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.
John: For episode 4, let’s start with something Mark will enjoy: we got an extended scene of a bunch of people staring at an elephant.
Matt: That was one of the few times I actually felt like Survivor was in a foreign country instead of a random beach somewhere.
Mark: This was my favorite scene from the episode. I love when the cast interacts with the environment. And it wasn’t an Africa situation where it stormed into camp.
They were kinda stupid for getting on the boat and gawking though.
John: Are they not aware that elephants can swim?
Matt: It’s not so much swim as wade out ankle deep.
Mark: Especially in a season as boring and drab and plain, it was good to get a pop of why production liked this location.
Matt: Also were they looking at a baby, and was there likely a larger mother nearby?
John: What am I, a zoologist?
Matt: I thought you were a zoologist accountant?
John: I only minored in zoology.
Mark: I think it was a baby/teen.
John: The Gabonian equivalent of a Millennial.
Mark: So it wins season 33 right?
John: I’m already so disgusted with the season 33 theme. And we’re 4 months away.
Matt: Let us never discuss it again
John: Okay, let’s talk about Fruit Ninja! Or, as episode 4 called it, the reward challenge. I like how even in a reward challenge that they seem to be dominating, Fang cannot win.
Mark: Hey now, Ace was doing a really good job until they hacked the challenge. No pun intended.
John: And Sugar gets sent to the Sugar Shack (this episode is the first time we hear that name for it) for- as Dan puts it- “No strategy, purely comedy”.
Matt: I like how robot lawyer tries to make it into a joke, but doesn’t understand cadence and so everyone thought he was serious. I swear half the people out there thought “okay, so yeah they are doing this because they think it is funny. And he actually did have a good clarifying strategic reason why to send Sugar.
John: Yes. But also, it’s kinda funny.
Matt: This is how you know Dan is a lawyer by the way, when he tells the truth no one believes him.
And I agree sending Sugar there repeatedly is kinda funny, and it is funny that she is eating better there than the rest of her tribe is back at camp.
Mark: But if they keep doing this, but never trying to flush her idol…what’s the point?
Matt: For the other tribe? The point is that they are keeping the idol in the hands of the weakest challenge person on the other tribe. It means that tribe has to keep her around giving them a huge edge every time they go to a challenge. It is actually really good strategy.
John: Kota just wants to manage risk. It’s one of the few smart things the players this season have done.
Mark: Ah, okay, never thought of it like that.
Matt: Yeah, plus this way they don’t have to guess where the idol is. If anyone has it, Sugar has it.
John: Exactly. It works on several levels.
Matt: As John said, it is the most strategic decision anyone has made all season.
John: Dan, by the way, was really pushing hard for that “us seven to the end!” alliance.
Matt: Dan’s desperation is obvious. I think I was saying “if Kota goes to tribal, he is so obviously first out”.
John: It’s like Charlie’s thirst for Marcus. He’s just putting it all out there.
Mark: I doubt that group can hold.
John: Meanwhile, over at Loser Tribe, GC is unraveling. More so than he already had.
Matt: I like that he just wandered away. Like good god, what would they have done if he didn’t come back in time?
Mark: Did they ever actually show him being found? I feel like they just cut away while a producer yelled at him to show up.
Matt: Yeah, I imagine the same. A producer basically forced him to go back.
Mark: So…did the edit play into stereotypes or did he?
Matt: Ugh both? But probably the latter.
I think probably the most accurate thing is that casting played into stereotypes. Casting is the one seeking a certain type of Black Male to fill a spot and often resorts to a GC sort of person to fit a role in their cast. Then when everyone around them is pretty damn different they have a harder time relating to anyone.
John: Even Crystal has turned on him at this point, though. EAT YO RICE!
Matt: True, so there is an aspect there that is just GC being terrible. But I think casting was seeking a certain type of person and GC fit that type pretty well.
John: I did enjoy that when they told GC he was going to miss the immunity challenge, he said “Would’ve been cool with me.”
At that point, the writing on the wall could not be clearer.
Mark: Can we talk about how Crystal and Kenny found Sugar’s idol and she doesn’t seem to care?
Matt: I bet that was some switched footage. Like I think that happened earlier.
John: But it allowed them to do the perfect transition from the scene of Sugar saying it’s in her bag and adding “they aren’t looking in my bag” to watching Crystal looking through her bag.
Matt: Also let’s be honest, they needed some drama in the vote even though this was an obvious vote out GC moment.
