Pearl Island Strategy #2:  The Goober of the Morgan Tribe
Written by Mario Lanza on 09.26.03

"Shawn is the biggest puss I have ever seen."
-Christa Hastie

This week's episode was solid, as usual, but I am starting to worry about the editing.  I believe we only saw about eight of the fifteen players in depth this week and, for the most part, it was the Rupert show yet again.  And while Rupert is without question going to be a memorable player, I think the season is going to start to suffer if we don't start seeing more of Darrah... and Trish... and Michelle... and Christa... and Burton... and Ryan O... and Jon...

You get the point.

But really, if the story doesn't start balancing out more between the characters, we have the potential to wind up with another Thailand.  And I'm not saying the Thailand cast was boring, or that the season was weak at all.  I love Survivor: Thailand.  I am just saying that season was notorious for the fact that we didn't really learn who a lot of the players were.  Sook Jai in general was very underdeveloped, and because of that I have resisted using any of those characters in any of my All-Star stories.  We just never got to know who they were, because the episodes focused so much on Brian, Helen, and Clay.  And I am worried that Pearl Islands might turn into the same thing if the story doesn't start to balance out a little more.  Hopefully things will spread out a little more starting next week.

Now to put Rupert aside for a moment, the theme of the episode this week was clearly the fate of Ryan Shoulders.  It was sixty minutes about Ryan, for Ryan, pro-Ryan, and starring Ryan.  And quite frankly, it turned into the earliest swan song episode we have ever had on Survivor (unless you count B.B. Andersen.)  Because you knew Ryan was toast two minutes into the episode, yet we still got sixty minutes of his downfall, spelled out in glorious and loving and agonizing detail.  And to me the reason for this is obvious:  The producers loved the kid.  He seemed to be one of their favorites, and for good reason too.  He never gave up, he was positive to the end, yet he was simply in over his head.  The producers probably knew that when they selected him for the cast, they knew he would wind up being be a martyr, and they probably felt bad about it.  So Ryan Shoulders got his very own episode. 

Unless of course Ryan's mom was the one who was editing the episode.  That explanation would make a lot of sense too.  In that was the case then good job, Mrs. Shoulders.  We enjoyed your son's episode.

The episode itself was pretty self-explanatory, so there isn't all that much to get into this week.  Long story short... Drake rocks, Morgan sucks.  There you have it, Survivor: Pearl Islands in a nutshell.  In fact, not only is Morgan a weak tribe, they are also an unhappy and an unpleasant tribe.  And that is a HORRIBLE combination on this show.  No one on the team smiles, no one appears to be having any fun, and only half of them even appear to want to be out there in the first place.  And while I know that a lot of people will compare Morgan to Maraamu (from Marquesas), you have to remember that the Maraamus were at least having a lot of fun.  Remember the Maraamu morning show?  Do you think we will ever see the Morgans sitting around and joking around like that?  Do any of them have a comical cartoon accent like Boston Rob?  I think not, my friend.

But over at Drake, it is a whole different story.  They are either a supertribe, or else the Morgans are just making them look that way.  All we have seen so far is the Drakes working hard and kicking ass in the challenges.  But as I pointed out before, we really don't even know half of them yet.  As I mentioned earlier in my intro, Trish, Jon, Michelle, and Burton have all really been hidden away, we really don't know much about any of them.  We never see strategy talks happening between anyone on Drake (and you know they are happening!) so it is next to impossible for us to infer who is teamed up with who.  All we really know about Drake so far is that Rupert is good at finding things, Shawn has problems with undertow in his bathtub, Sandra has a potty mouth, Jon looks like an evil halfling Gabriel Cade, and Christa has a perpetual cold.   Oh, and that Jon likes to pop off about stooooopid stuff.

Next week, just expect more of the same.  Morgan is hurting, and you know they are all just sitting around waiting for a twist.  They are sitting there just waiting for the producers to come in and bail them out.  In fact, I figure that Andrew must be toning down his leadership for that specific reason.  He expects that a twist is coming, and he doesn't want to be seen as the uber-leader afterwards should he find himself in a minority.  It is actually a pretty smart move if that is what he is doing, but at the same time it also explains why Morgan is going to suck so bad as they all lead up to a twist.  In either case, something is going wrong over at Morgan, and it is a lot more than Lillian's cop out of "we need to do a little more fishing."

As for the rest of the Morgans... well, you can probably pick out by now who absolutely will not be winning this game.  Osten is one.  I'm not gonna rag on the guy too badly, I figure that everyone else can do that.  But the idea that his body would give out before someone like Ryan or Lill is just flat out ridiculous.  Lill is approximately 1/3 the size of Osten.  She is also twice his age.  And she's not going around telling people that her body is failing her.  And yes, I KNOW that we aren't out there, and that we can't really relate to what the players are going through, and that we should all be more empathetic.  But that being said... if I was Osten's teammate, and if I heard him talk about his body giving out on day four, it would just piss me off. 

