Amazon Pre-Season Power Rankings
Written by Mario Lanza on 01.15.03

The game is on, the bios are out, the teams have been announced! Survivor: Amazon is here, and all I can say is: it is about damn time! Why has it taken six seasons for the producers to finally film in the Amazon? That should have been the first or second choice for location. I'm sure there were legal difficulties, or money issues, or something, that probably got in the way.  But it doesn't matter now because this is going to be a spectacular location. I can't wait!

This is my first power ranking column for the Amazon season. Those of you who read my stuff last season will know I had a pretty good track record for predicting what was going to happen. So I had to debate whether or not I wanted to come back and try again with Amazon. Should I go out strong, at the peak of my success, like Jerry Seinfeld? Should I quit, and then make numerous comebacks, each failed one more embarrassing than the last, like Michael Jordan? Or should I just keep writing until the end of time, until I am obsolete and irrelevant, like Cal Ripken?

Okay, it really wasn't all that a hard decision.  I'm back.  I love this show, I'm not going anywhere. So I got lucky last season. After my massive failure in predicting the winner of Africa or Marquesas, it was nice to finally get lucky for a change with Brian. And now, here is my chance to prove it. Let's see what I can predict just from reading the Amazon bios. Who will succeed? Who will fail? Who will be the sweetheart? Who will win?

There are two things I wanted to talk about before I start my column this year. The first one is about spoilers. I HATE spoilers.  There is nothing that ruins the show more for me than people telling me stuff like "so and so lost 30 pounds," or "I hear so and so doesn't last very long."  Please don't email me that kind of stuff, it happens every season, and I don't want to have to hate you.  And the weight loss ones are the worst, because hometown newspapers and mainstream magazine articles will report those without hesitation.  It's not just the spoiler sites when it comes to weight loss spoilers.  So at this point I tend just not to read anything Survivor-related on the internet anymore.  I just want to be surprised.  If you know anything that is going to happen this season, I don't want to hear it.

The second thing I wanted to mention is about this season's tribe selection process. It has already been reported many places, including in CBS promos and commercials, that Amazon is going to be men against women.  I'm not spoiling anything here, this should already be common knowledge for anyone who is reading this column.  CBS has been hyping its little gender split for a while.  Now, I am under no impression that the game will REMAIN men vs women for very long, there is clearly going to be a twist or some sort of a mix-up along the way.  And I know that because men vs. women is something we just did in our All-Star Alaska story (currently airing at Survivor-Central.)  Men against women is fun, but it isn't a storyline that you can keep up for very long.  It will be fun at first but it isn't the type of gimmick that can keep up its momentum.  By the way, people have been asking me about this all week, and no we had no clue that Amazon was going to be divided by gender. It was just a coincidence that our story had the exact same twist. But anyway, just keep in mind that these rankings and predictions I will be making will be based on the fact that the game will be men against women at the start, and will be based on the unique team dynamics that will show up when you split up the genders.

So here we go. First impressions. I apologize if I am way off on anyone, but hopefully these will all turn out to be pretty accurate. We'll see!

-------- FEMALE TRIBE --------

23, Retail Clothing Sales

Shawna, I hate to say, looks like a pretty insignificant player. I mean, nothing good or bad really stands out about her bio. She likes chess, which is a perfect hobby to prepare for Survivor. She played soccer, all the way to the international level, so you know she is in shape. But there isn't much else to say she will excel at in Survivor. On an all-female tribe, she will likely be nice enough to not make enemies, athletic enough to not be a hindrance, and she should be okay at least at the start. She will likely be one of the sweethearts in the cast, although that, of course, depends a lot on her personality. She will be one of the youngest players in the game, but if she has a decent level of charisma I predict she will be okay. I don't think she will make much of an impact on the game though, unless she is the nicest, sweetest, most charismatic person around. In the long run I don't think we will remember Shawna very well when the season is done.

