Amazon Strategy #12:  8-Ball Fails to Predict Fire
Written by Mario Lanza on 05.09.03

"I had stuff that's been, like, passed down for five or six years that I can never get back."
-Jenna Morasca

This is going to be a short column this week, because there isn't a whole lot to talk about. The Heidi vote really eliminated a lot of suspense left in the game, because we now know who the alliances are. We had seen the "chain" before, the one consisting of Rob-Matthew-Butch, but until this week we didn't realize that the three of them were unbreakable. We didn't know that they were so close and so tight.

As it stands now, we now have three against one. Jenna is on her own in the game, and the only thing that can really save her at this point is if someone defects. Or if she wins immunity. And even then, the best option she has is a tie. So things are looking pretty grim for the model from Pittsburgh.  The game seems to be out of her hands. And to make matters even worse, of the other three people left in the gane, she will survive only because of the good graces of Rob or Butch, because we all know that Matthew aint switching over. As always, I think it will really all come down to what Rob wants to see happen in the game. If -I- were Rob, I wouldn't want any part of a tiebreaker showdown. And I don't think Butch would be the type of player to want to take a big tiebreaker gamble either. So I would guess that, unless she wins immunity at the final four, Jenna is in big trouble.

The only other way I can see Jenna being spared is if the guys (and by "guys" I mean Matthew and Rob, trust me Butch isn't the decision maker) decide to take out Butch first. If Matthew and Rob want to take their chances against Jenna in a final three immunity challenge, they might just decide to take Butch out first. But any way you look at it, I think there are three definite things you can say about the Amazon finale:

* Jenna needs the help of others if she is going to win this thing

* Rob pretty much calls the shots on who goes first, and how it will play out

* And Matthew will MOST LIKELY be in the final two.

I can't even fathom what would have to go wrong for Matt not to be in the final two. I suppose Rob might pick Jenna to go with him if Rob won the F3 immunity challenge, but that would be an awfully ballsy risk with this jury. Besides, that implies that Matt would actually LOSE an immunity challenge, which doesn't seem all that likely against this competition. This is why I predict that Matthew will be in the final two, and Matthew will win this game. I would give him about a 75% chance of winning right now, the odds are really stacked in his favor. He is a superhuman athlete (compared to the rest, anyway) and he has no enemies either in the game or on the jury. Add to that his growing devious side, and you are looking at a very, very strong endgame player. He will be facing a jury who really has no beef with him. They will have a lot of rage and a lot of hurt feelings, but none of it will be directed at him. Matt is teflon right now, nothing sticks to him, and to be honest I think he has a pretty easy shot at a win.

The only real downside I see with Matt is if he can't answer jury questions very well. If he totally flubs the jury questions, I suppose he could lose. But at this point in the game, I have to consider him the OVERWHELMING favorite. Sure, Rob is smart, but no one can beat Matt in challenges, and Matt has no enemies. He is kind, he is considerate, and he seems respectful to others. Matt is the man right now.

The Heidi ouster made a lot of sense, considering she is a far greater athletic threat than Jenna. My dad has a theory that Jenna has been faking her illness recently.  He thinks she is trying to make herself seem more feeble, so that Heidi would be more likely to go before she would.  I wouldn't put it past her to do that (that would be pretty smart), but she did seem to be pretty realistically sick to me. After all, losing one's Zeta Crown is a major life stressor, it is easily one of the top four on the scale right up there next to losing a spouse and losing a job. So I think it is a safe bet that Jenna was honest in her intentions to want to be voted off.  She just seems miserable right now.  But if it turns out she that she WAS faking it, dad you were right.  Iin any case, I promised my dad a shout out in this week's column, and there you go. I have fulfilled my duty in the parent-child chain of responsibilty.

One final note on Heidi. I heard her today as a guest on the Howard Stern show, and I also saw her on the Early Show.  And I think she comes off pretty well in interviews.  I honestly think she got a pretty bad rap during the season although, true, she probably brought a lot of it on herself.  But I do think that the animosity between Heidi and Christy was much more of a two way street than the editors tried to make us believe. I don't think that -anyone- is ever a hero or a villain in such a black and white way. It all goes back to something that Gabriel Cade once told me about the Survivor experience. He said that NO ONE expects to be the villain when they are filming the show.  He told me it catches people completely by surprise when they come home and they find out that they were the villain of the season.  I know that Richard Hatch sure never saw himself as the villain. I am pretty sure that John Carroll never did either. And I doubt that Jerri Manthey really saw herself as the bad guy ever. And I think that this probably applies to Heidi as well.  Just from watching her in interviews, it is pretty obvious that she doesn't understand how she comes off to other people. I honestly think she expected to be the "sweetheart" this season, and I think it is because she is completely oblivious as to how other people perceive her. I'm not really sure where I am going with this, it is just something Gabriel mentioned to me once that I have always wanted to work into a column somewhere.  People on Survivor just don't realize that they might actually be the villain. And I think Heidi got blindsided by this concept as much as anyone.

--Weekly notes--

This is my last batch of weekly notes, better make it a good one!

