Thailand Strategy #4:  To Helen, A Handbasket
Written by Mario Lanza on 10.12.02

"Bye Bye Denver Diva."
-Clay Jordan

And there we have it... the first major player of Survivor: Texas!  Helen Glover, come on down.  Take your seat in the hall of champions, because you are the first player to officially stand out this season.

I have nothing but respect for Helen thus far. She is proving to be a great player, a wise player, and, most importantly, one who thinks with her head instead of her heart. It is kind of disheartening to watch all these players, season after season, who align with friends, or who won't vote for people they like, or who are only interested in voting out the annoying ones. Helen is clearly not interested in that crap, she is here for the win. I don't know who she is aligned with (Brian?), or what her long term plan is, or how she can hold up over time. But the lady knows how to play, and she plays the game well. If she can last past the next episode or two, and she doesn't run into a string of bad luck, I think we are looking at a definite favorite in the endgame.

I have had a nice string of predictions thus far. After the first episode (which is a crapshoot anyway), I have picked the last three people to get booted. I was way over my head with my Marquesas predictions, of course, in fact by the end I think I was picking Tina or Rudy or Jeff Probst to win. But this season has been much more predictable and is much more rooted in common sense. The players are voting as they should. And, of course, all that will change next week, with whatever twist shows up. If it is a voluntary twist, I expect it is in the best interests of Jan, Stephanie, Helen, and maybe even Robb to switch teams. Heck, maybe all of Chuay-Gahn will want to switch. They are in enough trouble as it is even without losing anyone. But if it is a random switch, all bets are off. The favorites to win (Brian, Helen, Jake, Ken) could all wind up in a helpless situation, and no amount of luck will save their bacon. So the power rankings come with an asterisk this week. I have been pretty accurate up until now, but this is the week that will really make or break the season.

Ghandia, Ghandia, Ghandia... ahh, what to say about the Denver Diva. She will certainly be remembered. There is a great debate going on right now as to how ethical she was, how smart she really was, how cunning, etc. Did she plan the whole Ted situation out? Did she intend to try and destroy his character? How much actually happened between the two? Was it a careful and well-thought out plan to turn the females against the males? We may never know. From what I have seen of her, she is highly impulsive, emotional, and she acts on whims. I can't imagine that she planned it out too much in advance, if at all. She doesn't seem to have that sort of patience. But I think that once it did happen, she DID use it as leverage to help her position in the game. Was this highly unethical? Who is to say. There are really no rules in this game. As someone who enjoys the hardcore nastiness that this game tends to bring out in people, I say there was nothing wrong with it. You do what you got to do. If Ghandia really planned this whole thing out, and to hell with the effect it would have on Ted, then I say more power to her. Richard Hatch would have been proud, because she was thinking of Ted as a pawn, not a person. Of course the plan failed in the end, but that was only because Helen is far too crafty to fall for emotional manipulation. 

I think a lot of people will say that Helen "switched" her vote, or that she "backstabbed" Ghandia. But I doubt that is true at all. I don't think Helen was EVER aligned with Ghandia. It was pretty clear that she had no use for Ghandia in her world. Helen is the type of person who seems to be annoyed by the slightest little thing, and you know that living 24/7 with someone so high strung would absolutely drive her nuts. So no, I don't think Helen hesitated for a second to vote for Ghandia. Helen is pissed off at the men of Chuay-Gahn, but that's no reason to vote them off now. There is no reason to force a tiebreaker showdown so early in the game. Never vote with your heart, that should be the motto of Survivor. Forget "Outwit, Outplay, Outlast." The motto should change to "Vote with your head."

Ghandia's plan was a good idea. It was her only shot to save her butt, and she went for it. It failed in the end, but I think she played it as well as she could, if you take into account how she had been targeted since day three. So nice try, Ghandia, at least you went out with a bang.

Some other stuff this week...

Penny said that she "went with the majority" when they decided to vote out Jed. I said last week that she might have been a quiet leader, alongside Ken. But this comment changes that. She may not be one of the leaders at all, she could be just one of the herd.

Stephanie is clearly, clearly the next one gone from Sook-Jai, unless a twist or immunity saves her. There is no chance that anyone else will go. Don't believe any rumors you might hear about Robb, or Shii Ann. Look at it logically, and ignore the editing. Only a major shakeup can save her now.

Ted and Ghandia really don't like each other. Clay clearly doesn't like Ghandia. None of the females have much admiration for Clay. No one on Sook-Jai is even remotely close. This will be a heck of a reunion. We may see fisticuffs.

Clay took a big hit this week in the power rankings. I pegged him as the "underdog" last week, the guy who everyone forgets is around. But he really isn't a meek little guy at all. He is actually a bit mean spirited, and some of his comments are borderline just plain nasty. A twist would probably be good for Clay, although he has enemies on both tribes right now. I have to say I am enjoying the numerous Clay impressions this season.  I also enjoyed the fact that Jeff Probst bitchslapped him at Tribal Council for using nicknames. He is a fun guy to have around and watch. He is also nothing like I predicted from his bio.

Clay has taken his fair share of abuse from online fans this season, and a lot of it I feel is unwarranted. I doubt he is anything like a child abuser, or a misogynist, or a selfish a-hole in real life, like he has been called. It just goes back to my old theory that people in America just don't seem to like players from the South. It happens every season. Look at the abuse that Tina and Tom took online in past seasons. And I'll bring up a good point that my wife recently made. If Clay really is such an "old school," old-fashioned, traditional Southern guy, would he really be best friends with Ted?

At one point last night, Shii Ann named the four people who were sitting back, and who were watching Stephanie paint the dummy. She listed herself, Ken, Jake and Penny. Are these the "big four" in Sook-Jai?

