Marquesas Strategy #3: Rise of the Godfather
Written by Mario Lanza on 03.16.02

Well, it looks like the game has turned nasty, now, hasn't it? One of the great moments of every Survivor season is when the game turns from good and noble and pure, to nasty and cutthroat and mean. It is an inevitable part of each season, as is the backlash that always follows. Viewers complain, people say this is "the worst Survivor season ever," and some vow to stop watching. It happened on Pulau Tiga when Tagi ganged up to remove Gretchen after the merge, happened in Australia when Kel was railroaded by Ogakor, and happened in Africa when the Samburu generation gap took care of Carl. And now we have episode three in Marquesas, where Hunter was voted out by Maraamu. I always say that the truly nasty episode is the one where the season kicks into high gear, but some disagree. People sure howled when Gretchen was voted out. The moralists had a field day with that one, and Mark Burnett, in his book, claimed that members of the production crew cried that day.

People tend to think back fondly on the first season of Survivor, for several reasons. One, it was new. Two, it was absolutely original. And three, it was exciting. But I think one huge reason people loved it so much is that it took seven whole episodes for the game to turn truly nasty. People didn't really see the game for what it was, they just fell in love with the contestants and the setting. So it was a six-episode lovefest, and then Richard Hatch showed America how the game is played, by ganging up on poor Gretchen for no reason other than strategy.

It never takes seven episodes to get nasty anymore. Survivor: Marquesas lasted just three, which is pretty good... by Survivor standards.

So now the poor Maraamu tribe is all screwed up. I would have liked to have used the f-word there, but my grandma reads this column, so please forgive me. As I predicted last week, the balance of power has completely been removed from Gina and (obviously) Hunter. I predicted last week that Gina would be voted off, which was kind of a longshot choice at the time, but I was darn close. I correctly nailed the pair that would be targeted, I just picked the wrong member. Gina would have made more sense, but I see the logic in the Hunter vote, so we'll let that one slide.

Two weeks ago, I said that Gina was "pretty much tailor made to make the merge." Gee, how a lot can change in just two votes. Gina is now toast. In the immortal words of Colleen Haskell, she is a sitting duck. If there were no such thing as a twist, I would say she couldn't win this game, in a million years. But there will likely be a twist (or two), so she could still do well. But in her current situation, she has as much potential as a Charles Manson parole hearing. Stick a fork in her!

As for Rob on Maraamu, gee, where to start... let's save him for the end of the column. He's the one everyone is interested in right now, anyway. I'll get to him last.

Right now there is really no way to predict which way the Rotu tribe will go. We have seen no dissention (other than Kathy's early behavior), no weakness, no leaders (although I'm guessing Gabe is the alpha male), and no adversity whatsoever. They will really have to go to Tribal Council at least once before you can make any sort of educated guess about their future. Still, it's a pretty easy choice to say that the winner of the game will come from Rotu, and it probably won't be Robert, Neleh, Paschal or Kathy. So that leaves the same four that have been atop my power rankings all along. Nothing changes there.

Over at Maraamu, we had one tense Tribal Council vote, and there's another tight one right around the corner. If Gina is indeed next, that means we have a black vs. white showdown afterwards, which will be nearly impossible to call right now. I have no idea who would crack in that scenario. Of course, that's a ways down the line, and I expect a twist will change everything, so it's not worth thinking about.

Okay, time to talk about Rob. Rob started off as a jock, then became the lovable dimwit, then became Sarah's puppy dog boy-toy, then became the clueless swing vote, and has suddenly emerged as the cold and calculating mastermind behind Maraamu. I'm sure people will debate his actions and his choice of Hunter for weeks, but I stand firmly behind Rob's choice. He obviously has put some thinking into this game. It may not be the correct choice, but it was not a spur of the moment snap decision. His statements about being exactly like Hunter in real life already tipped us off that the guy was pretty sharp, and his whole Godfather/loyalty/fear analogy was not something a dimwit would have dreamed up. I read that Rob is preparing for law school after Survivor, and I'm almost 100% guaranteed that he is one to be feared and respected in the game. He's laying so low right now that nobody seems to have any clue that he is as powerful as he is. The closest parallel I can draw is that of Nick Brown in Australia, who was as smart and talented as anyone ever to play the game. He had them completely snowed that he was a good leader and hard worker. They thought he was lazy. I firmly believe that if Kucha had taken power after the merge in Australia, Nick could have easily won. And I think Rob is not too far removed from Nick in the type of game they are playing. The difference is that Nick never let us at home in on his strategy to lay low. He was quiet all the time, even to us, which is why people think he was boring (I certainly don't.) Rob is telling us exactly what he is going to do, and he has no doubt in his mind that he will succeed. I always respect people with a plan, who take steps to actually win the game, and Rob is going in that direction. There are two steps to winning Survivor: 1. Gaining control of a powerful voting block and 2. Ensuring your team has a numbers advantage in the end game. Rob has completely taken care of step #1. The catch is that step #2 seems to be beyond his control. But hey, can't worry about stuff that you can't control. He is doing all he can to ensure that he wins, and I will always admire a player who does that. It's safe to say that Rob is one of my favorite players of all time.

