Stephanie has dropped the last Ulong buff, and wrapped herself in the new smells-fresh Kuror colors. She survived the first Tribal Council with her new tribe.

Last week she was the Last Loser Standing. This week I rate her Most Likely Winner. Her's why.

The Kuror alliances appear to be fixed, for the moment. Consider:


Tom and Ian appear to be both strong, and tightly aligned. Katie appears to be strongly emotionally aligned as well. When Jeff at TC asked Tom if he wanted to give up his immunity, and he said he'd keep it, thank you very much Jeff, Katie's laugh seemed to be very much in tune with Tom.

I'm not sure what use Katie is, in terms of DOING anything... but *because* Tom and Ian are so strong, they need that third vote. Without it, they're gone. But with an honest loyal guarantee of Final Four, they can probably count on Katie's vote. For now.

We haven't seen much of Kuror, so we are forced to read as much meaning as possible into a half-second revelation. That laugh of Katie's told me she's in tune with, completely in line with, whatever Tom chooses strategically.


Gregg and Jenn appear to be tightly aligned. They're not necessarily loyal to Tom and Ian, and Tom/Ian aren't necessarily loyal to them. Their voting bloc, I'd say, is available for negotiation.

Jenn's on the wrong side of the planet. She thinks she's on The Dating Game. Too many players, but Tom specifically, are getting in her way, because they think they're there to play Survivor. Even Gregg seems to be there to play Survivor.

A tight pair of two people, at this point in the game, makes for a powerful voting bloc. An anti-Tom alliance could have strong appeal to Jenn; a strong strategic move could have appeal to Gregg.


Janu... I don't know what to make of Janu. Her credentials are impressive; maybe she's a sleeper. Or maybe she's just a sleeper.

Whatever she is, she's a vote. Sandra from Pearl Islands kept voting so as to stay one more week; each alliance-of-the-moment needed her vote. Janu has just been promoted to a powerful position.


Caryn needs an alliance, fast. However, I think she's capable of getting one. Let's not forget she was still standing with Stephanie at the last challenge... though that challenge came to a premature end.

I see Caryn as the most important unknown at this point. She *must* put it together, now, or she's gone. I'm hoping she will. I don't like her, but I like her position.


That leaves us with Stephanie.

One possible move for Stephanie, is to firmly align with Tom, Ian, and Katie. That's an unbeatable voting bloc. Someone besides those four can be made the next target, and the rest will likely go that way rather than risk a tie. Although stepping up to force a tie could be interesting...

*IF* Steph aligns with Tom, Ian, and Katie, I expect pretty much everyone else will vote the way they say to vote. Janu's an easy choice, but it's probably wiser to remove Caryn while they still can.

From Steph's standpoint, loyalty to Tom brings her Final Four. But... then what? She's competed against Tom a dozen times and more, and LOST. Final Four might be as far as it goes... we have the unusual situation of the strongest players still being in the game. There were no pre-merge oustings. What if there are five left, and Gregg wins immunity? Somebody has to go, and Steph must probably assume that it's her turn to leave, when five or four remain. She's got a strong mental edge, but so do both Tom and Ian.


So... what about the other direction?

From Stephanie's viewpoint, that looks viable to me as well.

Here's the possible alliance: Stephanie, Caryn, Janu, Jenn, Gregg. With that, we can guarantee either Tom or Ian are gone. I would guess the Final Four then include either Tom or Ian (but not both), because of immunity wins, and Stephanie.

Between Tom, Ian, and Katie, they can send two of the three home in the next two votes. That buys Stephanie enough time to create a new final-three alliance (could be anybody), and she's up against weaker players for that final challenge. Or, at least, up against Tom *or* Ian rather than both.

Thus, in my opinion, Stephanie could jump either way. The direction she chooses NOW will pretty much determine the Final Four. (Or, at least, should.)


If Stephanie makes the final two, I believe she's a strong contender for winning. Every jury member is a Kuror. Does anyone seriously believe Coby is done with the cattiness? There will be some votes *against* any Kuror in the final two. And, Stephanie will have the unparalleled feat of surviving SIXTEEN CONSECUTIVE TRIBAL COUNCILS. Seems to me that can only play in her favor.

If she hangs tight with Tom, Ian, and Katie, both of the final two can say they ran the entire race with complete loyalty and no backstabbing.

Stephanie, however, can jump *either* direction. If she does it now, she can claim to the jury that she considered herself a free agent at the time of her joining Kuror. She was welcomed by all factions. If she makes her choice clearly, now, and stays with that choice, she *should* make the final four. After that, it's a fresh game.

Should she make the final two by "jumping left," she can point out to the jury that that was the game-winning move. And it was.

On the other hand, it's possible that all of the above will be recognized, and Stephanie will be the next to go. No way can she beat a 7-1 vote. And, to protect against *that*, her safest bet is probably to place herself under the protection of Tom and Ian.

Seems to me that, for the other seven players, their strongest move is to make a deal with Stephanie. For *everyone*, it's either/or. Either Tom/Ian, or not. Either Steph *is* the winning alliance, or she's neutralized, and sent to live with Coby for the duration.


Stephanie, right now, is looking at an alliance which guarantees her the final four. Furthermore, that alliance has existed from Day One. That's appealing, and comforting, security.

Is there any chance at all that Stephanie will think the next step, and consider, *then what*? Is she likely to consider whether or not she can get *past* the final four, and consider other strategies for doing so?

I would suggest that, of anyone, Stephanie is the most likely to think it all the way through. She's BEEN there, and she's the only one who has. She's the one, and she's the ONLY one, who knows about competing against Tom AND Ian. She's competed in mental, physical, endurance challenges. She knows about final four, and three, and two, and has a taste of being the One Survivor.

Whether she *will* think it through, I don't know. Is she equipped to do so? Absolutely. What choice will she make? She'll jump to the right, I think. Tom and Ian will make it to the end, which I also see as a good thing. But if she jumps left, this could become interesting!


Stephanie *right now* has the opportunity to think ahead to the endgame, and jump accordingly. If she does it NOW, before or during the next tribal council, it's a potentially game winning move.

Will she do it? I don't know. Sticking with Tom and fighting past the Final Four is a strong move. Jumping the other way is riskier, but *maybe* the stronger move. Steph's winning move would be, perhaps, inducing CARYN to form the alliance against Tom and Ian. With Steph's quiet backing, Caryn could probably pull it off. I think Caryn's a sleeper.

From Tom's standpoint, he needs to pull in Stephanie. Therefore, I should think, Tom and Ian need to seriously consider a stronger promise to Stephanie. But... they can't. They need Katie too, because Tom and Ian are both fulltime targets. I have NO doubt, Stephanie has pictured herself in the final four with Tom and Ian... and then trying to compete for immunity.

Stephanie, at this moment, in my opinion, has the power to nullify the individual immunity. Her side, whichever side it is, can simply vote out the other. She has (or can have) the numbers. Tom and Ian can win immunity every time... but only ONE gets it.

I'm focused on Tom and Ian because I think they won't lose. They'll continue to carry the Kuror momentum forward. But without the voting bloc, they're gone anyway. I also believe that Tom and Ian (and Stephanie) understand that better than most of the others.