Pearl Island Strategy #3:  Mercy is for the Weak
Written by Mario Lanza on 10.04.03

"Hey, nice try Bears.  Maybe next time you'll get a chance to bat."
-Joey Turner, The Bad News Bears

The key thing to note about this week's episode is that we finally got a chance to see the Drake and Morgan power alliances.  It took three episodes to get there, but the rest of the (non-Rupert) cast is slowly starting to develop, and the tribal layouts are finally starting to emerge.  And from here, we can now get a pretty good picture of what will be happening in the next couple of episodes.

On Morgan, Andrew flat out told us who is in the Morgan alliance.  It is Andrew, Osten, Ryno, and Tijuana.  They are the big four, and they call the shots.  Now, this isn't really much of a surprise, you could tell that the "three naked guys" would be close right off the bat.  They stuck together for solidarity reasons at the first immunity challenge, and that told you all you really needed to know.  I didn't peg Tijuana as their fourth right away, it took a few readers to point out to me that she was in with the three naked guys, and that she would be a possible breakout character this season.  So nice job guys, you nailed it.

And then off to the side, that leaves Darrah.  Poor Darrah.  The girl who many of us thought could just waltz to a victory this season.  I certainly thought she was more respected by her tribe than she seems to be.  But this episode certainly changed that.  She seems to be over her head and, barring a Morgan winning streak or a falling out between the guys, Darrah is the next person gone from Morgan.  There is really no way around it, they seem to be a very logical and systematic tribe, and she happens to be next in line.  Unless something big happens next week, Darrah is the next Morgan to walk the plank.  No question.

Over at Drake... we finally got an inside look at their power core this week.  And sometimes the editors will throw us a red herring to confuse us, but I believe that this one was the real deal.  It happened during Jon's confessional, where he was talking about Sandra.  He laughingly said that "We have bigger threats to get rid of first... but she's not one of the final four."  Now I know enough about Jon (from his bio and his audition stuff) to believe that he knows how to play this game.  He isn't just sitting out there trash talking people and getting on everyone's nerves.  He is the guy who probably had an alliance on day one, and who knows exactly where he stands among his tribe.  I know he comes off like an annoying little twerp on TV but I think that is just the editing.  That is just the character that the editors want you to see.  I have a very very strong suspicion that Evil Gabe is behind everything right now.  He is just that type of person, he is not the type who will leave his fate up to chance.  And I don't care if he is likeable or not, a good player would realize that Jon is the person to align with.  He is small, he is unthreatening, he is not particularly charming.  That is the guy you want to advance to the end with, and Jon probably knows it too.  It is in Jonny Fairplay's best interest to annoy people right now, as long as he already has his alliance in place first.  Then he can just sit there and do whatever he wants. 

As for the rest of the tribe... well we know that Sandra isn't really in the power group of Drake.  You can just see that.  Notice how nonchalant Jon was when he was discussing her fate, he wasn't concerned about Sandra in the slightest.  She just doesn't frighten him at all.  And you can take that one of two ways. Either Sandra is going to go far and is going to make Jon look stoooopid, or this was the first real glimpse into the way the game is going to play out.  And honestly, in this case, I think it is the latter.  I think Jon gave us a clue as to how the game is going to play out.  And barring a twist, I think the Drake alliance is already in place.  We just haven't been shown it yet.

Going back to Jon's quote (which I feel is very important), clearly he feels like he is included in the "we."  It was just the way he phrased it, he said that line with complete arrogance and confidence.  Jon is in the alliance.  I am 100% positive.  But the hard part is trying to figure out who the rest of the "we" are. 

My first hunch is that Christa is involved.  She just seems way too savvy to be left behind on something like that.  She clearly knows this game inside and out.  And with Christa probably comes Michelle.  It just makes sense that Jon's "harem" (as he would probably call them) would include the two cutest girls on the tribe.  Jon spoke of "the final four", so it is clear that this is more than just a three-person alliance.  And since you can't have a majority alliance in a tribe unless you have five people, my guess is that Shawn and Burton are a part of it too.  It could be Trish instead of Shawn, but she is more of a wild card.  I'm just not entirely sure where Trish stands at the moment. 

So in my mind, that is your Drake power core.  Five people, who are in absolutely no danger whatsoever.  And if you buy this theory, you can probably see where I am going with it.  Because two of the people who are NOT included in this group are Sandra and... (cue ominous music)... Rupert.  And since Jon flat out told us that Sandra is safe for a while, some simple logic leads you right to Rupert.  That's right, Rupert Boneham-- the king of the Pearl Islands.  The star of the show.  The hero of just about every single freaking challenge thus far.

