in Marquesas.  I just hope you don't have to pee on anyone this time.  Well okay, except maybe for Richard.

Jenna Morasca - Okay, Jenna Morasca is someone I have been dying to write about.  First off, I kind of slammed her in my column after she won Amazon and I have always felt bad about that.  She won fair and square in the most lopsided vote in Survivor history, so that obviously wasn't a fluke.  The second reason I wanted to write about her is that I know that Jenna reads my column now.  Somebody told me.  That's right, Morasca, I'm on to you now, your cover is blown.  You can lurk but you can't hide.  Seriously, Jenna is a huge fan of this website and she has been a big Survivor-Central fan for a long time.  You might not have liked how she came off on the show, but she is one of the good ones.  By the way, here is a funny Jenna story.  After Amazon ended, Rob Cesternino commented to me that he and Jenna liked to make fun of me all season because I always had her listed so low in the power rankings.  I had her ranked last for... oh... I would say just about every episode.  Rob and Jenna used to make fun of the fact that I always had her ranked last, and then she ended up winning.  So here she is on Survivor again.  Jenna is playing again, and this time I get another crack at her.  And do you know what?  I am going to rank her last AGAIN!  That's right, make me look stupid TWICE!  I dare you!  Let's see if you get a stacked jury again, you airheaded fluke!  Okay, that's enough.  I have said my piece.  All things aside, I think Jenna is in for a rough game this time around.  She is a former winner, she is not particularly strong, and she is on a pretty obviously male dominated tribe.  I expect she will be aligned with Shii Ann at some point, but for the most part I don't think she will be around very long in All Stars. And I think she knows it too.  Jenna's pre show interviews are priceless, she is under no misconception that she will be winning again.  And that's why (like Richard) she is such a good sport to come back and play again.

Of course I have to end this section on a serious note.  It was widely reported that Jenna Morasca suffered a personal loss during the game when her mother passed away.  And I hope for her sake that she was already out of the game when it happened.  Since I don't follow spoilers I have no idea when her mother actually died during the timeline, but I am guessing that it more than likely happened early on in the game.  On a personal level, I am actually thrilled that Jenna won Amazon now.  I am thrilled because it meant her mom got a chance to see it before she died.  You see, Jenna and I share something in common.  My own mother passed away less than two weeks ago, after a long battle with cancer.  So I now feel a kind of strange kinship with Jenna.  I will definitely be cheering for her, for as long she she stays in the game anyway.

Mogo Mogo Summary:  They are a strong tribe, but they will be curiously male dominated.  Will the males be able to stick together and work together, like in Africa?  Or will the males rip each other apart, like Drake in Pearl Islands?  It will be an interesting dynamic.  Throw in Richard and Jenna and you have two former winners on the tribe, both of whom are likely gone before the merge.  My bet to do well from this tribe is Lex.  I think he will most likely be the last Mogo Mogo standing.  He is well liked, he is a charismatic (but not overbearing) leader, and he is great in the challenges.  On a side note, I think Lex and Kathy will be very close.  It just seems like the two of them would be best buddies with one another. 

* Chapera Tribe
aka A Spectacular Car Wreck

First glance:  Wow, what an entertaining tribe!  You have accents galore, you have quirky personalities all over the place, and you have a pair of the biggest schemers (the Robs) that Survivor has ever seen.  Wow!  I heart this tribe.  They will probably implode faster than the Red Sox bullpen, but you know it will be fun to watch.

Alicia Calaway - Alicia is the kind of player that All Stars was invented for.  She would have been a superstar if Kucha had taken over the Australia season instead of Ogakor.  Seriously, the only thing that keeps Alicia from being one of the most memorable Survivors of all time is that she was on the wrong tribe.  That's it.  Alicia is one of my favorite All Star casting choices and I think she will kick butt this time around.  This aint no naive newbie Australia cast anymore, this is hardcore All Star Survivor, and Alicia can mix it up with the best of them.  I think she will be around for a long time.  I mean, look at it this way.  She has no enemies in the cast, she's strong, she's a hard worker, she's good looking.... from a Survivor point of view she is just the total package.  And you knew I wouldn't be able to resist pointing out that Alicia won my first All-Star story.  That's right, the final two in All Star Hawaii was Alicia and Kathy, with Alicia pulling out a narrow 4-3 victory.  People gave us crap about it at the time, but just watch.  Alicia is going to do well this season and she could very well win.  She has got to be a pre season favorite.  And I am saying it right now, if Alicia wins, I am officially retiring as an Oracle.  I can't possibly top that.  So Alicia, please win and make me look good.  I have a lot at stake here.  No pressure or anything.

