Amazon Strategy #5: I'm a Rocket Man
Written by Mario Lanza
"Shawna may not be interested in the whole chick thing anymore. Shawna may be interested in the Alex thing."
Wow! Lots of fun stuff to talk about this week.
expected, the big twist showed up, and it completely split the game
apart. We now have two very different tribes than we had before, and it
is going to change the entire dynamic of the game from this point
forward. Honestly, this season is officially turning out to be
the least predictable Survivor season of all time. I
mean, Marquesas was goofy and it had a bunch of power shifts, but
you have to remember that there was at LEAST a dominant alliance by
this point in Marquesas. But in the Amazon, there isn't anything like
that. All we have are some sub-alliances, some sub-sub-alliances, some
long term plotting, and a whole bunch of schemers. It is going to be
nearly impossible to say what is going happen over the next couple of
episodes and, honestly, the power rankings are going to be just about
meaningless this week. They will be meaningless because ANYTHING can
happen right about now. I could make a case for just about every single
player to win the game from here on out (although some are clearly more
likely than others.) But this season is just turning into an
absolute crapshoot. The male-female divide at the start of the game
really gave the merge and twist some extra significance and power.
People are likely to swap and change and waffle on loyalties all
over the place now, especially when you have players like Rob, Heidi
and Matthew hanging around in the mix.
In other words, this is turning out to be a great season!
course, I say that every season is a great season. So I suppose
my endorsement has a little less weight than it probably should.
I always say that the current season is my favorite Survivor season,
that is kind of my trademark. Part of the reason I do this is to
maintain everyone's interest in the show, since I consider myself kind
of a cheerleader for the franchise in general. But I can admit
now that it was difficult at times to always build up Thailand
last year as "a great season!" Thailand wasn't the best season.
You know it. I know it. And the American people know
it. But with the Amazon, I really do mean it. This is a
very very solid season, and at the moment it has the potential to
become one of the best. I mean, if it can outdo Marquesas in
terms of unpredictability (which it has a chance to), you know it is
doing something magical.
There were several key decisions
that were made in this week's episode. It is generally my role here to
comment on if they were good decisions or bad ones, but in the
case of last night's episode, that is awfully tough to do. You can see
the thinking behind all of them. And only time will tell if
Heidi's plan will turn out well for her, or if Dave's plan to keep
Heidi around will turn out well for him. They were both calculated
gambles, designed to maximize one's own success. They were both
judgement calls. Simply put, there were extrinsic fluid variables at
play here, this isn't rocket science.
First off is Heidi.
A lot of people consider her decision to vote for "Gene" to be the
biggest one in the episode (although I disagree.) But it was
obviously a big one. Was she correct to vote for Jeanne? Now my
initial instinct was to say that it was a bad idea. But I suspect
that was more because I liked Jeanne and I didn't like Heidi. Sometimes
my judgement gets clouded when I like certain players. But I have
thought about it for a while, and the more I think about it, the
more I realize that Heidi didn't really have a choice. If the same
choice with the same variables was offered to you, YOU would probably
take it too. A tie stinks, there is no reason to ever face a tie if you
don't need one. The goal in Survivor (in my mind) has always
been to just get past this vote and to get to the next vote. By
voting for Jeanne, Heidi basically ensured herself to get to the next
Tribal Council. So if you look at the game this way (and I do)
then Heidi succeeded. She will get to the next vote, and Jeanne
won't. If you look at it that way, Heidi did well for herself.
flaw that I see in Heidi's plan, which is one that I don't think she
sees yet, is that the guys on Tambaqui really like Christy. They have
taken to her much better than Jaburu ever did. As it stands now,
the plan right now is to vote out Christy next, but at the same time
I'm not entirely sure that Butch and company will actually be able to
do that. I think they genuinely like her. And I think that she
genuinely likes them. I think that writing Christy's name down on
a piece of paper will be a lot tougher than they expect. And I know it
isn't the most politically correct thing to say, but if Christy were a
really hardcore player, what she should be doing right now is milking
her disability as hard as she possibly can. Use it! Gain sympathy
around the middle school principal! Mention several times how hard
Jaburu made it on you. Appeal to their emotions and their sense of fair
play. I don't think Christy actually -will- do this, but it sure
would be the mark of a great player if she could turn the way she was
shunned into a strength.