And I think he is doomed.

If you watch the previews for next week, you see the Drakes talking about throwing the next immunity challenge.  Now this ties right back into my theory that the players are bored.  The Drakes are bored, they are set in their alliances, and they are desperately waiting for the game to start.  And I suspect this because I actually have some first hand experience with this from the Tonga game I participated in last spring.  Our tribe was kicking butt at the start...and we were beating the other tribe so badly that a few of us started to get bored.  We started to say to ourselves, "You know, this game isn't much fun if we can't use our alliance power to start voting people off."  So I could absolutely see Drake throwing a challenge next week.  They win everything, they are in no danger whatsoever, and the game is kind of boring if you are perfectly safe.  If you have an alliance and you have the numbers, damnit, you want to use it!

So my prediction for next week?  Well, I am going to go out on a limb this time.  Usually I take a very conservative stance on the game and I just predict the players will follow the status quo.  But this week, I am predicting some fireworks.  I predict that Drake will throw the immunity challenge, and they will vote off Rupert.  It all makes sense in my mind.  You have Burton and Shawn, two wanna-be alphas who can't lead when Rupert is around.  You have Jon, who talks of "bigger threats to get rid of first."  You have Rupert, who is so much larger than life that I can't see him being much of a strategist.  And you have a bored Drake tribe without much to do right now.  The pieces all fit.

I think the Drakes will be cocky enough to think they can win without Rupert.  And I think Rupert may have dug his own grave on day one, when he caught more fish than Burton.  And I know that in pre-season interviews, Jon was described as "dispicable" by more than one person.  If he somehow knifed fan favorite Rupert in the back, for no apparent reason, don't you think it would help earn him that reputation?

This is a wild hunch, and I am probably wrong... but I think Rupert becomes a martyr next week.  And the legend of Johnny Fairplay will thereby be born.

~~ Weekly Notes ~~

* They stole Canoe Wars!  That's right, CBS managed to swipe the challenge I made up for All-Star Alaska, episode 10.  Well okay, I suppose I can justify it here, with Pearl Islands being a pirate theme and all.  But if they wind up swiping Red Rover too, someone owes me a royalty check.

* My favorite episodes are the ones where you know who is going to be booted, the players know it too, and the whole episode is dedicated to the deceased and their inevitable doom.  And sure enough, Lill got the hammer this week.  There was no suspense whatsoever, we just got lots of scenes of her sadly walking towards her fate.  Those are always the most powerful episodes.

* Speaking of Lill, did she ever smile this season?  Even once, over nine days?  I think we should introduce a new term to the Survivor lexicon... the Lill face.  It is defined as a person with a sad looking, hangdog, perpetual pouty face for their entire stay on the show.  Poor Lill.  Do you think she enjoyed a single moment in this game?  It was like watching Eeyore out there. 

* I was particularly pleased that Osten got a chance to redeem himself this week.  I didn't want him to be remembered as a quitter, and I was happy because the whole episode seemed to revolve around Osten's redemption.  By the way, this is how you can tell that Survivor isn't staged, and is a good example of why I love reality TV more than I like scripted shows.  Because the whole storyline was set up for Osten to redeem himself, and to win the immunity challenge for his tribe.  The whole episode was geared around him!  And true he lost the challenge in the end... but he really did show the heart of a warrior in trying to outmuscle Rupert.  I was happy for him, he finally had a good episode.

* If you pay attention, we have a fun little subplot developing this season with Osten.  The "once proud warrior must regain his strength and believe in himself" storyline.  I don't think we have ever seen that happen on Survivor before.  In fact, if you wanted to draw a literary parallel, you could go back to Greeks having to persuade Achilles to fight in the Trojan War.  Because they couldn't win without him.  Or if you were less inclined to read the classics, you could say it is like Superman trying to get back his super powers in Superman 2, so he could stop General Zod.  Or if you wanted to really really lowbrow it, you could say Osten's story is like the Three Amigos, who had to find their strength to work as a team and stop the murdering, villainous, infamous El Guapo.  All three parallels work, it is really your choice.

* Did you catch the cryptic message in the tree mail, that this was the Morgan tribe's "final test"?  Is it possible that we have a twist of some sort next week?  That would sure make things interesting, especially since the previews don't even hint at a twist...