Amber Brkich - Amber has been the recipient of the most fan anger so far.  Her presence seems to be a lightning rod for people to protest that she shouldn't have been cast in the first place.  But hey, she's back for more and... since she was a player in one of the early seasons... you really can't judge her too badly for not being a schemer the first time around.  I mean, very few people were really hardcore players back in the day.  And to tell you the truth (you might not want to hear this) I am expecting big things from Amber this time around.  I think she could be this season's Jenna Morasca.  I don't think that any of the other All Stars will ever take her seriously as a player, because there will always be a bigger threat somewhere else that they will want to get rid of.  And for that reason alone, Amber Brkich (yes, Amber Brkich) will be soaring high in my power rankings all season. I mean, jeez, just look at her opponents and tell me when Amber would ever be voted out.  EVER!  It aint gonna happen!  Season after season I tend to underestimate the under-the-radar quiet females.  I do it every season, I underestimated Vecepia, I underestimated Jenna M, and I underestimated Sandra.  And frankly, I want this season to be a little different.  I want this one to be special.  So I am ranking Amber #3 to start the season and I imagine she will remain in my top 3 all season long.  I am tired of underestimating the quiet unthreatening ones.  Because while I fully expect Amber to be more of a player this season, I know that deep down she will always be the quiet sweet girl who other people like to keep around.  Amber is going to be around for a while and Amber could very well win.  The under the radars always have a chance in Survivor, and particularly in All Stars. Count on it.

Rob Mariano - If there is ONE Survivor who can make a claim to be my all time favorite over Tina... it would be the Robfather.  In my mind there has simply never been a more entertaining player on the show.  After all, he was the first Survivor villain to really want to BE the villain.  He was one of the first to understand that being remembered and being entertaining is the goal of the show.  Simply put, Rob was a great character, Rob always made me laugh, and I was thrilled that he was chosen to be an All Star.  Since he didn't even make the merge in the Marquesas I was nervous that he wouldn't be considered, but in the end I think he was an excellent choice.  And he could really go one of two ways this time around.  Rob will either go really early or he will get very far.  And honestly I am leaning towards him getting far this time around.  One look at his team and you can see that he is easily the best athlete of the bunch.  Rob will be sorely needed for the challenges, Chapera just doesn't have anyone else!  Everyone knows that a Rob vs. Rob showdown is looming at some point.  That could be the money shot of the entire franchise.  It almost hurts me to know that two of my favorites will inevitably square off at some point this season, but c'est la vie.  That is the complicated nature of All Stars.  Your favorites are now battling it out.  Anyway, I expect Rob Mariano to be in good with Amber as well as Alicia.  Those three seem like they would be a tight clique.  Throw in Cesternino as their fourth and I expect that this will be a youth dominated tribe.  With the Robfather back at the helm, of course.  I think he will be one of the stars of the season and I think he's got a chance at winning the entire thing.  To steal a quote from our Hawaii story... remember that The Godfather, Part 2 is considered to be better than the original.

Susan Hawk - Love Susan, glad she is back.  She is one of my all time favorite underrated Survivors.  People don't seem to remember that she was a heck of a player the first time around, and that she really kind of played the "dumb redneck routine" before it became fashionable to do so.  She kind of invented that strategy.  Susan was one of the best players of the first season and she very easily could have won, although unfortunately her jury speech is mainly all you remember about her now.  But it is great to see her again.  I honestly don't think she will do too terribly well in All Stars... at least, not on this tribe anyway.  She is just not young enough.  But she is a sharp player with a sharp tongue, she is a superhuman worker, and if she finds the right niche she is going to go far.  I just happen to think she is on the wrong tribe.  For now.

Tom Buchanan - Oh no, break out the spellcheck and the Tom-to-English translation dictionary, the big man is back!  Tom has returned to butcher the English language yet again, and I am thrilled to see him.  Like Sue, the guy pioneered the "dumb redneck strategy" and he will probably try to do the exact same thing in All Stars.  He will be forever underestimated by the other players because of the way he looks and the way he talks, and I think that if given a little luck, Tom could be a great surprise contender to make it to the endgame.  You just kind of forget about him, especially when he spends all day making jokes about stucking a feather in his ass.  You forget about him all game and then all of a sudden there is a goat farmer in the final four.  So Tom is an interesting case study.  I think he will be a bit out of place on this tribe (who will he be able to fit in with?) but you never know.  Tom usually finds a way to worm his way in there somewhere.