So, in the end, did Heidi
make the right choice? Who knows. I can't really fault her
for avoiding a tie, since the guys were clearly not going to break
ranks. If Heidi was just looking to get to the merge, then yes, she
made a good move. But at the same time, I can't guarantee it won't bite
her in the ass next week. You have to respect Heidi's ability to adapt
and to switch alliances, because the good players all have the ability
to do that. But I don't think she has recognized Christy as a
formidable enemy yet. We will see what happens now.
the key decision in my mind this week wasn't Heidi's, it was Dave's. In
short, why the heck did he spare Heidi, and not spare Jeanne or
Christy? I mean, Dave KNOWS that Heidi and Jenna are best
friends. He KNOWS that the two of them are a bloc that needs to
be broken up. He knows this because Jenna flat out told him this!
Yet he chose to spare Heidi when they had a clear and easy shot
to get rid of her.
So the question arises. If Dave
had approached Jeanne (or more likely, if Butch had approached Jeanne.
She would respect Butch more), would Jeanne have voted along with the
guys to get rid of Heidi? Because once Tambaqui lost the immunity
challenge, I was positive that Heidi would be gone. I was sure it
would be 5-1 or 4-2. I expected that Jeanne would take out Heidi
and would go along with the guys. Yet no mention was ever made in the
episode of pulling in Jeanne. When Dave was talking with Heidi
about the vote, I thought what he was doing was trying to sucker her
in. I thought that by telling her "vote for Jeanne," I
thought he was trying to do his best to split the female alliance
apart, and cause a scenario of 3 votes for Heidi, 2 votes for Butch and
1 vote for Jeanne. And if he had, that would have been a great move!
But, of course, I was wrong. Dave wasn't trying to be
devious. Dave was being genuine. He really DOES want Heidi
in as their fifth. But why?
This whole subplot was
something I didn't really understand. And I had to think about it
for a while. Why would Dave pull Heidi into his alliance? He knew that
Jeanne and Heidi didn't get along, Jenna already told him. So why not
pick Jeanne? And the reason I eventually came to was simple: Heidi is
the one who is more devious. Dave knows that because Jenna probably
told him that.
Dave knew that it wouldn't be very easy to
sway Jeanne to vote against the girls, since she is so interested in
playing with honesty and integrity (see her final words.) Dave probably
knew that Heidi is a snake, and that she would be far more likely to
take the bait. Because in doing so, obviously the females would be
weakened. True, Heidi's short-sighted plan is good for her, but
it's not good for the females in general. So if you look at it from
Dave's point of view, it makes sense. Yeah you keep a snake
around. You keep Heidi around, even though she is a player who is
incredibly dangerous. But you do it because it might be the best
move in the long run. You do it because it ensures that one
less female is going to around once you get to the merge (which might
not have happened if they had approached Jeanne with the idea.) So
yeah, like Heidi's decision, I can say that Dave's decision was
probably a good one. But we will never know for sure until
after the season ends.
Alternately, some people have
suggested that Dave had a crush on Heidi and that he was just thinking
with his genitals. That is a very valid interpretation as well. But
Dave's a smart guy. Isn't he? He has to be wise enough to
see through Heidi's charms. Right? I mean, he's a rocket
scientist. Aren't engineers and scientists and math nerds supposed to
be experts at dealing with women? Hmmm... And now that I think about
it, Dave is the same guy who told Jenna she has "a sexy, sexy ass."
Damn. Dave might have actually been played here.
Oh well. Forget I said anything about strategy in the first place.
whatever happens, Dave was definitely the MVP of this episode. He was
all over the place. And his team selection could not have been better.
