Survivor: Pearl Islands:  Pre Game Power Rankings
Written by Mario Lanza on 08.29.03

"No one would surrender to the Dread Pirate Westley."
-The Princess Bride

The player bios are here! The new player bios are here!

As always, it is a thrilling day for me when the new players are announced.  I get a chance to see the sixteen players who will be a part of our lives for the next four months... The sixteen new players who will now enter the annals of Survivor history. And the four or so that I will have to use in my next All-Star story. Yes, it is Survivor day today, and this is my first column of the new season.

A lot of people thought I was done writing my weekly column after Amazon. I'm not sure why people would have thought that, although it probably had something to do with the fact that I wrote "I am done writing my weekly column" at the end of the Amazon finale.  Bah, you people are too damn literal. I lie! I lie constantly! Go read Survivor: Tonga, that is all you need to know about me. Yes, it's true.  After Amazon, I just didn't think I would have the time to write a column anymore. You see, I was in a Mexican jail cell at the time, and I didn't have internet access, and didn't think I would ever see the light of day again. And... well... I don't really want to get into the details, but let's just say that you shouldn't stab a guy in a foreign country because you are going to get caught.

See, I am lying again.

What happened at the end of last season is that I was simply just burnt out on writing.  And I thought I was ready to retire. But then, three events occurred that caused me to change my mind. First off, when I played Survivor: Tonga, most all the people I met in the game were shocked when I said I was going to stop writing. So many people told me they wanted me to keep doing it (often associated with threats of physical violence, of course) that I was eventually persuaded to come back and write again this season. I have to say it was a little bit touching, actually. Oh, the second event that caused me to change was mind was the fact that CJ Blake and Ender both had designs on moving in and taking over my column.  So I came back just so I could tell them both to back off! Oh... and reason #3 why I came back?  Well this one is obvious.  CBS recently announced that ALL-STAR SURVIVOR would follow Pearl Islands and there is not a chance in hell that I would pass up a chance to write about THAT season. So I am back, and I am ready to go, and I am gearing up for All-Stars. But first... let's get this season going!

Let me say first that I wasn't THAT excited about Pearl Islands up until yesterday. I have been writing about this show for so long that I had almost been reaching the point of "Oh well, another season. Here we go again, let's get it out of the way." But then the bios came up and I read them and I got caught up in the excitement all over again. This season should be a lot of fun. The pirate theme has a TON of potential. They could do a lot with it, and I like that it will change the overall format of the show a little. And of course I expect that they are going to have some fun little twists this season (maybe like the one we did with All-Star Alaska...?)

But... I DO have to say I am a little disappointed with the tribe names.

Drake?  Morgan?

It's not that the tribe names are hokey.  I mean, they are names of famous pirates. Sweet!  My only beef is that they left out a bunch of OTHER pirate names in favor of these two. I mean, how many people grew up in the 80's and aren't fans of the movie "The Goonies"? That movie was crawling with pirates! So would it have killed Burnett to name one of his tribes "One-Eyed Willy?" And okay, sure, I admit that can also be slang for a penis.  But it was an honest to God great pirate name! And what about naming a tribe after Willie Stargell, the Hall of Fame baseball player for the Pittsburgh Pirates? The man hit over 500 home runs, I think his credentials speak for themselves. And what about naming a tribe after Captain Feathersword, the delightful yet antic sidekick on the children's TV show The Wiggles? And what about the Captain from the musical group Captain and Tenille? Okay, admittedly he is probably not a pirate, but for our purposes, he would probably be acceptable.

