Pearl Island Strategy #4:  Red Rover
Written by Mario Lanza on 10.11.03

"Every three days, we will have the same reward, and it is what I like to call 'Red Rover.' I'm sure you played the game when you were kids.  Two teams, standing across from one another.  One team gets to call a player from the other side to come over and join them, usually the strongest one... So for every reward challenge up until the merge, the winning tribe will get to 'steal' a member of the losing tribe. That person will then become a permanent member of the new tribe."
-Jeff Probst, All-Star Survivor Alaska

First off, I was glad to see Johnny Fairplay finally rear his ugly head this week.  I was thrilled to see that because I had been predicting for weeks that he would turn out to be important to this season.  I just knew that Jon was the big villain that the editors were hiding from us, and it looks like I will turn out to be right.  So thank you to Jon for making me look good.  And I still maintain that he is much better liked than we are being led to believe from the editing.  In fact, I think Jon is almost a leader in some ways.  Note the way he called the shots during the immunity challenge.  Note the way he sat front and center at Tribal Council, like this was his tribe.  And especially, pay attention to the fact that he didn't get any votes.  Not only did Jonny Fairplay get zero votes, but it was never even discussed that he might be the one to leave.  His name simply never came up!

Now I'm not saying that Jon Dalton is going to win this game.  I really don't think he has it in him.  But I would warn you not to underestimate him.  He is not just some yappy little jackass who struts around camp and who picks on people.  I think he's got a lot more going on than we are being shown on TV.  And you can already tell that Jeff Probst hates his guts.  I don't think it's an exaggeration to assume that the rest of the production staff probably hates his guts too.  So you are damn right he is going to get some bad editing.  Although, if you look at it from the flip side, most television shows would KILL for a character like this.  A self proclaimed villain, puppetmaster, and all around asshole?  Jon has absolutely no problem with coming off as the bad guy on TV, in fact I am guessing he would probably be disappointed if he wasn't booed at the reunion show.  But I think it is great that Survivor has its first true evil villain since... well... since never.  You can mention Jerri, Brian, or Richard if you want, but I don't think any of them ever really saw themselves as the "bad guy."  Richard certainly didn't see himself as the bad guy.  But Jon does.  And that is the difference.  And that is why Jon is special.  He is one of a kind.  You might hate him, but he is here to provide entertainment and to make good TV.  So boo him, America.  Loathe him, curse him, strike him down with your hatred.  Because that is exactly why he applied for the show and that is exactly why CBS cast him. 

So here is to you, Jon-- may your reign of terror last for many weeks.  Make sure they never forget you.  And like I have said before, I will save you a spot in my next All-Star story.

There was a lot of stuff going on this week that will inevitably shake up the game from here on out.  First off, Drake completely fell apart.  And I know a lot of strategists will tell you there are reasons to throw challenges, but it has always apalled me that tribes on Survivor would ever throw anything.  I have just always hated that part of the game.  Sure, you can throw an individual challenge to make yourself less threatening later in the game, but it just strikes me as wrong that you would ever want to lose a player during the team portion of the game.  Maybe it is the athlete in me, I don't know, but I can say I would be a lot like Rupert if I ever played.  You want me to throw a challenge?  Like hell.  Either sit me out or I aint gonna do it.  The goal is NOT to go to Tribal Council, and no strategist will ever be able to convince me otherwise.  Throwing team challenges sucks.

However, on the plus side, because of this thrown challenge we finally saw the inner workings of the Drake tribe.  And to me, the biggest surprise was that Christa and Michelle do not get along.  It just never crossed my mind that those two wouldn't be aligned with one another somehow.  I didn't have Christa pegged as a bitter outcast, nor did I have Michelle pegged as a snobby sorority girl.  But alas, it turns out I was wrong about both of them.  So the minority alliance was Shawn-Burton-Michelle all along and, now that Burton is gone, Michelle is suddenly left dangling in the wind.  I don't think she will be the next one to go, but then again Shawn wisely saved his own butt and teamed up with Jon and his minions for now, leaving poor Michelle stranded on her own.

