Amazon Strategy #2:  I will ALWAYS put my hand in your face!
Written by Mario Lanza on 02.21.03

"There are many elements to a campaign. Leadership is number one. Everything else is number two."
-Bernd Brecher

It's getting ugly in Camp Jaburu!

As I predicted last week, the women's team has almost completely fallen apart. Their big immunity win in episode one was a great TV moment, sure, and it was a nice way to humble the men, of course.  But in the end all it did was distract from their long term problems. They have some SERIOUS issues right now, and most of them have nothing to do with competing against the men.

For one, the Jaburus don't have a leader. Deena and Jeanne are the closest they have, but neither one of them wants to actually step up to the plate. And even if they DID step to the plate, nothing is going to get done. No one on the tribe knows what to do, or how to do it.  Every single member of Jaburu right now could take a serious page from Jed Hildebrand's book on "How to Delegate Authority."  And of course with the lack of survival skills comes no shelter, as well as that old disgusting standby, maggots infesting their food supply. That is just ridiculous.  How can you let maggots grow in your food supply?  We are only on day six!  The Jaburus are already at one another's throats and it just isn't pretty.  Everything is a debacle right now, including the way they are handling Christy. Bad, bad, bad. Suffice it to say, the entire Jaburu tribe is getting a failing grade at the moment.

The one thing that Jaburu has going for them (indeed, maybe the only thing) is the fact that they had a very easy target to vote for at Tribal Council. Janet was sick and old, so it really wasn't that hard of a choice. Sick females never get the benefit of the doubt in the game of Survivor, so she was a gimme. And the women were lucky that Janet WAS sick, because if that hadn't been the case, we would have had a very ugly Tribal Council.  

So right now, things can't get much worse for Jaburu. Things have degenerated into chaos. Even Christy, the one I expected to stay out of the drama, was right in there in the middle of it, mixing it up with JoAnna. That was a terrible move on Christy's part, because I feel that JoAnna is somebody they are absolutely going to need.  And she is somebody you do NOT want to piss off.  She is too strong and too forceful to go messing with, and outcast loner Christy has suddenly now turned into outcast loner troublemaker Christy. That is not a good place to be, for anyone.

You know, thinking back on it, I can't think of many players who have ever had an episode as bad as Christy had this week, which included stirring up trouble the day of Tribal Council. You don't cause trouble the day of the vote. Just ask Clarence Black! Christy is quite lucky that Janet had pretty much asked to be voted off, because you can bet that Christy would otherwise have been voted out in a heartbeat. She is standing on very shaky ground right now, and she is in no position to start calling her tribemates lazy (even if it is true.) Sometimes you just have to keep your mouth shut when it comes to matters like this, and unfortunately for Christy she appears to be unable to do so.  Now, obviously, she has a reason to be upset.  She must be terribly frustrated with the way that things are going around camp.  But the simple truth is that you do NOT make enemies early in the game, and you especially don't make enemies with the entire tribe.  And you DEFINITELY don't make enemies the day of Tribal Council!

Christy and JoAnna's fight reminded me of a very similar experience that happened early on in Australia. In fact you might remember it. Kimmi. Alicia. Chickens. "I will always wave my finger in your face!" Alicia was a bad enemy to have at the time, and I think JoAnna is in the same type of power position. Do not anger her, because she will remember it. In fact, whereas last week I predicted that JoAnna might win the game, I don't think she is going to be our winner anymore. She is too forceful, and too stubborn, and she is a little too strong for her own good.  I am guessing she will meet a fate exactly like Alicia. She will be too intimidating to the men (as well as the women), and she will be discarded the moment she is no longer needed. And it will be too bad too, because she is the only real true "Amazon" in the cast, what with her height and her strength and her intensity. She would have made a very fitting winner for a season based around the concept of the Amazons.  But alas, forceful personalities like hers just don't win this game anymore.

