Marquesas Strategy #9: Rise of the Nobodies
Written by Mario Lanza on 04.30.02

"I've seen people who have been looked upon as nobodies become great players in this game."
-Robert DeCanio

There isn't a whole lot of strategy to talk about this week, because the plotline for the next two weeks is glaringly obvious: Remove Tammy and Robert. It doesn't even matter in what order.

We are getting down to a point similar to that of Survivor: The Australian Outback, in which only the good and nice people are left, and they are eliminating the mean and nasty people. Now, obviously you can define Sean any way you want, but Paschal and those in charge consider him to be honest and trustworthy, so by default he is one of the good ones. I'm also firmly in the pro-Sean camp, because he does seem very honest in his actions. Sure, he's a bit of a whiner, and a poor sport, and a sore loser when things aren't going his way. But when things are going well, there's not a more likeable person in the game. In many ways he's like a pet turtle that expands and grows depending on the size of his tank. Sean's personality and character change and/or expand depending on his circumstance in the game. If he's in good, he's a happy guy. If he's in trouble, he's a whiny crybaby. In other words his style of play is almost wholly dependent on the situation around him. So hopefully Sean is more intelligent than a turtle in the end, and (unlike my pet turtle) isn't marooned for hours when he flips over and ends up trapped on his back. That would be a fun Survivor first (although I think it may have happened to Big Tom Buchanan once...)

Tammy finally got to show her pitbull side this week, and it's about time. Although you could see it simmering for weeks, just waiting to come out. I think it's pretty clear that she was as much at fault as John was in their treatment of the non Rotu-4 players. She plays hard. I think that if I were in the game, I would be a little frightened of her. But she's brought out her badass side now, and nobody better get in her way. If they do, this may be the first season that we see someone get cracked over the head with a Marquesan stilt.

The Paschal-Sean reward was a really sweet and memorable scene. They really got along well, and that's gonna be a tight bond to break. In fact, the more Sean bonds with Pappy and (by association) he bonds with Neleh, it just makes Kathy's position in the game that much weaker. In fact, Kathy is getting slowly edged out of the power core; she's dangerously close to being an outsider now. Right now in my mind, Kathy looks like an obvious choice for 5th place, unless she can somehow get Vecepia or Sean booted in front of her. She has come a very, very long way, but her importance to the game is slowly disappearing. I think her chance to win is getting smaller and smaller, although it's through no real fault of her own. Come to think of it, it's actually in her best interest to keep Tammy and Robert around for a few votes, just so the two factions can square off against each other, and she will be safe in the middle. I don't think she will protect Tammy/Robert, but she should if she wants to win.

Right now, I would like to look back at what I wrote about each player after episode one, and I'd like to see how it has changed since then:

Episode 1: "I picked her to win the game right off the bat, and I see no reason to change that. We didn't see much of her in episode one, but I expect her to lay low and then strike when she needs to. Did you see that intro clip of her, as a reporter? She looked like she wanted to rip your head off! Long live the pitbull! "

Episode 9: Hey I was pretty darn close. I don't think she will win anymore, but I nailed her attitude and intensity right off the bat.

Episode 1: "I was a little off on my initial thoughts on Robert as well. At first glance he looked like (for lack of a better term) a big thug. But in real life he's actually kind of soft spoken and has a sweet smile. I figured he wouldn't last long, but I underestimated how strong the guy is. He is a tank! I would love to see him against Hunter in a strength challenge, that would be a close one. I suspect that Robert isn't going to be particularly clever or cunning, but he could win a few challenges for Rotu all by himself. He should last until just around the merge, and then he ll be jettisoned for strength reasons. And he looks exactly like actor Jon Favreau in a lot of shots. "

Episode 9: I did pretty well on this prediction as well. Jettisoned just after the merge looks correct, and he still kind of looks like Jon Favreau. The only thing I was wrong about is that I overestimated his strength in challenges, he's actually a bit of a liability.

Episode 1: "Kathy is going to have a hard time fitting in the tribe. She appears to be heading for a "mother" role in Rotu, but she has already ruffled some feathers. Like Sarah, Kathy appears to look different in every shot; it's hard to get a feel for what she looks like. Why is that? I don't think she will get particularly far in the game, but she is trying. She seems like a pretty good competitor."

Episode 9: She is a competitor, and is trying hard. I was right in that, but wrong in the results. But then again, nobody thought she would get this far.

Episode 1: "We didn't see a whole lot from her this episode, but she or Gina will be the strongest female in Maraamu. I did notice that she was very close with Sarah at the immunity challenge, but then she voted against her at Tribal Council. Interesting..."

Episode 9: Funny, but through nine episodes I still don't feel like I have seen a lot of her, or know her. And she did turn out to be the strongest female in Maraamu.

