Pearl Island Strategy #7b:  Sometimes They Come Back
Written by Mario Lanza on 11.07.03

"I just want you to know that even though you tried to terminate me, revenge is not a idea we promote on my planet.  But we're not on my planet, are we?"
-Buzz Lightyear, Toy Story

Long live the Drakes! The Drakes are back in the game!

The merge episode is always a critical moment in a Survivor season, and the Pearl Island merge episode was no different. SO MUCH happened this week that it is hard to believe it was only half of an episode. But the tribes are now one. Now they are the Balboa tribe, and the endgame is starting to look very clear.

First off I have to talk about Andrew. He was doing so well, for so long. I couldn't believe his downfall came so quickly. A few episodes ago, I was all but sure that he was going to be in the final two. He had been the captain of a sinking ship, he put all his effort and all his heart into keeping his tribe afloat and keeping their morale up, he was the good guy lawyer, he was the star! And then BAM! The twist hit, Osten left, and Andrew seemed like he just gave up. You could just see it in his eyes, all the fight went out of him and he knew he was done. And it was sad to watch because in my mind, Andrew quit almost as much as Osten did. He no longer had any power the minute the twist was announced, and he knew it. He didn't want to deal with it, he didn't think it was fair, and he wasn't about to interact with whoever would be returning to the Morgans.

So yes it was very fitting to see what happened to him. Lillian totally got her revenge and she shoved it right in his face. Andrew was treated exactly like she was back on day 9, and it was a very memorable Survivor moment indeed.  Although I have to say that, watching the episode, you could tell that Andrew was going home about five minutes into it.  He just had that stench of doom around him.  Black clouds over his head.  Ominous music.  Weary eyes. And he is absolutely correct that the twist was NOT fair.  It was not fair at all.  But he went out with dignity and he went out with class (his final words weren't bitter at all) and in the annals of Survivor history he will be remembered as a martyr. He died so that the Outcast Twist could be amazing.

Because yes, the whole thing was a lot of fun to watch. Yay Lill!

The Outcast Tribal Council was great, it was easily one of the most memorable moments of the season.  Imagine, six people who were actually excited to be at Tribal Council!  They were so excited to be there they were practically bouncing off the walls. And even though it was fun to watch (and everybody and their mother correctly predicted that Burton and Lill would be voted back into the game), it was a little sad to see Ryan Shoulders not get picked. I knew he was happy for Lill, but deep down you know he would have been a blast to see back in the game as well.  I felt bad that he came SO close to making it back and he just fell short.

Burton's speech at the Outcast Tribal Council was a great moment. He promised that he would never lie to an outcast and he vowed to work with whoever he went back with to get to the end. If he hadn't already sewn up the vote beforehand, that speech pretty much did it. If I were an outcast I would have voted for him too.

So Burton and Lill were voted back into the game. Both of them were, understandably, quite excited about it. Lill even replaced her sad hangdog scowl with a more happy excited scowl, so you know she was pretty psyched to go back. And I have to say that the two of them lighting their torches again was one of the greatest moments of all seven Survivor seasons. That image almost gave me goosebumps. Follow it up with a really neat scene of Burton arriving back at Drake beach... illuminated at night by a thunderstorm... and that whole segment made for one of the most compelling fifteen minute blocks of television I have ever seen in my life.

I still say the twist was unfair and it was horribly underhanded, but damnit that was some great TV. I wish I had thought of it for one of my stories. Let's do it again for season 8 in All-Stars!

With Lill coming back, combined with the merge, the Morgan Tribe was all but screwed.  Andrew was a walking casualty all episode. The editors tried to build it up like Jon was going home, but there was no way that was going to happen. Jon didn't say a word for most of the episode!  Trust me, when Jon goes home (and he will), it won't be a surprise. He will go down in flames, and he will be cursing and swearing all the way.  It just wasn't his time this week.

Speaking of Jon... I have been saying all season that he would probably flip to the other side, and it is now make or break time for Monsieur Fairplay. This is the perfect time for him to do it. Look at it this way, he has nothing to lose. There are no drawbacks!  If he sticks with Drake to the end, he is 5th place. They all hate him. Actually no, strike that... he is actually 6th place. With Lill now on board, Evil Gabe has been shoved to the bottom even further. So I would be surprised if Jon DIDN'T try to get Rupert out next episode. Well, Rupert or Burton, but I still say that Rupert goes first. All Jon has to do is go to Tijuana, Ryan, and Darrah and tell them that he is their only chance to win this game now. Just make some side deal with Darrah and Tijuana to be the final three, and the two of them would take it in a heartbeat. And then get a fifth person to vote with you (Burton or Lill?) and you can take out Rupert before he becomes unstoppable.

Jon is in a unique position right now where he has nothing to lose. He has already made the jury, so he is already guaranteed to be in every episode. And you just know he is a bit of a media whore, so that factor was probably very important. And with this in mind, he knows he can't possibly win if he sticks with Drake, so why not?

My prediction for next week is that Johnny Fairplay finally makes his big move. I think that he has to. Not only is Rupert one or two votes from becoming unstoppable, Jon just has no reason whatsoever to stick with the Drakes.  And he may never get another chance to take out the big man.

So look for some fireworks next episode. The vote will be far from a sure thing, and I expect that Rupert will face his biggest challenge of the game. If he survives next week, he could very well win this whole thing.  So watch the editing next week.  If they start talking about Rupert going... then Ryan will go. If they start talking about Ryan going... then Rupert will go. And if all hell breaks loose and people are screaming and fighting... then something went horribly wrong and Jon will go. In any one of those three cases, it is going to be an episode worth watching.

