Marquesas Strategy #11: Kathy's Choice
Written by Mario Lanza on 05.10.02

"You must choose. But choose wisely. For as the true Grail will bring you life... the false Grail will take it from you."

First off, a correction from last week. I wrote that some Mormons said "Oh my heck" as a substitute for God or gosh. But I was informed by a reader named Kelly Hansen that Mormons say "gosh" all the time, so that word apparently is okay. I guess I was wrong. Thanks, Kelly!

We didn't get a whole lot of surprises in this episode, although the famous "emotional reunion with family members" episode was a hit, like always. For some reason, I wasn't as affected by it this season as much as in the past few. It must have been because they actually saw their family members this time, as opposed to just hearing their voice or seeing a picture. They didn't have to imagine the actual people so much, so maybe it was just less emotional for me. I don't know. It's funny that Kathy is so loud and her son is so quiet, although now that I think about it, it makes a lot of sense why that would happen. And I have to add yet again how much Pat looks like pro wrestler Jerry "The King" Lawler, who you might know as the guy who wrestled comedian Andy Kaufman. Paschal and his wife are adorable together, Neleh and her mom seem exactly alike, and I think everyone was kind of hoping that Vee and Leander would get to spend the night on the island. The only question I had was why CBS couldn't get Sean's mom out to the island to visit, since he had built up so many times in the past how much he misses her. I guess we will have to ask him in an interview someday. It would have been funny if someone's young child came out to visit, that would have been amusing. If I were on the island, maybe they could get my 2 year old daughter to drop in for a reward challenge, although I'm not entirely sure I would trust her to help in a strategy game like Kathy did with her son.

This whole episode, and the next two episodes, will basically be summed up in two words: Kathy's Choice. We've seen it coming for quite some time now, the inevitable final five of Couple #1, Couple #2 and Kathy. She is the ultimate fifth wheel, and it's finally come to a point now where something will have to happen. In fact Kathy actually had a big choice this week, but she didn't make the decision many people expected her to make. I bet a lot of people are going to come down on her for "not playing the game" or "wimping out," but I truly feel that the choice was not entirely in her hands. She had to be SURE that Robert, Vee and Sean were 100% on board before she made her move. And I am assuming that at least one of those people could not be depended upon. If Sean or Vee were iffy on the whole thing, it would clearly be in Kathy's best interest not to scheme. Otherwise she would just stand out. And Robert appeared to have given up long ago, so we'll never know if he wanted to go along with Kathy or not. The episode led us to believe up to the end that Kathy and the rest might take down Neleh, but it just didn't happen. I don't think you can blame CBS and clever editing too much this time. In the past, they have manufactured drama to cover up for a lack of suspense, but I think this episode really was up in the air. Kathy had any number of options, and I suspect that someone was waffling on the idea, so it caused her to retreat back into "safe mode." Better safe than sorry. But she absolutely will have to choose next week, she'll finally have to decide between going with Neleh/Paschal or going with Vecepia/Sean.

Why should she choose to go with Vee and Sean? Well, number one because she can probably win a jury vote against either of them. She could beat Sean more than likely, although a vote against Vecepia may be closer. But the jury would be entirely ex-Rotus in that case, and it would be Kathy up against two Maraamus, so you do the math. She has been very nice to her old Rotu buddies, particularly to Robert, who she seemed to be very close to at the end. Another reason to choose Sean/Vecepia is that they probably aren't as tight as Paschal and Neleh. Sure, they are close, but Paschal/Neleh are scary close, so at least with Vee and Sean you have some chance of splitting them up at the final three.

Why should she choose to go with Neleh and Paschal? Well there are lots of reasons. For one, she would have a pretty good shot at beating them in the final immunity challenge, assuming it is an endurance one. Kathy is made for endurance challenges. The second reason is that she has been with Paschal/Neleh all along, so at least she knows them, and she knows their motives. And a third reason is the growing resentment for Neleh among the jury. Robert doesn't care too much for Neleh, Sean and Vee don't particularly like her, so Kathy would obviously have some allies on the jury. She just has to hope that Paschal doesn't end up in the final two against her (which seems unlikely anyway).

