"This whole game is about Chapera kicking ass." - Rob Mariano

Rob may talk a lot of smack, but here he is simply stating facts...Chapera from Day 1 has been far and away the tribe to watch.

Let's just itemize this...

Chapera has...

- Finished in first place through five out of six Immunity challenges.

- Won all rewards save for three...and one of those was the episode two challenge where everybody got the pot and flint. The grill and fishing spear Mogo Mogo won were both just pillaged by Chapera.

- The challenges Chapera has won gave them a parachute, a tarp, booze, the rice before anyone else got it, a toilet, a portable shower, bathroom accessories, blankets, pillows, and a day away from camp to eat, drink, and be merry.

- With Boston Rob's guidance, they have crafted the greatest camp I have ever seen in eight seasons of Survivor. Not only does it have a sturdy roof, but it's waterproofed on the sides as well. The thing is practically airtight - and that is an enormous plus when playing a game in the rainy season. This is not to mention the comfortable sitting area (evidently Mogo Mogo never thought to do this) and the swing. Sure, having this camp doesn't automatically mean they win challenges, but it does put everyone in a much more comfortable state of mind (well rested specifically) when it comes time to compete.

- Finally, the kicker of it all? The remaining episodes will cover Day 22 forward, and so far the original four remaining Chapera members have been to ONE - count 'em ONE - Tribal Council. This is completely unprecedented in Survivor history. And the perfect recipe for true bonding in the tribe. Rob, Amber, Tom, and Alicia have barely needed to THINK in the game so far, or show their hands voting wise. This is just deadly for anyone opposing them.

I could go on and on about this difference. In fact...I think I will!

Episode One of every Survivor season always has clues as to how the outcome of the series will turn out. On that post-Superbowl extravaganza there were three opening sequences of events shown on each tribe. Leaving aside Saboga, what did we see at Chapera and Mogo Mogo?

Well, Chapera arrived and went to work as a group looking for the water hole. They found it, and celebration ensued. Then they went to work on building a shelter. There was disagreement on how to get it done, but as Rob M. put it "I'm going to have to make it work somehow."

Contrast this with Mogo Mogo. Of the three tribes, they were the only ones shown scheming right off the bat, talking alliances. Rich talked of people being paranoid in a confessional. Colby stated to everyone "I don't trust any of you sons of guns!" All of which adds up to a complete lack of any teamwork in the beginning...setting the tone for what was to come.

Finally, look at the Chapera's mindsets going into the game...

Alicia: She was voted out of the Outback purely for her strength in challenges...even over Nick. In other words, Ogakor targeted the 30-something female threat as opposed to the 23 year old male one, and that was the only reason she left. She could have been the nicest person in the world, but she was the one to go to keep the numbers on Ogakor's side. Combine that with a certain perception that she was cast to get one black contestant on the show, and this hyper- competitive woman went into All Star wanting to win or lose as a PLAYER, not as a token or a number.

Amber: Dubbed Lamber on message boards. Seen as hopelessly naive by Tina. Excess baggage, Jerri's handmaiden to most fans. So if there was one person fans scratched their heads about when the list was revealed, it was Amber. Probst even admitted she was cast in large part for the eye candy factor. In other words...is there any ASS contestant who went out there with more to prove than Amber Brkich? It's hard to name one.

Rob C: Has a passion for playing Survivor like no one else. Knows full well he would have won had he been up against either final three opponent on his season. Every single day out there would be complete rapture to him.

Rob M: Got stuck on the losing Maraamu, and then Rotu where he was outnumbered. Tried at every turn to make a move...he was there to play, big time. But he was stuck in a game with a bunch of pious bible-thumping types who wanted to inject ethos into a game that started filming less than two months after 9/11. Was told by innumerable people that Rob C. was a smarter version of himself. Went in knowing what he did wrong the first time around (not building team spirit for example) and was determined to change it. In other words, he was hungry...big time.

Sue: Went in it to win the money. Could care less about what people think of her, thus had a completely cutthroat attitude. She's decent at lying - in fact she committed the first act of voting-based deception in Survivor history when she told Stacey and Kelly she would vote out Rudy on Day 3. Still, maybe the least hungry of all of them...but still a competitor truly there to win it.

Tom: He got screwed on the final four Immunity Challenge where Kim won - it should have been a tie with Kim and Lex, and he was compensated financially for this error by Burnett. Even then, he has since found out that when it came down to it, he was the odd man out in the Lex-Tom-Ethan alliance. Did he have something to prove going in? Hell ya. The three are close friends, but why wouldn't Tom want to beat them both?

