Pearl Island Strategy #11:  Fairplay all the Way
Written by Mario Lanza on 12.07.03

"But what is evil, anyway?  Is there reason to the rhyme?
Without evil there could be no good so it must be good to be evil sometimes."
- Satan, South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut

Once again we have reached that point in the season.  As always, it happens around episode eleven or twelve... and I reach the point where I simply have nothing left to say.  There is just not much left to add to what we are seeing each week on TV.  The players have all defined themselves, the strategies are all in place, and by now we have all picked out our favorites.  By this point I'm sure that everyone who reads this column has already picked out who they want to win and who they want not to win so any more cheerleading I do for Jon Dalton is just going to be pointless.  Either you love him or you hate him.  You either want him to win, or you want him to be keelhauled and left for dead in the ocean.  There is probably not going to be much middle ground.

You know, I try not to pick out a favorite player every season.  I try, but it never works.  I really do try to only watch the season from a neutral third party perspective, like I was viewing it as a narrator.  But you can't do that as a season is playing out on TV, it is practically impossible.  The only way to REALLY watch a season impartially is to record the episodes on tape and then go back and watch them again after the season ends.  That way you don't really root for your favorites anymore.  Since you know what is going to happen you can just follow the editing and see how the story was told to us from start to finish.  I have always found Survivor to be much more satisfying the second time around than it was the first time around for that specific reason.  You just don't get sucked in by your emotions anymore.  But I digress.

Basically what I am saying is that I am putting all my eggs in the Johnny Fairplay basket.  That's it.  We have reached the point in the season where I just ride one player's success to the end, and it will make or break my happiness depending on if they win or not.  And I am well aware that most people out there are NOT rooting for Jon to win.  Well, if you are one of those sad misinformed haters of Fairplay, then I have some good news for you.  If you came here to read that Jon is going to lose, you are probably right.

The good news (for people other than me) is that my favorite player very rarely wins Survivor.  Sure, I called Brian Heidik to win almost from day one in Thailand, but he was the only one.  Heidik was a fluke.  Other than Brian, we have to go all the way back to Tina Wesson in Australia for the winner to also be my favorite player.  And I really only started to like Tina around episode four (because of the Mitchell vote).  And then after Tina?  Well I have pretty much had a sad trail of favorites that came oh-so-close and then broke my heart at the end.  

Lex van den Berghe.  So close.  But he drank elephant crap on day 35, he got amoebic dysentery, and then he fell in the final challenge.  Oh, such a dagger to my heart.

Rob Mariano.  I put all my faith in a Rob win very early on, and then he didn't even make the jury.  *sigh*   So then I transferred my allegiance to Kathy and... well... you know the rest.  Third place.  Again.

Brian Heidik.  Brian won and he redeemed my faith in all that was good and right in the world.  Plus C.C. got to go to Fiji!

Rob Cesternino.  Oh, this one still hurts.  I still can't bear to watch the Amazon finale, this one hits me way too close to home.  Rob got SO FREAKING CLOSE to pulling it off.  And then another 3rd place finish.  Bah, so much for my dreams.

And here we have Jon Dalton, who might be my favorite Survivor player since Tina.  And I know a lot of people can't understand why you would root for a villain like Jon, but it has never really been a question in my mind.  If you like Survivor I think you have to root for him.

Number one, Jon is creative.  He doesn't play the game like most people do; he is one hundred percent unique in the annals of Survivor.  Number two, he is clever.  I'm not saying that Jon is the best player of all time, I doubt he is even close.  But he is sharp and he is clever and he has more going on in his head than most players do, and I figure you have to respect that.  Number three, Jon is mischievous.  This is a trait I hold very dear to my heart.  Jon is playing to amuse himself out there, he is playing to have fun, and he is playing generally just to make a mockery out of everything around him.  And what can I say, I love it. I love the concept of people just randomly doing mischief.  Number four, Jon realizes that negative publicity is just as good as positive publicity.  After all, like I said before, there is no such thing as negative publicity.  He went into this game telling people he wanted to be the most hated television villain of all time.  That is all that he cared about.  Not winning, not losing, he just wanted to be the star.  And if you go back and read my Andy Kaufman Strategy Column that I wrote two years ago, you will see that that is almost word for word exactly how I said I would play if I ever got the chance.  Jon and I are kind of kindred spirits in this way.  Because you never forget the villain.  Especially one who does it with mischievous glee and with such a big smile on his face.

But the main reason I like Jon is because he is the one who is having the most fun.  So many Survivor players don't seem to have any fun out there (Lill) or just become worn out stress cases by the end of the game (Kathy, Rob C.)  But do you think Jon will ever stop having fun?  He is probably having more fun out there now than he did at the start.  Every season, I make a list of things that I will miss when the season is over.  And right at the top of my Pearl Islands list is the way Jon gleefully struts over to cast every vote at Tribal Council.  He is having so much fun out there, you can tell that he just LIVES for this moment.