John: Well what the episode lacked in drama it made up for in comedy.
The immunity challenge was Human Plinko, which looked incredibly fun. And somehow, Ace got fooled by Randy yelling out commands to him. Did he really think Randy was Sugar?
Matt: They sound so damn similar!
I thought that immunity challenge was fun, but (and this is weird to say) it seemed more like a reward challenge.
Mark: With the scoring aspect? They did that a lot more back then. If nothing else, I’m enjoying this season like a strategic sitcom.
Matt: More like the complete lack of involvement of most of the tribe.
John: But it also seemed really cool, both to play and to watch.
Mark: There’s only so much you can do in that environment.
Matt: Also as to the sitcom point: this season has the same rhythms as Silicon Valley. Moment of success devastatingly snatched away.
John: Who is the Bachman?
Matt: And I guess Bob is the Big Head.
John: And Marcus is Richard. But Handsome Richard.
Matt: Sure. Speaking of Marcus: dude really is the golden boy. He games the reward challenge; he has his tribe on lockdown; he really can’t do any wrong. I am interested to see how he blows it, but I think it will simply be that everyone sees the obvious.
John: Right. So far, he seems to be one of the few that grasps how to play the game. Which is amazing, because this is season 17.
Mark: Which makes this fun to watch. I’m bored, but I’m entertained, so at worst it’s just a season of reality TV.
Also, side note: Jeff is editorializing a LOT on the Previously segments. He basically said one tribe was stupid.
Matt: I noticed that too, he ran down Fang so hard in that.
John: Jeff is treating them with outright disdain.
Matt: It was glorious.
John: And has been since episode 2 I think.
Matt: They had that one episode of unexpected success, but otherwise this tribe is like a Palau-level loser
John: But speaking of not knowing how to play the game, this group gets a perfect opportunity to blindside Sugar and take out the idol here. And instead, they vote out GC. Though in their defense, I can see the logic behind voting out GC anyway. Because if he was miserable already, imagine how he’ll be after you forced him to stay for three more days.
Mark: Yeah, as frustrated as I was during the vote, you can’t really help if he wants to go. Better than him quitting after the vote.
John: One notable thing about that tribal council: Probst saying to Sugar, “Right on cue, Sugar, you’re crying.” Sugar cries a lot, you guys.
Matt: I think she has a pair of tweezers in her pocket
John: Episode five features a moment that kinda summarizes the Survivor skill levels of this cast: Ace tells Sugar that everyone knows she has the idol. Her response? “Oh, okay, should I give it to you?”
Matt: Yeah, I failed to see any logic in her giving the idol to Ace.
John: That was so maddening. How does the power of the idol change at all based on Ace holding on to it?
Mark: As decent as she’s played elsewhere given her circumstances, this baffled me. They could do a Scot/Jason thing and use it on each other.
John: But using it on each other does not require Sugar giving the idol to Ace right now.
Matt: They still have enough to split the vote at this point right? Because in episode 5 there are 6 people left. So go 2-2-2 and idol is useless.
John: Matt. Come on.
Matt: Right right right. Of course these dummies wouldn’t know that. Literally no one on this cast has ever seen Survivor before. Splitting the vote? What is that?
Mark: And would Matty have even done that to Ace given their alliance?
John: No! This is what I’m saying: Sugar giving Ace the idol offers absolutely no benefit to anyone but Ace.
Also, based on previous confessionals, I’m pretty sure that Crystal doesn’t really know how an idol works anyway.
Matt: Crystal definitely doesn’t know how an idol works.
Mark: She must think it’s a gold medal.
John: Well, it is, in that it’s being taken away from someone. Something that Crystal has experience with.
Anyway, we get to the reward challenge, and Randy sees that GC is now gone. Randy’s reaction? A Tiger Woods-esque fist pump. And after Fang loses the challenge because Fang gonna Fang, Crystal breaks down and cries. Randy’s reaction? “Wah wah wah.” Randy is dialing up the troll game.
Mark: Again, Randy is the season MVP. I think he gave a thumbs up to the GC vote, too. Randy’s best quote: “More than winning, I enjoy watching them lose.” So yes, his troll game is A+.
John: Is anyone else in the running right now?
Mark: Based on that reward challenge, no one in Fang is in the running.
John: But the trolling doesn’t stop there! Back at camp, everyone is pissed at Dan for being such a food hog. And Randy, who once served as the Food Hitler of the Fang tribe, starts encouraging Dan to eat more of the reward.
