It’s time for Survivor Watch-Along, in which we watch a previous season of the show and invite you all to watch along with us. As promised on the podcast, we’re starting with Survivor: Gabon.
For this Watch-Along, the three of us that haven’t seen Gabon– John, Mark, and Matt- will be watching the season and discussing three episodes here each week. Advance warning: Even though we haven’t seen the season yet, we are aware who wins and we may accidentally spoil that at some point (and commenters may as well). With that out of the way, rejoin us on our descent into Survivor madness.
Note: We’re skipping episode 10 since it was just a recap episode.
John: Okay, let’s dive back into this thing. We’re up to episode 11 now. And in the “Previously on…” segment, we see a clip of Bob being disgusted that Sugar laughed too hard at Randy.
Mark: You could tell Bob was peeved during the Randy vote.
John: The first thing Bob says to Sugar is that he wasn’t “mad at being part of it” (meaning punking Randy with the fake idol), but he thought it was cruel of her to rub it in Randy’s face. So Bob is the guy that just put some nerd’s head in a toilet and flushed it, but he’s mad that someone else pointed at the nerd and laughed?
This seemed like hypocritical bullshit to me.
Mark: Yeah I’ve struggled to find the red lines in Bob’s moral compass as the “good guy” here.
John: Just because you say you’re the good guy doesn’t make you the good guy. Although to be clear, I’m not saying he’s a terrible person for punking a terrible person.
Matt: Yeah what did Bob think was going to happen when he gave Randy a fake idol?
I imagine it was done to remove himself from consideration of being voted out. But you have to know that everyone else wants it done to mock Randy, so maybe hold up on the judgment that you enabled
John: How does that help his case, though? It’s probably smarter to just not say anything publicly about it, right?
Bob is, as Kenny notes in a confessional, not good at this game.
Matt: I would agree
Mark: I have comments, but I’ll wait til we get deeper.
John: We also got to see Corinne- who has been a non-entity for most of this season- finally appearing in time to argue with Sugar.
Matt: How did Corinne get invited back?
Like seriously, what quality does she possess that they said “Yes, that. I want more of that”.
This is still a reality show, after all.
Matt: She isn’t even that good at that! At least on TV she isn’t.
John: I’m wondering the same thing, Matt. I don’t know how anyone would have remembered her.
Matt: I mean the answer is Rob’s podcast
John: But Sugar’s argument with Corinne is fun, because Sugar wants Corinne to stop talking behind peoples’ backs, to which Corinne responds, “If I was saying it to your face I’d be doing a bad job of playing this game.”
And Sugar responds with something about how “We’re all playing the game!” Which, no.
Well, yes, I guess. But very, very poorly.
Matt: I mean Corinne is not talking to their faces and is still doing a bad job of playing the game.
John: Corinne most likely never bothered to talk to these people when she assumed her alliance was in power, so that’s coming back to bite her in the ass.
But the show is very interested at this point in setting up a narrative that Kenny is the power player and mastermind of this season. Mark, your hero nerd has taken control! Celebrate his greatness!
Mark: Praise be unto Kenny, our nerd king. He really is the best player on this season. Mostly.
John: I mean, it’s a low bar. But I’d agree.
Mark: I can’t believe he was fooled though. We JUST played a convincing fake idol. What makes you think they wouldn’t try it again?
Matt: In this episode he makes the mistake that will cost him the game I believe
Mark: I am very annoyed with a lot of moves in this episode. It was a very weird summary of Gabon as a whole.
You have bad strategic plays, bad emotional plays, and a bizarre family visit.
John: Oh, let’s talk about that family visit reward.
Because it wasn’t really a reward challenge, so much as a product placement segment followed by everyone getting to see their family members. Oh, and Bob ate some pizza.
Matt: I had forgotten about the super prominent product placement era of Survivor
Mark: Was product placement the only reason they tried to punk them?
John: Yes. Sprint paid a lot of money to make sure that these horrible Survivor players thought they weren’t going to see their family members.
I miss the obnoxious product placement era.
Mark: I’m sure Sophie doesn’t.
Matt: Won’t someone think of Jack and Jill!
John: I did enjoy that the reward challenge brought back team-picking, though. Because if there’s one thing we’ve learned, it’s that these people are great at selecting teams.
Matt: Well they didn’t choose Corinne so…
Mark: That was the best. And then Bob’s misfit team still won!
John: Yeah, not picking Corinne was perhaps the first thing any of these people got right during schoolyard picks. We did get to see a scene with Sugar and her sister talking about their dad and pouring out some of their dad’s ashes, though.
Matt: And everyone being impressed at Matty’s attractive girlfriend. Including Probst, who gave a little “damn” look.
Mark: Let’s not forget, Matty proposed too!
John: Matty blew it. The key to the successful Survivor proposal is to do it at the reunion. It guarantees you some face time.