* I still stand by my belief that Tijuana is a heck of a player. I think she will be the last Morgan standing.  Just watch the way she greeted Christa when Christa came to loot the camp.  Tijuana seemed genuinely happy to see her, and she gave her a big hug.  When your ship is going down, it is always a good idea to make friends with the enemy!  Tijuana is very good at the social part of this game, keep an eye on her.

* I have a theory that Andrew actually works for the CBS editing department.  Week in and week out, he likes to throw out comments that could be taken more than one way.  He seems to know exactly what the editing department wants, and he helps out by throwing them a bone.  "Well, you know... Ryan could go this week.  Or it could be Osten.  I don't know."   "Is Lillian more important to our tribe?  Or has Darrah earned her place here?  I just can't tell you."   "Jeff, it doesn't matter if you are 100 pounds, or 250 pounds, if you hurt our team, you are our weakest link."  Keep an eye out for this, Andrew does it all the time.  Maybe it is a lawyer thing.

* Man, Sandra has a mean little face, doesn't she?  I bet her kids try very hard not to get her upset.  Sandra's kid are probably the best behaved kids on the face of the earth. 

* Ryan Opray is the only Morgan who ever smiles... and he happens to look almost exactly like NBA superstar Steve Nash.  I just wanted to throw that out there for my Canadian readers.  And I should know, because I was Steve Nash's English tutor in college.

* The funniest scene this week was Jon and Sandra's argument, and how they bleeped all the swear words and replaced them with chimes or rattles.  Listen to it again, it was a very creative way for the editors to do that.

* My wife Diana thought it would have been funny if Drake had picked Jon to sit in their harness instead of Michelle.  The poor little guy would have been humiliated.  In fact, as it was, he still pulled the rope in front of Sandra and Christa.  I'm surprised they even let Jon come to the challenges at all.  Hey Fairplay, stay here and boil our water.  We'll be back in a couple of hours with the idol.  Oh, and please shine our shoes while you're at it.


There is no way you can rank any of the Morgans very high right now.  They could be the best players in the world, they could be the best strategists in the world, but they are still stuck on a crappy team.  Just ask Ernie Banks.  He was one of the best shortstops of all time, he was eventually voted into the Hall of Fame, but he never played in the World Series because he was stuck playing for the crappy Cubs his entire career.  Sometimes fate just craps on your head like that.

1. Michelle Tesauro
As with last week, Michelle isn't going anywhere for a while.  The fact that I think she is in a strong alliance can only help her chances.

2. Christa Hastie
A very savvy player, and I think she is in the center of the Drake alliance.

3. Burton Roberts
Pretty safe for now.  If he is the "threat" Drake wants to get rid of, obviously he is lower in the rankings.  But I don't think he is the target.

4. Jon Dalton
Still a very risky pick to be putting this high.  He has to make it past a Drake Tribal Council first, and then at that point we will see if he is for real or not.  But I think Evil Gabe will stick around for a while.

5. Trish Dunn
Not much to say about her.  She could be in the alliance, she could be out.  The first Drake Tribal Council will tell us, but I think she knows what is going on.  She is safe for now.

6. Shawn Cohen
He could be the target that Jon is after, but I think that Rupert is much more likely.  We'll see.

7. Rupert Boneham
Next week is a big one for him.  I have a bad feeling about his chances, but no matter what he is still the star of the show.  Do stars ever go home this early?  I guess we would have to ask Hunter.

8. Sandra Diaz-Twine
Jon, you @#*&ing piece of @#*&!  I can get @#*&ing loud too, you @#*&!  @#*& you and all your @#*&ing ideas, you loudmouthed little dip@#*&.   Sandra is fun, she always comes up with some good @#*&ing quotes.  I hope she sticks around for a while, otherwise she is going to be @#*&ing mad!  If she gets blindsided she is liable to @#*& them all up bad. 

9. Tijuana Bradley
As it stands now, I predict she is the last Morgan standing.

10. Ryan Opray
He is doing fine for now.  He is just on the wrong team.

11. Osten Taylor
"You gotta get that edge back, Rock!  The eye... The eye of the tiger!  You had it when you fought me, but you got soft!  And now it's up to you to get it back!"  When in doubt, always turn to the wisdom of Apollo Creed.*

12. Andrew Savage
He is in a terrible position and that isn't likely to improve anytime soon. 

13. Darrah Johnson
Well, at least she's cute.

* Yes, I was too lazy to look up Apollo's actual quote.  But I was close enough, stop whining.

Mario Lanza is a programmer and writer from Seattle.  He lives with his delightfully witty wife, Diana, and their two small children.  He is the lead author of the S-C All-Star Stories and also the upcoming Survivor: Okinawa project.