Taking Heidi from under Jenna's nose was great, he took his first pick
and he gave Jenna a dagger directly to the heart. Then he got rid of
schemers Rob and Matthew, and he also got rid of likeable
uber-athlete Alex. What that means is that Dave Johnson is now
the single best athlete (not to mention the single best looking
guy) on his tribe, and he is not going to have very much competition.
Nicely done, rocket man.
The only real flaw I saw in
Dave's plan this week was the way he explained the team selection
to Rob. Dave told Rob "I picked Butch and Roger," when what he
really should have said was "Jenna selected Rob, Matthew and Alex." The
way Dave phrased it, it sounded like he was ditching people he didn't
need, which is exactly the way that Rob interpreted it. Now, Dave very
well could have clarified this further, he could have made it
sound better, and maybe we just never saw it on TV. But just from what
we saw in the episode, it looks like he explained it poorly to Rob and
he might actually take some political flak for it. But hey, Dave
had a good week with everything else he did. No need to nitpick.
is one more thing I wanted to touch on this week, in terms of social
dynamics. From the very first episode, it was clear that the
guys' heads weren't really in the game. Not with so many hot young
females around. The guys were busy thinking of scoring, and of
breasts, and of Jenna's "sexy, sexy ass." In other words, once the
teams merged, it was implied that the guys were going to be done.
The girls were just going to tear them apart.
there was something that I had not been paying attention to along the
way. And that was that the women missed the men just as much. I should
have been paying more attention to the fact that the girls didn't get
along with one another, and that they didn't talk to each other all
that much. It turns out I had forgotten the oldest rule in the book of
sociology: Females don't like one another. I can't believe I overlooked
Look what happened when Jenna met Dave. It was
Jenna who acted like a little high school kid around Dave, not the
other way around. She saw a cute guy sitting there and she spilled her
guts in about two minutes. I couldn't believe how much she was telling
him. In fact, by the end, I was surprised she didn't just throw
in her ATM code. But it was clear that the females were DYING for
men to talk to. It was clear that they just didn't speak to
each other all that much. Females are just much more social than males
in real life, and I think it was killing them that they had no one to
gossip to. So a guy shows up, and all of a sudden Jenna abandons all
strategic sense whatsoever, simply because she has a sounding board who
will listen to her. And the same thing with Shawna. The guys show up,
and the younger girls all of a sudden behave much -much- differently
than they ever did before.
And it is bothering me that I
didn't see that coming. I assumed the guys would be the ones doomed
with a merge. It might be the other way around instead.
on to next week. What will happen now? Well, for starters, it is nearly
impossible to pick who is in the best position to win right now. Like I
said earlier, I could make a case where most anyone could win the game
at this point. But at the very least I think we can narrow down who is
probably going to be safe next week. Dave, for one, he isn't going
anywhere. Butch also seems to be safe. Roger is in the
clear too (how did that happen?!) On Jaburu, the only one who I
think is absolutely safe is Jenna. Everyone else could be vulnerable
next week. Rob and Matthew for being too scheming, Deena for being too
bossy, Shawna for being too flaky, and Alex if he gets -too- close
to Shawna and he pisses people off.
So my picks to go next
week? Well, Christy seems like the obvious choice on Tambaqui, but I am
saying not to overlook Heidi. Christy is going to be a tough one to
vote out, you watch and see! And on Jaburu, who the heck knows? Deena
seems like a likely bet, and so does Shawna. But I suppose I will say
Shawna. She is just a little too flaky for her own good. I don't see why anyone would want her for an ally. Well unless you have a penis and you are Alex.
have the most bizarre and amusing readers on the internet. I
always get fun emails like the ones below. Email me your best
observations about the show and if they make me laugh, I will put it in
the column next week:
From Justin Vander Wende:
"The producers knew the girls weren't going to win the fishing
challenge anyway. If they thought the girls were going to win, they
would have had Diet Coke in the fridge too. Like the skinny cute girls
would ever drink regular Coke."
