30 from 30: #15 – Osten Taylor Quits Survivor

The Moment:

Osten Taylor lays down his torch and becomes the first person to quit the game.

We’re counting down the 30 Moments That Shaped Survivor, events that happened on the show that helped create and evolve the game and the series that we know and love. Go here to view the criteria we are using to determine what qualifies for the list. And since these posts are covering the first thirty seasons of Survivor, there will be spoilers for various Survivor seasons.


Why It Matters:

Seven seasons into Survivor, we had only seen people leave the game in two ways: they were voted out, or they were medically evacuated. Those were the only two options. Then, seven episodes in to Pearl Islandsthe Outcasts returned and forced both tribes into one last tribal council before the merge.

If you recall, the Morgan tribe had not started the game well. They were stuck on a crappy beach, they struggled to get food, and lost the first six challenges in a row. But when Burton (Editor’s note: stupid, sexy Burton) convinced the Drake tribe throw a challenge, Morgan got their first taste of victory. The Morgan tribe then won the next two immunity challenges, and both tribes had five members left going into the challenge against the Outcasts. But when the Outcasts won that challenge, each tribe had to vote someone out.

Osten Taylor, or O.T. as his Morgan tribemates called him, had a rough go of it on Pearl Islands. He gave up most of his clothes in the first episode to get money for his tribe to trade for supplies, so he was wandering around for most of the season with only his boxers on. He was also someone who didn’t have a lot of extra fat, so the lack of food hit him hard. I mean look at the man, not much to lose besides muscle.

God-body Osten Taylor
“I traded my body fat for a machete back in the village.”

Osten also had acquired multiple staph infections while living on the beach, and he talked endlessly about how the game was sapping his strength and will. He even almost drowned at one point!

Osten swimming

And of course he had to deal with this:

Pearl Islands Pete the Pelican taunts Osten
“Hey bro, nice boxers. You should quit.”

Fun fact about Osten Taylor: the man doesn’t like pelicans. Or birds at all, really. Actually, he just doesn’t like nature in general. So when Pelican Pete wandered into their camp, the rest of his tribe laughed. But not Osten. Seriously, that pelican was out to get him, and Osten was damned if a bird got the last laugh.

Osten threatens Pelican Pete with a stick
“Hit me with a stick if you’re a quitter!”

But the bird did have the last laugh. Because rather than forcing his Morgan tribe- a solid alliance of five- to vote out one of their own, Osten said that he was done. He had enough of the starving, enough of the sickness, and enough of that damn pelican!

Pete the Pelican stare-down
“Mission accomplished.”

When the tribe got to tribal council, Osten told Jeff he was asking everyone to vote for him. And Jeff got mad. Livid, really. Because the thing about Jeff- as we learned right as Osten was giving up- is that he hates quitters. Hates them. Almost as much as Osten hates pelicans.

So Jeff tore into Osten. He let him know that he wouldn’t have the honor of being voted out. He made Osten say he was quitting. Then, having never had a tribal council end without having to say “the tribe has spoken”, he improvised this sign-off: “Osten, per your wishes, go home.” And that was it. Osten Taylor became Survivor‘s first quitter.

The Impact:

Osten may have been the first quitter, but he wasn’t the last. Let’s take a stroll down Quitter’s Lane:

Just the next season, Survivor brought back an entire season of returning contestants and two of them quit. Jenna Morasca walked away because her mother was dying. Sue Hawk quit because she had to endure Richard Hatch rubbing his genitals on her in a challenge (and the show didn’t seem all too concerned about it.)

A few seasons later, Janu quit Palau because she wasn’t liked by the rest of her tribe and because they were determined to drag her to the end as a goat. Fittingly, she spent the first ever night at the appropriately-named Exile Island before deciding to call it quits.

Janu Palau
Super-flattering Janu picture included for reference

In Fiji, Papa Smurf quit because he was dealing with an injury and apparently dizziness from a bugbite. Nobody remembers this because A) Fiji was pretty awful, and B) who the hell is Papa Smurf?

Kathy Sleckman quit Micronesia largely because she stopped taking her Zoloft prescription and was having some rather unhealthy thoughts.

Arguably the worst quits were in Nicaragua, when two people (Naonka and Purple Kelly) quit with just nine people left in the game. In fairness, they only did what all the viewers wanted to do: try to get the awful cast of Nicaragua out of their lives as quickly as possible. In a fun twist, the two quitters turned out to be the deciding votes at final tribal council! Seriously, Nicaragua is shit.

Nicaragua beach
Pictured: Nicaragua. Not pictured: Survivor Nicaragua. You’re welcome.

Colton spared us all his continued presence by quitting Blood vs Water because he was a whiny racist little brat that no one wanted to play with. But he did treat us to an amazing confessional before he left in which he claimed that nobody wanted to play the game and strategize, when the reality was that they had played the game and strategize; Colton just wasn’t part of their plans.

Colton quits on Survivor blood vs water
Reminder: Out of a group of ten, he had two other players from the same season he was on. He still had no alliance.

Lindsey quit Cagayan because she claims she was this close to clocking Trish. And obviously she didn’t want to set a bad example for her daughter by punching Trish on TV. (The possibility of simply not punching Trish was never considered, I guess.)

In San Juan del Sur, Julie McGee quit because she wanted to spend more time with John Rocker, thus becoming the first person who has ever wanted to spend more time with John Rocker.

The initial outrage that greeted Osten’s quit has subsided some, and quitting is almost commonplace now. But before Osten, most people didn’t even considered the possibility that someone might just walk away from the game, particularly when everyone cast on the show had applied and been selected over tens of thousands of applicants. Judging by his reactions, Probst sure didn’t. And while Osten’s quit probably didn’t encourage future players to quit, he at least broke the seal. With a little help from Pelican Pete.