So in addition to really wanting you to believe that Kenny is the mastermind, the show really wants you to have empathy for Sugar.
Matt: I’m not entirely sure why they want us to have empathy for Sugar, since she won’t win.
Mark: Because she’s the Tai of this season.
Matt: Except the producers were showing all Tai’s flaws at this point, not his heartbreaking backstory.
Mark: That is her flaw.
John: We’d gotten a mention or two of how he’d been in a refugee camp, but I get your point.
Matt: Her dead dad is her flaw?
John: Mark is so heartless!
Mark: That’s a first.
So Bob starts his victory run, wins his loved one, and then EVERYONE gets time with their loved one. What was the point of a challenge?
John: That’s what I’m saying. The only thing Bob got that nobody else did was a pizza.
Also, the reward challenge involved putting together a set of gears. Maybe Gamer Kenny should’ve spent more time playing The Incredible Machine instead of Super Smash Brothers.
But the main plot of this episode is Bob’s plan to create a second fake immunity idol, and use it to help save Corinne.
Matt: A plot that relies on Bob (or Corinne, but c’mon really just Bob) winning immunity.
John: And, of course, that happens.
Mark: I gotta say, the challenge department blew all their good ideas early on. We’ve gone from carnival games to “shit left over from a museum”
Matt: Remind me again what was the challenge here?
Mark: Ball toss down a hill with a trivia component
Matt: Oh right.
I will say this is the weird sort of thing that Bob would of course be good at, as he dominates this challenge, having the three closest throws
John: Other than the shout-out/throwback challenge they did in Cambodia (which I enjoyed just for nostalgia), I’m glad they’ve abandoned the trivia challenges.
Mark: Bob wins due to physics. Starting his Obvious Winner Edit, right?
John: Bob’s Obvious Winner’s Edit was the helicopter filming his nature hike at Exile Island.
Matt: I think trivia combined with rope chopping can be a good way to expose alliances and pecking order in reward.
Mark: Unless you game it like SJDS did.
Matt: This is the time when everyone starts talking about how they need to get Bob out and that he is a threat.
Mark: See: Holloway, Mike
John: It reminds me of everyone wanting Darrah out in Pearl Islands because she was the biggest physical threat, despite weighing about 85 pounds.
Matt: Yeah but they weren’t wrong about her.
Mark: Yeah but her competition was Lil, Fairplay, and Sandra.
John: No, they weren’t wrong about her. And they’re not wrong about Bob. But Bob is a 57 year old man, and they’re talking about him like he’s an unbeatable Adonis.
Mark: Have you seen him with his shirt off?
Matt: I did think he and his wife were gonna get it on during that family visit.
John: Hey, thanks for putting that thought in my head.
Matt: That’s why I’m here!
Mark: How much you want to bet he goes off on scientific principles in the bedroom?
Anyway, Bob and Corinne’s plan…
So Bob and Corinne convince Crystal and Kenny to vote Matty. But Kenny pulls Crystal aside and sees a better way forward for them: Split the vote 4-3 and flush Corinne’s idol while also getting rid of Matty.
Matt: Except that isn’t better.
Matt: Well it’s possibly better than voting Matty but you know what is even better than Kenny’s plan?
Voting Corinne and if they have an idol letting it take care of Matty.
This was terrible for Kenny. Does he think he has a better shot to beat Bob and Corinne? Two people who have three fans on the jury?
Does he worry that he can’t beat Sugar or Matty or Susie?
What is the motivation to jump here? He isn’t the target of the idol!
Mark: Or you get Crystal to keep voting Matty, make a major blindside and take out a threat!
Matt: You take out Matty and suddenly you are locked into an alliance with two people who actually have fans on the jury. That is stupid too.
And yet Kenny leaps at this opportunity… why?
It is just such a curious decision.
Mark: Either way Bob has a leg up. You could vote Corine off at 6
Matt: How Mark?
How can Kenny and Crystal just turn around and get everyone to side with them again?
Mark: Kenny, Crystal, Sugar, and Susie hate Corinne.
Matt: And now they would also hate Kenny.
He makes himself a bigger threat, something that might go unnoticed because no one is playing the game
Mark: Like these people are making anything other than emotional decisions…
Matt: Right and he gives them an emotion!
That is my exact point Mark. No one was emotionally against Kenny at all before this point and he just gave them a reason.
Mark: He did that with the way things actually went, too.
Matt: I agree. Which is why I go back to my initial point: once he determines that the target isn’t him, let them vote for Matty, while he still votes for Corinne. There is no need for a third vote there.
John: I should note that just before they go to tribal council, we get a confessional from Crystal wondering what would happen if Corinne’s idol is fake. Because she’s considering taking out Matty just to take out Matty.
But if they could take out Matty and pivot back to Sugar and Susie, Kenny would have been the proto-Tony.
