Marquesas Strategy #4: Boys vs. Girls
Written by Mario Lanza on 03.22.02

Okay, episode four is in the can. It looks like the Tribal Switch idea will be a permanent feature of the show from now on, and I applaud it. I love the fact that the show can evolve and change every season, and still stay fresh and exciting. Survivor was in big danger of growing stale and predictable after the Australia season, and the new twists have changed around a lot of gameplaying strategies. Of course, you will get some arguments against the twist format as well because it is, to some extent, unfair. But hey, you get the good with the bad. Keeping viewers on their toes is never a bad thing.

The first thing to talk about this week is the overwhelming disparity between the two teams. The new Maraamu tribe defies all laws of probability. I swear, could they pick a weaker team if they tried? I mean, they are a nice enough bunch of people, and I have nothing bad to say about any of them personally, but there's not a chance in hell they will ever win an immunity challenge against the Rotu super-team. You know how everyone is excited to see the proposed "All-Star Survivor" game in the future? Where they take the 16 best players of all time and put them in the same game? Well forget that, because Rotu right now is All-Star Survivor. They took the 8 strongest players in the game and shoved them into one mega tribe. They are Voltron, the Constructicons and Sinistar all rolled into one (People who grew up in the 80's should get most of those references, email me if you got all three). And then poor Maraamu gets to try to beat them in challenges. Since the tribe members were presumably chosen at random, it was highly improbable that the teams would end up so unfair, but here they are. Burnett and company are going to have a hell of a time trying to find fair challenges from here up to the merge. The "weaving" one appeared to be a little skewed towards the mostly female Maraamus, but it didn't make a difference in the end. I said it in my recap, and I will say it again here: If you see a "watermelon seed spitting challenge" or a "Mormon scripture knowledge" challenge in the next two episodes, don't be surprised! The producers have to do something to give the Maraamus a fighting chance. Right now it's like watching the Harlem Globetrotters against the Washington Generals.

Some final notes on the immunity challenge: Kathy tried her best to take control of Maraamu, but it failed pretty miserably. I like her spunk, and she is definitely a take-charge type of person but, for whatever reasons, people bristle at her leadership. I have no idea why this is, but no one on Maraamu wanted to listen to her instructions, and no one else stepped up to take charge. They found out really quickly what it is like to be leaderless. Someone will have to step up, and I imagine that person will have to be Gina. So say hello to Gina Crews, the new reluctant leader of Maraamu. And over at Rotu we had a really interesting change in leadership. Did you notice who was taking charge during the weaving puzzle? It was Gabe and VECEPIA. That's right, Vee is doing her darndest to separate herself from Sean and Rob and ingratiate herself with Gabe and the Rotu power core. I think she's a pretty sharp player, and she's far more adaptable than the knucklehead twins. I still have no clue who is really running the show at Rotu (I imagine it's Gabe) but Vee appears to have been accepted as one of them. So good for her, I like her style of laying low and avoiding the drama. Nick Brown would be proud.

As for Rob and Sean, you might as well ask what kind of jelly spread they prefer, because right now THEY ARE TOAST! Sean appeared to be a passable player at first, but his humor is easily overshadowed by his anger and resentment towards his teammates. It happened at Maraamu and it happened at Rotu. When it happens twice, you can't blame the situation anymore, you have to blame the person. I still think Sean is a funny guy, but he is becoming more and more difficult to watch. Every mannerism and action seems to be confrontational, every speech is an attack on someone, and he is single-handedly going to try and tear Rotu apart. Sean was one of my early favorites, but he sure does have a lot of pent-up anger. He went after Gabe for no apparent reason, and appeared to get under Gabe's skin. From what I have seen so far, I bet that's hard to do. Sean won't last much longer. As for Rob, I'm sure he certainly didn't win any fans with his comments this week about Rotu. Rob is still one of my favorites, just because I think he's funny and laid back, but he is going to have a hard time in Rotu. I don't think he will piss them off as quickly as Sean will, but he will be voted out soon after. Rob appears to be doing exactly what he did in Maraamu: sit back and try to capitalize on other people's mistakes. But it will be awfully hard in a tribe where sitting back equals laziness. It was a nice plan in Maraamu, but a plan like that will probably only work once. Rob will probably get a lot of flak for his un-PC comments this week, but I'm not bothered by them. A lot of these contestants know that the juiciest sound bytes will get you more airplay, and Rob is probably no stranger to playing to the cameras just to be remembered. Although if I were him, I would stay away from Zoe and Robert (and his little sausage) at the reunion show...

I'm starting to really like the Neleh and Paschal pairing. Neleh is absolutely adorable. And it's probably because her eyes are ALWAYS... WIDE... OPEN... AS IF... SURPRISED... when she talks. That's not a bad thing. I've never really been a fan of the whole "Survivor Sweetheart" phenomenon, but Neleh is pretty darn likeable. I'm glad we finally got to see her talk.