From Nick Potter:
"This week, Alex took the best machete shot to the face since Crispin
Glover in Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter. The only difference is
that Alex's corpse wasn't later nailed into a doorframe."
From Dennis Goodman:
"I am glad that Dave held tightly to the stereotype that rocket
scientists are not that smooth. "You have a sexy ass" might have been
one of the lamest things ever mentioned. I am sure Jenna wanted him
then and there."
From a guy named Erik: "When
Deena said that she was the Alpha Female and the top dog and that she
was running the game... It reminded me of when Homer Simpson once
commented on his superiority and then shook his fist at the heavens.
'And I will get no comeuppance. Do you hear me, no comeuppance!'"
I really have nothing left to top any of these. So I guess that's it for my column this week. On to the power rankings!
AFTER WEEK FIVE
Who is most likely to win right now? Heck, do you think I know? As
Jerry Seinfeld once said, "Not bloody likely!" I might as well
throw darts at a list of names on a dartboard. But that being
said, there are a few people I have been paying attention to for a
while. Dave, Matthew, Rob, and Jenna have all had a nice "winner" vibe
about them for some time now. And you can not find a more underrated
player than Butch. So I have no empirical proof to back up any of these
picks this week, I am going solely on my gut. There
are just the people who I think are the sharpest ones out there.
1. Dave Johnson
because he had such a good week. And don't forget that "Dave wakes up"
scene last week. Those always foreshadow something good! Dave is like
Brian Heidik right now, he has absolutely no competition on a weaker
and older and tighter team. That is a great place to be.
2. Butch Lockley
The classic definition of underrated and under the radar. Butch is set up for a nice long run in this game.
3. Matthew von Ertfelda
Once again, no reason for him to be this high except for my gut feeling. I have been a big Matthew fan since day one.
4. Rob Cesternino
Rob is developing a bit of a temper. He said before the season that he plays "mean." I suspect we will see that very soon.
5. Jenna Morasca
appreciate the fact that she is so quiet and mysterious. She is alert
and she doesn't draw attention to herself. Contrast that to Heidi,
who would put an ad in the paper if she was about to heat up a can of
soup. Of course, spilling her guts to Dave wasn't the best move
in the world, but Jenna has done very well for herself. And she is one
of the few safe people in next week's episode, so here she is at #5.
6. Heidi Strobel
is definitely a player, but she is also in a precarious spot right now.
Plus other people are on to where she stands in her alliance
(could she answer questions any worse at Tribal Council?) I don't think
Heidi will win, but at the very least she has proven she will try her
7. Roger Sexton
has a new lease on life. He is much more of a thinker and is much more
sensitive than I would have expected before (note his efforts with
Christy). But I still don't see him as the winner. Not with people like
Rob and Matthew still in the game I don't.
8. Alex Bell
was doing great until we saw the previews for next week. Stay away from
Shawna! She is a strategic deathtrap! Run away Alex, stay away from the
9. Deena Bennett
could go very soon, or she could adapt to New Jaburu and stick
around for a while. I think she is a heck of a player, but the
twist really screwed her over. She really got the worst deal of
anyone. Deena must learn to adapt at this point or she is gone.
10. Christy Smith
is in a pretty bad spot, but she could get lucky next week if the guys
really do like her. Fate isn't really in her hands at the moment
though. I was afraid all along that her lack of competitiveness was
going to get her in the end, let's see if she can prove me wrong about
11. Shawna Mitchell
was in a terrible position last week, when she was sick and exhausted.
But if anything, she is in an even WORSE position now, with
her sudden "miraculous" recovery and her ability to piss off Deena, the
leader of her alliance. Shawna has a big black cloud floating over her
head right now, and if he was smart Alex would do his best to avoid
her. Shawna is slowly running out of allies, and it is happening
right at the time in the game when she wants to stick around the
most. Sometimes irony isn't fun like that.
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, tentatively titled "Survivor: Greek Islands."
Read the message board for the cast list!