Pearl Island Strategy #5:  Believe in Yourself
Written by Mario Lanza on 10.18.03

"Believe in Yourself."
-Tambaqui Banner

Well, it looks like a Drake won't be winning this thing anymore.  I don't know about you, but it is looking more and more likely to me that the winner will be coming from the Morgans.  There isn't really any evidence I have to support that, or any proof I can give you to back it up, but just... damn, why must that blasted Isabella always be right?  The Drakes are falling apart.  They are falling into a world of hurt, while the Morgans have not only BONDED, but now they actually all BELIEVE in themselves.  I think it is going to get very ugly, very fast, and I think the Drakes screwed themselves when they threw a challenge and let the Morgans back into the game.

Our MVP this episode, as usual, was Rupert.  Just when you think the guy couldn't be more impressive, he pulls something out new the very next week.  Morgan can't win a challenge?  Give 'em Rupert!  Morgan doesn't know how the spear works?  Rupert will show 'em!  Ryno isn't a very good fisherman?  Rupert invented fishing!  And on top of it all, this week he just went out of his way to become superhuman.  First off, the reward challenge became Drake against Rupert.  I know that sounds like an exaggeration, but that is exactly how it went down.  Rupert beat the Drakes all by himself.  And if that weren't already enough, he is now best friends with the Morgans AND the Drakes. For God's sake, Rupert told the Morgans to stay strong when he went back to Drake... and NONE OF THE DRAKES SEEMED TO MIND!  And then Rupert finds a baby sea snake and he nurses it back to health. I swear, Rupert is a god.  He could not be more noble, he is not one of us, and I know I am treading on the blasphemous here, but he is a freaking god.  Rupert Boneham can do no Survivor wrong.

One of my favorite scenes so far this season (and maybe of all the Survivor seasons) was the one this week where Andrew came to raid the Drake camp.  There was a very touching moment between Andrew and Rupert where Andrew knew he should take all of the rice, but he couldn't.  He either didn't want to screw the Drakes that badly, or he was covering his own political butt in case of a merge.  But it was kind of touching to watch Rupert try to get Andrew to take more rice than he originally asked for.  Rupert KNEW that the Morgans were starving, he knew that the Morgans were suffering, and he has too big of a heart to let his new friends starve over on the other tribe.  And you could just see it in Andrew's eyes... he didn't want to take all the rice.  And maybe he was kind of embarrassed that his tribe had fallen so far.  But Rupert basically pulled him aside and said "Look buddy, I know you guys are starving and I know you are too proud to take it.  But game or no game, you need this.  Just take the rice."  It could have been strategy, or it could have been Rupert just being a humanitarian.  Either way, it was an awfully touching little Survivor moment.  As I said before, Rupert manages to top himself each and every week.  The guy is amazing.

However, keep this in mind.  The fact that Rupert is amazing also means that the end of Rupert will be all that more tragic.  Because when you look at Rupert, what you should see is "tragic victim."  His downfall will not be pretty, and it will not be expected.  In other words, when it happens it is going to be tough to watch.

Our bootee this week was Michelle.  She was pegged in my preseason picks as the sweetheart of the season and, unfortunately, that turned out to be far from the truth.  On TV, I don't think she came off very well at all.  In fact, on Friday morning's Early Show, she came off as quite bitter and snippy, which was far from what most of us predicted from her.  And it leads me to believe that the producers probably weren't all that thrilled with her.  I believe she was cast to be the sweetheart of the season, but once she got out there she turned out not to be.  And that is probably why she didn't get very much airtime.  I think the producers expect you to fit into a certain stereotype when you are cast for the show, and if you don't live up to what they are expecting from you, you won't be shown much in the episodes.  I think the exact same thing happened to Zoe in the Marquesas, among others.  The producers cast you for a reason and you better play by their rules, or you get the shaft.  That's why I never pay much attention to predictions based on who gets the most or the least airtime.  Lack of airtime doesn't necessarily mean a player won't get very far.  Sometimes it just means their character doesn't fit into the storyline.

Now, of course we can't overlook the fact that I predicted that Michelle would probably do well in this game.  I seem to remember having her ranked #1 in the power rankings for a couple weeks.  But, hell, let's just forget that ever happened.  I wasn't the only one who got fooled by her bio. 