Well, we're just about down to the power rankings for this week, but once again I want to comment on the mysterious power structure of Rotu. Obviously they are/were a tight tribe, but no one has really been able to identify who their leaders are. Gabe is a pretty obvious choice, as he appears kind and gentle, especially in his diffusion of the Kathy situation early on. But I'm not sure that "Tonga" is all that talkative and outgoing. It's still really tough to tell (although I give bonus points to anyone who can use the word "assuage" in a sentence, as he did with Kathy.) John quite possibly could be a leader, but he strikes me more of an outsider looking in. I think he is playing a game similar to Jeff Varner in Australia, but hopefully he will be more successful. The big question mark among the males is Robert, who I have absolutely no read on whatsoever. Is he a big brute? A father figure? An alpha male? an outsider? Boston Rob's comments about him were childish and mean, but there was some actual insight there as well. He said that Robert was "the General," and "he wanted everyone to know that." This tips me off that Robert thinks of himself as the leader of Rotu, although we haven't seen that for ourselves. Do others see him the same way? I'm sure we will find out in time. As for the dominant female in Rotu, who knows? It's driving me nuts with the power rankings, because I can't figure out if Tammy or Zoe is the female leader. I think Zoe probably is, but I think Tammy is the one more likely to take control later on. Like I have said many times, she's a pitbull and is one to be feared. I think Zoe's more of the hardworking mother figure, and Tammy is the rebellious daughter ready to take over. Like Sue and Kelly in a way, but much less dysfunctional. I do know that making Tammy serve you food is possibly the worst strategic move ever in the history of Survivor. So way to go, Rob and Sean.

Okay, here we go. Power rankings after week 4. It's funny that the twist should have changed these all around, but nothing really changed.

1. Tammy Leitner
Still hanging in at #1, for my 5th column in a row. I think she is pretty much a lock for the final four. I'm guessing that Rob's prediction that if she "stops serving food, she is outta here!" will not come true.
2. John Carroll
Staying at #2, John appears to be a bit of an outsider in Rotu, but I think he also is more devious than the other males there. He will play to win. Also, the looks he gave Tammy at the tribal swap lead me to believe that they are very close.
3. Gabriel Cade
This season has had two of the best all around candidates to ever play the game. Hunter was one, and he is gone. Gabe is the other. Hopefully he will have more common sense about the nature of the game than Hunter had. I drop Gabe to #3 only because he will be such a big threat in the endgame. Someone is likely to take him out when they get a chance. But then again I said the exact same thing about Ethan each week, and he ended up winning. Gabe is a good bet for the final four as well.
4. Zoe Zanidakis
Zoe seems like another natural lock for the final four. In fact I find it unlikely that Tammy, John, Zoe and Gabe are not the final four. I wish we would see Zoe talk more. We know nothing about her, other than the fact that she gives good evil glares to Jeff Probst!
5. Robert DeCanio
Robert shot way up this week, but I still think he is a long way behind Zoe at #4. He is at #5 simply because no one else deserves to be this high. He could weasel his way into the Big Four, because I don't know what his role is yet.
6. Vecepia Towery
Vee is very clever and level-headed, and won't annoy people as much as her fellow New Rotu members. I say she has a possibility of winning, but the numbers game will weed her out in time. She seems likeable though, and I suppose she could latch on to someone in Rotu if everything falls apart next week.
7. Rob Mariano
Now we are getting down to the more unlikely winners. Rob is still one of my favorites in the cast, just because anything said in a Boston accent is, by definition, funny. Say "sausage", you will see for yourself. He will sat back and do what he can, but I think his power days are over. I wonder if he is egging Sean on to be more vocal, knowing it will save his own butt for 3 more days. I wouldn't put it past him.
8. Gina Crews
Got a nice reprieve, but it would sure take a lot for her to win. She will stick around for a while though, but her demise looks inevitable. You can talk about cross-alliances and people switching allegiances all you want, but it never happens. It's too late for her to be saved. Rotu will steamroll her in time.
9. Neleh Dennis
Nice girl. Very sweet. But not gonna win this game. I hope she sticks around as long as possible though.
10. Paschal English
Who would have thought that Pappy would end up being an Alpha Male? He seems very nice as well, but is just not meant to be there at the endgame.
11. Kathy Vavrick-O'Brien
I like Kathy very much. She is trying her hardest. But something in her personality just rubs people the wrong way. It's probably not even her fault. She's likely next to go in Maraamu, and if she does make it to the merge, she'll be out soon after.
12. Sean Rector
The first Rotu member to go, no question. I already said a lot about him above. I hope he's not this angry in real life. I imagine that if you can't get along with Gabe, you've got some problems.

Biggest Power Gain this week: Robert
Biggest Power Loss this week: Sean

Special note on Sarah: Well, thus ends the final chapter of Survivor: The Sarah Episodes. Sarah was never as loved or hated as people expected after the first episode. It's been said that all guys loved her, but I didn't think that was the case. She certainly wasn't my favorite, but I didn't loathe her either. She was just kind of there. She is one of the biggest chameleons to ever play the game. She was too nice to be hated, too dislikable to be loved. She looked different nearly every time I saw her, and I still don't think we ever saw her personality. She was a mystery, one whose existence seemed to depend solely on who she was paired with. And you knew she was doomed the minute she ended up on a female-run tribe. I thought she was fun at first, but in time she never really added or took anything from the game. She reminded me of Amber, Elisabeth, Lindsey, Stacey, Jerri and Kimmi at different times. She was quite an interesting player, but ultimately will probably not be remembered at all. Too bad. No one really knew who she was!

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