Thailand Strategy #9:  Dancing with C.C.
Written by Mario Lanza on 11.15.02

"At least she kept her clothes on, which I was happy about."
- Brian Heidik

First off, I appreciated Ken's final words. Asking people to send him cookies was brilliant. Of course, he may not have taken into account how many people actually watch this show, and how many female viewers out there might be in love with him. One time, George Harrison of the Beatles mentioned that he liked jelly beans in an interview, and he was soon bombarded by them every single he went out to perform in a concert. Now, I'm not saying that Ken is as popular as the Beatles or anything, I'm just saying that it is possible to have too much of a good thing. Ken, when your house is flooded with cookies over the next two weeks, don't come complaining to us. You dug your own grave. Your own gooey chocolatey delicious grave.

This was another pretty predictable episode. I swear, this season has gone pretty much by the book all the way back to day one. The only two bootees I haven't called before they happened were John and Erin, and the first episode is always just a big crapshoot anyway. Of course, the two people I said were most likely to go in episode one were Jan or Clay, and they are both still hanging around at the end of the episode nine, so I guess I will drop the subject of all my successful predictions right now. If either one of them wins, it is going to hurt. Let's just forget I ever said anything.

There isn't a whole lot to say about the strategy this week. You know a Sook Jai was going home, all the fancy editing and misdirection in the world couldn't have hidden that. Jake and company made a valiant effort in trying to oust Brian, true, but it wasn't going to happen. I don't know if Jake honestly believed it was going to work, or if Clay honestly was going to switch sides, but he sure seemed to think he had a chance. Jake's quite the little optimist, isn't he? And right now he is just trying too hard.  He is trying too hard to fit in, he is trying too hard to make friends, he is trying too hard to pull strings. It is going to backfire on him. But, like all of us, he will soon learn the lesson of futility. Like Joshua, the super computer in the movie Wargames, Jake will eventually learn that sometimes the only winning move is not to make a move at all.

So we learned that Jake is the eternal optimist this week. We also learned some things about our diminutive little friend Clay. The main thing we learned about Clay is that Clay is SHARP. He was on to Jake's "Roy Rogers stories" strategy early on, he was the brains behind the "pile votes onto Ted" substrategy, he kicked tail in the immunity challenge, and he basically just had a great episode all around. Clay is all over this game right now, and you might actually see a change in the power rankings this week. As I mentioned in an earlier column, Clay is small, he is clever, he is unthreatening, and best of all, he is Southern. He has an accent. People ALWAYS underestimate the one with the accent. It is just one of those weird sociological things, if you have a southern accent people will automatically think you are stupid (as I mentioned in my Andy Kaufman column). Clay is in a great spot to win right now, and no one really sees it.

To expand on Clay, there is one other reason why I think he has a good shot to win.  He has a good shot to win because he wants it the most. Well, okay maybe that's not quite right. I think that Clay NEEDS it the most. It was leaked on some of the fan sites recently that Clay is not quite as successful a restaurateur as we have been told. In a stunning breach of privacy, somebody posted details on Clay's recent bankruptcy filing. It turns out he filed for bankruptcy right before he left for the island. Now I don't know who else on the island would know about this, but Clay is the probably only one who really, truly does need this money. Although I guess you could also make that argument for Penny, since she is about to get married and she probably doesn't have all that much money yet. But Clay is the one who will probably do anything to win this game. After all, as he earlier said himself, "Clay is out here playing for Clay." For the rest of them, yes, this is probably a fantastic adventure, a game of strategy, a chance to prove that they are smarter than the rest. But it is probably a whole different scenario for Clay. He is just out there to get as much money as he can. Which means it's kind of funny if you go back and rewatch the first episode, where Helen voted for Clay because "he doesn't need it as much as the rest of us."

The videos were a nice change of pace this week.  I always like the "seeing loved ones from home" episode of each season. Of course we didn't actually see a  whole lot of the loved ones, normally we at least get to see the goodbye clips for the people who didn't win.  Although what we did see was a whole lot of Brian's wife, the famed actress C.C. Costigan.  And we also saw a whole bunch of shots of Brian cringing.  Poor Brian may have had his chances to win  torpedoed this week, by his own loved one!  But what could he do?  He had a carefully built persona, he had the game in the palm of his hand, he had been playing the game as well as it had ever been played before.  And then his video from home showed up and it might have destroyed everything.