So Kathy has to weigh the options and choose next week. Of course, the other four could very well vote her off, 4-1, but that seems the least likely option. Going into the final 4 tied at 2-2 seems a risky strategy at best. Both sides need her. Another factor that will determine Kathy's choice will be immunity. If Sean wins immunity, she might not want to vote off Vecepia. And the same with Neleh. If Neleh wins immunity, I'm not so sure Kathy will want to take out Paschal. So by that rationale, I think the only two players really in danger next week are Sean and Neleh. Kathy is a distant third, but I don't think she's going anywhere.

After reading what I just wrote, and laying out both scenarios, I think that Kathy will choose to go with Paschal and Neleh, and I think she's going to vote for Sean. It's a risky plan, but I think she can then win that final immunity (hopefully endurance) and take Neleh against her to the finale. If that scenario were to work out, I think Kathy has a fighting chance to win this game. But she will have to watch out for the "Neleh is tricky and deceitful but I respect her ability to manipulate" sentiment that may show up in the jury. Just because you don't like someone doesn't mean you won't vote for them to win.

Speaking of Neleh, who would have guessed that of all the players, the "villain" at the end would be the sweet Mormon girl? That's not to say that she is mean, or evil, or anything bad. It only means that every episode is turning into "We have to get rid of her NOW or she will win." It happened with Richard, it happened with Jerri, it happened with Lex, and now it's happening with Neleh. Who would have predicted that? I like her a lot as a player, but I find myself thinking along those lines as well... the longer she sticks around, the longer she is a shoo-in to win. And since I'm always in favor of unpredictability, that means I root against her, the same as I did with John. Nothing personal, Neleh!

Keep in mind that there are now FOUR members of the jury who are John's old alliance. That means that whoever was nicest to the four of them will probably win. In other words it really doesn't matter who else is on the jury at this point. Those four votes are really all you need. If you get one, you probably get them all.

I honestly don't know what to do with the rankings this week. Just about any of the five could win (although I still think Paschal is least likely). One of the reasons I think that Survivor is getting better and better is that the "likely winner" pool gets bigger each season. Rich was really the only one who could have won in Pulau Tiga (like Jeff explained in a recent interview, he admired the way that Rich said in his final words to the jury, "Yeah I beat you. I won, you lost, so give me the money.") Rudy could have won, I suppose, but I still think he was a bit of a fluke. In Australia, it became clear right after the merge that only Tina or Colby would pull it out. In Africa, we had a point where Tom, Lex and Ethan all had great shots to win it all. And now this season, we have FIVE potential winners. Any one of them could take the million bucks. And sure, you could say that's because no one really has stepped up as the mastermind, but I prefer to think that the players are getting smarter and more sophisticated in their thinking. So flip a 5-sided coin, because any of these people could win.

1. Kathy Vavrick-O'Brien
I'm sticking with Kathy only because she was #1 last week, and there's no real reason to drop her. Plus wouldn't that be cool to see her win? She is the most excitable player in quite some time, she would probably throw herself on poor Jeff Probst and start screaming her head off. That would be some finale. Plus I think she will really do well in an endurance challenge, she has a very strong will.
2. Neleh Dennis
Neleh is still the Survivor Sweetheart, although I'm not sure if she is as ruthless as Sean and Paschal claim she is. I suspect she is somewhere in between the persona she wants to give off, and the persona Sean has attributed to her. Needless to say, she has turned out to be far more fascinating than I expected her to be at the start. I would love to see her interview after all this is over, see who she really is.
3. Vecepia Towery
Vee is consistently near the top of these rankings, but she has never crossed the line yet to #1. She has never been the odds-on favorite, but if you stick around long enough, you're bound to get a shot sometime.
4. Sean Rector
Sean is still a strong player, and could win. He will have the hardest time winning a jury vote of anyone, but it's not impossible. The only strike against him is that I'm pretty sure a female will win this thing. Just count how many times have we heard "chicks rule" this season...
5. Paschal English
I just don't see a whole lot of scenarios where he would win. No one wants to go against him in the jury, and he is probably one of the weaker competitors, physically. I don't care what happened in the underwater rock race, he is still one of the weaker players. I think the ONLY scenario in which he makes it to the finals is against Neleh, and at that point he would have a 50/50 chance to win. But that's the only scenario where he makes it to the final two.

Biggest Power Gain this week: Neleh. "We have to get rid of her NOW or she will win."
Biggest Power Loss this week: None, really. The game has reached its predetermined course. As Indiana Jones said in the Temple of Doom, "We walk from here."

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