I like Drake and Morgan. I really do.  I'm just saying that an all-Goonies Survivor would have rocked. Team Chunk vs Team Sloth. Think about it.

~~~~ First Impressions ~~~~

Okay, enough preamble. I know you are only reading this for my predictions. So here are my first impressions of each player, both good and bad, just from reading their bio.. Most of these are just a shot in the dark, but it is always fun to look back later and see how close I came. And for the first time ever in Survivor history... there is actually somebody from my hometown in the cast! I can't believe it!

Michelle Tesauro, Team Drake (blue)
22, Marketing Student

Michelle seems like a genuinely sweet person. I imagine she has a quirky sense of humor, she is probably a bit self-deprecating, and I don't see her as being a liability around camp at all. She might not be very cutthroat, but if you are looking for an honest and reliable teammate, she is probably as good as you are going to get. I think she will be around for a while, if only because she is not going to be much of a threat to anyone. If she doesn't get sick, she is golden. Oh, and her favorite actor is Will Ferrell, so she has probably read the Will Ferrell's Greatest SNL Moments website I created two years ago (blatant plug, I know.)

Burton Roberts, Team Drake
31, Marketing Executive

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.

Christa Hastie, Team Drake
24, Computer Programmer

Ha ha, I love Christa's bio. First off, I am a computer programmer in real life.  And I aint never worked with a programmer who looks like her. We are a select group of dorks and dweebs... in most cases models need not apply. So she has the weird model/programmer thing going for her, which kind of reminds me of Mary the fantasy girl in "There's Something About Mary."  You know, the girl who everyone loves who is a doctor/model/sports fan/golf pro/meat lover. I also love that Christa's bio mentions the fact that she is engaged to a race car driver at least 12 different times. Hey, he should be on the show too, we already know a lot about him!  I don't think that Christa is going to come off as likeable on the show, just a hunch.  I see her as being a potentially strong player, but I just don't think she will be very popular.  She will be too weird.  I could be completely wrong about this, of course, but something about that fact that she lists Nietzsche as her favorite author just rubs me the wrong way. I will make up my mind for good after the first episode though.

Note: She is engaged to a race car driver. Did you hear?

Trish Dunn, Team Drake
42, Sales Executive

Wow, a lot of marketing/sales people on this tribe already!  On paper, Trish looks like a potentially GREAT player. I have never met her before, I don't know anything about her as a person, but it is the age that always does it. There is generally a strong 35-45 year old female player in every Survivor cast, it is the first thing I look for when I look at the bios. I am looking for the Gretchen Cordy, the Tina Wesson, the Teresa Cooper, the Kathy O'Brien, the Helen Glover. I could go on and on. The 40-year old mom is always going to be a tough player, because they will never surrender and they will never give up. Moms are just like that. So right off the bat, I think that Trish will do well.  She is "extremely competitive", which could be either good or bad, but she is in great shape for her age. She is also an ex-cheerleader (an ex-Terrapin to be exact, just like Penny Ramsey) and because of that she still has that gleeful, crazy-eyed cheerleader smile going for her. Trish is going to be fun to watch, I expect her to be around for a long time. She is a possible winner.

Shawn Cohen, Team Drake
29, Advertising Sales

More sales people on the Drakes! Shawn describes himself as "The Ultimate Salesman." That is a good thing.  Like Burton, he will be an alpha male on this tribe, and you know there is going to be an alpha male bloodbath right off the bat.  There are just too many of them.  You just hope that Shawn will be able to survive it.  I don't see any big highs or lows in Shawn's bio, but he is going to be a tough one. He is the right age, the right gender, the right temperament to do well at this game. But I don't have much else to say about him... yet.

Jon Dalton, Team Drake
29, Art Consultant

Now THIS guy just jumps out from his bio, moreso than anyone I have seen on Survivor since Brian Heidik. He is just oozing personality. And fake charm. And sliminess. Jon is going to be great. In his Early Show interview, he claimed "to hate old people" and that he wanted "to create a young person utopia." He has also worked as an assistant to the most badass pro wrestler alive, Rowdy Roddy Piper. That HAS to count for something.  Jon even sucked up to his hero by listing one of Piper's movies (Hell comes to Frogtown) as his favorites. Jon has an ego, he seems cutthroat, and he is going to be a blast to watch. I mean, his hero is Hugh Hefner!  If Jon is not out really, really early, he is going to be around for a while. And I am pretty confident that he will be the absolute breakout star of the season. Jon, I will save you a spot in my All-Star story #4, I promise.

Rupert Boneham, Team Drake
39, Troubled Teens Mentor

Ahhh... what to say about Rupert? His bio and his picture really speak for themselves.  The guy is just... Rupert. He is going to be big, he is going to be gruff, and he is probably going to have his own unique way of saying things. You wonder about his chances in this game, being so big and surrounded by so many other strong males and all, but I hope he is at least around long enough to entertain us. Rupert's bio is amazing, from his favorite book of "books about reptiles" to his favorite drink of "2% cow milk" (did he really have to specify COW milk?) and his flat out honesty that Playboy is his favorite magazine. He is going to be a fun character. I really don't think he will last very long, but I am almost positive he will be a fan favorite for as long as he is around. And yes, he has already been compared to Hagrid many, many, many times.  But I will go another direction and say he looks like Chris Farley with a beard.  If he starts telling people he lives in a van down by the river, it will be really funny.