The Drake tribe is definitely a bit fractured now, and losing Rupert certainly isn't going to help.  I am curious to see how well they will be able to handle him being gone for a couple of days.  In fact, I am curious to see how the whole Red Rover... ahem, I mean "stolen player"... twist is going to play out.  Will Rupert stay with the Morgans forever?  Will he actually have the option to stay?  How will Rupert on Morgan affect future challenges?  Will this now happen at every immunity challenge?  Can Rupert ever be stolen again?  Do I get a royalty check from CBS?  How about I just give them my ATM card and my PIN number too?  All of these questions nag at my brain, and I have to ponder this new twist for a while before I decide what I think of it.  I am just not sure how it is going to play out.

The other thing that happened this week was that Osten almost died.  Well, okay, that's not really much of a surprise, since he almost dies every other day in the Pearl Islands.  Let's see... there was that time when he jumped off the boat... and that time he was accosted by a ten year old street tough while bartering goods... and that time he dropped a coconut on his foot... and his first bout with pneumonia... and then that other bout with pneumonia... and the time he dropped his torch and it almost set him aflame... and the time Lill shoved him and he almost broke his collarbone... plus that last bout with pneumonia... whew!  I am surprised he has made it this far.  I hope you can tough it out a few more days, Osten.  But watch out, Rupert gets pissy when you touch his spear.  Please refer back to rule number one of the game.  Do not piss off the big man, or you will die.

So what is going to happen from here on out?  Well, Drake still controls the game, but I have a bad feeling they won't be controlling it for very long.  Being that Burnett will do anything to get the Morgans back in it (*cough cough* invent a new reward for a challenge that they know Drake is going to lose *cough cough*), I know that something is around the corner that will shake the game up.  I have no idea what it is, but I suddenly suspect that Andrew and Ryno (RyanO? Rhino? Rino?) will be around a lot longer than people expect. Call it a gut feeling, but I will agree with Isabella (whose column is hilarious by the way) and predict that I think a Morgan is going to win this thing.  They aren't at the top of the power rankings this week, but I would watch that pair of Andrew and Ryan very closely if I were you. 

... oh, and then there was that time Osten almost died in the cannon challenge... and the time his pants fell down and he became entangled and almost asphyxiated himself... and the time Ryan elbowed him and it almost pierced an artery... and the time he missed a football pass and it struck him in the aorta... oh, and the time his fishing hook just missed poking his finger when he reeled in the line...

My boot prediction for next week?  Hmmm... I was close with Burton this week.  I knew it was going be an overbearing Drake alpha male, I just happened to pick the wrong one.  But I think Shawn goes home next week.  I think it will be Shawn, Michelle, Darrah or (less likely) Jon.  But I will stick with Shawn for now.  I just go back to the pre-season interviews, where Jon said he wanted to have an orgy and a harem of women surrounding him at all times.  So Shawn has to go, and I will make him my prediction for next week.

~~ Weekly Notes ~~

* Check out this quote from my pre-season predictions:  "Burton is an alpha-male type, and he seems like he is going to be a pretty straight shooter. He has "leader" and "alpha" written all over him. He looks like a strong player, but then again the Drakes are CRAWLING with alpha males, so who knows where Burton is going to fit in. And I have no way to prove this, but he just strikes me as being a tragic figure. There is just something sad when you look at his face. If I had to take a WAG (wild-ass guess), I would guess that Burton will get Huntered very early on in the game, for no apparent reason but strategy. We will see."  Woo hoo, yay me!  I called Burton's tragic downfall simply from his sad little face in his bio picture.  That is probably my best (and luckiest) pre-season prediction of all time.

* I love how Morgan's shelter is about to be decimated by the tide, and their solution is to just build a moat around it.  That made me laugh.  Anyone who has ever tried to save a sand castle from the ocean knows how well building a moat around it works.  Just move your shelter, you lazy butts.  Besides, if you dig the moat too deep, Osten might fall in.  And then he will die.  For reals.

* I can never get enough shots of Burton and Shawn just pointing and laughing at Rupert.  It is too funny.  They do it right to his face!  And it makes it even funnier because Rupert is so very sensitive, so it is like little kids picking on each other at recess.  Too funny.