Michelle's performance this week was one of the all-time great Survivor lowlights.  The plan was for her to fake squeamishness and to fool the Morgans.  Yet instead, she aced the challenge and she almost seemed to shove it in Jon's face in the process.  I wasn't surprised in the slightest that she was voted off.  She was probably going to be voted out anyway but, as we have been seeing this season, if you piss off Jon, you leave.  His confessional where he gave her the middle finger said it better than I ever could.  "We gave you one chance to save yourself!  You made a promise to try and fool the Morgans.  And then you go back on your word?!  Are you insane?"  Unfortunately Michelle isn't going to be ripped apart on the internet like some other players might have been in the past (oh we will pick John Carroll as an example) but come on, that was one of the worst strategic maneuvers I have ever witnessed in seven seasons of Survivor.  In fact I would say it was way worse than anything that John Carroll ever did.  Although, in the interest of being fair, Michelle did explain it on the Early Show.  She said that the smoothie really DID smell and taste that bad.  And that if she had tried to fake it, she might have barfed it all up.  But I'm not buying it.  I think she had too much pride, and I think she didn't want to look bad on TV.  And it wound up costing her.  Because as Marcellus Wallace once said, "Pride only hurts.  It never helps.  You fight through that shit."

So what is the status of the Pearl Island alliances now?  Let's see... at Drake the main alliance clearly involves Jon, Christa, and Trish in some way.  Those three are all over every single strategy talk, and I have always believed that when you come right down to it, Jon and Christa are at the center of it all.  And it looks like Sandra and Rupert are in with them too, with Shawn doing his best to be a peripheral hanger-on.  So my guess is that if Drake goes to Tribal Council next week, Shawn will go home.  I think it will be Shawn or Sandra.  But the catch is that if Shawn goes home, the Drakes will be HORRIBLY outmatched in the challenge department.  It really WILL be Rupert against the Morgans if that were to happen.  So my guess for the next Drake bootee is Sandra.  Bless her resiliency, her spirit, and her wonderful potty mouth, but I think she will be the next one to go.  And don't be fooled by the editing into thinking that Jon is in any danger at the moment... or that he is disliked.  Jon is clearly the leader of the alliance right now.  Just look at how many times he is the center of conversation, or how many times he is the one giving orders.  Jon is funny to be around, he is a morale booster, he does work around camp, and he is smart and devious.  He is SO the leader of the Drakes right now.  Michelle even admitted in her Early Show appearance that Jon was a morale booster because he was always making people laugh around camp, and that is why I think he will be perfectly safe for a while.  My pick to go home next week is Sandra.

Over at Morgan, nothing has really changed.  It is still the three naked guys alliance (Osten, Ryan, Andrew), with Tijuana as their "nubian princess."  And then you have Darrah hanging around as "that other girl."  Darrah would be the next one to go, although that's not going to happen.  This is the point of the game where the Morgans start dominating.  I doubt Morgan sees Tribal Council again until after the tribes merge.

Again, my pick for next week is Sandra. 

~~ Weekly Notes ~~

* It has taken me five episodes, but I can finally tell all the guys on the show apart now.  Of course that just means that Shawn is "the guy who isn't Burton, Ryan, or Andrew" but he is now distinct to me in one way or another, nonetheless.

* Diana (my wife) noticed that Rupert sounds an awful lot like Milton from the movie "Office Space" when he speaks.  Especially the line "I'm gonna rebuild the shelter today," which is the exact same tone and cadence as Milton saying "But I wanted the red Swingline stapler."  Just a random observation that you probably don't care about.

* Why was Red Rover only used for one challenge?  Why is nobody screaming bloody murder that this was an obvious manipulation just to help the Morgans get back into the game?  I can't believe the producers only used it once, that just seems weird.

* Is it just me, or did Jeff comment on the action in the challenges way more than usual this episode?  He was basically narrating everything that happened in the reward challenge for us at home.  So instead of graphic overlays like "Drake Trailing," we have Jeff taunting the slower players to hurry up.  Although I have to way that frankly, I kind of like Jeff's narration.  It helps you get into the action more.  Although I could certainly do without him saying stuff like "Drake, nice of you to join us."  He really doesn't like them very much, you can tell.

* Butch Lockley would be thrilled to know that the Morgans now believe in themselves.  In fact you can just picture Butch, sitting there by the Morgan campfire, giving Osten a pep talk.  "And this is one of the five or six greatest moments of my life, but when you didn't get pneumonia today, Osten... the smile on your face was something I'll never forget.  You proved that you can go a day without dying out here, and I will never forget that smile.  Osten, you don't have a disability."

* It was a horribly cruel thing to say about the starving Morgans, but Jon's nickname of their tribe as "Jenny Craig Island" was pretty funny.

* Bleeding clams are nasty.  Yuck.

* The immunity challenge was very exciting, that was one of the closest finishes we have ever had on Survivor.  Top it off with a very funny Jon-Darrah interaction where she shot him down when he asked for a date and that was one of the best challenges of the season.

