30 from 30: #3 – The Jury Chooses Richard Hatch

The Moment:

After 39 days of what was originally intended to be a show about surviving and creating a society, the jury rewards the person who treated the show like the game it was.

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.

30 from 30- the jury votes for Richard Hatch

Why It Matters:

Just one day before the most important vote of Survivor‘s first season, Richard Hatch was standing on a beach in Borneo with his hands on a wooden idol and competing in a challenge that would secure him a spot in the final tribal council. Once there, he could make his case for why he deserved to be the game’s first ever winner. All he had to do was keep his hand on the idol longer than Kelly and Rudy, and immunity- and the spot in final tribal council- would be his.

Borneo final immunity challenge- Rudy Kelly Richard
Rudy and Kelly looking like actual statues

But Richard willingly removed his hand from the idol and gave up his chance at immunity. Was he crazy? Why fight so hard to put yourself in contention to win, then suddenly decide to leave it in the hands of someone else? In true Survivor fashion, the show didn’t wait to make us find out.

Borneo final immunity Kelly vs Rudy- Rich sitting out

The answer, as Richard tells Jeff Probst, is that both Kelly and Rudy had reason to bring Richard with them to final tribal council. If Kelly won, she’d want to be up against the villainous Richard. If Rudy won, he’d want to bring his most loyal ally. Winning the final immunity challenge would actually hurt Richard’s chances at winning the game; by having to vote out either Kelly or Rudy, he would anger them and potentially lose a vote at final tribal council.

Kelly, of course, wins the final immunity challenge. And as Richard predicted, she votes Rudy out. After Kelly and Richard plead their cases to the jury, they have to answer questions from some of the jurors- and listen to a very famous jury speech. Perhaps the most famous question comes from this man:

Borneo- Greg final tribal pick number
“If I’d won, I would’ve accepted the million ironically.”

Greg’s question? “Pick a number between 1 and 10.” Keep that in mind.

We see and hear from six of the seven members of the jury as they cast their votes. Watching them now, 30 seasons later, they range from adorably quaint to surprisingly prescient. Gervase is the first to vote.

Borneo votes- Gervase
Great camera work here

Gervase casts his vote for Kelly, even though you can’t tell in that screen shot. And he takes the opportunity to reference Sue’s famous speech by saying, “that’s what in my town we call a sore loser.” Jenna votes next, followed by Sean.

Borneo votes- Jenna

Borneo votes- Sean

It was overlooked at the time, because viewers still thought this show was what Mark Burnett and company had originally intended it to be: a show about survival in a difficult environment, with a group of strangers interacting and working together. But as Jenna and Sean discussed the remarkably similar reasons for their votes, they laid out what the game actually is: a social game that takes place in a difficult environment.

Jenna explains her Kelly vote by saying, “She befriended me, and whether that was part of a friendship or strategy, it was all a part of the game. She played it well.” Sean, apparently not just voting for Richard because Rich’s name was up next in his alphabetical voting strategy, says, “Richard…is just an out-and-out scoundrel. But I like him. Fat naked fag with a million dollars is just hilarious.” (In fairness to Sean, it seems “fat naked fag” is a nickname Richard gave himself.) But perhaps Jenna and Sean’s thoughts are quickly forgotten precisely because the next vote is Colleen’s.

Borneo votes- Colleen
*swoon*

Colleen says she had intended to vote Richard, but changed her vote at final tribal council. Her vote puts Kelly in the lead, 3-1. Her reason for doing so? “Maybe this’ll make you be nice or something.” That’s an actual quote. And all of America said “awww” at the same time while doodling little hearts around Colleen’s name. At this point, Richard needs to win each of the final three votes in order to win the game. Fortunately, two of those were a foregone conclusion.

Borneo votes- Sue
“I let the snake eat the rat…”
Borneo votes- Rudy
“…but not in a homosexual way, that’s for sure.”

As hilarious as it would have been if Sue would’ve given that speech and then voted for Kelly and said “jk lolz still bff?”, it wasn’t going to happen. And Richard’s strategic decision to drop out of that final challenge paid off, with Rudy apparently not offended that Richard had essentially said “If you want to stay, just beat someone nearly fifty years younger than you at an immunity challenge.”

