30 from 30: #7 – Hunter Ellis Gets Hunted by Boston Rob

The Moment:

Boston Rob gets his invitation to All-Stars by voting out tribe leader Hunter Ellis.

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:

Four seasons in, the alpha male was still an important part of Survivor. Sure, he might get targeted in a Pagonging once the merge hits, but generally the strong men— the leaders—  were safe for the first few votes. It was as close to a script as an unscripted show could have.

Then came a young man who we once simply knew as Rob.

Like The Godfather, he is. In that he quotes the movie.
Like The Godfather, he is. In that he quotes the movie sometimes.

Rob’s tribe, Maramuu, was a bad tribe. Pitiful, even. If it weren’t for the tribe swap, it’s not inconceivable that they could have been Ulong before there was an Ulong. So when they lost their fifth straight challenge and had to go to their third straight tribal council, hard-working Gina and Hunter think that Sarah is a natural choice to be voted off due to her laziness.

Sarah "Cleopatra" Jones working hard to get to camp.
Sarah “Cleopatra” Jones working hard to get to camp.

However, Gina and Hunter are not super fans, and as such are able to do simple math. The word alliance is never used (good ol’ early Survivor), but they are aware that Rob, Sarah, Sean, and Vecepia were on the same side. And that leaves Hunter and Gina on the outs. While they continued to lobby for Sean and later vote for Sarah (editing in the early seasons was strange), they knew there was a good chance Gina was going home.

Of course Hunter was safe. They needed to win challenges, right? And Hunter works ever so hard. But little did Hunter and Gina know, Gina’s name was never mentioned (at least that we saw).

And yet...
And yet…

Of course, neither was Hunter’s. Man, the show was edited really differently back then! There is at least a fantastic music sting when Hunter says they’d be stupid to vote him off. Unfortunately, I have no idea how to share that with you all, so you’ll have to trust me.

But why would Rob target Hunter? See, Rob considers himself a leader. An alpha male, if you will. He even said he was actually quite similar to Hunter, he just knew that he needed to hide that fact. At the time, thinking the cocky Bostonian was a leader type seemed laughable, but hindsight suggests he was not far off (more on that later). But Rob didn’t just know to relax amongst his laid-back tribe mates, he knew that they would be more useful to him than someone who wanted to take charge. Someone like Hunter. So what did Rob do? Dethrone the king, of course.

Physically painful for me to use this picture, you guys.
Physically painful for me to use this picture, you guys.

It might seem quaint right now, but this move was so revolutionary that Gina thought they were just dumb. Because none of the other four would tell her why they voted for Hunter, Gina assumed that they didn’t know what they were doing. Even Sarah, Rob’s inconsequential practice-run Amber, said that they were trying something new with strategy — that the game has no rules, they can vote off whomever they want. And she was right.

The Impact:

Anyone can be a pre-merge boot (and thus undateable) and numbers always matter. So going into the merge with a majority is meaningless if the people in your tribe aren’t on your side. When there are two strong (usually male) personalities on the same tribe, it is likely that one won’t make the merge. For players who can’t slip under the radar, it’s better to have people you can control than a strong tribe.

This effect is seen just three seasons later on Survivor: Pearl Islands. After winning the first three immunity challenges, Burton decided Drake should throw the next challenge so they could get rid of the weaker members.

How'd that work out for you, Burton?
How’d that work out for you, Burton?

(Side note: I have never understood people who decide to throw challenges to get rid of weak members when their tribe has been winning all the challenges. Untrustworthy, sure. But weak?! Who cares? You’re already winning!)

Burton’s plan resulted in everyone on his tribe except Michelle (and technically Rupert, but only because he was kidnapped) deciding he was untrustworthy and voting him out, including his “cool kids” alliance partner Shawn, and swing-vote/wannabe cool kid Jonny Fairplay. Of course, that ended up not being great for Shawn, but that’s a post for another day.

Outcast
*dramatic music*

In more recent seasons, we see Colton and his misfit alliance team up to vote out Matt “The Rooster” Quinlan of the so-called muscle alliance in Survivor: One World. Of course, Colton’s original target was Bill Posley, but we don’t really want to get into that whole disaster right now, do we?

Matt Quinlan
Matt Quinlan

A few seasons later, in Survivor: Blood Vs. Water, Colton’s far better half followed in his footsteps to get rid of a leader. Brad Culpepper quickly gained control of the tribe, at least nominally, and targeted people in a way he thought would keep his wife safe. When he started getting grief from the returnees for voting out their loved ones, he thought it would be a good idea to vote out his tribe mates who didn’t have a loved one on the other side. This proved to be difficult, as the Galang tribe hadn’t actually lost immunity.

Colton’s quit, however, presented an opportunity. But at tribal council, Brad made the mistake of mentioning his thoughts about voting out players without loved ones. Naturally this spooked Caleb (may he rest in peace), being the only member of Tadhana without a loved one still in Galang. So he called an audible and told everyone he’d be voting for Brad. Ciera and Katie smartly followed suit, as they were the other most likely targets and the vote was a tie. Vytas didn’t want to risk his game to save his shield, and Brad was sent home.

This totally isn't relevant, but I just discovered this is what Brad looked like in the NFL and OH MY GOD.
This totally isn’t relevant, but I just discovered this is what Brad looked like in the NFL and OH MY GOD

Most fittingly, however, was Boston Rob’s own elimination from Survivor: Heroes Vs. Villains. Though Tyson was eliminated due to a combination of an idol play and stupidity, it was still a message from Russell to Boston Rob.

Russell of course doesn't realize that Parvati is just off screen sharpening a knife, while Sandra flips through a magazine and bides her time.
Russell of course doesn’t realize that Parvati is just off screen sharpening a knife, while Sandra flips through a magazine and bides her time.

After Tyson goes home, the Villains lose the next immunity challenge. Russell and Parvati then bring Jerri and Coach (mostly) onto their side to eliminate Rob over the physically weaker Courtney (my queen) or Sandra (the queen). While we know that there’s a lot about the game that Russell doesn’t get, even he understands one important facet of Survivor. It’s the same thing Rob understood when he chose to vote out Hunter over Gina:

Come at the king, you best not miss.
Come at the king, you best not miss.

What Else Made the List?

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

Emma
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Emma

Emma is the token chick of the Purple Rock Podcast. She has watched the show continuously since the second episode and is pretty sure she's never seen the pilot.

Favorite seasons: Heroes vs. Villains, Micronesia, Cambodia, Cook Islands, China, Philippines

Favorite players: Courtney Yates, Parvati Shallow, John Cochran, Cirie Fields, Yul Kwon, Kim Spradlin
Emma
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  • andythesaint

    I think one of the biggest ways this influenced Survivor was for viewers. As Emma states, prior to this vote, there was a bit of a script for the Hunter-types: lead and be virtually immune in the first part of the game, then be targeted in the middle part of the game. By making Hunter the third boot of the season, Survivor sent the message that any one could get got at any time. It’s like the Ned Stark event for Survivor.

    • purplerockpodcast

      Right. Silas was taken out the season before, but that was because of the tribe swap. Had he remained on his original tribe, he wouldn’t have been targeted.