When I say that Jon is my favorite player, it has nothing to do with how good a player he is (although I think he has proven himself quite well in this regard.)  It has nothing to do with whether I think he is a nice person or not.  And it has nothing to do with what kind of ethics he plays by.  I say he is my favorite because he is fun to watch and because he is a master of creative mischief.  And because he is not going to bitch after the season is over about the way he was edited.  Win or lose, he will be the happiest one sitting there at the reunion show, I can almost guarantee it.  Win or lose, he will LOVE talking about the way he played. After all, the notoriety is exactly why he has been playing this way.

By this logic, of course I am placing all my faith in Jon Dalton to win this game.  And of course, along the same lines, we know that I have a terrible record of my favorites ever winning.  My favorites generally finish third, and I am bracing myself for this season to be no different.  In fact, my wife Diana picked Jon to finish third way back at the start of the season (the "Mario's favorite always finishes third" curse) and I think she will probably be right.  If I had to predict a boot order the rest of the way it would probably be this:

5. Burton
The females turn the tables on the guys and take him out.  There has been way too much foreshadowing of this lately and Burton is pulling off some numskull moves lately by not promising Lillian any security.  I just don't see him in the final four.  He is going to blow it and he will probably blow it for Jon at the exact same time.

4. Lillian
The final four is tough to call but Lill seems to have tragic victim written all over her.  You can just see it in her face.  I see bad things happening to her in the end.  Apparently no one wants her anywhere near the final two, they say she is too likable.  This surprised me since I don't see her that way at all, but it was mentioned over and over in this week's episode.  I wonder why?

3. Jon
Oh well.  Better make peace with it now.

2. Darrah
I see her in the final two in a whole bunch of different scenarios and I don't like it.  And she has a decent shot to win this game if she gets there too, the jury has a bunch of Morgans on it.  That is not good.

1. Sandra
My new pick to win.  I have said for a while now that Sandra OR Jon will be in the final two, but not both.  A Sandra win would be satisfying to most people and it could definitely happen.  I am not THAT confident in picking her to win, but hey you might as well pick someone.  Since I can't pick Jon, anyway.  Sandra is the next best choice.

** SPECIAL CONSPIRACY NOTE **:  By the way, there is one thing that has been bugging me all season and I better mention it now.  I want to make sure I get this in print JUST IN CASE IT TURNS OUT TO BE TRUE. 

When All-Star Survivor was officially announced, it came about very fast and without any warning.  Not many people knew it was coming when it did, it just kind of popped up out of the blue without any fanfare.  In fact, I remember specifically that it was announced a day or two after the Amazon finale.  I remember that it came out so fast that it seemed to take a little press away from Jenna Morasca's win.  Just all of a sudden now everyone wasn't talking about Jenna anymore, they were talking about All-Stars. Well, needless to say, the timing of that announcement struck me as fishy then and it still strikes me as fishy now.  It came around way too fast and the whole thing just seemed rushed.  All of a sudden there were too many rumors flying around, there was way too much discussion about the location (which I believe hadn't even been decided yet), and the cast list was all over the place and wasn't officially confirmed for a couple of weeks.

What I am getting at here is that I don't think All-Stars was intended to happen when it is happening.  The whole thing seemed like a rush job that was thrown together at the last minute, and usually that would only happen for one reason.  That would only happen if the fans were going to be upset with the Pearl Islands winner.  I have had a sinking feeling in my stomach all season that after an unpopular Jenna win, we were going to have another unpopular winner in Pearl Islands.  Because, well look at the timeline.  Pearl Islands finished taping about a week before All-Star was announced.  Which was the same week that Jenna won Amazon.  The producers knew what was coming.  In fact, I really hope that I am wrong about this.  Because if my hunch is right, we might be looking at a Darrah win.  A Darrah win would be especially unpopular among Survivor fans (especially right after the notorious Jenna win) and the excitement of All-Star Survivor might be the only thing that would appease a lot of the hardcore fans after something like that happened.  Again, I hope I am wrong.  I really do.  But you never know.

Final predictions:  For now, I am predicting that Sandra will win.  It won't be Jon, that would simply make me too happy.  Sandra is my pick and I am sticking to it.  I will not have a column after episode 12, my next column will be a recap of the finale.  I will write a running diary of our comments as Diana and I sit there and watch it next Sunday.  The finale actually will be taped here in Los Angeles this weekend, and I wish I was going, but it is not going to happen this year.  CBS simply isn't giving out tickets to the websites anymore, so I will be watching from home.  But it should be a lot of fun.  Win or lose, I expect Jon to give us a good show and go out with a bang.