However, putting that aside, it was still the smart move to keep Osten around.  Like Shawna last season, you may want to go home, but you aren't going anywhere if your teammates won't let you.  Osten wasn't going home this week and no amount of fake editing tricks should have been able to fool you.  So here is my wish for Osten:  Hopefully he will find some way to turn things around starting next week.  It would be pretty shameful to go out as a quitter, and I hope he can actually have some good moments on the show before his inevitable torch snuffing.  No one deserves to be remembered as a quitter.  So here is to turning it around next week, Osten.  I will be rooting for you.

Now... who CAN possibly win the game from Morgan?  Well obviously we don't know the twist or twists that are coming up, and stuff can always come up that can change the overall voting hierarchy (*cough* Christy being indecisive *cough*), but based on their personalities, their styles, and their overall gameplay, I don't think that Osten, Andrew, or Lillian can possibly win this game.  Tijuana possibly could though.  I like her a lot.  She knows what she is doing, she is very level headed, and I think she is going to do well.  Ryan Opray could win too, of course.  Assuming we ever actually hear the guy talk.  Right now he is just hiding behind the big boys, he is cleverly shielded by his much more attention-grabbing teammates.  Ryno is Potsie to Andrew's Richie Cunningham.  He is Jon to Andrew's Ponch.  If this were the Cobra Kai, he would be Dutch to Andrew's John Lawrence.  In any case, I have no doubt that Ryno will probably be the last of the Morgan men standing.  Now whether that makes him a possible winner, who knows.  But he will definitely be around for a while.

And then you have the real wild card of the Morgans, Darrah.  We never see her, we have no idea what she is ever up to, but you just get the sense that she is on top of everything. As long as she doesn't get "too snatchy about it," Darrah should be around in the game for quite some time.

Over at Drake... who can win the game?  Well I am quite certain that Shawn won't, that just aint gonna happen.  He is coming off a little too Dr. Sean Kenniff at the moment, I half expect him to start building Superpole 2003 next week.  And I don't think that Sandra will win, her temper is inevitably going to get the best of her.  Also, even though I thought Sandra handled the tarp snatching in a reasonable manner, the Morgans have already labeled her as a "bitch," so that could wind up being trouble.  But I do think the other six Drakes all have a shot to win, especially once we get to know them all better.  Jon seems like he is an unlikely winner, but I know he is still hiding something from us.  I really do think there is more to Jonny Fairplay than meets the eye.  Burton is another player who has been quite hidden from us so far.  You think he has been on camera a lot, but what do you really know about him?  Nothing. And Michelle is going to stick around and be safe for a long time.

And then there is Rupert.  Ahhh yes, our resident Blackbeard and all purpose entertainment figure.  Note that Rupert gets camera time in about 50% of the episode, and that is not a coincidence.  He earns every single minute of it, and he always delivers.  He is truly going to go down as an All-Star in the annals of Survivor.  And to think that Rupert has only been in our lives for two episodes!  Expect greatness from him by the end, in some form or another.

~~ Weekly Notes ~~

* The opening of this episode was really cool, although I am guessing that not a lot of people will remember it.  For about a minute, there was no music in the episode, there was no dialogue, there was no anything.  It was just a shot of the Morgans sitting around their campire at night, shivering, while the wind whipped around them.  I thought it was a wonderful little slice of what it is REALLY like to be out there playing Survivor.  It is cold, it is lonely, and it is boring.  It was also an appropriate opening for an episode about an appropriately miserable tribe.

* There was a funny little comparison shot at the start of the episode, where Rupert was hanging from a tree, bouncing up and down, and ripping off tree branches with all of his pent up energy.  Then we cut to Shawn doing the exact same thing, only he is lightly tapping a branch with a machete, trying to get it to fall off via the least amount of effort possible.  It was a nice little shot comparing Rupert's work effort to Shawn's work ethic.  And then moments later, of course Shawn lost the machete in the dirt and he couldn't find it.

* Yes, Shawn really did say "agreeance."  Wow, this season really IS like Marquesas!

* One of my readers last week, Aaron Cometsnake, pointed out to me that Michelle has a crush on Shawn, but the editors haven't really shown it yet.  I still haven't noticed this myself, but keep an eye out for it in case it turns out to be true.

* Do you think Rupert actually makes love to the spear at night?  I know it's not physically possible (well... maybe) but he certainly does have an affection for the thing.  Rupert sure loves him some spear.

* Poor Ryan Shoulders wasn't heavy enough to dive to the bottom of the sea.  How sad was that to watch?  He just couldn't get enough momentum to dive all the way down, plus his mask kept filling up with water and it was messing with his head.  I think his mom really should have edited that scene out of the episode, it was tough to watch.  But luckily she later included the shot of Ryan sitting on the beach, devastated and alone, with snot dripping out of his nose, while his frustrated teammates all stood away from him.  Now that was a very poignant shot.  Well done, Mrs. Shoulders.  Well done.

* This was the second immunity challenge in a row where Morgan was ahead, and then they blew it at the end.  Which leads us to the question... which one of the Morgans is the Mole?  That's right, eight Morgans, each working together to win the game.  But one of them is a saboteur, a double agent hired by us to sabotage the tribe's efforts.  And up to one million dollars hinges on finding out... who is the Mole?

