Amazon Strategy #4:  Humans 1, Piranhas 0
Written by Mario Lanza on 03.07.03

"Bragging is not an attractive trait, but let's be honest. A man who catches a big fish doesn't go home through an alley."
-Ann Landers

First off, let me point out how bizarre the whole Shawna situation is.  In fact, we have never really seen something like this before on Survivor. She wants them to vote her off.  She wants no part of sticking around, she wants to go home.  But the Jaburus won't let her go. Despite all of Shawna's best efforts (including trying to sabotage the vote), she still couldn't make them vote her out.  It's just weird.  You would think that if somebody really wanted to go home, they would be able to sway the other players into showing them some pity.  Especially in a selfish game like Survivor where the only goal is for you yourself not to get voted out.  But nope.

"You got into this with us.  You're sticking around."

I suppose if Shawna was really begging to get voted off, she could just refuse to participate in a challenge.  Or she could refuse to walk to Tribal Council.  Or something like that. I'm sure there is some way she could get herself disqualified from the game if she really wanted to.  But we will see what happens with her little dilemma now.  Like I said, there has really never been a precedent for this type of situation before.  People have whined about being sick before, and they have moaned and complained, but no one has ever actively tried to get themself kicked off this blatantly. And failed at it.

I suppose it won't really matter in the long run, since Christy appears to have taken her place in the alliance.  Shawna probably won't be around much longer anyway, whether it is actually by her own choice or not.  But still, with Shawna gone that would just leave a 4-person alliance. And a 4-person alliance isn't all that useful when you enter a merge. You still need a 5th, at least for one vote, if only for numerical reasons. So I think the females have a big choice ahead of them now. Do they want to keep Jeanne around, and hope she will stick with them through the first vote after the merge? Or do they want to keep Shawna around and hope she eventually comes to her senses?  It is a tough choice.  In fact it is almost a no win situation, and because of it I am beginning to wonder if the Jaburu tribe is about to fall apart. Because they are in a fairly sticky situation right now.  Jeanne doesn't seem to like them and Shawna is strategically useless at the moment. And it is beginning to remind me a little of the Samburus back in Africa.  The Jaburus look solid now, but there is no guarantee that all these people will stick together once the tribes get mixed up. Jeanne could be a very dangerous enemy if she winds up with some allies on the other side. Her angry look after JoAnna was voted out pretty much said it all.  Jeanne is pissed off now.

Ok, back to Jaburu.  It appears I was way off last week in my assessment of the tribe. In short, I was wrong about Deena. I thought it was a given that she would be aligned with the elders, but unfortunately she pulled a 180 on me and went the other direction instead.  And her logic was pretty sound too, because she was right. The younger girls will be easier to sway down the road. They will certainly be a lot easier to influence than Jeanne or JoAnna.

Now, a week ago, I would have said that Deena's plan was a little short sighted.  Because in aligning herself with Shawna, Heidi, and Jenna, she seemed to be setting herself up for fourth place.  Sure, you can try to sway the girls all you want along the way, but like Heidi said, the young girls stick together. Had things continued the way they were going, Deena would have been destined for fourth place.

But with Shawna giving up now, and with Christy taking her place, well that changes things.  That makes Deena's plan look much better. Because now you have a fourth member of the alliance who has no allegiance to either Heidi or Jenna.  If these four are indeed the final four, we are now looking at a possible 2-2 split. And that is a MUCH better plan for Deena. I'm not sure if Deena planned it out this way, or if she just stumbled into a really good situation for her, but at this point she is looking pretty good. Christy is looking pretty good too, for that matter.  In fact, if the Jaburu Four get a little luck the next couple of episodes, I would say that all four of them have a very legitimate shot to win this game right now. All four of them seem to know what they are doing.

Ok, there are really two strategic decisions that people will be debating that came out of this episode.  First off, was Deena smart to go with the younger girls? Obviously it is really way too early to call, but as I said above I think it was a pretty good strategy for her. At least, as long as Christy is along for the ride. We will find out down the road if this will work out for Deena, because I don't think Heidi or Jenna have ANY loyalty to her. They only have loyalty to themselves. Christy is the one that Deena needs, and I am pretty sure Deena knows this.