With the votes tied 3-3, the deciding vote goes to Greg. If you recall, Greg had asked Richard and Kelly to pick a number. Rich picks seven. Kelly chooses three. Greg’s vote goes to Richard, and Hatch becomes Survivor‘s first ever winner.

The Impact:

At the reunion, Greg is asked what the number was. He says it was the number 9, and the fact that Richard was closer was what won the million dollars. (Not convinced? Further discussion of that point is here.)

Borneo reunion Bryant Gumbel
Life before HD was weird; Jeff Probst looked so different in standard definition.

But it doesn’t actually matter how Richard Hatch won, or even how close it was. What people remember is that the jury voted for him. And his win shapes the course of the show for years to come. Yes, people despised Hatch for having the audacity to treat their survival show like a strategic/social contest- they were still booing his name three years later at the Pearl Islands reunion. But that first jury vote sent a signal to the people who would play the game in the future: reward the person who played the best game.

Future players took that message in different ways. The very next season, with the benefit of having seen Borneo, many of the players tried desperately to avoid being perceived as a villain the way Hatch was- a fear that likely prompted Colby to bring Tina with him to the final two. Other players seemed to read Richard’s win as evidence that a jury would reward cold, calculating strategic play over social skills, a theory that was proven incorrect by multiple juries in the course of Survivor‘s 30+ seasons.

What matters, though, is that Richard’s win has had a dramatic effect on the show, the game, and its players over fifteen years. Survivor gradually removed focus from the survival aspects of the show, the game itself is subject to constant tinkering as producers attempt to prevent predictable strategy, and players have come to embrace the idea that voting someone out isn’t some moral quandary- it’s an opportunity to play the game. And that is an amazing legacy.

(For the purposes of this series, we’re writing only about what was seen on the show itself, not rumors or after-the-fact confessions. Still, I’ve seen multiple claims that Greg was always going to pick Hatch, and that the number selection thing was just another way for Greg to screw with production of the show. I searched fairly extensively to find confirmation of this rumor. Instead, I found an interview where he says that the number-guessing was entirely legitimate, meaning he really would have chosen Kelly if she’d picked the right number. If you can find any evidence to the contrary, please send it my way.)

What Else Made the List?

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

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John is the co-host of the Purple Rock Survivor Podcast. He is still not sure if it was just a f*%king stick.

Favorite seasons: Heroes vs. Villains, Pearl Islands, Tocantins, Micronesia, Cagayan
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  • sharculese

    One of the weirdest things for me coming in to this show 13 years after the fact was that when I watched Borneo (which I did right after Cagayan finished, for reference) I… liked Richard a whole lot more than anyone else out there. He was fascinating, this witty urbane dude who knew that that was his world and wasn’t going to pretend otherwise. I wouldn’t say he was the person on Borneo I would most like to have a beer with, because I somehow doubt Hatch drinks beer, but I’d like to maybe enjoy a nice bourbon with him.

    And, on the other hand, I did not care for Greg and Colleen at all. Greg I think hit a bit too close to home – I was a lot like that at that age too. Things like ‘whoa cool, flying fish’ and the ocean phone come off as manufactured to me, because I totally would have manufactured those moments. Colleen though, she just irritated me. I found her to be whiny.

    It’s probably the only season where I have like that much of a disconnect from the zeitgeist, because even by the time I get to my next season (Cook Islands) I’m using your summer series as a guide so I can’t come in again without any influence on my expectations or opinions, but for Borneo I am and probably always will be.

    • Purplerockmatt

      I think the reason Rich’s win is frequently wrongfully emulated is because people forget how damn charming he was. Yes he was playing a strategic game before anyone else was, but damn the dude was just likeable and if he hadn’t been likeable he wouldn’t have won, strategic mastermind or no. And I think his bond with Rudy epitomizes this really well, because Rudy basically spends the entire game saying “I never thought I’d be friends with Rich, but we are great friends (not in that way).” Rich basically won over the guy most likely to not bond with him immediately. Amusingly the same thing basically happens in All-Stars where people like Colby are like damnit why do I like Rich? he is a fat, naked, loudmouth gay guy and yet he is great! So yeah people forget how damn charming Rich can be.