But that isn’t what happens.
John: Nope! Because Gabon.
Matt: Corinne goes home and we have almost completely pagonged Kota. Only Bob is left and I start getting Vanuatu vibes.
John: Episode 12 opens with Sugar telling us that she has a strong alliance with Kenny and Crystal. So, this being Sugar, you can already assume that there’s no way that alliance will survive this episode.
Mark: Because Kenny and Crystal shot themselves in the foot last episode.
Matt: Well really just Kenny, but everyone knows Crystal can’t be too far behind.
Mark: Judging by her running prowess, I’m guessing she shot herself in the foot a while ago.
Oh, we want to discuss running? Did you guys notice how Kenny runs in this episode?
Mark: The running button is new in this game! They needed a few more weeks to work on the animation.
Again, this challenge was…basketball?
And yet, Sugar hits the camera once and Crystal can’t even dunk from next to the net.
John: Crystal’s missed dunk was fantastic.
Mark: I’m starting to think her Olympic medal was made of chocolate.
Matt: I love that Crystal can neither make a shot nor dunk.
Mark: There’s no sport she is good at in Survivor.
Matt: She is the worst challenge performer ever.
John: But as always with Gabon, there are many mistakes made here. When Kenny confronts Bob about the fake idol, Bob owns up to it. At that point, why not just lie and say that Corinne didn’t play it because she was convinced they had Kenny and Crystal on their side?
Mark: He was thinking about it! But is too nice to do that.
Matt: Nice is just another way of saying bad at this game
John: Again, this is Bob making himself a good guy by just saying he’s a good guy. And he’s won a convert! Sugar now thinks he’s a good guy, and she just wants a good guy to win.
Mark: Obviously, her dad’s ashes have infected her drinking water.
John: Damn. Mark getting the villain edit in this chat (by way of me not editing out his actual words).
Mark: Once again, the cultural rewards are my favorite. Without any baby humans to play with the gorillas, they try to chase our players down the path instead. Still really cool to see them. And good for the show for doing something more than “have lunch with some locals!”
Question for you guys: Bob choosing Kenny and Crystal. Sympathy or weird strategy?
John: Not weird strategy. I think he senses that those are the two people most likely to work with him.
Matt: What John said. That was good strategy to try and win over two people who are suddenly feeling vulnerable.
Mark: And then screw them but maybe get jury votes.
Matt: So that is getting ahead, but why did Bob bail on them?
He is immune; a rock draw can’t hurt him; he has a final three deal with them. Something more in doubt with the others
John: As with most strategic decisions in Gabon, the answer is ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Mark: Let’s not skip ahead.
Besides, we only get to that because of another recurring theme: Sugar making a rash, emotional decision.
Matt: It may be rash, it may be emotional, but is it wrong?
John: Crystal, who you may remember as one of Sugar’s strong alliance partners 20 minutes ago, is now “a bully”.
Sugar is in a strong alliance with Matty suddenly, and she hints that she’s going to give him her idol.
An idol, I should point out, which has to be used by final 6. What the hell?
Did anyone else think: “Oh Sugar read that wrong, surely she has another tribal to play it at”
John: Yes! I assumed she’d just fucked it up, then Probst confirmed it at tribal council.
Matt: This season man.
Mark: She even said “final 5” in her confessional.
John: Speaking of immunity, after Bob wins the challenge, he has to deal with a ridiculous promise he made to Kenny.
Matt: Because again, Bob is not actually good at this game.
John: He then walks back that promise by adding in a few loopholes.
Matt: “Kenny, I know you aren’t in danger because we’re voting for Crystal.”
John: So despite Kenny’s fucking terrible acting and pleas to get the necklace from Bob, Bob holds onto it. Then Sugar gives her idol to Matty.
Mark: Bob must have learned about legal loopholes from Charlie and Dan.
I liked Sugar’s move!
She isn’t terrible at the game.
Matt: Again Sugar may be motivated by emotion, but I think this is a good move.
John: It’s certainly reasonable, since Sugar knows the vote won’t be on her. Though I think Crystal might be one of the few people Sugar stood a chance of beating.
Matt: This is why I won’t praise her too much: if Sugar actually wanted to win, she needed to arrange for a final 3 of Susie, Crystal and herself. Maybe Matty works, but I think Matty beats her easily.
John: I don’t know that she stands any chance at winning, but Susie and Crystal give her the best chance.
Mark: Yeah, Sugar is not concerned with winning.
Speaking of winning, are we skipping any Bob the Challenge Beast talk for the finale?
Matt: Well let me ask this: do we think Bob will win out?
I don’t think that he’ll have to. At this point any alliances left are pretty loose anyway.
Mark: Kenny, Bob + Sugar + Matty, Susie?
John: Is Bob/Sugar/Matty an alliance, though?
Mark: It’s more like a progression of relationships.