31, Guidance Counselor

Okay, JoAnna looks like she is going to be a strong player. She played college basketball, so you know she is strong and athletic. Her counseling career means that she can relate to people, and that she can get along with others. She likes chess. She is a born again Christian, which I would normally say would be more of a hindrance, but then again Vecepia proved us all wrong there so what do I know.  In fact, a few people have already mentioned that she reminds them of Vecepia. I would say JoAnna looks a bit more outgoing and outspoken than Vecepia did, she looks like she is going to be a decent player. She is the perfect age for this game (early 30's) and I imagine she will probably do pretty well. She has a lot of good things going for her. If she gets in good with whoever the power core is for the females (which I think she will), she is gonna be a key player.

24, Children's Adventure Guide

Christy will be the player who everyone will be watching the first couple of episodes. Whether it is fair to her or not, the question that everyone will be asking is "can a deaf person actually play this game effectively?" I expect that Christy will prove that she can handle herself quite early on, so it will probably cease to be an issue after the first couple of days. I mean, it really shouldn't be too much of a problem for her to overcome, social interaction and communication skills are in no way one hundred percent verbal. Worst-case scenario, we get other players talking with hands and buffs covering their mouths so Christy can't read their lips, like on that episode of Seinfeld. But then again there was this movie on Mystery Science Theater (Operation Double 007) where a secret agent could read lips from across a room, and he ended up saving the world because of his talent, so you never know. No, I don't think that Christy's deafness will wind up being a factor at all. But there are two things that jump out at me just from reading her bio, and neither one has anything to do with her hearing. The first thing that jumps out at me is that she teaches groups of children how to work together and how to get along.  That is a HUGE skill in this game.  That is a Richard Hatchian life skill.  Of course it could be of no use to her in this game, since Christy is so young and all, but the girl has some talent in this area which could be tremendously useful. But, alas, the other thing that jumps out at me from her bio is the thing that I believe will lead to her downfall.  Christy has no favorite video game.  She also has no favorite sports team.  This, unfortunately, tips me off that she is not a very competitive person.  She is really not out there to win at all costs, she is probably just there for the experience.  I expect that is what will do her in eventually, but I do think she will have a good strong run for a while. She is not overwhelmingly athletic, but she is the type of player a strong team will want to keep around.

Although I should point out that Christy is lucky that she isn't on the guys' team. Her lack of competitive fire would be exploited in a second over on team testosterone. The male-female separation will help her more than it is going to help anyone.

35, Deputy District Attorney

Deena is going to be intense and type A. It says so all over her bio, from her profession (she is the first lawyer on the show since she-who-cannot-be-named back on Pulau Tiga), to the fact that she describes herself as "intense" and "spirited." But intensity is not necessarily a bad thing, I think it is clear she will be one of the leaders of the female tribe. Deena is a mom, she is older than most of the others, she has a strong sense of justice and right and wrong, she is obviously pretty religious.  She is just a strong all-around looking player. The only drawback I see with Deena is that she may be a bit overbearing.  If she goes too much over the top with the mom stuff, the younger girls might resent it. But I think she will clearly be in the power core of the female tribe right from day one, at least as long as she doesn't make any enemies at the start.

21, Swimsuit Model

Ah yes, the token "siren" of the bunch. You knew it was only a matter of time before they cast a swimsuit model on the show. Although sadly, I don't think Jenna will be around for very long. I mean, she could be the nicest, most sweet and caring person in the world, and some of the older females will still likely look at her as "just an airhead", or "too weak in challenges", or "simply over her head."  I don't see a whole lot in Jenna's bio that stands out as a strength, and her favorite hobby of "sleeping" certainly doesn't bode well for this type of group. Remember from past seasons that when females get together as a part of a group, they will attempt to impress one another by showing off their work ethic. Jenna will have to step up to the plate from the very first minute of the game if she wants to have any chance of getting past the first vote or two. I would like to see her personality first before I make such any sort of a snap judgement, but I feel pretty confident that Jenna will be the first female voted out of her tribe. We'll see.