As for JoAnna and the pagan idol, good lord.  Well that was a fun little subplot which didn't actually make any sense. As my wife pointed out, did she not realize how the show works? Had she never actually seen Survivor before? It's not like they sprung the immunity idol on the Amazon cast without any precedent. It's not like it hadn't been an important and crucial part of EVERY SINGLE SEASON UP TO THIS POINT. If it bothers you that much, just stick the dumb thing in a corner and don't look at it.  Now I know that hardcore Old Testament religious people will be able to understand her apprehension about the issue, but from a game point of view it was just a stupid and pointless thing for her to bring up. If you don't like the idol, just don't deal with it.  I have never seen such a stupid irrational tirade on this show.  I mean, I see her point, from a Bible point of view.  But why?  What purpose are you trying to serve?  I am completely baffled by half the stuff that JoAnna did this week.  Much like I am baffled by a lot of things that go on in Camp Jaburu.

Although on the plus side, it was the best argument I have ever seen between a player and a piece of wood. You don't see enough of those in life.  So at least that was fun.

Last week it came out in the news that CBS actually goes out and recruits certain types of players to apply for the show now. Brian Heidik was recruited by CBS, simply because they wanted "a used car salesman from California" type to play the game. Brian even admitted after the season that he had no interest in applying to Survivor prior to that. CBS just happened to scout out his lot the day he was working. So I was joking with my wife that they must have recruited JoAnna the same way. Someone at the network must have said "Let's see, we need an insane religious woman who is frightened of the immunity idol. Because that is an untapped market out there that we are not reaching. We need more idol fearers on the show, go forth and find one!" Ok, I know that JoAnna isn't insane, but that joke made me laugh so I put it in the column. We haven't had a truly insane player on the show since Linda Spencer, and I truly feel that the franchise has suffered for it. We need more irrational arguments. We need more arguments with wood.  More insanity on TV, that is my motto!

One final note on the women's camp before I move on to the men. It is time to talk about Janet and the granola bar. Truthfully, I have no idea how it got there or who brought it in. Some people have suggested that CBS planted it, but then again some people are always big on Survivor conspiracies. Some fans of the show are always out there looking for some proof of producer manipulation. What I think happened is that one of the players managed to smuggle it in, but I have no idea who did it or how. I know in the early seasons of the game, there was no way anyone could have smuggled food in, as they were all pretty much strip searched before they left for the game. Kel Gleason never had beef jerky, although it really didn't make a difference if he did one way or another. He wasn't voted out because of beef jerky, he was voted out because no one could stand him. But the point is that, in the past, there was no way that smuggled food could get into the game.

Now I don't know if CBS got lazy or what, but there was definitely some smuggled food in camp Jaburu, and one of the players probably had something to do with it. And that would be a great story on its own, how the heck did they get it in? Did it involve the popular prison strategy of orifice-cramming-upping? But the food itself is really irrelevant because it made no difference in how the vote went down. If you are thinking that the granola bar was why Janet was voted off, you are probably wrong.  Janet's eviction had already been decided last week. Whether the food was hers or not didn't change a thing, all it did was maybe make the rest of the tribe feel better about voting for her. But there is no doubt about it, Janet was out of there anyway. Sick females always get voted out. As I said about Tanya last season, no one on Survivor will give a sick female much of a chance for recovery. It is a cruel act of discrimination, without a doubt, but sick females are always seen as mercy votes. "Well she'll get a bed to sleep on, and some hot food, so we are doing her a favor."

Although to be fair, Janet actually did seem to agree with this argument. The Jaburus WERE doing her a favor. She didn't want to be there anymore, they didn't want her to be there anymore, so it all worked out nicely for everyone. The one who was over her head got to go home, and everyone on Jaburu got to feel like they were doing her a favor. Everyone wins.

In the end, do I think the granola bar belonged to Janet? Probably. Did it make a difference in the vote?  Not at all. She was toast anyway. If Christy couldn't get herself voted out this week, after all the crap she pulled with people around camp, you KNOW that the tribe had already decided on Janet. That should be all the proof you need, because Christy was pretty much asking for it, and she STILL only received one vote.

As for the men's tribe, there is not very much to say about them this week. They were clearly secondary characters for this episode. But there were some small details that came out about the tribe, most of which will probably come into play later. For one, Roger has started to dig his own grave. The guy who should have been the obvious second boot (Daniel) is wisely starting to keep his mouth shut.  He also might actually have malaria by now.  And then there is big scary evil Matthew, who is beginning to fade into the background. Oh and then there is Rob, of course, who is watching everyone and taking notes. Rob is ALWAYS taking notes.