* When Osten almost "drowned" it brought to mind a quote from Carrot Top, during a segment on VH-1's "I love the 80's."  Carrot Top said "When you're drowning, you don't scream and yell 'Help, I'm drowning!'  No, when you're really drowning you just say *blub*."  That quote always made me laugh, so I now become the first Survivor columnist to ever quote Carrot Top in my column.

* How many women loved that Rupert knows how to sew?  My wife got quite a kick out of it.  She is so in love with Rupert, and I know she isn't alone.  As Diana said, "He is so sensitive and, at times, he seems to have the mind of a six year old.  He is just adorable."  We also got a kick out of the look on Rupert's face when the Morgans Red Rovered him over to their team.  He was so incredibly sad.  He had the exact same look on his face that our 1-year old son does when his toy breaks, he had the big pouty lip and the hound dog eyes and everything.  Rupert is one in a million, you just couldn't invent a character like him.

* But I really could do without any more Rupert upskirt buffalo shots.  I am not judging here, I am just making a comment.  Please just stop it, CBS.  Children are watching.

* When the Drakes ate their chocolate, a few of them let out delighted "oh my gawwwd"s.  My wife Diana pointed out that it must be a required Survivor phrase for all players to say that upon eating chocolate.  I think it all started back in Australia, when Jerri actually had an orgasm just from unwrapping a candy bar. 

* Okay, another Diana quote... she is on quite a roll lately.  When Andrew and Ryan O were lost in the woods and were saying that their map was wrong, Diana commented that "suddenly, they're on Eco Challenge."  We joked that Team Spie and the Playmates were right behind them.  Okay, only about four of my readers actually got that joke, but Eco Challenge is a good show!  You should watch it!

* The immunity challenge was a lot of fun.  It was a ripoff of the great "attack zone" challenge from Thailand, but that's okay since any challenge with an "attack zone" is alright by me.  I think all challenges should feature an attack zone.  Even the food auctions.  And sure, Jon got ass-beat by little Tijuana, but that was just good TV.  I bet Robb Zbacnik got all excited watching this challenge at home.  He probably got so worked up that they had to sedate him.  

* How cool would it have been to see Tijuana and Sandra battle it out in the attack zone?  I think that was the matchup we were all waiting to see. I fear Sandra would have literally torn her head off.

* Okay, here are a few great images from this episode, ones that will live on forever in Survivor infamy:  1.  Drake loses the challenge, and Jon turns to wink at Burton.  Burton smiles happily, with a great big shit-eating grin on his face.  You know he has no idea he just sealed his own fate.  2.  Jon sitting at Tribal Council, totally plastered and holding up two fingers on either hand.  Was it a signal?  I think he was telling people who to vote for, that is my guess.  Either that or he was flashing Jonny Fairplay hand signals to his friends at home.   3.  Upon entering Tribal Council, Jon lights his torch.  Then he holds it up and gets a smile of pure ecstasy on his face, as he watches the flames dancing around in the darkness.  It was a pretty eerie little grin.  In fact, if you have the episode on tape, go back and watch it again.  Jon looks like a pyromaniac who just set a building on a fire.  He just stares at the flame and he starts orgasming.  4. At Tribal Council, Jon's strut both to and from the voting confessional.  He is just so over the top, it kills me.  Add in all the pro wrestling references and this was Jon Dalton's episode, from start to finish.  Go Fairplay!

* Both Diana and I agreed on this, the minute the episode ended:  Jon is the villain.  Jon is the star.  Jon will probably be the best player out there.  And, as per Survivor tradition, we might as well mark him down for third place right now.

* I have been calling Jon "Evil Gabe" all season, and I now have a whole analogy worked out to support it.  I think Jon Dalton and Gabriel Cade are actually twin brothers.  At birth, one of them was whisked away to live on a tropical island, to learn and flourish in a learning utopia.  The other one was tossed into the streets, to live among the vagrants and to scrounge for food and friendship on his own.  Sure enough, the blessed one (Gabe) grew into an ideal young man, strong of heart, morals, and mind.  And the other one (Jon) kind of didn't.  And yes, this is the exact same plot of the movie Twins, starring Danny DeVito and Governor Schwarzenegger. But I think that movie was actually based on the lives of these two young men.  I think it was a true story!  You have Good Gabe and you have Evil Gabe.  It all makes sense now.  It was a science experiment that went horribly wrong!