Rob Cesternino - Ha ha, okay I saved Rob C. for last for a reason.  After all, I could write a whole column just on him if I really wanted to.  But for brevity reasons I will try to keep this writeup as short as I can.  Out of all the Survivors, I have had the most interesting interactions with Rob over the past twelve months, and unfortunately most of this is stuff that I haven't been able to tell anyone yet.  A lot of this is stuff that Rob asked me to keep secret.  But now that All Star has finished filming I can finally tell you what I know and I can finally spill my guts.  Finally!

Okay, here is the story.  When the Amazon bios first came out, there was one player who jumped out at me as being the potential star.  His name was Rob and he was... for lack of a better term... a Survivor geek.  He LIVED for this show.  And I thought, wow this guy is going to be a trip.  He is going to tear this game apart.  Plus he kind of looked like me so... well... there was kind of a kinship there.  Rob Cesternino and I could have been brothers.  Survivor geeks unite!  So I rooted for Rob all season and he did great.  He was really the star of the season, just like I expected him to be.  But as the season went along I started to notice something strange about the guy.  I started to notice that he reminded me of myself more and more.  It was almost eerie sometimes, Rob C. would say or do the exact same thing that I would have done if I had been in that particular situation.  And I started commenting on this in my column. I kept saying "Rob has read my column!  I know he has!  Watch, he's doing some of the exact same stuff I wrote about in my Andy Kaufman Strategy!" 

One big example of this was Rob's surprised reaction at the end of each Tribal Council vote.  He always overacted like he was stunned that so-and-so had  just been voted off.  Well this was something I had been writing about for a long time, that people should do more acting at Tribal Council.  Just mess with peoples' heads.  Another weird coincidence was that Rob liked to cause chaos solely to cause chaos.  Sometimes there was no strategic reason to do the things that he did.  He only did them because he liked to cause chaos around him.  Well that was a huge tenet of my own personal Survivor strategy.  I always thought that if everyone else was miserable and unhappy, by contrast it would make you quite peaceful and confident as a player.  You would be happy pretty much by default, especially when nobody else knew that you were the one who was causing this.  I called this "The Chaos Theory", and to see Rob pull it off on TV was quite majestic indeed.  But the final example of Rob and me being similar, the one that made me SURE that he read my column, came at the reunion show.  Rob explained to Jeff that Christy could have saved herself during the episode she was voted off.   All she had to do was say "Rob, I'm in."  And this was seriously WORD FOR WORD the exact same sentence I had written in my column that week.  I thought to myself, Rob is stealing my material!  That little thief!

Okay, here is where the story gets good.  I received an email about a week later.  It was from Rob Cesternino, of course.  And he pretty much confirmed what I had known all along.  He DID read my column!  He admitted that he had been a fan of mine for a long time and now that the season was over he was excited to talk to me.  Well the feeling was entirely mutual of course, since he was my new Survivor idol.  And then Rob confirmed that he HAD read my Andy Kaufman Strategy Column as part of his research before going on the show.  Mine wasn't the only column that he studied, obviously, but I knew he had read it because it had been obvious.  In fact, Rob then cited a few specific examples of things he had taken from my column, one of which I hadn't even caught on TV.  During the Deena vote, Rob altered his handwriting.  He had tried to make his handwriting look feminine, to throw Deena off the scent that he had backstabbed her.  This was something I had always wanted to try on the show, and Rob did it!  He confirmed that that idea had been inspired by my column.  But he also pointed out that he did NOT take the "Rob, I'm in" line from my column.  That was his own line and it just happened to be a coincidence.  That's what I mean when I say the two of us think and act alike.  We came up with the exact same phrase, word for word, to describe the exact same event.  He could be my long lost little brother!

So anyway, Rob and I started a regular correspondence and we got along great.  We really are sort of two of a kind.  We got along so well, in fact, that we kind of tossed around the idea of maybe writing a joint column during Pearl Islands.  It was an idea we both liked and we spent a while debating how the format would work.  And the best idea we came up with was a point/counterpoint where we would debate different issues from the show.  But alas, in the end Rob decided it probably wouldn't work.  Mainly because he and I are just too similar.  More than likely we would always have the same opinion on a topic, and a debate where two people always agree would be stupid and pointless.  Rob joked that it would be like that old SNL sketch where Jerry Seinfeld debates himself and the two Jerrys always agree on everything.  So the writing a column together idea was scrapped.