What exactly might have hurt Brian?  Well to begin, we learned that he has money.  The guy has a lot of money.  In his audition tape, he said he was in the top 5% of all car salesmen in the country.  That works out to having a serious amount of moolah.  Note to self: Become a used-car salesman. But you can just imagine how helpless Brian must have felt, watching the video as C.C. showed off each and every one of his luxury possessions.  I can't say that C.C. was a master Survivor strategist, but hey, at least she was fun to watch.  So we will just give her the benefit of the doubt.  Although I must say it was by far the least erotic C.C. Costigan video I have ever watched. I hear that "The Sexecutioner" is much better.

Ted's video was sweet, but was I the only one who thought it would be funny if a very angry Ghandia showed up and made a cameo on Ted's video? "Ted, you can't escape me! I'm here, waiting for you. Come on over and grind me in my Attack Zone. You said we would be together forever!" It would be like Fatal Attraction.

So what will happen next week? Well, next week will be a little tougher to call. It is now a 5 to 2 game, and Chuay Gahn really has nothing to lose if they wanted to Amber one of their own.  I don't know why they would, but people have certainly been annoyed by Helen, Ted and Clay at times. And Brian is definitely a threat to everyone. If people were smart, they would finally start to target him.

It's funny. All anyone could talk about early in the game was Ken.  Ken this, Ken that. Ken is the threat, Ken is the athlete, Ken is the most likeable. But I think Brian was ALWAYS a bigger threat than Ken. People don't realize that Brian sweet talks people for a living, that's just what he does.  He also happens to be a former All-State football player. Now that Ken is gone, it finally exposes Brian for what he is (a threat), and I am sure he knows it. Listen to his comments in his confessionals and you can see that Brian eats, sleeps and drinks this game. It is all that he thinks about. In fact, we really haven't seen a strategist like this since the days of Richard Hatch.  But surely Brian realizes that Ken going home hurts his own chances, and makes him stand out as more of a threat.  I don't think it's likely to happen, but it wouldn't surprise me at all if Brian goes home soon. You can cover your ass all you want, you can make as many friends as you can, but eventually over the course of the game you lose your cover of protection.  Brian is still in good for now, but he better watch himself.

So who is safe next week? Well Jan is safe, there is no reason for her to go. Ever. Clay is probably safe, I just don't see anyone going after him right now. Those are the only two who should be 100 percent sitting pretty though. Jake is the most likely boot next week, because he is the father figure of Sook Jai and all, and because he is pushing so hard to make some sort of an alliance flip happen. He is very likeable, true, but I think that the powers that be in Chuay Gahn are all onto him. Penny could just as easily go, though, because I think she is FAR more devious than Jake.  But then again she has been hiding it pretty well lately, so the Chuays might not realize that. All Penny has to do right now is smile a lot, and say "y'all" and "fixin'" a lot, and people will forget about her.

Now if a Chuay Gahn goes home next week, well that will be interesting. Helen has been getting on some nerves lately with her recipes, but I think she will be okay next week. Just a hunch. Ted was targeted this week though, and the previews for next week show him panicking that people are after him, so he might actually be in some trouble. It's clear that Clay has no use for Ted anymore, and your guess is as good as mine what Brian might have in store for Ted. So his number has a chance to actually be up next week.

And finally, Brian. As I said before, I don't think it's very LIKELY that he goes home next week, but he is in a dangerous area right now. He might actually have to sweat it out a little. The game has been way too easy for him so far, so it will be interesting to see if he can handle some pressure for a change.

In the end, I will go with the common sense pick and pick Jake to go home next week. Chuay Gahn COULD turn on each other, and of course they will have to turn on each other eventually.  But it's a little too early. You don't want to make any enemies any earlier than you have to.

Hey, how about that new immunity necklace? It looks like a big Amish beard.  I know they have been trying, but this season they have finally come up with the least childproof season of Survivor yet.  After all, the immunity idol had a giant pointy spike on top and the immunity necklace could easily put your eye out. Hey, we have a newborn in our house, this is just how I think. I just hope the producers have installed cupboard locks and outlet covers on the island. Although to be fair, if Clay had the necklace on, probably no one would lose an eye, since he is so small. But it could very easily cause a painful elbow injury if Brian or Ted or Helen were standing next to him.

Four quick thoughts on this episode before I sign off:

* Are Jeff Probst's dimples getting even bigger? It almost looks as if he has holes in his cheeks by this point.

* Wow, Erin cleans up nice!

* Kudos to CBS for ponying up to get the rights to "Are you Lonesome Tonight."  They shelled out the money to play the song in the background as Helen was singing it.  That was a nice scene. And wow, after CBS paid for the rights to "The Godfather" last season, now they are just going all out with the pop culture references. And, well, as a fellow fan of pop culture, I say you go girl!

* Two things you probably didn't want to hear, that were both said during the reward challenge:
"Clay's released his ball!" and "Helen is working that fishnet!"