      • DrVanNostrand

        Not only that. Rich was drooling over Colby bad enough to give Colby flashbacks of Jerri, and Rich was basically trolling that season as hard as possible because he knew his game was over before it began… and he was still a charmer.

    • DrVanNostrand

      Borneo was probably about the 10th season I watched or something like that. To me, Hatch was always the hero. Greg and Colleen were the villains because they were trying to destroy the house Hatch was building, and turn Survivor into another crappy reality show that I didn’t want to watch. I still thought they were entertaining characters, but I can never get on board with how the people watching it at that time felt about those two.

    • andythesaint

      I really liked Rich during my recent second go-round. Greg annoyed me a bit more than he did then, but I was still charmed by Colleen. I thought she was wryly observant and made me wish the show would let more young women get that edit.

      It’s a different time now. I wonder what it would be like if you started watching Survivor from Borneo: is it seeing the more evolved form of the game (and the show) what makes the first season different, or is it a 2015 perspective? No way of knowing, I suppose.

      • gouis

        I think the thing about Greg is that it’s clear he doesn’t really like the concept of “Survivor”, which puts modern fans off as they’re in love with the show.

        I’ve been listening to Rob C’s recap of the season, and it’s clear he just does not like Greg AT ALL. Greg is basically mocking what he loves at every turn.

        • andythesaint

          That makes sense.

        • sharculese

          I actually don’t care that Greg loves trolling the show that way, and I would love to see what 2015 Greg is like (honestly, I kind of hope the constant rumors that this is the season where Greg returns are him faking out the show over and over again.

          It’s more that a lot of the big Greg moments in Borneo come off like he spent an hour in the woods scripting them. And like, I don’t have a problem with scripted moments as a thing, my favorite player is Penner. But the difference is that when Penner is getting all Penner-y, he makes it obvious that these are things he worked out because he knew they would be good tv, whereas Greg is trying to pass things off as organic moments that do not look organic at all.

      • sharculese

        I dunno. I came in expecting to be annoyed by this scheming, snaky guy who just happened to have things figured out and I was shocked by how funny and captivating I found Rich. There are some things that are offputting and bizarre especially by 2000 standards, like his comfort item being a printout of an e-mail thread, but I was fundamentally like ‘yeah, I’m with this guy.’

        I’m also probably being a little unfair to Colleen. Pre-merge she was fun, but after Greg goes I feel like she dips way into a bunch of her confessionals being like “the problem with Rich is that he’s fat and stupid and did you know that he’s also fat,” and it’s incredibly boring.

    • purplerockpodcast

      I imagine I’d have a roughly similar reaction to yours if I just watched Borneo for the first time. But I think your perception of it is probably shaped by the fact that you already have a schema for what Survivor is. When it first aired, that schema didn’t exist. Until Richard won- and even after Richard won- the vast majority of viewers were convinced that this was a show about being marooned, surviving, and forming a society.

      In that context, Greg seemed like someone who was trying not to take anything seriously, and who hated the artifice of voting people out. And Colleen was America’s sweetheart because she didn’t like the mean old fat guy who was ruining their society-building exercise by making it a game.

      • Adam B.

        That’s certainly the show that Probst thought he was hosting, and Burnett thought he was producing, based on the narration and use of tribal council. Hell, one of the weirdest things about the season, to older ears, is how much there is of Probst voiceovers of camp life.

        • purplerockpodcast

          It’s very jarring to hear Probst narrating when watching Borneo now. I don’t remember being shocked that the narration dropped off in Australia, though.

          Maybe the narration was never intended for Borneo, but they’d focused so much on getting a diverse group of people with certain skills that they didn’t think about how well those people would be able to vocalize their experiences?

          • Adam B.

            Or the competitors, having not seen the show yet, didn’t trust that they could be honest in confessionals and narrate their own experiences in an entertaining manner — and that doing so well would get them more airtime.

    • Kemper Boyd

      As a late joiner I feel the same. Rich is the character and player we as modern fans want to see in each season we start.