* The greatest legacy of the Amazon is going to be the story of Rob Cesternino. Simply put, Rob is a guy who probably never would have been cast in the earlier seasons. A Survivor expert, a computer nerd, a guy who isn't all that particularly athletic, they have never really had a guy like him on the show before. The young male castmembers have always generally been your Joel Klugs, or your Nick Browns, or your Rob Marianos. Simply put, the young guys have always been the guys who looked like models. Or like professional athletes. But Rob is not like that at all, he is just a normal guy. He is small. He is weak. He doesn't bring a whole lot to the show on paper, and the producers took a BIG gamble casting him over another guy like, say, Silas. But the gamble paid off, and the franchise is reaping the benefits right now. EVERYONE out there is raving about Rob. So I think what we are going to see in the future are more gambles in the casting department. You will see more smallish guys like Rob on the show, guys who are no threat to win challenges, but who simply know the game and who like causing trouble. In fact, if Survivor has a bunch of great seasons following Amazon, you can probably single-handedly thank Rob for it, because he will have expanded the horizons of the casting department. You will see more Survivor experts on the show from now on, more people who do nothing but analyze the game in their spare time and plan out how they would play it if they could. In the end, whether Rob wins or loses in the finale (and I hope that he wins), he is clearly going to go down as the MVP of the season. If not the MVP of the franchise. And in speaking for all the Survivor fans out there, all the computer nerds, all the people who really, really love this game and who want to see it played correctly, all I can say is thank you Rob! You have blazed the trail for a generation of us wannabes.You are now our Jackie Robinson.

* However, that being said, did you notice that Rob lost a puzzle challenge for the SECOND TIME this season? Come on man, we are both computer guys, make computer guys look good!  The first challenge was bad enough, but Matthew just absolutely stomped you last night.  So let's get with the program.  You said it yourself, it is now gut check time.

* When Matthew won the car, he got excited and he started hopping around. And he almost... and I use that term loosely... he almost seemed like a normal person for a second.  He seems much different when he is happy.

* Rob checked out the car, and the very first thing he wanted to see was the backseat.  Now that is a man who has confidence in his charm with the ladies.

* Matt likes to say "dude" a lot, which is odd for a guy who speaks so many languages and who is so stiffly formal. And unfortunately I forgot to put his "dude" style of speaking into my Amazon Fallen Comrades Parody from last week. Oops. That would have been good. But there should be some sort of a linguistic rule against ever saying something like "Bon apetit, dude." They should have revoked Matt's license to speak French right there and then. "Bon apetit" should never be followed by "dude." Never, you hear me, ever!

* The camera man who captured the money shot (the camp burning) is due for a raise next year. Nice job sir! In fact the shot of the camp burning this week marks the second most important camera shot in Survivor history. Here is my list:  1. The camp flooding in Australia. 2. The camp burning in Amazon. 3. The canoe floating away in Thailand.  Number one on the list SHOULD be Mike falling into the fire, but apparently somebody was asleep at their post for that one...

* There were three great visual jokes during Tribal Council, and all three of them were laugh out loud funny. The first once was Dave's reaction to Heidi's speech, when he placed his head in his hands out of exasperation. Too funny. The second one was Rob constantly looking over at the jury. He is clearly communicating with one of the jurors over there, and I am guessing it's Alex.  Rob raises his eyebrows, he shrugs, he shakes his head, he widens his eyes. He has been doing it for a while now, and it is pretty funny to watch.  But my favorite visual joke from Tribal Council this week came from Matthew. He was all smiles, all graciousness, and he looked perfectly normal... until Jeff asked if he wanted to give up immunity. At that point, Matt just stared at the ground and slowly shook his head, with this great big evil stare on his face. It basically said, "you would have to rip this thing off my neck, and I would kill you before you got a chance, so why even try?" Matt is the best at dark evil stares.

* "How did I become the junior deputy firewood bitch?"
"These look like Flintstones hamburgers!"
"I feel like George Foreman right now."
"Two girls, one brain, divided by two. Only one halfwit left."
"If you're willing to lay your head on the chopping block, I'm willing to lop it off."

Thank you for all the great quotes this season, Rob. Hope you go out with a bang!


Matthew von Ertfelda, in the corner pocket, for the win.

1. Matthew von Ertfelda
He simply cannot be stopped. As Ivan Drago once said about Rocky Balboa, "He is not human. He is like a piece of iron!" 75% chance to win.

2. Rob Cesternino
He will try his darndest to win, but sometimes you just create a monster you cannot stop. Ask Dr. Frankenstein. Rob turned Matt into a great player, and it is too late to change fate now. 25% chance to win.

3. Jenna Morasca
I can't see her winning a jury vote, she doesn't do jack, and no one likes her.  Oh, and she's sick.  Jenna is a decent enough player, but she is missing the horses you need to get to the end (tm Jim Glover).

4. Butch Lockley
If he can't win, at least he can gather 42 days worth of firewood in the next 72 hours.

My pick to win:  Matthew, 5-2 over whoever.

Special Note: Last year I was fortunate enough to attend the Thailand finale in Los Angeles but alas, no such luck this year. The godless sadists who call the shots decided to move the Amazon finale to New York.  Or, as I like to call it, further away from me.  So I will not be doing a firsthand account from the studio this season.  I will still do a running commentary though, I will write one as I watch it from home on TV.  Those are always fun to do. So keep an eye out for my commentary column late Sunday night.

Mario Lanza is a programmer from Los Angeles, and is also the author of the upcoming All-Star Survivor: Greece, coming in late May. He will also be a contestant on Survivor #11: Norway, although the producers don't realize that yet.