Despite their lackluster showing in the reward challenge, and despite the heated fight between Roger and Alex, this is a very strong tribe. They work together, they know their stuff, and their survival skills seem to be strong. And I have no doubt that the men's team will dominate this game if things continue as they are right now. Sure, the Tambaquis have lost two challenges, but they are light years ahead of the females in terms of their survival skills. As my favorite sports columnist (Bill Simmons) likes to say, "It's a marathon, people, not a sprint."

Because of the difference in survival skills between the two tribes, I have no doubt there will be some sort of twist next week. The game is going to need it soon, and I think that the producers realize this. Plus you know there will be a ton of drama and sexual tension when the two genders are suddenly mixed.  The entire premise of TV is kind of built around this type of dramatic scenario, and the producers know as well as we do that a twist episode this season is going to be great! People who are safe now (Roger, JoAnna) will suddenly be in danger. People who are in danger now (Christy?) may suddenly be safe. We will see what kind of a surprise the producers have in store for us, because I think that something big is going to happen next week. 

As a final note on this week's episode, CBS has decided to go all out with the gratuitous breast imagery this season.  I never seen a more blatant downshirt shot on TV than the one of Heidi bent over at the start of this week's episode, when she was filling a water jug.  And I remember thinking, wow!  This isn't your mother's Survivor anymore.  And then CBS actually managed to top that later on, at the end of the episode, when we got to watch Jenna washing her own breasts... in slow motion. That one even topped Heidi!  At this point it is now like watching Sosa and McGwire. We have two behemoths, hitting home run after home run, each one seeing if they can top the other one. Who can show the most skin on TV?  Which one can get the most airtime? Which one has the most beautiful boobies?  And as an outraged viewer, all I can say is this:  God bless you, CBS.

Best. Season. Ever.


I am assuming there will be some sort of a twist at this point, so that will definitely influence the power rankings. But what is happening right now is that the weak players are slowly starting to reveal themselves. At this point it is easier to predict who WON'T win, as opposed to who MIGHT win. And the list of "won't win" players is starting to grow: Daniel. Christy. JoAnna. Roger. That's four out of fourteen.  And I expect it to grow even larger in the next week or two. By the end of the fourth week, we can usually narrow the winner down to one of about four people. But for now, here is who I see as the most likely winner of Survivor: The Amazon.

1. Matthew von Ertfelda
I got a lot of flak for ranking Matthew #2 last week. There was no reason to do that, no proof, it was just my gut feeling. So of course, in typical stubborn fashion, I am moving him up to #1 this week. Ha!  Eat that! Just kidding. There is just something about Matthew that makes me want to keep an eye on him. As I said before, if you watch his pre show stuff on the Saturn DVD he comes off like a complete sociopath. He is as cold hearted and as cutthroat as anyone out there. He also seems to be a great worker.  None of the other guys have complained about him yet, and he seems like a complete natural living out in the wild. I think the Jaburus could use a guy like Matt, and the male team is already made up of guys exactly like him, so he is in great position to stay in the game right now. Now obviously Matt hasn't done anything overtly strategic yet to justify ranking him at #1, but this ranking is based more on potential than anything.  Like a high school pitcher who can throw 100 MPH, but who hasn't yet learned any control... Matt has the tools to succeed, if not yet the success. It is only a matter of time. He just has to find where home plate is.

2. Heidi Strobel
There are a ton of things that are working in Heidi's favor right now.  She is a great athlete. She seems to be a hard worker. She isn't naive in the slightest, she knows that this isn't a summer camp. Plus she is absolutely stunning and the guys are in love with her. As with Matthew, I don't see a whole lot of things so far that point to Heidi winning, but she has great potential. She is definitely a player to keep your eye on. As an added bonus, Heidi even has the old Neleh trait where she OPENS HER EYES WIDE OPEN when she talks and she ALWAYS LOOKS SURPRISED AND INNOCENT. People are going to underestimate her because of that, and being underestimated is ALWAYS a killer trait to possess on Survivor.  Neleh almost rode that trait to a win. Almost.