* I think that Osten is the Mole.  He is SO the Mole.

* Is it just me, or is the image of Andrew putting on his sportcoat to go to Tribal Council really amusing?  Is he dressing up because it is a solemn occasion, or is it just because he is cold at night?  In either case, it is funny to see him walking around in a $500 sportcoat with no undershirt.  Oh and with no pants on.

* Ryan Shoulders is going to make an excellent columnist for Survivor-Central one day.  I'm just throwing that out there Murtz, you can do with it whatever you please.  Ryan, despite being "the goober of the Morgan tribe," you were one of the fan favorites.

* The quote of the week comes not from Rupert (surprise!) or from the actual episode myself.  It comes from my wife Diana.  She said this last night while we were watching the episode:  "I remember when the previews came out and Ryan looked so skinny, I thought it meant he was gonna go far.  I didn't realize we were seeing a picture of him on day two."

* On a random message board somewhere, I remember a Survivor analysis that stated that the winner of each season always makes a strong strategic move somewhere between episode 3-5.  That is where the power players usually show up.  So keep an eye out for someone to rise to power very soon! 


Drake good, Morgan bad. 

1. Michelle Tesauro
She will not be voted out at any point in the next two months.  Get used to her. 

2. Rupert Boneham
He very well could be number one, but he is still a little over-the-top to be seen as a Survivor winner in my opinion.  I guess we will see, in time, how he comes off to the rest of his tribemates.  Will Rupert be endearing, or will Rupert be annoying?  Remember, 39 days of Rupert is a lot of Rupert.  But for now, he is in really good shape (well, strategically anyway.)

3. Darrah Johnson
By far the best chance to win out of any of the Morgans, simply because she is quiet.  If you can keep your mouth shut, you will finish in the top half of your season.  It is as simple as that.

4. Christa Hastie
I like Christa a lot, she is a much better athlete than I expected and she seems like a very strong tribesmate.  She is in a good position right now.

5. Tijuana Bradley
Tijuana is without question the player who stands out more than her bio does.  She is an excellent player, she is very sharp, she is very level headed.  She just happens to be on Team Doofus.  Despite that, I think she will do well down the road.

6. Jon "The Little Motormouth" Dalton
There is still no reason to put Evil Gabe this high.  I only put him here because he is on the stronger tribe and because you just KNOW he will try to win this game by any means possible.  His argument with Sandra next week worries me, but I bet that she will take the fall for that particular outburst, not him.  I think Jon is controlled enough to be able to keep his emotions reigned in.  Sandra isn't.  And I love the fact that Jon's first thought when it came to tribal looting was "How can we hurt them?" Jon has a very tender heart, you see.

7. Burton Roberts
Burton is in a decent position, as a strong player on the stronger team.  But he hasn't shown us much yet, we just haven't seen him do all that much.

8. Trish Dunn
A forgotten player on the stronger team.  She is in a solid position for now, but like Burton we just don't know her very well.

9. Ryan Opray
Ryno seems like a strong player, but like Tijuana he happens to be on Team Doofus.  His fate is uncertain, but he will be around for a while.

10. Sandra Diaz-Twine
Sandra is a lot of fun, and she really brings some much needed energy to the show.  Along with a whole cluster of f-bombs.  But you can just see a short, abrupt storyline in her future.  Her exit will be sudden and it is not going to be pretty.  And it will probably be at the hands of either Jon or some revenge-minded Morgans.

11. Andrew Savage
Poor Andrew.  Stuck with a crappy team and very hesitant to lead it like a leader should.  He vowed that "everything changes" starting tomorrow, so we will see.  Show us something, Andrew.  The Morgans need you.

12. Lillian Morris
Deer in the headlights.  That's all I can say. 

13. Osten Taylor
His big chance to redeem himself comes next week.  And honestly, the guy is such a hypochondriac that I'm surprised he can even uncap the pen at Tribal Council without being afraid he will pinch his finger.  He could really use a better episode next week.

14. Shawn Cohen
"Rupert, I lost my foot.  It's somewhere under my ankle.  Can you come find it?"


*** Special Note: ***  Survivor-Central's newest fan fiction game, Survivor: Okinawa, begins in two weeks!  It is the most realistic Survivor simulation you will ever find online, and after the game is over I will be writing the results up into its very own All-Star story after Pearl Islands.  If you want to be a part of it (and if you want to show off your Survivor skills), I encourage you to apply!  Please note that this will be a fully realistic Survivor simulation, it is not a case of "who can just spend the most time online."  It is based on statistics and it is very realistic.  Trust me, I played this type of game myself in Tonga, this thing is a blast!

The game will be written into a full-length Survivor novel immediately afterwards, and of course the episodes will be written by yours truly.  So if you want to be a star, and want to see yourself in a story that will be read by thousands of readers, please do not delay.  Applications close next Tuesday, and we are especially looking for some strong female applicants.  You can read the rules and apply at the official Survivor: Okinawa website.

Mario Lanza is a programmer and writer living in Los Angeles.  He is also the lead author of the Survivor-Central All-Star Stories.