* I'm close to giving Diana her own section of the column from now on.  Here are some of her best comments about this week's episode:
1. In the reward challenge, it would have been funny if Rupert caught three fish while he was underwater untying the flags.  That wouldn't have surprised me.
2. Christa has been running wild with the sewing machine.  Look at all the things in her hair and all the new clothes she has each week.
3. If I'm bending over a log and throwing up, I don't want a big man in a skirt to sit next to me.  But maybe that's just me.

* I know we haven't seen the last of the twists, I know that there is still something big looming on the horizon.  But by the seventh season, the players would be REALLY thrown off if there turned out not to be a twist.  I always thought "the twist is that there is NO twist" would be a funny thing to throw at people by this point in the franchise.  Hmm...

* Quote of the week:   I could go with Darrah shooting down Jon's pick up line at the Immunity Challenge, but since I can't understand a word she says, I have to go with Johnny Fairplay instead.  "(he holds up his middle finger)  Michelle, that's what I think of your ego right about now."


Wow, we are almost up to the merge.  This season is flying by very quickly.  I have had a lot of shifts in the power rankings so far this season, and that is because Pearl Islands has been an awfully tough season to predict.  But we are getting to the point now where things are finally starting to solidify.  There are a few strong players in the game (Jon, Christa, Trish, Andrew, Ryan, Tijuana).  There is a hanger-on who could theoretically slip into a victory (Darrah).  I don't think that Sandra, Osten, or Shawn will win... although an Osten win would be awfully funny (I bet he gets a paper cut from the million dollar check).  And Rupert, as we all know, is a tragic victim just waiting to happen.  Rupert is flying so far above the radar that he has almost circled the earth and wound up UNDER the radar again.  But for now, I think the winner will be one of the six "strong players" I named above, with a Morgan victory looking more and more likely each episode.  I guess the morale of the story is... too much early success can splinter a team apart.  Because when you lose, you bond.  And we are seeing it here.

1. Ryan Opray
From here on out, I will be keeping Ryan at #1 until he screws up.  He may just turn out to be the golden boy of the season.  The whole confessional last episode with Rupert saying "Ryan wants to learn, Ryan wants to provide...", that was the passing of the torch that officially does it for me.  I think Ryan is about to turn into a mini-Rupert.  So Ryan, you are back at #1 in the Power Rankings until you do something wrong.  Oh, and my wife loves the fact that you smile every time you talk.  You are always smiling!

2. Tijuana Bradley
Tijuana could just as easily be our winner.  She seems very, very good at the social part of this game.  And forget her screaming at the villagers on day one, that is old news.  She is back in the driver's seat now.

3. Andrew Savage
He has made mistakes, sure, but he is still the leader and he still seems very well liked.  There is no reason to rank him any lower than this.

4. Trish Dunn
We haven't seen too much of her, but she is definitely a player.  I think she is the most likely Drake winner.

5. Christa Hastie
Christa is right in the thick of everything, and she is one of my favorites.  She is doing well.

6. Darrah Johnson
I'm still not used to the accent though.

7. Jon Dalton
Jon doesn't seem like the eventual winner to me but, dang, he is fun to watch.  Like him or hate him, I guarantee that you won't forget him.  And we are still waiting for that big lie, Fairplay.  Don't let us down.

8. Rupert Boneham
Next week he splits open the earth his fist and then he harpoons a blue whale.  It is must see TV!

9. Sandra Diaz-Twine
%$!* *&@! **&! you for ranking me so low, Mario!  @!*# #!#$ $#!@! you!

10. Osten Taylor
Osten has issues with the outdoors.  We will just leave it at that.

11. Shawn Cohen
Putting Shawn at #11 is a risky move.  This is because of a comment I made a couple of weeks ago that the eventual winner "always makes a good strategic move between episodes 3-5."  The catch, of course, is that Shawn made an excellent strategic move when he teamed up with Jon and he voted against Burton.  A reader named Thomas pointed this out to me.  So I am kind of setting myself up to look awful if Shawn winds up winning.  But at this stage in the game, he won't win.  For my own personal sake, let's hope he keeps it that way.

Next week:  A pelican attacks Osten.  I think we can predict who wins that one.  Osten's battered body will have to be shuttled out via helicopter.

Special Note:  The sequel to Tonga, Survivor: Okinawa, is going along strong and it will be written up as a story after Pearl Islands.  We just finished our first episode last night and we already have our first bootee.  So wish the players well, because they are going to need it!  Watch out for the thingyroaches!


Mario Lanza is a programmer 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.  His column this week is brought to you by the letter S and the letter G.