The second big decision this week was Jaburu choice's to vote out JoAnna over Shawna.  Now this, I feel, was a much worse decision. Deena can say all she wants about how she "needed to get rid of the competition," but the fact remains that JoAnna was not going to win this game. She was far too abrasive and she was far too threatening. They could have carried her along for a while, and just used her strength as a smokescreen to hide the rest of them. Deena, in particular, really could have used JoAnna around to draw attention away from her leadership.

I feel it would have been a much better decision this week to vote off Shawna or even troublemaker Jeanne. Shawna can bring absolutely nothing to the tribe right now.  In fact, she can actively hurt the tribe if they force her to do challenges and she doesn't really want to.  And the fearsome foursome HAD the numbers, so they COULD have dumped her. It wouldn't have made the slightest difference to their plans whatsoever, in fact she will probably go next.  

JoAnna was such a fierce competitor, and she was so strong in the challenges.  And she was such a hard worker.  I feel that the Jaburus are really going to miss her now.  It doesn't matter if she was annoying, the fact remains that the game is still early, and JoAnna caught fish and she was strong in the challenges. That is a lot of slack to make up now. And I wouldn't be surprised if Jeanne now starts slacking off, just out of protest over JoAnna.  Then no one will be doing any work around camp.

If that happens, well, then we'll have problems.

I think the JoAnna vote very well may be a pivotal moment in this season. One of the things I have been paying attention to thus far is how the tribes are being edited. It was clear early on that the Jaburus were "the good guys" and the Tambaquis were "the bad guys." Ha ha, look at the cocky guys get their comeuppance. Serves them right. Go girls! The editing couldn't have been more obvious. In fact I'm surprised the first few episodes didn't feature scenes with the men pissing on an American flag, and the girls nursing baby kittens back to health.  We were all supposed to be rooting for Jaburu.  But have you noticed that the whole good/bad dichotomy has started to change?

The men's tribe were "the good guys" this week. All of the backbiting and the backstabbing and the complaining was over in camp Jaburu. Meanwhile, in Tambaqui, we got scenes of "heroic" Matthew catching a fish for his tribe.  We saw all six of them singing together like brothers in their shelter.  We saw the six of them work together as a team to win challenges. And then after the challenges they all bonded like buddies over a Coke and a smile. The Tambaquis had a great episode. And I never thought we would see ANYTHING positive about the men this season at all.  At least, not after that first episode.

For this reason alone, I am getting a vibe now like the winner is going to come from the Tambaquis. The girls are just playing this game very nastily right now, and there is a lot of conflict over there. Add to that the fact that the Jaburu survival skills have never really gotten any better, and they are really facing some hard times in the game right about now. An alliance of four means nothing unless your tribe is bigger than the other one. With the Tambaqui food advantage (they now have a huge pile of fish), Jaburu is going to be hard pressed to keep up with them in the next couple of challenges. And if Tambaqui wins just one of the next two immunity challenges, I think Jaburu will have a hard time sticking together against the men all the way to the end. As I said before, the Jaburu Alliance does not have a strong fifth member. And they need one.

Back to Matthew.  The Von Ertfelder had a good episode this week.  We are starting to see him in a very positive light, as the "loner outcast," the fisherman, the team player.  The other members of the tribe seem to like him, he doesn't say anything nasty in his confessionals, and he is getting a very nice underdog vibe from the edit.  His story, I believe, can go either way at this point.  He is either the next guy to go from Tambaqui, or he is going to be a major, major player in the storyline. You can almost look at Kathy O'Brien from Marquesas as a parallel.  I sincerely think that Matt is going to be around for the long haul, and I am crossing my fingers that I am right about him. He looks like a great player all around. And I don't think -any- of them actually see his true side, which is a hardcore schemer.

The other person who I think is growing into a strong player right now is Christy. She has the exact same underdog vibe about her, and has wisely learned how to keep her mouth shut and just react to what others are doing. She does her work, she plays nice, and she votes with the majority. She is in a great position right now to do well.  And I wouldn't have said that a couple of weeks ago.

So what happens next week? Twist or no twist? Frankly, I don't have a clue. The preview didn't really give away any hints.  But then again, as always, you can go back to Jeff Probst's final words from Tribal Council. To paraphrase this week's final words:

"Don't get too cocky, because you never know what is coming next."