Matt: Sugar/Matty is.
Mark: Bob likes Sugar, she likes Matty.
Matt: Susie is… Hey has anyone heard from Susie lately?
Mark: It’s the Susie Shack now.
John: Sugar and Matty is an alliance as of right now. Any alliance with Sugar should probably be viewed as temporary.
Mark: Susie is just a vote for hire. She’ll probably vote out Matty at 4.
Matt: If you can make Sugar cry, you are in an alliance with her.
Mark: Is that what we’re calling her boyfriends now?
Matt: God, Mark. You are a monster.
John: Pure evil, this guy.
By the way, if Susie hadn’t gotten a scene at Exile I might’ve forgotten she was still in the game.
Matt: Yeah, she is Cowboy Rick-ing this post-merge.
Mark: Did Rick ever win immunity for a basic tenant of survival?
John: I’d have to look it up. The only things I remember about Rick were that he wore a cowboy hat and that I never saw him on Survivor.
Mark: Kenny is doomed in the finale. Which makes me sad, because week-to-week I would have been optimistically cheering for him.
Matt: Yeah watching week to week I would have thought Kenny was in perfect shape until these episodes
John: Yeah, Kenny is boned. Now he’s a “villain” that turned on them.
Mark: Matty too, unless he won F4 immunity.
Matt: Nah, we only think Matty is boned because we know Bob wins.
John: I wouldn’t think Matty was doomed, other than being forced to align with Sugar. That’s always a risky proposition.
Mark: So I’m guessing our final three is a fire-starter, Kettle Corn, and an artsy science teacher who’s bad at games.
Matt: Otherwise, the logical assumption would be Kenny and Bob are the targets. Yeah Sugar, Susie and Bob are clearly the final three now.
Mark: But even without knowing Bob wins, if he gets F4 immunity, obviously it’s Matty.
John: Yeah, this is why I think Bob doesn’t win out with immunity. Kenny and Matty are now viable targets.
Matt: Sugar and Susie could just rubber stamp their tickets to F3 now. I think Bob loses the F5 immunity but wins F4.
But Kenny has shot himself in the foot so much recently that they don’t take the chance to get out Bob.
John: So if you’re watching as this season aired, are you guys just hoping against hope that Kenny digs himself out of this hole? Or have your rooting interests shifted?
Matt: I think so?
I would also be saying to myself that, hey, Matty hasn’t been that bad and has become a lot more enjoyable as the season progressed.
Mark: Yeah, I’d be rooting for Kenny as the actual player to do something with Bob and Sugar. But Matty wouldn’t be a bad Plan B.
John: I think Matty is the backup option by default, because I see no reason to root for Bob, Susie, or Sugar.
Matt: I would also be wondering “Sugar can’t win this season can she?”
John: My rooting interests at this point would be:
2. Matty- not because he’s better than the rest, but because they’re worse than him.
3. Susie- she hasn’t been quite as actively horrendous at Survivor as the other two.
4. Bob- is not Sugar
5. Sugar- is Sugar
Matt: I would still have Bob above Susie because Susie does not exist.
Mark: Yeah Susie is #5.
John: But apart from making great fake idols and a few impressive challenge wins, Bob has been actively bad at this game.
Mark: Bob has at least won challenges.
John: Susie at least flipped on Marcus correctly.
Matt: Has Susie actually played the best game?
Other than you know her failure to exist.
Matt: She made her move at the right time, and it has gotten her to top 5, with basically a guarantee of top 3. All that from being dead last on her tribe.
Mark: And what else has she done?
Matt: She didn’t have to do anything else.
John: That’s my argument.
Matt: Just be a part of the majority.
John: In fact, maybe I put her up to #2 in the rooting interests.
Matt: Eh, Matty had a similar target and consolidated power similarly.
John: Her one huge mistake was saying that she was considering voting for Corinne.
Matt: What was Matty’s big mistake?
Does he have one? He ceded power to Kenny and Crystal, but then when they came for him, he got them instead. I mean obviously if he has a chance to take out Bob and doesn’t that is the big mistake.
John: Matty has been pretty inert strategically.
Matt: The same can be said about Susie!
So the final five is two people who have done basically nothing strategically in Matty and Susie, Bob who has consistently failed to do anything, Kenny who had power and has just squandered it, and Sugar.
Sugar has made the most moves and I think a lot of them have actually been fine, but her reasoning has always been terrible, she is basically reacting every time to being a gullible sucker.
Mark: This episode has started making the case for Bob. And yeah, Sugar is actually not a bad player, but her decisions are ruled by emotion.
Matt: Emotion that people are constantly manipulating.
Matt: So anything else before the finale?
John: Nope. As Andy and I often used to say before we had a podcast, “Save it for the podcast.”
Favorite seasons: Heroes vs. Villains, Cagayan, Pearl Islands, Tocantins, Cambodia