Would I have voted off Hunter instead of Gina if I were Rob? Probably not. It defies all conventional wisdom one has about the way the game should be played. But then again, the old strategy never worked for Pagong, Kucha or Samburu. So why not get rid of your strongest leader early on? It's been proven that it doesn't work the other way, so there's not really much harm in re-writing the rules. I honestly don't think it will work for Rob, but no one says it would have worked the other way either.


1. Tammy Leitner
Tammy is still my #1, only because she has been #1 all along and there has to be a reason for her to lose the top spot. But I'm getting some nagging doubts about her in this spot. The main reason is that she has shown no indication that she is part of the Rotu power core. We haven't seen her do much, talk much, help much, and I'm not sure what her role is. I'm getting some sense that she isn't making the decisions, and the winner of the game has always shown some leadership, in one form of another. So she's number 1 for now, but it's with an asterisk.
2. John Carroll
Still going strong at #2. He's an invaluable member of Rotu, so long as he isn't crushed by a boulder or eaten by a snake next week.
3. Gabriel Cade
Flip-flopping with Zoe this week, Gabe moves up one slot. He's a great athlete, everyone loves him, and he is the alpha male of Rotu. It's tough to deny all those qualities.
4. Zoe Zanidakis
I still wish I would see her talk or do more. She's in a good position, but I don't feel like we know her yet.
5. Vecepia Towery
Vee is a good player, and probably has the best chance of anyone on Maraamu. But there's a big gap between Zoe at #4 and her.
6. Rob Mariano
My new favorite. Probably won't win, but I'm a big Rob fan. I hope he is as smart as he thinks he is.
7. Sean Rector
Seems way too angry to ever win this game. He doesn't seem to play well with others. People think he is lazy, but I think he is just defiant. He won't do work just because others tell him to do it. He's trying to make a point.
8. Paschal English
I don't think he can win, but he's the best bet once you get this low in the rankings. Might be the first one out of Rotu, for all I know.
9. Kathy O'Brien
Nice comeback this week. If she makes it past the first Rotu Tribal Council, she could jump up, but I'm not so sure she will make it past...
10. Robert DeCanio
Seems like a good enough guy, and a good worker, but his enormous strength will be a big hindrance after the merge. Like with so many others, I have to see the first Rotu Tribal Council to judge him.
11. Neleh Dennis
Wasn't gonna win before the season aired, and won't win now. She's cute and sweet though. Pencil her in for 5th or 6th place.
12. Gina Crews
Let's see what kind of hand she will be dealt by the twist... she could sure use it right now.
13. Sarah Jones
Once again, she is doing nothing proactive in this game. She makes no moves, doesn't do work, and fights openly with leaders. She will ride Rob as long as she can (in any sense you can imagine) but she can't win this game. It's funny that she seems to to be wrapped around his finger, and not the other way around.

Biggest Power Gain this week: Kathy
Biggers Power Loss this week: Gina. Again. She is in free-fall mode.

Special Note on Spoilers: I said that Hunter's vote was shocking, but it wasn't to a lot of members of the Survivor community. A lot of them were tipped off by spoilers that he was going this week, including my own site. I always go out of my way NOT to read spoilers, so this column will always be a spoiler free zone. In fact, in the past I have seen that 80% of spoilers are pure crap anyway, there are very few sure things out there. My guesses and predictions are purely speculation, and I write this column more for the casual reader than for the hardcore spoiler fans. So you can be sure that I won't give anything away here. I don't know any more than anyone.

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