Final comments on the departed:  Ken was a good guy. He never played the game with anything but dignity, and best of all, he was a good sport. He ALWAYS went out of his way to congratulate other people on their challenge victories. True, he wasn't the most exciting player in Survivor history, but you really can't say a single bad thing about him. He had no pretenses that he wasn't going home last night, and when he did, he went out with class. I know I made fun of the fact that people applauded him at the start of the season, but he certainly warranted it through his actions, and now I applaud him.  I hope he gets his chocolate chip cookies. And if he doesn't, I hope Helen provides him with a recipe for them.


For the first time this season, we have a change at the top!  Brian might have taken a serious hit this week because of his wife's video. He still has a good chance to win, of course, but I think he is entering a dangerous time now.  Right now his only move should be to round up his allies and make sure they are still all on the same page.

1. Clay Jordan - 30% chance to win
I am moving the little guy up to the top spot for now because he is in good position to win. As I mentioned before, he is small, he is unthreatening, he is southern, and he is smart as a whip. He completely snowed Jake about an alliance, and he even piled votes onto Ted for a possible tiebreaker down the road. He is a fighter, he does well in the mental challenges, and he even managed to hold his own in the obstacle course. Plus he probably needs the money the most, so you can be sure he will do anything he has to do to win.  And you know that Clay enjoyed seeing C.C. on video as much as anyone did.

2. Brian Heidik - 25% chance to win
Brian is the best strategist we have seen in some time, but he is clearly, clearly the biggest threat in the game right now. Other people MUST see that. And people seeing the brand new Cadillac in his garage couldn't have helped.

3. Helen Glover - 25% chance to win
Helen is the one who is most likely to take Brian out, but I'm not entirely sure that will happen. Note that she said "If I was against Brian, I would target him." "IF" is the key word there. She isn't against him.  But then again Helen also has an innate sense of justice about her, from her comments about Clay "not needing the money" to her new revelation that Brian probably doesn't need it either. In any case she is a heck of a player and a heck of a character and she will definitely have a hand in how this game plays out. And I still love her camo pants and her always-pissed-off-at-the-world demeanor.

4. Ted Rogers Jr. - 20% chance to win
Ted is slowly being pushed out of the power core. He is turning into the outsider, and his grumpiness and his power and size might lead people to target him soon. I think he still has a decent shot to win, but it will depend a  lot on those around him falling apart.  I don't think Ted completely controls his own destiny right now.

5. Jan Gentry
Jan is in this game for the long haul, and despite all odds she is still holding up very well. She did an admirable job on that obstacle course, and her eccentricity just seems to be the way she is. I don't think she is as affected by the long stay on the island as much as people think she is. But that being said, I don't think she can win. Sure, she could EASILY get to the final two. In fact, I think a couple of people left in the game are counting on that. But a jury simply won't vote for her to win. She can be likeable and sympathetic and as sweet as pie, but a jury will only vote for someone they will respect as a winner.  And, well, I don't think anyone wants to say they lost to Jan.  Especially when you are talking about a group of Type-A competitive people like this. So I fully expect Jane to be in the final 2 or 3, but I don't think she can win the game.  This is just basic human nature.

6. "Peeny" Ramsey
Penny the schemer has transformed into Penny the sweet li'l cheerleader right before our very eyes. It is the right move to make, of course, but I don't think she has any control over this game anymore. Brian, Clay, Helen, and Ted are just not going to fall for her sweet little girl act.  Nice try Penny, but it is out of your hands at this point. Although she did keep a good game face when Clay butchered her name and called her "Peeny" at Tribal Council.

7. Jake Billingsley
Jake tried to "ooch" his way into an alliance this week, but that just isn't going to happen. Even the nicest guys lose out to the numbers game eventually, and Jake's time is just about up. He is trying his absolute hardest though, and around camp he can still ease anyone into a good conversation just because he is friendly like that.  But they are on to him.  Even Magilla has started to yawn at some of Jake's stories. A Sook Jai almost definitely has to go home next week, and their sympathetic father figure is the best choice for the Chuay Gahns to take out. Although I will say that Jake's comment about Jan's "clavage" turning him on was one of the funniest moments of this week's episode.


All-Star Survivor #2 update:

As many of you are aware, we are planning a sequel to All-Star Survivor: Hawaii soon. It will take place after Survivor 6 (Amazon). Right now, it looks like Helen, Brian and Clay are the best bets to be included in the cast, but you never know.

Mario Lanza lives in Los Angeles with his wife and two small children. He is desperately trying to get tickets to the final episode in December, so if you can hook him up, drop him a line. He also wants it to be known that his favorite dessert is oatmeal raisin cookies, so please send them to Mario c/o Survivor-Central.