We had some nice flashbacks this week to one of my favorite players from seasons past, Clarence Black from Africa. From Clay's use of the phrase "Hellllll no", to Ken's bodypaint in the challenge, to Robb's threats of violence against the chickens if they didn't lay eggs. The spirit of Clarence lives on! At least Ted didn't strip down to his tightie whities, that would have been a little too much.

Why on Earth would Chuay-Gahn pick Ghandia to do a puzzle challenge again? Didn't they learn their lesson? Are the other 5 members even worse at logic puzzles than she is?

Still no word as to who the uber-villain is going to be. Will it be Helen? Shii Ann? Clay? Ted? Penny? Newly disliked sexist Brian? Stay tuned...

Okay, I hate to keep bringing up my Andy Kaufman strategy column, but this was something I couldn't pass up. A few weeks ago I wrote how you needed to play the game like Andy Kaufman would have played it, and adopt a fake persona, telling nobody. Well, check out this coincidence. In 1982, Andy decided to become a professional wrestler. No real reason, he was just bored. So he decided to adopt a "bad guy" wrestler persona, and go around inciting crowds. But the catch was that he would only wrestle women, because he couldn't beat men. So he went around inciting women at arenas, talk shows, TV tapings, etc. His "wrestler" persona would stand up and scream things like "There's not a woman here who can beat me! You all are weak and pathetic! You can't possibly beat a man, because I've got the brains! You belong in the kitchen, or doing dishes, or washing clothes! Stay where you belong!" Now, of course, a month after I wrote that column, along comes Brian, and he says ALMOST THE EXACT SAME THING in a confessional this week. Of course, he was basically cracking up, and he seemed to be joking around with whoever was interviewing him, but is this a coincidence? He quoted Andy Kaufman, almost word for word! It is destiny! Brian Heidik is going to win, it must happen now!


With every Chuay-Gahn loss, the chances that the winner will come from Chuay Gahn get slimmer and slimmer. But I still don't see "winner" when I look at ANYONE on Sook-Jai. The real power rankings will come out next week, after the twist determines the future course of the game. But for now, Brian is still your man. Will the guy ever be in any danger? All he does is sit around and smile and laugh his way through Tribal Council.

1. Brian Heidik
Has all the tools to win, and a merge or twist won't likely hurt him. And you can bet your ass the women in this game never hear him make any jokes or comments about "washing his clothes." That's all for the cameras, baby.

2. Helen Glover
The catch with this ranking is that Helen could very well be voted out next week. With or without a twist, she could be in danger. But if she makes it past week five's vote, she will be in the game likely until the final episode. And bonus points for her determined lunge to stop the Chuay-Gahn banana from falling to the ground. 

3. Ken Stafford
No one's gonna vote against a cop from NYC for a while, even if he hasn't really done much yet. Ken's danger period is rapidly approaching, though. Midgame is deadly to the best athlete in the game. Did you notice he had "9-11-01" painted on his arm during the immunity challenge? Knowing the way that networks milk 9/11, I'm surprised that CBS didn't have a commercial featuring just that image. Ken's arm, solving puzzles for America, this week on Survivor (cue sad music).

4. Jake Billingsley
Sometimes it seems that they just plain forget about ol' Jake. Although he started to show his age in the reward challenge, he was a bit winded by all that running. Penny had to ask that they stop to give him a break.

5. Shii Ann Huang
The She Devil has yet to show her vaunted horns, but the time is near. The time is near...

6. Penny Ramsey
I don't know much about the girl yet, but I still go back to how she ran her teammates into poles and trees, in the sole interest of winning. Gotta love that determination.

7. Ted Rogers Jr.
Stuck in the middle again, although you know he likes that Clay has taken some of the heat off of him for a while. Ted will be in real danger soon though, in the midgame.

8. Jan Gentry
I really don't want to see Jan win, but it is clear that she is rapidly moving out of her danger zone. If she gets past the next vote, she will stick around for a while. She is of no threat to anyone. Although I would like to request that she stop laughing and smiling with food in her mouth. It happened twice in this episode. Not cool.

9. Robb Zbacnik
Robb is the big wild card in the game right now. He could be a great player. He could be a terrible player. He could physically kill another player. He could be eaten by a shark next week. But one thing is true. The dude loves bananas.

10. Erin Collins
Not much of a chance to win, but at least she has a better chance than Clay or Stephanie right now.

11. Clay Jordan
Clay took a big, big hit this week. The one thing he cannot do is piss people off. He is so small, and is so unassuming, that he needs to coast by on charm and a smile. But he is making a lot of enemies, not only on Sook-Jai and Chuay-Gahn, but with Jeff Probst as well. Clay needs some damage control this week, because he is spiraling rapidly downwards right now.

12. Stephanie Dill
I almost get an "underdog" vibe from her, like a twist may save her. We shall see, because in her current situation, she is the next to go. Clearly.  On the plus side, well at least she's a pretty good artist.

Biggest power Gain this week: Helen. Bow down to the great Helen.
Biggest power loss this week: Clay.

Special Note on last week's column:  I got several emails last week asking why I named my column "Shoplifting the Pootie." That is a line from the movie Jerry Maguire, in which Rod Tidwell (Cuba Gooding) is mad at Jerry (Tom Cruise) for taking advantage of a single mother. He accuses Jerry of sleeping with a woman who is in a bad situation, or "shoplifting the pootie." So I used the same logic for Ted and Ghandia.  I accused him of trying to get some from a woman in a vulnerable state. Thus the name of my column. It was a joke that maybe two people got, sorry, I will try to be less obscure in the future.

Mario Lanza lives in Los Angeles and loves bananas, dude. He was one of the writers of All-Star Survivor: Hawaii this offseason, as well as the planned sequel, coming soon...