Episode 1: "I was way off on my initial assessment of him. I figured he would be sullen and he looked like he would have a chip on his shoulder. But the guy is very talkative and he is hilarious. I listed him too low on my initial power rankings. Now, he is still the leading candidate to win, according to the Vegas odds, but I don't think he will. His early resentment of Hunter's leadership position just shows his inner fire, and I don't know if he will be able to keep his feelings inside as much as you need to in this game. And as for his religious fervor, oh man he better keep that in check. I like Sean a lot, and his comments about Sarah and her "flotation devices" were instant Survivor classics."

Episode 9: Sure, the guy doesn't have a chip on his shoulder. Yeah, right. He has a chip the size of Mitchell Olsen on his shoulder. But he is still funny, and I actually kind of forgot about his early religious fervor. And he has always had a problem with keeping his feelings inside. I don't know who leads the Vegas odds right now, but I'm sure it's not Sean anymore.

Episode 1: "I was stunned that he kept his mouth shut for most of this episode. I figure no way could a middle aged, ultra conservative judge put up with people he doesn't like or know. But he did. Either he knows this game very well, or he was sick. He still won't last too long, but he was in no way a dictator like I expected."

Episode 9: Paschal still amazes me every episode. He is a great man, and not in the least bit closed-minded or bossy. I predicted him as an early bootee as well, oops!

Episode 1: "She sure got a lot of camera time tonight. She is the young, sweet, innocent one. She even said something to the effect of "Holy Heck!" when she saw the tree mail. You can't make this stuff up. The young, sweet unthreatening girl always finishes in 5th or 6th place, and that is exactly where I predict Neleh to end up. All the Survivor fans are going to love her; she may be the sweetest Survivor ever."

Episode 9: For the record, the expression was "Oh my heck," not "Holy Heck." I really fudged up that one. And I think she may be the sweetest Survivor ever, I was right in that regard. She still could finish 5th or 6th, but I think she has a much greater destiny in store for her than that...

Okay, some final words before the power rankings. For one, it is interesting how this season is shaping up, in terms of who is left. Most of the players who were early favorites, or strong players, have been weeded out. It's like they all flamed out too fast, like a comet, then fell to earth. Hunter, Gabe, John, Rob, Gina, Zoe, all gone. And they were all favorites to go far at one time or another. Tammy is sure to follow soon, and then we have what Robert called a bunch of "nobodies" who will be left. The most fascinating thing about Survivor is how it evolves each season. The rules changes, the people change, the setting changes, but ultimately the biggest change lies in the strategy to win. A strategy that works once NEVER works again, and we see it very clearly this season. It would have been impossible to predict that this exact combination of seven people would be at the end, and since I have a good feeling that Neleh will win this season, I never in a million years thought that a "Survivor Sweetheart" would have this good a shot at the end. So this season has been fascinating, just in its multiple twists, its unlikely finalists, its comeback players (Sean, Kathy, Maraamu..) and its very creative challenges. Seriously, the challenges this season have been great, albeit a little unorthodox. I specifically liked the coconut maze challenge.

Since all of my favorite players were out of this game early this season (Rob, Gabe) that means that by this point I am just rooting for the show itself. I want it to have a great finale (like S3 did last season) and I am firmly of the belief that this is my favorite season ever. Of course, that's not too difficult to say, since my favorite season seems to always be the most recent one (and if you do the math, that means I think S1 was the least interesting of them all. I'll save a whole column for that opinion some day.) But the whole Marquesas season has been something special, and I'm really hoping that the last few episodes will be memorable and fun. And if we're lucky, maybe a little nastiness will creep in along the way...

Guess I was wrong with Zoe at #3 last week. Oh well, she put up a good showing. She's also arguably the best player ever to be named after a Muppet. I predict the boot order from here on out will be Tammy, Robert, Kathy, Sean, Vecepia, Paschal, Neleh. But I'm not exactly known for great predictions so far this season, so who knows?

1. Neleh Dennis
40% chance to win. Oh my heck, indeed.
2. Sean Rector
20% chance to win. I'm still holding out some hope for the "Godfather Saga" theory.
3. Vecepia Towery
20% chance to win. I want to see her vs. Neleh or her vs. Kathy in an endurance challenge at the end. That would be a war.
4. Paschal English
15% chance to win. It's bugging me to list him down here at #4. I think I'm underestimating him, but then again I can't move Sean or Vee down any further. Tough call...
5. Kathy Vavrick-O'Brien
5% chance to win. She's slowly being edged out of the limelight. The Religious Four are not going to need her soon.
6. Tammy Leitner
It will take an act of divine intervention for her to win, although I think she could possibly bully God into doing so. If she can't beat the other six, she may just kill them instead.
7. Robert DeCanio
Left for dead. He could be dragged along for a few episodes, as a freebie vote, but he's done.

Biggest Power Gain this Week: Sean
Biggest Power Loss this Week: Kathy

You can reach Mario at