Sandra Diaz-Twine, Team Drake
29, Office Assistant

Sandra becomes the first Survivor contestant ever to be listed from my home state of Washington. Yay, Sandra! And yes, technically Nick Brown was from Washington too, but it said San Francisco on his bio so whatever. Sandra's bio really doesn't seem all that impressive at first glance. Yeah, she's got the military stuff, and yeah she's got the mom stuff, but otherwise she looks pretty unspectacular. And unfortunately I don't think she will have much in common with the guys or the younger females on her tribe. In her Early Show interview, she looks like she has a little fire in her, but for now I don't think she will be particularly significant to the outcome of the season. So I guess wait and see for now.

Lillian Morris, Team Morgan
51, Scout Troop Leader

First off, big props to CBS for casting sombody from Cincinnati. Cincy has always been the top TV market for Survivor, and I know it was always a sore spot that the city never had it own contestant (Rodger Bingham was the closest.) So congrats to Lillian for being the first. But that being said... Lillian isn't gonna be around for very long. She is the eldest female on a really weak-looking tribe, and that is a horrible place to be. I don't see her having much in common with the other people on her tribe, and she really offers nothing but her Boy Scout leadership. It won't be her fault at all, and I know she will try her darndest, but I see her being gone very early. She is also doing this "to experience something different in her life" and those types of players genuinely don't last very long. Think Gabriel Cade or Janet Koth or Diane Ogden. She may not be the first one out, but she definitely won't be the last one standing.

Tijuana Bradley, Team Morgan
27, Pharmaceutical Sales

Tijuana's bio just does not offer much at all, either good or bad. She seems nice enough, and she seems athletic, but her self professed description of "perky and emotional" is always bad on Survivor. I don't have a whole lot to say about her for now, but she is on a weak tribe, and she is not really a standout character. Maybe she will be later, I don't know.

Nicole Delma, Team Morgan
26, Massage Therapist

Nicole is my new homegirl. Like Lex in Africa, she is my new hometime favorite to root for and to try to build up in my column as best I can. You see, Nicole's bio is freakishly similar to my own. We both grew up in the same hometown-- Bellevue, Washington. That's right, she is representing the 425, she is the first contestant ever from Bellevue. She is only three years behind me, so theoretically we COULD have gone to the same high school. There are only four high schools in Bellevue, so there is a 25% chance I might have run into her. And then this is the funny part.  After high school, she went down to California and she attended Santa Clara University, which is also the school that I went to (Lex went there too, by the way.) Again, Nicole is three years behind me, so we were definitely at Santa Clara at the same time. I have never met her in person, but I am dying to now, if only because of our backgrounds.  I tried looking her up in the SCU alumni directory, but she apparently left SCU before she graduated, so alas no listing. But still, I have to root for her now, we just are too darn similar. Well, except for the fact that I am neither tan nor do I have large breasts. And I apologize in advance for all the cheerleading I will doing on her behalf this season. Now, unfortunately, from a logical point of view, I really don't see Nicole as being that strong a player. Sure, she is athletic, but she doesn't really come off as being very strategic. Oh well, good luck anyway Nicole. If you read this, please email me!

Andrew Savage, Team Morgan
40, Attorney

The top dog. Andrew is the leader of the Morgans, and he knows it. If they have ANY shot of competing against the Drakes, it will be because of him, and he will have to be one heck of a leader. And you know he will try his best.  Andrew has a great bio, he is very well rounded, and he is obviously used to running the show. He is INTENSE too, from his favorite sport of rugby to his favorite video game of the highly immoral Grand Theft Auto. I don't like to compare people to players from past seasons, but this guy is a Mike Skupin type alpha if I ever saw one. I think he will be okay, and his team will definitely need him at the start. Andrew will be a very strong player.  If he is even the least bit likeable he should be just fine.

Osten Taylor, Team Morgan
27, Equity Trade Manager

Osten is another strong looking player.  In fact, from top to bottom I think he has the best chance of winning among anyone from Morgan. He seems likeable, he seems humble, he seems funny and easygoing. If he can hide behind Andrew (assuming the two of them get along), he isn't going anywhere. I think Osten will be a fan favorite. And you know that he is tough from his bio... because one of his favorite foods is WOW potato chips. If he eats WOW, you know he can handle a little stomach irritation and a little anal leakage.  In fact, since he seeks out WOW, that means he even seeks out anal leakage willingly.  So you know he will be able to handle a little hardship in the game!

Ryan Shoulders, Team Morgan
23, Produce Clerk