Common sense pick for next week: Ryan O.

"That was the greatest episode ever!" pick for next week: Rupert.

"That was the greatest episode ever!" backup pick for next week: Jon.

Yes, I know I have picked Rupert to go home for approximately 37 weeks in a row, but what the heck. I will go for it again. My boot pick for next week is Rupert.

~~~ Episode Notes ~~~~

Lots of notes this week. This was a funny episode.

* Are Scoutmasters allowed to say "sons of bitches" on TV?  Is that allowed? That wasn't in my Boy Scout handbook!

* Speaking of swearing, my wife pointed out that Michelle and Sandra actually switched roles this week. Sandra was the soft spoken sweetheart and Michelle cursed like a sailor at Tribal Council.

* Okay, let's go for swearing note #3. Jon always has his fingers in that stupid F and Y pose. It supposedly stands for "Fairplay," but did you ever notice it is also the initials of the phrase "F-ck You"? When Andrew was voted out, Jon flashed him the F and Y fingers, and I bet that's what he was trying to say: "F--ck you, Andrew." Oh and if you didn't already dislike Jon before, that will probably do it.

* It was really funny to watch the Drakes all apologizing to Burton. That scene just cracked me up. Especially Sandra's comment, "We're glad he's here, cause he's so strong." I'm sorry, last I recall, wasn't Burton voted out because he was so strong?  As comedian Norm MacDonald would say, Sandra isn't really a fan of Burton. She is just a really big fan of irony.

* Darrah has taken the Amber Brkich strategy of "never give a confessional" to a whole new level. Wow, she is just stunning in her silence. And excuse me, I meant to say All-Star Amber Brkich. What was I thinking?

* Another comment from my wife:  It is ridiculous enough that Rupert walks around in a dress. But when he confronted Burton on the beach, he added a shawl to his ensemble too. Maybe by episode ten he will be wearing high heels and a slip.

* It didn't surprise me that Burton and Rupert made up and are still friends. Remember, Rupert never voted for Burton.  He wasn't a part of the blindside.  Rupert was over on Morgan at the time.

* I want a black buff.

* I also want my very own immunity sword. Very cool.

* More from my wife Diana:  Wow, if Osten almost died in the other challenges, I can't imagine how long he would have lasted in this week's swimming challenge. He would have been dragged out to sea.

* I loved the scene where Andrew tried to sway Lill and Rupert stood right behind him, shaking his head as ominously as possible. God bless Rupert and his lack of subtlety.

* The votes at Tribal Council were read in a weird order. They normally don't read them 1-1-4-3-1 like that. I have no idea why the producers did that, unless they just wanted to make Jon squirm a little. Which was fun to watch, by the way. For just a quick little moment in the game, Jon lost his cockiness and he almost came off a little bit worried.

* Two final Diana comments. She was on a roll this week. We were cracking jokes this episode like it was Mystery Science Theater:

- Rupert made a big deal about how Burton made fun of him a lot. Like at the start of the season, when Burton pointed and laughed at the food in Rupert's beard. So at the feast they were all eating and I thought, "Burton, I dare you to make fun of his beard now!"

- At the end of the episode they showed a shot of Andrew walking away, his head down, and it was supposed to look sad. Except it is hard to walk away with dignity when you are wearing boxer shorts, tennis shoes, and a sportcoat. It didn't really work for me.

* Here is the irony of all ironies to end my column. The Drakes threw a challenge to get rid of Burton. Jeff trashed them pretty badly for it and Rupert said that move would destroy the Drake tribe. But the funny thing is that now, if anything, the Drakes are MORE UNIFIED than ever! Burton came back with a smile on his face, they greeted him with open arms, and they all vowed never to lie anymore. Now they are all one big happy family again. So in some weird perverse Survivor way, Drake throwing the Immunity Challenge actually made Burton love them more.

* Quote of the week:
This isn't even a significant or informative quote. It is just me giggling at the way Rupert talks. He would be so much fun to write for.

"We got some riiiiiiiiiibs, and a bigol' HONKa laaaaaaaaaaamb."


This is the last week the power rankings will really be up in the air. It all depends on if Jon flips next week or not.  I say he does. I think that he has to. But for now the rankings are:

1. Sandra Diaz-Twine
I have been mulling putting her here for a couple of weeks now. The #1 slot is hers unless something big happens next week.

2. Christa Hastie
Neck and neck with Sandra for the top spot.

3. Rupert Boneham
I dropped him down to #3 only because he could go home next week. If he survives the next Tribal Council, he has a great shot at winning this game. Next week is the key for him.

4. Lillian Morris
Those sons of bitches better not mess with her again.

5. Burton Roberts
Like him or not, he is STILL an outcast. And he is still a huge challenge threat.

6. Tijuana Bradley
Great player, wrong tribe. Let's see how long she can stick around.

7. Darrah Johnson
She can follow Amber's footsteps as the WTF casting choice in All-Star Survivor 2.

8. Jon Dalton
He is in a rough spot for now.  He has nowhere to go, but he also has nothing to lose. He is going to be trouble. And I bet this is not the last time in his life that he will ever be keelhauled.

9. Ryan Opray
So much for that #1 spot in the power rankings. Buh bye.

Mario Lanza lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Diana, and their two high-strung children. Mario and Diana are both very angry that Linda was forced to quit Joe Millionaire this week by those petty, scheming, jealous, foreign bitches.  Diana still cannot talk rationally about it.  In related news, they both really need to get out of the house more.