* Note to Jon's parents:  If you read this, I am just kidding.  Jon is my favorite!

* Quote of the week:  Like I said, my wife Diana is on a roll lately, she is practically taking over the weekly notes.  Back in episode one, I joked that Rupert said "Jon is always saying stooopid stuff.  Like he wants some honey."  Well Diana pointed out to me that they actually DID get honey in the Drake treasure chest this week.  She added "Looks like Jon got his honey after all!  I guess it wasn't such a stooopid thing to wish for!"


In general, this is a very hard list to make this week.  Things are topsy turvy right now, and there are still a lot of important variables left in the game.  But as of right now, the Drakes still rule the roost.  But something isn't right in my gut.  I can't justify listing any of the Morgans at the top yet, but I am keeping an eye on them.  I still think a Morgan is going to win the game.  Oh and for the record, Burton becomes the highest ever power ranked played (#3 last week) to take the walk of shame.  And Michelle takes the biggest plunge in power rankings history, dropping from #1 down to nearly the bottom.

1. Trish Dunn
I see no reason for her to leave now... and nobody else really jumps out to me as a favorite.  So Trish rises to the top mainly because no one else does.

2. Rupert Boneham
Rupert should be safe for a while, because he is incredibly well liked.  I think the girls all fawn over him, even if he isn't the most strategic player in the world.  I think the other players kind of look after him like he is a child (which he almost is, in many ways.)

3. Christa Hastie
Christa avoided the bullet for now, and she should be safe.  She has started to stand out a little as a troublemaker, but that just means she is a good strategist.  People are onto her, but I think she knows what she is doing.  Christa remains safe for now, and I still see her a potential winner.  As a bonus she is one of my favorites.

4. Tijuana Bradley
I am always impressed by Tijuana, and again she is the top Morgan on my list.  I still expect good things from her.

5. Andrew Savage
I am starting to think he has a chance to win this game.  The man simply doesn't seem to make any enemies.  And even though he isn't a master strategist (or even a great leader, for that matter), he doesn't appear to be in any particular danger at the moment.

6. Ryan Opray
Wherever Andrew goes, Ryan is always one step behind.  We have no exception here.

7. Sandra Diaz-Twine
Sandra is a real wild card in this game.  She is aligned with Jon, even though she can't stand him.  That shows more of a strategic mind than I expected out of her.  She could do very very well in this game, I can definitely see that happening.  Put her at #7 for now, but you could easily rank her even higher.

8. Jon Dalton
Like I said, you might as well mark him down for 3rd place.  At least, if Probst doesn't kill him first.  All season long, Jeff has been harping on this "great lie" that one of the players is going to tell.  Anyone want to place bets that Jon WON'T be the one behind it?  And how evil is this lie going to be?  Is it going to be only kind of nasty, like "Michelle voted for you last night, blame her.  She hates you."  Or is it going to be something really nasty, like "Rupert went up and tried to fondle one of the girls.  I think he is dangerous and I don't think any of us are safe around him."  I really don't think Jon would be above something like that.  And I have no proof it is actually Jon who is going to tell the lie, but all signs kind of point that way.  After all, he doesn't play fair.  Remember that.

9. Shawn Cohen
Shawn was safe this week, but he could very well be out next week.  And I think that would be a horrible mistake.  If Shawn leaves the Drakes will be running out of athletes!

10. Michelle Tesauro
Whoops, guess you chose the wrong side of the alliance.  Better make some new friends quick.  Oh, and be nice to Christa.  She controls your fate right about now.

11. Osten Taylor
It is a good thing Morgan didn't win the sewing machine.  Or else Osten might have sewed himself to a pair of pants and died from blood loss.

12. Darrah Johnson

Note:  As a Survivor-Central columnist, I am contractually obligated to plug Daniel Lue's calendar.  I'm sorry, I have no say in the matter.  You can pick one up at his website ( or at  Please do your part to help.

Mario Lanza is a programmer and writer who lives in Los Angeles with his ever-quotable wife, Diana, and their two small children.  He is the lead author of the S-C All-Star Stories and the upcoming Survivor: Okinawa project.  He also loves the Friday the 13th movies, especially parts 3 and 6.