Remember that Jeff has ALWAYS warned players right before a twist comes.  Every season since Africa, he has hinted at some sort of a red flag.  And his comments above sound exactly like one of his patented warnings. So I would say there is an 80% chance of a twist next week.  And if that happens, then we will -really- see who will do well in this game. Because the luck of the draw (if it happens) will change a lot of fates. After a twist hits, all you can really do at that point is adapt and hope for the best.

Here are my weekly notes:

* A reader named June pointed out to me that Heidi kind of looks like a female Brian Heidik.  She almost has the exact same face.  Remember that after he won, Brian said he would find a way to double his money?  You don't think he... paid for some reconstructive surgery... and came back to win again, do you...? And to further the conspiracy, remember that Heidi with a K on the end equals... nah, that can't be true.  Can it??

* Speaking of Heidi, I have to comment on her quote about "the bigger women" having more fat to live on, thus they can do more work.  Oh I'm sure that quote won't come back to haunt Heidi at the reunion show.  In fact, she already has about ten such quotes like that. She is getting dangerously close to the "I wish I hadn't said that on TV" Hall of Fame, which as you know was co-founded by Rob Mariano and Lindsey Richter.

* I personally liked the refrigerator-cam. It is my favorite new camera angle so far from this season. Another personal favorite angle this season is the shot that starts underwater and then skims along the surface, which was popularized by Sam Raimi in the Evil Dead movies. One of the great things about Amazon so far has been all the weird camera shots.  This whole season has been one big golden age of new Survivor camera angles.

* It's ironic that Jesus didn't help Jaburu win the fishing challenge. Since we were told that Jesus loves them the best, you would think He would have had some say in a challenge that involves fish. But apparently the literal translation of the Bible was best, and Jesus only makes fishers of men.  Sorry I couldn't resist that joke.  Personally, and I may be going out on a limb here, I think JoAnna was wrong.  I don't believe that Jesus was in any way affiliated with Jaburu at any point. I believe He has other more important things to worry about.

* Man, I'm sure PETA loved this week's fishing challenge. Repeated shots of fish being stepped on, thrown flopping into a bucket, or my personal favorite, Christy bashing one over the head with a knife. Maybe next week the players will set a fish on fire or skin one alive. Remember when PETA threatened boycotts over the pig in Australia? I'm sure we won't hear from them this time, since, you know, Survivor is no longer the publicity machine it once was. In related news, PETA can eat me.

* Since when did Survivor get Coke as a sponsor? Way to go CBS!  We have been stuck with lame sponsors like Dureetoes and Dr. Scholl's bacterial fungus splooge for five seasons, and now they just suddenly pull Coca-Cola out of nowhere?  Nice job!  It's amazing that they actually managed to upgrade their sponsors this season. EVERYONE was excited to see cans of Coke as a reward.

* Finally, the quote of the week. The obvious choice would be one of Heidi's diatribes against anyone over 24 years old or heavier than 100 pounds. Or JoAnna's choice of curse words: "Son of a biscuit."  I also liked Dave's rhyme about Rob's jokes.  But once again Rob Cesternino will get my quote of the week, which came right after Matthew ate the fish eyeball:

Rob:  There's no 'I' in team, but there's one in Matt's mouth.


Who is most likely to win? Well quite frankly this whole thing is a crapshoot this week. Common sense dictates that a female is going to win (duh, we are in the Amazon), but my gut and my heart keep telling me that a guy is going to pull it off. It just strikes me that none of the females really gives off a "winner" vibe, except maybe Jeanne or, to a lesser extent, Deena. There are a few members of Tambaqui who seem like potential winners though, including just about all of them except for Alex or Roger. So I really don't know -how- the game is going to play out.  Or what a twist will do to it.  Or where the alliances are going to fall.  All I can really say right now is that some people just seem to come off as winners to me, and some don't.  So the power rankings are a bit less scientific this week, but I figure they are as good as anyone else's list right now. Until a twist hits, we won't have a clue what's going to happen for sure this season.All we can do at this point is guess.

And yes, I am assuming there will be a twist next week.  That's what makes this week's Power Rankings so difficult.