And then something interesting happened.  Suddenly Rob dropped off the face of the Earth.  I didn't hear from him for a while and I figured that something was up.  I found out later that there was a big soap opera going on behind the scenes about All Stars and about which alums were going to be selected to play, etc, and Rob was doing his best to lay low.  He wanted to keep a low profile on the internet so that he wouldn't jeopardize his chances of being on All Stars.  The only time I heard from Rob during this period was when he sent me a special request.  He asked me to send him copies of my All Star stories.  He wanted to read Hawaii, he wanted to read Alaska, and he wanted to read Greece (when it was finished).  He already knew the stories from reading the website but he asked me to send him personal copies so he could read them at home.  So I did, and he read them carefully, sending me feedback and commentary from time to time.  He particularly liked Greg Buis in my Alaska story.  He said that was exactly how he had hoped to come off on TV.  And, well, since Greg had been based on me in the first place, of course that didn't surprise me all.  The pieces all fit perfectly. 

What I found out later was that Rob was using my stories as research for his All Star appearance.  He knew that he was going to be cast, and he (along with many people) had noticed that things in my stories tended to happen on the actual show.  And he was no fool, he wanted to read my stories just to see how an actual All Star game might play out.  He wanted to be ready, just in case any of my ideas showed up in the game.  So yes, I can finally let the cat out of the bag.  Rob used my stories as research for his appearance on All Stars.  He didn't want to go into this thing unprepared (he even hired a personal trainer!) and he wanted to be ready for anything that Burnett and company might throw at him.  And seriously, if you read my Hawaii story, there are a bunch of things that are similar right off the bat.  All Stars has some of the same tribal pairings, you can see that some of the same characters are going to be close, etc.  So if Rob wins, I think he owes me part of the money.  Then we can start working on that column together.

And okay, he will probably kill me for telling this, but it is a funny story.  Rob told me he first started reading my stories because he used to write Survivor fiction too.  Before he went on the show that was one of his hobbies, he and a buddy came up with these Survivor parody stories.  And he claimed that the best one he ever wrote was Muppet Survivor, where 16 Muppets competed on an island for a million dollars.  He claimed that the Count from Sesame Street was the big star.  He also claims that no copies of the story currently exist, so oh well. 

Honestly I have no idea how Rob is going to do on All Stars this season.  Nor do I want to know.  I haven't had any contact with him for months.  But you have to believe I am DYING to see how well he is going to do a second time.  Unfortunately he will have a target on his head the size of Rhode Island and I don't expect him to actually last very long.  But he will be fun to watch, as he always is.  And I say this without any personal bias whatsoever, but you really should be rooting for the guy.  Because Rob is a fan, he is a fan just like the rest of us.  He is an internet guy.  Rob is one of us and he always has been.  Rob Cesternino is the best.

Chapera Summary: I predict a youth alliance to form right off the bat, with Rob M and Amber at the center.  I think those two (along with Rob C and Alicia) will get rid of Sue and Tom as fast as they can.  And I think that Rob M, Amber, and Alicia all have a wonderful shot at some sort of an endgame.  The Rob vs. Rob showdown will be like Godzilla vs. Megalon.  When it happens, it will be big.


** Final Notes **

*  First off, there is a chance that 90% of the players this season will suffer humiliating defeats.  Most all of them are going to finish worse than they did the first time around.  And this season is so unique in that every single boot episode is going to be huge.  We are going to lose a Survivor legend each and every episode this season, it is going to be unreal.  But, and this is a biggie for me, I hope that if a player finishes worse than they did last time, that they won't be remembered for what happened in All Stars.  I hope that they will be remembered for their original performance instead.  And if they finish better this time around, I hope that they will be remembered for their All Star performance.  Basically what I am trying to say is that I hope it turns out to be win-win for all the players to have come back and played Survivor again.  Because if it is, it will encourage the producers to plan more and more All Star seasons.  At least, provided that the alums are excited about doing them.  So I just hope that All Stars comes off well, because this has the potential to be by far the biggest Survivor season ever.  Assuming that in six months we don't have a fan base screaming nonsense like "Well Hatch was overrated, I guess he wasn't good at all!" or "Cesternino sucks at Survivor, why did we think he used to be good at this?"  If we don't get crap like that in six months, this season should rock. 