3. Rob Cesternino
Rob really loves this game. You can tell that this experience is the greatest thing that has ever happened to him, and it is fun to watch. We need more people on the show who really, really want to be there like he does.  The grin on Rob's face during the Alex-Roger fight this week was priceless.  It seemed like he was sitting there saying "Fight for me!  Fight for me, my pretties!" All Rob really needs at this point is a 19th century handlebar mustache to twirl as he plans his shenanigans.  I have no doubt he is going to be a major player, but like I said last week, I still worry that he is a bit -too- eager to be the big master villain. He really wants to be the star of the show, and that is a hard line to straddle if you also want to win. I am crossing my fingers for him though, because he is the one I am really rooting for this season. It is clear to me that Rob Cesternino is Survivor: The Amazon.

4. Jeanne Hebert
Jeanne has a little more fight in her than I expected. She is a feisty one, in fact even Janet referred to her on her way out as "too aggressive." But Jeanne is clearly right in the middle of Jaburu, and is in good with everyone. She is trying to go out and fish, she is in on all the big strategic decisions, and if I'm not mistaken, she may actually also be a little sneaky. Did you notice how Jeanne brought up the subject of the granola bar and then disappeared?  Did you notice she was right there in the start of the Christy-JoAnna fight and then she disappeared?  Unless I am horribly mistaken, Jeanne might actually have a bit of Vecepia in her. I love her slight New England accent that comes and goes only on certain words.  Oh, and her big pouty lip face after she lost the fish in the river was priceless.

5. Shawna Mitchell
Shawna seems like a major player in this game, but she is also getting a lot of "slacker" editing, so I am wondering what her fate will be. I think she is in good with the younger females for now, but I would worry about her in any type of a twist. A guy like Roger would see her as pretty much worthless. So we will see about Shawna. She has good potential in her current position, but I need to see where she ends up before I decide for sure.

6. Alex Bell
He got a lot of airtime this week, but I still say he is too threatening to win this game. He just doesn't have a "winner" vibe around him yet. I want to see more of Alex before I decide for sure, but he will definitely make the merge and he will definitely be around for a while.

7. Butch Lockley
Butch really screwed the reward challenge. He doesn't even know his tribemates' names yet??  However, that being said, he is a solid worker and he is definitely a part of the Tambaqui core. I don't think he will go anytime soon, and he would be a PERFECT member of the female tribe. They would love to have a hard worker like him who isn't threatening or sexist like some of the others. If Butch ends up with the females he has it made.

8. Dave Johnson
Dave has a very unique style of talking. He has a deep voice and a strange cadence, and because he is smart and odd he is always good for a fun quote. I don't see him winning right now, but he hasn't done anything wrong yet either, so here he is, right in the middle of the rankings. His fate is uncertain, but I expect him to be around for a while. Oh, and my wife thinks he looks a lot like Joel Klug from season 1.

9. Deena Bennett
If there were a leader of the females, it would be Deena. She is a hard worker, but she doesn't quite have the survival competency to be able to pull off the role. You have to give her credit though, she is trying.  I think Deena will clash with the males in a twist or merge, and that is going to hurt her in the long run. She is safe until then, though. The Jaburus need her.

10. Jenna Morasca
I have to say that Jenna is far more likeable than I expected, but she still doesn't bring much to the table. It will be interesting to see how the guys react to her when they meet up next week.

11. JoAnna Ward
I like JoAnna a lot, she is a fun, strong character. But her idol tirade (again, wtf?) is going to be a problem, and she will be simply too threatening to the males once a twist or merge happens. Now I think she is a short term player at best.

12. Roger Sexton
Uh oh. I thought he was safe after last week, but now he is making enemies again. He probably thought his problems were gone after Ryan was voted out, but he was mistaken. Roger is in trouble whether there is a twist or not, the females won't be able to stand him, and Rob has him marked as his next victim of the males.  That's bad news for Roger all around.

13. Daniel Lue
He had the best possible episode this week, because he didn't say a word. But why is it that he always looks like he just woke up?

14. Christy Smith
She's got a lot going against her right now, and making enemies with the entire Jaburu tribe certainly can't help. If there is a twist, the guys will make even less of an effort to know her than the girls have. So Christy is pretty much toast in any scenario. On the plus side, though, at least she will be fun to use in Second Chance Survivor.

Mario Lanza lives in Los Angeles with his wife and two small children. He was the lead writer of the All-Star Hawaii and Alaska stories, and loves email feedback, as well as the Karate Kid movies. Hell, any movie with Ralph Macchio is okay by him.