What Else Made the List?

You can view all our 30 from 30 content by clicking here.

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Matt has an irrational dislike for all contestants named Michel(l)e. Also if he ever takes a strong stance about why everyone else is wrong, it is he that is inevitably wrong.

Favorite seasons: Micronesia, Heroes vs. Villains, Palau, Philippines, Pearl Islands, Cagayan
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25 thoughts on “30 from 30: #15 – Osten Taylor Quits Survivor

  1. This is one of the moments I thought was a stretch. Someone would have quit eventuality and Jeff ‘s reaction to Osten failed to stop future quitters. so to me it’s just something that happened not something influential.

    1. We had the same argument. But the moments aren’t just about impact on the game, it’s about things that impacted the show and the way we watch the show. As a viewer at the time, I remember being stunned that someone could just give up; I just had the naive assumption that it would never happen.

      1. I also thought it could never happen, but if I think about it for even a minute, it doesn’t make sense. From a legal perspective, of course they can quit at any time, and I seriously doubt any financial punishment (other than revoking the player’s compensation) would be legal.

      2. I feel my point still stands. It would have happened eventually and would be repeated despite productions attempt to villanise him. It’s more the fact that with so many seasons it had to happen eventually.

        1. I wasn’t disagreeing with you. We had some moments that unanimously made the list, and others that we were far more divided over. This one falls into the latter category.

          If nothing else, I was surprised that the first quit was someone so physically imposing. Had Paschal quit in season 4 because he was essentially skin and bones, it would not have been as much of a shock.

          1. Is this not another one of the assumptions that get busted in early seasons of Survivor? Hunter Ellis proved anyone can get kicked off pre-merge, Tina showed it’s not the game of the physical man etc. All of these things are great, because we’d never be watching season 31 in September if Kelly then Colby won.

    2. On the one hand you are right, it is a stretch, and it would have happened eventually. On the other hand, the first time it happened it was a big deal, Jeff’s reaction made it a bigger deal such that all future quitters would be bigger deals, and this gave me an excuse to include lots of pictures of Pelican Pete.

      1. Hey, I am a huge fan of that Pelican! You are right, only Kathy got a decent reaction to her quitting and that’s because of her quite dangerous thinking after coming off her medication. She was clearly not mentally strong enough and even Probst isn’t that much of a douche to treat a woman with a mental illness like a dick for needing to leave the game.

    3. For the record, I was opposed to this one too. For the reason stated. I have trouble thinking of anyone who quit because Osten showed them the way. Or the show changing anything it did because of what he did.

      1. The only thing I can see in it’s favour is that it’s a strong man who becomes the first the quit. I think the original Survivor was envisioned with these strong men being the stars and winning more than any other type of contestant and it has very rarely happened.

  2. I don’t have much to say about Osten. Quitters annoy me, but production should do its best to get them out early, because the only thing more annoying than a quitter is a quitter on the jury. I do, however, want to say something about pelicans. Pelicans are awesome! The American White Pelican has started flooding into the Green Bay over the past 5 or so years. They’re huge, majestic birds. The idea of a Brown Pelican (a close relative) terrorizing a grown man is beyond hilarious.

    1. I had a Pelican land literally 2 feet from me yesterday and just stood on the table staring at me with his beady eyes. My dad reacted like a real O.T. and jumped up yelling.

  3. I think Survivor kind of created its own “problem” with this one. It could have kept up the ruse it had going to this point, that there is no quitting, you either have to be removed by medical or voted out of the game. It really appeared that Shawna in Amazon had no clue that quitting was even an option.

    Well, instead they don’t let Osten be voted out, they choose to make an example of him. And that opens the door, because now it doesn’t seem like you have to be voted out. There’s this whole other way to get out of the game.

    And seriously, Osten apparently had multiple staph infections, he had every right to want to get out of there. I think the show kind of mistreated him on that account.

    I have no problem with quitters. If you don’t want to play anymore then you should have the option not to play. That’s not on you, that’s on casting for not making sure they had people 100% committed to playing. And if you quit because you are sick and want to get better, that’s even more fair.

    1. This is a great point. Until Osten, quitters had to get the sanction of others.

      Of course, I doubt Jenna or Sue would’ve felt the same need even if there wasn’t the example set forth. And there were still future quit-by-proxy after Osten as well (Jeff in Palau, Fairplay and Chet in Micronesia, etc).

    2. I’m with you, better to let the quitters quit than have them bring down the games of the other players who are still playing hard. It’s frustrating to watch from a game-play perspective (especially if it F’s up someone’s otherwise strong game, or if it robs you the pleasure of watching Colton get voted out), but I think most people watching “get” that there’s a human being involved and don’t want to watch them miserable.

      medical/physical/family quits aside, I wonder if Osten’s quit influenced future players (like Janu, Naonka, Colton, etc) to just decide “well, I’m screwed over anyways, might as well stop starving to death and living with these people I despise”. If quitting wasn’t a known option they might have put up with it longer. Except for Sue Hawk, of course, because F that.

  4. Interesting that Jonny Fairplay and Chet weren’t mentioned along with Kathy in Micronesia. I imagine because they were technically voted out. The reason it’s interesting to me is because Osten would have just been voted out if Probst had allowed it. I don’t think quitting is as bad when it’s at Tribal. I mean someone has to go home, right? Is Jenn a quitter because she was okay with being voted out so they her friend who wanted it more could stay?

    1. Sausage-making note: I just went off the list in the Survivor wiki, because I am lazy and I like to make other people do my work for me. And yeah if you force a vote out for yourself, I guess that isn’t technically quitting.

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