Thursday, April 14, 2005

"Survivor": Everybody Loves Stephenie

Last week I compared Stephenie of "Survivor: Palau" to a great pitcher stuck on a bad team. But when she finally got to be a part of the good team, it looked as if everyone else was pitching to her.
Ulong, which had shrunk to Stephenie alone, was finally declared defunct, with Stephenie joining the long-dominant Koror tribe. Under most circumstances, that would make her an easy target for elimination; why keep around a wild card when you've had plenty of time to set up your own alliances and to figure out every other competitor's moves?
But Koror has been so successful, it's like a storybook version of ancient Rome, where everyone is so fat and peaceful that the only amusement left for them is scheming and plotting against one another. (All of sudden, I'm seeing "Palau" as an updating of "I, Claudius.") And when a new player arrives, it creates an opportunity for a whole new round of rivalries as everyone tries to bring the new player into their circle.
Oh, sure, there are people who fear Stephenie because she has been so strong as a competitor. But she has also managed to avoid being either lazy or a pain in the neck.
(Note to the now-departed Coby: If you want to be a puppet master, it helps to have some puppets.)
Even more significantly, Stephenie has been a hard, uncomplaining worker who has given the show a good story by toughing it out for so long.
I was really disappointed at first when she went for the pizza instead of immunity. But I'm beginning to think it was a smart move. If she had beaten Tom for immunity first time out of the box, she would look entirely too strong -- and would probably get voted out the first time she hit tribal council without immunity. This way, she seems less of a threat -- and had some good eats. Still, there's a part of me that thinks you never pass up a good chance at immunity.
Am I too readily joining those who cheer for Stephenie? Maybe. But I like her style. And we're getting to see her a lot. I should be paying attention to, say, Caryn, since she has a local connection. But either she or the editors have made a conscious decision to move her into the background for now. So there hasn't been much to feel about her one way or another.
That may change, of course. But for now, I'm watching to see what happens with Stephenie.

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