41, Director of Marketing

I think that Jeanne is going to be a star. When the Amazon season is over, I think we will look back on Jeanne as fondly as we looked back on Gretchen in Pulau Tiga and Kathy in Marquesas. I say this because she has a ton of good stuff popping out all over her bio. First off, Jeanne's occupation is perfect for the show. She specializes in organization and communication. In fact, ALL of Jeanne's past jobs were some type of director or manager. She is used to getting along in a group, and she is used to taking charge. And luckily, I don't get the same "intense" vibe from her like I do with Deena. I think Jeanne will be the one they all look up to, I think she will be the central mother figure of the team. Her hobbies are "creating new ways to have fun" and cooking, so she will be right there in the center of camp at all times. She's fun, she's outgoing, she's a mother, she loves Survivor, and more than likely she is probably as sweet as can be. I think you are looking at one of the major players in the Amazon.  I mean, she promotes milk for a living, how clean and wholesome is that??

47, Travel Agent/Abstinence Counselor

My friend Dennis took one look at her profession and said, "Where is she booking flights to? Branson, Missouri and Salt Lake City??" That quote made me laugh, so I had to include it. The most interesting thing in Janet's bio is the fact that she gives motivational presentations. That's a nice piece of info to know, although we are long past the days when Richard Hatch could just sit there ane explain to everyone how to play this game. Just by looking at her age, and the fact that she is probably less of an athlete than the rest of the tribe, you would think that Janet would be in danger. But I don't think that will be the case.  I think this will be a wiser, older tribe, and she should be okay for a couple of votes. The only real problem I see in Janet's bio is that she has "determination to be in control and to influence people." That is not a good thing to have in this type of tribe, people like Deena won't be able to stand that for a second. But my initial hunch is that she will be okay at the beginning, because the females will probably target youth and weakness (Jenna) first, not her. Oh, and I wouldn't expect that Janet's favorite movie would be the Matrix, but apparently it is. That's pretty neat.  Woah.

24, P.E. Teacher

Heidi is already a big fan favorite, mostly because she is adorable. Her bio jumps out at me as showing her to be an incredibly sensitive, nice and, well, kind of a girly person. She loves sports and athletics.  She loves flowers.  She also loves poetry, the color pink, and she describes herself as "very conscientious." Personally I am suprised Hello Kitty stickers didn't work their way in there.  I think Heidi will probably wind up being the sweetheart of the season, unless Shawna sneaks in there and steals the title from her.  But I do think people are going to love Heidi, there is very little in her bio not to like. She is young, she is pretty, she is smart (a master's degree at 24!), she is fit, and overall she seems like a very nice person. I also think we will see her cry at some point in the first couple of episodes, so keep an eye out for that. But Heidi should stick around for a while. If only for the reason that she is pretty, but not intimidating pretty like Jenna. Jenna will threaten the elders, Heidi won't.


Okay now that I have looked at the bios, it is pretty evident to me that Deena, JoAnna, and Jeanne will probably be the power trio. I mean, an all female tribe is already at a bit of a disadvantage going in, at least strength-wise, so they will have to solidify and come together as a unit right away. Read our All-Star Alaska story for a good predictor of what should happen at the start of the game. These three leaders will unite, and really at that point you will have to be with them or against them. I predict Janet will be a hanger-on, and I predict that Heidi will be adopted as their heart. Christy is probably good to have around too, because of her nature skills, and that leaves two left stuck on the outside: Jenna and Shawna. I am guessing those two would be the first two to go. The only thing that could save Jenna is if the young people unite, which is unlikely. Christy and Heidi don't seem like the type.

Of course, this prediction should only hold true until the twist, and then at that point all bets will be off.

--- MALE TRIBE ---

23, Model/Actor

Ryan strikes me as a bit of a wannabe schemer, but at the same time there isn't a whole lot in his bio that stands out, either good or bad. He is young and he considers himself to be a leader. He loves wrestling (a common trait among the male tribe), and his favorite movie "The Best of Backyard Wrestling" leads me to believe that he is a rather intense competitor. He just seems like he is going to be bit of a a guy's guy, and I of course loved his luxury item of "baseball bat and ball." If Ryan gets in good with some other intense young people on the tribe, he will be okay. And I do see a lot of intensity on the male tribe, for what it's worth. In this group, Ryan could be right at home.