So there are six very, very, very, VERY, VERY hungry players...in it to win it. And what's more is that they have done it by working as a team, and thinking as a team. Yes, it's an individual game, but early on the tribe that gets it together as a group has always been much more likely to succeed. Not just to win group competitions, but to establish firm trust in a post-merge situation. This was true of Tagi, Boran, Chuay Gahn, the post-switch Jaburu, and Drake - all tribes that produced winners and in many cases dominated the final four. And Chapera has been a textbook case of this recipe for success.

As for Ethan? I have to say he did pretty well given the circumstances...and having attended every tribal council but one. All he needed was a victory for his team this episode, and he would have made the final ten. Mind you, if there was a merge things would have got exponentially harder from there, but it still would have been interesting to see an ex-winner sneak into the jury. But to go against him at the end? I completely agree with Lex's assessment - hey, I wouldn't want to see a repeat winner either, but on the other hand...how could you NOT reward a person who made it to the end with a gigantic target on their back??? I don't care which one of the four it was - it would be a travesty NOT to have them win again!

It's funny that Jenna and Kathy ended up being the ambassadors for their tribes...considering they each did it before in their own seasons. And while we are on the subject...how ironic is it that the only Survivor left from the first season was a member of the doomed Pagong tribe? And that she now finds herself on the strongest team out there? Talk about a reversal of fortune! In fact, both Jenna and Rupert are out there with something to prove as well...just two more cogs in the Chapera machine.

We got more of a different side of Rupert this week. With the ob-so-precious spear in hand he brought back a big catch. Then Rob went in the water...and proceeded to show Rupert that he is NOT freaking Jacques Cousteau. The problem I have with Rupert is when Rob brought in his first one. Rupert said "I'm just glad he caught a fish" in this condescending tone that essentially said "Well...we all know who the king of the sea is, but good job Rob! Way to try your best!" So I say good on Rob to show Rupe up and prove that evidently the Pearl Islands have some pretty well-stocked fishing schools. Meanwhile, between the two of them they hauled in...enough fish for everyone to eat their fill. And give yet another edge to Chapera.

Funniest Quote: In this case, it isn't one quote...or even just the funniest of these two episodes...but arguably the funniest scene ever filmed in Survivor history...

If you saw it, you guessed it - the mock TC with Chapera imitating Saboga. This was far and away the most self-referencing scene ever shown in any Survivor episode. Ethan seemed dismissive of this in a recent interview - that they were just performing for the cameras. Well - guess what? Of course they were! There are cameras there! This is an ENTERTAINMENT show Ethan! What's wrong with having a little fun?

And they did such a fantastic job...from Sue's impression of Jenna's hyperactive babble, to Tom's dour Rupert, to Amber's cartoonishly southern (and bust enhanced) Tina. But bonus points go The Robasu's dead-on, studied impression of Probst. As I was watching it for the first time, after I got up off the floor from laughing, I thought "I am going to watch this about 20 more times." And I'm nearly there. And I've laughed every single time.

Oh, and it was just yet another Chapera bonding moment. Along with wearing shell necklaces...

And making a final six promise to each other after Sue left...

And Alicia saying "We're going to kick the green team's ass!"

And...you get the picture.

So...NEXT week!

Well...no one has quite figured out what is happening this week, even in the spoiler realm. It would seem there is going to be some sort of tribal switch, but how exactly that goes down is all up in the air. I feel pretty confident in who will be going though.

In sum, if a Chapera player doesn't win this, something is wrong in Survivordom...they all deserve it.

You know, the general feeling among fans is that so far this season hasn't lived up to the hype and anticipation that people had. Familiarity breeds contempt as the saying goes, and this series has had nothing but familiarity as its stated theme with the setting, the people, and the challenges.

Still, I am starting to take the longer view, and see that this series is just going to get better with time. Not just watching the season play out, but even after it's over I think All Star may end up being viewed in retrospect as the most tightly edited, deftly constructed edition ever. So far, it's been like reading the first half of a good novel - characters and themes have been established, story arcs have either been quick (Jenna leaving) or brought out slowly and surely (the Rob- Amber romance)

So it was fortuitous that they chose to put the recap in when they did. The players who came in without a real chance (the winners and Rudy) or others who didn't have their total hearts in this (Colby, to an extent Sue) are gone, and the people who really should be there - the ones who are hungriest for the prize - are left. Well...The Robasu belongs in this group, but it just wasn't meant to be.

I have faith that the show is only going to get better and better...even though I see the writing on the wall of Mogo Mogo going down in flames. Man, I can't WAIT to see more!