*  In every one of my All Star stories, a female has ended up winning.  And the reason for this is simple.  The males all gang up on one another and the females just keep their mouths shut and slip right by to the end.  I have worked out the logic in just about every single scenario possible, and it happens every time.  So for this reason I want to come right out and predict that a female will win All Stars.  From my experience (and I do have a lot of it) it is almost impossible for a male to win one of these things.  We'll see if I can be proven wrong about this.

* In my mind there are four Survivors who I consider the four most significant players of all time.  There are four people who brought concepts to Survivor that can never be unlearned once they are introduced.  And luckily for us, three of these four players were included in All Stars:

- Richard Hatch, for introducing the concept of alliances
- Tina Wesson, for introducing the idea that adaptability wins the game (not alliances or a set strategy)
- Rob Cesternino, for showing people how to play for yourself, and not for an alliance

The fourth player (who was not included in All Stars) that I would include on this list is Jon Dalton.  And his significance to the show is something I don't necessarily think was a good thing.  What Jon brought to Survivor was the idea that you are playing a character on TV, that you are only here to put on a show.  I doubt it was all about winning to Jon, or all about the experience.  He was here to become a reality TV super villain and to make sure he got as much camera time as was humanly possible.  He understood that Survivor is about entertainment.  That's all that it is.  If you are fun to watch, you get shown on TV more.  And I think that after his performance in Pearl Islands it will kind of change the way that people play Survivor now.  He may have pushed future players into more of an entertainer role rather than into a contestant role.  After all, he got a pro wrestling gig out of being on Survivor.  Things worked out exactly the way that he hoped they would.  In any case, I hope Jon shows up on a second All Stars one day because he really is going to be a significant Survivor in the long run.  Love him or hate him, Jonny Fairplay may have changed the show forever.  Just like Richard, Tina, and Rob Cesternino did before him.


I really don't have a clue what is going to happen this season.  As always, I have avoided Survivor spoilers like the plague.  But here is the way I kind of see it shaping up.  Above all else, I am almost positive that a female will win.  And I reserve the right to change these rankings around after I see the first episode.

1. Tina Wesson
Because I always told myself I would rank Tina #1 if she ever played All Stars.  And because I like setting myself up for a huge fall.

2. Jenna Lewis
Because she will be a heck of a player the second time around.

3. Amber Brkich
Because I will never underestimate a quiet under the radar female again.

4. Alicia Calaway
Because she won All-Star Hawaii.

5. Lex van den Berghe
Because he is greatly liked and respected.  And because he got screwed over once before and Survivor owes it to him.

6. Colby Donaldson
Because everyone loves Colby.  And because he won't stand out so much this time around so many other alpha males.

7. Rob Mariano
Because he is on a perfect tribe to succeed and because he can be charming when he wants to be.

8. Ethan Zohn
Because, despite being a former winner, he is still mister nice guy who doesn't make enemies.

9. Tom Buchanan
Because he could do really well if the Robs turn on each other early.

10. Kathy Vavrick-O'Brien
Because the guys of Mogo Mogo will respect her more than they will respect Shii Ann or Jenna M.

11. Shii Ann Huang
Because she is clever, but she doesn't really play well with others.

12. Rob Cesternino
Because he is too good to keep around.

13. Susan Hawk
Because she is a middle aged woman on a very young tribe.

14. Rupert Boneham
Because I think his edit in Pearl Islands was misleading, and I think other people do not like him.

15. Rudy Boesch
Because he is 76.

16. Richard Hatch
Because he is Richard Hatch.

17. Jerri Manthey
Because she is Jerri Manthey.

18. Jenna Morasca
Because I don't learn from my mistakes.

SPECIAL NOTE:  As I said in my section on Jenna Morasca, I am sad to say that my mother passed away on January 8th after a long battle with lung cancer.  She was a big fan of the show and she was very much looking forward to All Star Survivor.  We used to talk about it all the time.  So I am dedicating my column this season to my mother, who would have wanted Colby, Rupert, and Rudy to kick butt.  Those three were her favorites, and those are the three she definitely would have rooted for (especially Colby.)  Enjoy the season, mom.

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 4!)   He hates spoilers, so please don't write him and tell him if you have any.  Please just leave him be.