56, Vice President of Estimating

As the token hardcore older military guy of the tribe, Roger is going to be a bit out of place in this younger group.  He was a Marine in Vietnam, he has worked as a construction laborer, and what that screams out at me is that he is a hard worker who will have no respect for laziness. He loves chess, which is good, but like Rudy he is really going to have to adapt to the youth in this team, not the other way around.  They are not going to have to adapt to him.  Still, he is a Vietnam vet, as well as a Raiders fan, so I'm sure that no one really wants to mess with him. Roger should be an interesting character, and he will clearly be a major character in episode one. He will be the guy who is building the shelter.

24, Computer Project Coordinator

Wow, another scheming Rob! That makes three colorful Robs in a row (Mariano, Zbacnik, Cesternino.) Can you believe that through Africa, we had never had a Rob on the show?  I think Rob is going to be one of the stars of the season.  He loves chess, he loves Survivor, he loves deceiving people, and he wrote his senior thesis in college on reality television and its impact on America!  I mean, the guy is already all over this game, I guarantee you he has it all planned out in his head.  He is in a young tribe, a bloodthirsty tribe, and he is going to be the big jokester, the one behind the scenes who no one else will take seriously. Yeah, I think it's safe to say that Rob is walking into a pretty good scenario to pull off his "shenanigans." He will be with a bunch of guys who take themselves way too seriously, and he can just sit back and mess with their heads. Oh yeah, and he also got a 1420 on his SATs. Say hello to the mastermind of the Amazon.

As a special mention, he and I share a favorite book, The Stand by Stephen King. Go Rob!

33, Restaurant Designer

Woah, this guy has quite a bio. His background just screams powerful alpha male. I mean, he brought his high school wrestling jacket along as his luxury item, which means he wants everyone to know that he is a great athlete. I haven't seen a full scale picture of Matt yet but I imagine he is big and strong, and I am guessing they would be nuts to dump him right away.  Matt is another male on this tribe who is a bit of a guy's guy, which is pretty obvious when you see "The Man Show," "Caddyshack" and "Doom" among his favorites. But what is funny is that he has also encountered a fair bit of sophistication in his life, from his favorite fruit of "fraises du bois", to his favorite scent of "fresh garlic sauteed in virgin olive oil", to his degree in hotel administration. Yeah, Matt is probably a bit of a snob. I mean, just look at his occupation. Restaurant designers do not simply advertise on, you have to have a degree of smooth to get into that type of career.  Matt will be a suave guy, he will be the camp cook, and I am guessing he will maybe be a little hard to get along with. He should be an interesting character though.  Just a hunch, I bet the females will all dislike him.

Oh yeah, one final note on Matthew.  He now has the distinction of the coolest last name ever on Survivor, just edging out "van den Berghe," "Wiglesworth" and "Bilancione."

32, Triathlon Trainer

Alex is an interesting looking player. He is a great athlete, he will clearly be a huge asset in the challenges, and he is the perfect age to excel at this game. I think he will be right in the center of pretty much all activities in the male tribe. He is going to be a leader, and I suspect he will also be a very strong player. But I don't think he will be our winner at the end, if only because he looks too likeable and too athletic. He is a huge threat to win this game right from day one, and that generally doesn't end well for people. And I have to say that bringing his triathlon medal as a luxury item is a bit pretentious and cocky.  Um Alex, what were you thinking?

50, Middle School Principal

Butch seems like the obvious "dead meat" player at first glance, but you never know. I mean, he's got athletics in his background and he is used to organizing people. If the older men in the tribe band together, he is going to be fine. But I don't think that is going to happen. I predict Butch is probably the first male to go, but again he is by no means a weakling. He knows Survivor, he knows sports, and he has kids. Maybe he can get lucky and the breaks will go his way, we will have to wait and see. But in this intense group of young wannabe alphas, I suspect he will be a bit out of place.