1. Jenna Morasca
I never thought she would ever be ranked this high, but here she is.  Note that she is very close to Heidi, but the difference is that of the two them Jenna tends to keep her mouth shut. She is always hanging off to the side, just watching, observing, and staying quiet. And THAT is the mark of a cunning player. Of the Jaburu four, I think that Jenna is in the best position to win the game. People will underestimate her. The part of the game where she was the most vulnerable (the early part) has now passed. She will be on a tribe with the guys soon, and obviously as a quiet hot girl that can only help her.  In short, there is no reason why Jenna would be in any danger whatsoever in the near future. She is in with a strong four person alliance, and even better (like Ethan) she is one of the least visible of its members. She doesn't say much, she is not the slightest bit intimidating, and she is really no athletic threat.  Jenna isn't my favorite player in the cast, but simple logic dictates that she is in a great, great position to do well right now.  From any angle you look at.

2. Matthew von Ertfelda
Matthew is the player who I think will win in the end, but he just isn't in the best spot to do so yet. He still has some obstacles to overcome first, including the fact that he remains a bit of an outcast in his own tribe. But he is much better at adapting than I expected he would be, he really knows how to survive out here in the wild. He is clearly turning into one of my favorites this season, and I want to put him at #1 in the Power Rankings, but I can't right now because (unlike Jenna) he is still in some danger. He very well could go home next week.  But as time passes, I think Matt's chances of winning will grow and grow. He just needs a little luck right now, and at that point then the sky is the limit.

3. Deena Bennett
Deena showed herself to be a very cunning, very strategic player this week. She clearly knows how Survivor works, and only time will tell if she chose the right path.  I still think her abrasiveness may cost her in the end, but she is making great strides right now on her way becoming a very strong player.

4. Rob Cesternino
Rob is still a player who no one takes seriously. The fact that Dave commented on the lameness of his jokes just gives away the fact that Rob is succeeding at what he is trying to do. They all just think he is a massive tool.  Now Rob might actually be a tool, of course, but that is also what he is trying to do. The only thing that will hurt him at this point is his eagerness and the fact that he loves this game so much. He may get himself into trouble down the road.

5. Dave Johnson
Dave is getting some major, major airtime right now.  It seems like either he or Matthew give pretty much every single confessional for the Tambaquis. Dave's good quotes always get shown in the episodes, and he seems to be a very likeable, very mellow player. I think he will be around for a while.

6. Heidi Strobel
I dropped her to six for the sole reason that she never seems to do anything likeable in the episodes. She is coming off awfully bad on TV right now, which I know is editing, but you would think they would want us to like her if she were going to be a major player. And I know I always say "don't fall for editing," but in Heidi's case I think it is being done for a reason. I mean, even Vecepia got a nice moment or a sympathetic scene every now and then.  I can't name one good thing that we have see so far about Heidi. We'll see.

7. Jeanne Hebert
Jeanne seems to have made some enemies, but she is also in the prime Frank Garrison position right about now.  If there is a twist next week, she is the outcast who can switch sides and blow the Jaburu Alliance out of the water. She will need some luck though.

8. Christy Smith
My only reason for dropping her down to #8 is her lack of competitiveness.  I am also afraid she will be in trouble if there is a twist, simply because (just like it happened at Jaburu) it will take her a while to fit in with a new group.  And with the game about to get complicated she might not have that luxury anymore.

9. Butch Lockley
There is no reason for him to be ranked all the way down at #9, but I don't think he is our winner.

10. Alex Bell
Why is he so low?  Heck, who knows?  Probably because he hasn't done a whole lot yet to show himself. Still, there is a big dropoff between Alex at 10 and the final two below him. At least he still actually has a chance to be the winner this season.

11. Roger Sexton
He has toned down his act, but he is still a longshot to win at best.  He's not particularly likeable, he's not particularly friendly, and he would be an easy "safe" vote for people to just gang up on later if they wanted to.  I don't see his storyline ending very well.

12. Shawna Mitchell
Her only asset right now is that she is friends with Deena.  That's it.  But I still predict she will be gone next from Jaburu.  Especially now that she has been replaced by Christy.

My pick for next week's bootee: All signs point to the females being in trouble, and I think Shawna is an overwhelming choice for next bootee. Jeanne is in danger too, of course, but Shawna simply must be removed from the equation.  If the guys lose, I bet it will be Roger. Matthew is far too smart to be taken out this easily.

Twist or no twist, I think Shawna will take the walk of shame very soon.

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 is currently planning the third story, to be set somewhere in the Aegean Sea.