Until next week... go Jon!  Win it for grandma!

~~ Weekly Notes ~~

* It is really funny to see the players lined up at the start of a challenge.  You have massive Burton, and then you have four small little people next to him.  And two of the females are actually taller than Jon, he barely clears Sandra's height.  It is a funny image every time I see it, it looks suspiciously like the silhouette of the Goonies on their movie box (Sloth and then seven little kids).

* Diana has been making jokes all season about how people treat Jon like he is a female.  No one ever fears him in the challenges.  And then Sandra went and summed it up perfectly this week:  "We'll get Jon on the next shot because Jon is just like... like a girl."

* The Boy Scout uniform and panties is a very strange and wrong combination.  Shame on you, Lill!

* The reward trip to the spa was almost the greatest day of Jon's life.  He got to hang out with a partially clothed Darrah in a hot tub and the two of them just relaxed in half naked luxury.  But oh wait, third wheel Lill came along too.  Great, I get to go on a date with a hot girl but then her mom comes along to chaperone.  This sucks.

* Diana made a funny joke this week about the three pairs of silk pajamas on the bed.  She said it was like Goldilocks and the Three Bears.  Lill's pair was too small, Darrah's pair was too big, and Jon's pair was juuuuuust right.

* Are chicken fingers considered fine food?  Did Jon actually have to explain what they were to the women?  Wow, it is a good thing they didn't get cheese sticks or buffalo wings.  Actually no, Jon was there to explain so they would have been okay.

* My favorite quote of the episode:  "One of grandma's last wishes is I win."  Then Jon pauses and he starts laughing with glee.  Sorry, but I will never get tired of this storyline.  It would make me laugh if I was Jon too.

* One of the frustrating things about Lill is that she is very inconsistent.  It is hard to like her or dislike her because you never know where she is coming from.  We saw a good example of that this week, where she said she hated how Jon talks down to her and how he tells her what to do.  But two episodes ago, she told Jon he needed to help her with the strategy part of the game because she wasn't very good at it.  Make up your mind, Lill!

* The revelation this week that no one wanted to face Lill in the final two was news to me.  I assumed (like everyone else) that she could never win the game because she was an outcast.  I am usually not that badly off on my predictions but apparently reality was 180 degrees different from what I expected.  Weird.

* You hate to pick on Darrah, but really, with a quote like this it is hard not to.  "It's gonna be me and Jon in the final two.  I mean Jon yeah is a snake and he lies but he also tells the truth too."   Yes, apparently he does both.  Good point.

* Is it just me or do Jon and Burton have a weird Rob-Matteo relationship all of a sudden?  Little Jon calls all the shots and Big Burton is only told what he needs to know to get by.  I am having Amazon flashbacks.

* Diana thinks Jon should wear his Slytherin armbands as pants.  She thinks they would probably fit him by now.

* There were three memorable events that happened during Tribal Council:
- Burton said it was a requirement to deceive people out here and we cut to Rupert doing a VERY EXAGGERATED sigh and rolling of his eyes.  Rupert cracks me up even when he is sitting in the jury.  He is the least silent, least impartial juror you will ever see in your life.
- Sandra kind of threw Lill under the bus by saying that Lill was unbeatable in the final two.  It was a clever move designed to get some heat thrown at Lill in the upcoming days, and Lill didn't even seem to notice.  I love how she said "awww" and then she thanked Sandra.  She didn't seem to catch on that Sandra was playing dirty.
- When Jeff read the last Christa vote, it was timed just perfectly along with a thunder crash in the background.  That was a neat effect.

* Christa got blindsided at the vote, just like everybody else this season.  I swear, Pearl Islands will set a record for the most contestants being blindsided at Tribal Council.  Lill might have been the only player to know she was going before she left. 


These are my final rankings of the season.  I want Jon to win but I think it will be Sandra.  Or... gulp... Darrah.

1. Sandra Diaz-Twine
2. Darrah Johnson
3. Jon Dalton
4. Lillian Morris
5. Burton Roberts

Note 1:  My annual Fallen Comrades parody will be up in the next day or two.  Hopefully by Tuesday.  It should be a good one, this season is practically begging for parody.

Note 2:  My Survivor: Okinawa project is nearly complete and we are finally winding down.  The episodes will be written up very soon, in fact the first one should be out (hopefully) by the end of the year.  Watch for a lot of updates coming soon!

Mario Lanza is a programmer who lives in Los Angeles with his ever-quotable wife, Diana, and their two small children. And he is accepting tickets to the finale if anyone is giving them out.