27, Tax Accountant

Out of all the bloodthirsty, young, competitive males on this tribe, Daniel appears to be the most hardcore of them all.  From his attempts to be a pro wrestler, to his love of all things wrestling, to his worship of Charles Barkley and his love of Resident Evil, yeah, I think it is safe to say that Daniel is here to win and to take no prisoners. And he is on the perfect tribe for it too. I mean, Daniel's favorite color is black!  He is going to be a lot of fun to watch, he is going to be fiery. At least I assume so, who knows, maybe he could be as soft and gentle as a kitten in real life. I am just speculating based on his bio.

Nah, don't bet on it. Daniel is probably one of the centerpieces of the male tribe.  He will be their heart.  Their fiery heart.

22, Rocket Scientist

Okay, let me be the first one to make the joke. Who says you have to be a rocket scientist to be on this show? Okay, that being said, Dave comes off like a strange person to me. He is part nerd, part frat boy. He seems a bit quirky (who owns a beef jerky company?), but there is no doubt that he is brilliant. Brilliant but goofy. I mean, anybody who loves both the Crocodile Hunter and the Big Lebowski is going to be a character. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to see that. As my friend Dennis pointed out, Dave brought along a sketch pad and pencil as hus luxury item, which AKA from Vecepia we all know is an easy way to have an advantage for Fallen Comrades. That is a nice level of planning ahead.  Dave could be a complete outcast, or he could be one of the central young members of the team. He could go either way, but I suspect he will be in with the big boys. He is just to smart not to wind up there.


Okay this tribe is much tougher to call.  I suspect the central themes of this group are going to be youth, cockiness, and athleticism. Daniel is clearly a key here, and so is Alex. I think Matthew will be in the power core at first (at least until they can dump him later) and Rob and Ryan are nice wannabe hangers on. Dave will clearly fit in better with the kids than Vietnam vet Roger will, and I just don't see Butch having a place in this group at all. I hate to say it, but I think Butch is probably the first one to go.  It just isn't his type of team.


This is just kind of a shot in the dark, but I got lucky with Brian last season so let's see if I can do it again. This isn't really a flat out guess, I mean after five seasons we kind of know who does well in this game and who doesn't. Some interesting observations are that this cast is amazingly young, it is a lot like the Marquesas.  And after last season's very much pro-Southern cast, we have only one or two Southerners this time around. But it looks like it will come down to young cocky bloodthirsty males against mature middle aged stable females at the start. It should be a heck of a beginning!

1. Rob Cesternino
When in doubt, pick the guy who studies Survivor as a hobby. The genius jokester is my preseason pick to win.

2. Jeanne Herbert
Very strong bio, very good people skills, all around strong player

3. Dave Johnson
He is a definite wildcard, but he is also a genius. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to see that. Ok, I promise to stop now.

4. Heidi Strobel
The sweetheart who everyone will love. Maybe one of those will actually win Survivor some day...

5. Deena Bennett
A strong leader, but she may have trouble in a twist situation

6. Ryan Aiken
I'm not sure where to put him, but he seems adaptable and cunning.  So why not rank him at #6.

7. Daniel Lue
Very strong and tough competitor, but at the same time it is hard for this type of player to win Survivor

8. JoAnna Ward
A strong female leader, she should do well

9. Alex Bell
Very athletic and likeable, a strong threat to win right from day one

10. Matthew Von Ertfelda
Big and strong, maybe too much so.  Also maybe a bit pompous.

11. Shawna Mitchell
She seems nice enough, but she doesn't stand out at all

12. Christy Smith
Not very competitive, will have a hard time with any sort of endgame

13. Butch Lockley
Needs to get past the first vote or two, if he does then he could be just fine

14. Roger Sexton
His team is one of youth, he will need to adapt to them fast

15. Janet Koth
I don't see her as a long-term player.

16. Jenna Morasca
She is simply on the wrong team. An all-female tribe doesn't have the luxury of keeping weak people around.

This is a tough bunch to pick from. There are a lot of very different, very unique players this time around. In other words, great cast! Here is hoping we have a great premiere. And until then, go read All-Star Survivor: Alaska, it will give you a few tips on what the first few episodes are probably going to be like.

Mario Lanza is a Survivor fan and all-around good guy currently living in Los Angeles. He is the lead writer and editor of All-Star Survivor: Alaska, as well as this weekly column.