Oh my. Where to start?  First off, we have our first actual nerd on the show. And yes, I know you are going to say "Hey Rob Cesternino was a nerd," but we are talking a whole different level of nerddom here. Ryan actually listed the hexidecimal code for green as his favorite color. If you followed the CBS website all day, his favorite color started out as "DDDDFF" and then the webmaster decided that was too confusing so they changed it to "green." Now it is "Green, #DDDDFF" so I guess they compromised. Ryan also likes to make his own electronic music, which reminds me of uber-nerd Ross Gellar on Friends. I wish I was making that up, but I'm not. And I'm not trying to make fun of him either... as a fellow nerd myself I love the fact that he is representing. I mean, anyone who lists porn star Jenna Jameson as his favorite actress has to be a lot of fun. But Ryan is so unbelievably over his head that it is going to hurt to watch. He weighs about 120 pounds, so he has no fat to lose whatsoever. He is the youngest male in the game, but he has no apparent obsession with Survivor (unlike Rob C.), and he isn't much of an athlete. I think the most helpful thing Ryan will be able to do on day one is teach his tribemates how to spell his name, so that their ballots will all look the same. We all love you Ryan, but you have quite an uphill battle facing you, buddy. Live long and prosper.

Darrah Johnson, Team Morgan
22, Mortician

A mortician! Cool! A hot mortician? What? Now I'm confused.

Darrah seems to be pretty tough from her bio. True, she is young, but I think she will turn out to be a decent player. I can guarantee that she and Nicole will be close, and if she finds the right male alliance to latch onto, she should be good to go. If she isn't the first one voted out (and she won't be), I am guessing she will be able to coast for a while. And I love Southern girls, I really do. They all sound so pretty and sweet.  But Darrah's accent is a bit strong even by Southern standards. I'm just warning you. Be prepared when she talks.

Ryan Opray, Team Morgan
31, Electrician

Out of all the bios in the game, Ryan's is the least interesting. Nothing really stands out, I can't name a single thing you can infer about him just from his bio or his favorites. The only thing I can say about him is that he has less education than most of the other males in the game. But other than that, he could easily be a leader or a follower. I have no idea.  I will keep my eye on him from the start, because I don't know much about the guy.


Okay, here we go. The first power rankings. And let me say that I have a lot to lose here, because I have a pretty solid history with these pre-game rankings. My last four #1 picks have been Lex, Tammy, Brian, and Rob Cesternino. And really, all four could have won the game with a little luck. Especially if Lex hadn't gotten amoebic dysentery and Rotu hadn't been so damn cocky. So I have a lot at stake here by picking a pre-game favorite... ESPECIALLY this season when so many of the bios are so similar. But only one person really jumps out at me as being the star, and yes I know he is a risky pick. My man Jon Dalton could easily be voted out first or second, but I am going out on a limb and picking him as my go to guy. I don't have 100% confidence in him yet, but we will see if he can make me proud.

Oh, and these rankings are heavily male dominated at the start of the season. And that's not because a female won last season... it is more because this is just a male dominated cast. There just aren't many females here who look like potential winners.  Maybe Trish or Darrah or Christa and that is about it. For now, I am looking for the males to battle it out amongst themselves for the title this time around.

Oh yeah, and I should point out that I am generally good at picking out the good players, but I am horrible at predicting the first boots. The last three seasons, I picked the first boot to be Neleh, Clay, and then Jenna. You can't possibly do any worse than that!  But I will jump right back in the water this season and pick Lillian (oldest female on the weaker team) as my first boot. We'll see.

1. Jon Dalton
Jon is a risky pre season pick because he is so cocky. But his bio just jumps out at me so much, I would regret not putting him at #1 right off the bat. He is my guy for now. Win or lose, I bet you'll remember him.

2. Osten Taylor
He seems likeable, fun, smart, and tough. That is always a good Survivor combo.

3. Shawn Cohen
The right age, the right gender, the right tribe...

4. Trish Dunn
The only 35-45 year old mom of the bunch. She is the one to watch for if you want a female win.

5. Darrah Johnson
No reason to get rid of her, she should have an easy game for a while.

6. Christa Hastie
I see her doing well, I bet she knows the game and I bet she knows how to play. And hey, did you hear she is engaged to a race car driver?

7. Andrew Savage
Very strong and very much alpha. He will be a target from day one but it won't matter because the Morgans will need him.

8. Ryan Opray
His bio does not stand out at all, so he goes right in the middle. Standard policy.

9. Burton Roberts
Like I said before, he has Hunter written all over him.

10. Rupert Boneham
Rupert has to get past the first few votes, then he should be safe for a while.

11. Michelle Tesauro
Too nice, too sweet, out of place.

12. Nicole Delma
No, say it isn't so! Not Nicole!

13. Sandra Diaz-Twine
I don't see her getting very far.

14. Tijuana Bradley
Weak player on a weak tribe.

15. Ryan Shoulders
1101 1001 0110 01001 0110 0111.  In honor of Ryan, all his comments this season will be in binary. He would approve.

16. Lillian Morris
Not gonna happen.

I'm looking forward to the season.  Talk to you again in mid September!

Mario Lanza is a programmer who lives in Los Angeles with his wife and two small children. He is also the lead author of the Survivor-Central All-Star stories. And he still wishes they had found some way to work The Goonies into the tribe names. Fratelli vs. Walsh, anyone?