Mark: Does he think he signed up for Real Housedads of Africa?
Matt: Randy is so good. Also clueless lawyer Dan is so damn clueless.
John: So clueless. Has that guy interacted with humans before?
Matt: I loved Marcus’ reaction to him. Marcus is like “sigh ok we are doing this? ok we are doing this”
Mark: Matt, please give your pro lawyer opinion of the guy.
Matt: Dan is obviously a transactional or tax lawyer. Also, of the lawyers I know he is still probably not in the bottom 25% in terms of social skills.
John: If he were on the Purple Rock staff, he’d probably still be right around the median in terms of social skills. But we would never have him on the staff. He’s too needy. We don’t like people with emotions around here.
Matt: Someone wasn’t loved as a child.
Mark: That’s why we have Emma.
Matt: Emma wasn’t loved as a child?
John: Emma doesn’t have emotions?
Mark: Only Andy’s kids-related ones.
John: On the topic of emotions, though: Crystal’s explanations for her crying were top notch.
“We all get depressed. It’s just that mine come out through my eyes.”
Unlike Dan, I think Crystal could fit in on the Purple Rock staff. She’s so confused by having displayed emotion that she has to rationalize it to everyone else. And collectively, we have as many gold medals as she does. So we have something in common.
Mark: I have Reddit Gold. Does that count?
Matt: And then she argues a separate point from the one someone was making by setting up a strawman to knock down. So yeah ,she could definitely fit in with certain people here. (I learned subtweeting at the Lebron school).
John: I don’t think we need another one of those here.
Mark: Plus, Crystal used to be good at running but sucks now, so she can also fit in with a third person here.
Anyway, Crystal wasn’t the only one getting all weepy and explaining it. Sugar’s default is weepy, so of course we saw her crying again. And her explanation is that she felt guilty that her tribe was starving and she was relaxing in a hammock and eating well.
Mark: Even Probst is tiring of it.
Matt: I imagine a lot more of it is happening than we are seeing
John: Continuing the theme of evaluating Purple Rock staff-worthiness: Sugar is a “HELL NO”.
Mark: Agreed. I wouldn’t move to Wisconsin for her.
Matt: Definitely not
John: But for a tribe that’s not eating, Fang actually does remarkably well at the immunity challenge, which involves a whole lot of running, climbing, and crawling.
Matt: Well isn’t most of that Kenny and Matty. They made up a ton of time.
Mark: I was very impressed by their performance. And by “their” I mean Kenny and Matty. They almost won until Ace fucked it up.
John: Yes, but there are brief glimpses of competence at Fang here! I mean, they still lose. Because they’re still Fang.
Matt: Crystal made a good point “why are we keeping Ace around by saying he is good at challenges when we haven’t won since he got here”.
John: That wasn’t even her only good point! She also recognized that Matty was so willingly giving up information and power to Ace, but getting nothing in return. Then Kenny finds out Sugar gave her idol to Ace, and Kenny’s response is essentially, “Are you an idiot?” It’s like they’re learning!
Matt: The start of Kenny’s sales pitch to get Sugar to side with him.
Maybe it is like the pick-up artist? By negging Sugar at the beginning his later praise opened her up to his strategic praise.
Mark: Who knew Kenny would float from girl to to girl with his charms?
John: I’m pretty sure Kenny floats from girl to girl out of rejection from the previous girl. But sure.
Mark: He and Michelle were friends! Kelly got voted out!
More like rejection from the other guys. So I can sympathize.
Matt: And yet… I think Kenny is the power player on that tribe. Again though… lack of competition
John: Yeah, power player on that tribe is not exactly a high bar.
Mark: He is one of my Ep 6 MVPs.
John: Well episode 6 starts with Crystal spilling rice. EAT YO DIRTY RICE!
Mark: Is that a New Orleans joke?
John: No. But because that tribe is terrible at everything, including rationing, they basically have no food left.
Matt: That seems a holdover from the Dan days
John: Oh, that’s a good point! Dan was there for a week. He probably ate three weeks’ worth of rice in that time.
Mark: They have food left! …For a week.
Matt: I think Dan is the walking disaster going tribe to tribe eating everyone out of rice and home.
Also GC. When Randy brought up the rationing in like Episode 2 or 3 GC and Dan were just like… you crazy dude.
John: Right. Randy the Food Hitler! Anyway, the starving Fang once again loses a reward challenge. I feel like this should just be auto-text at this point that I insert into every episode discussion.
Matt: It should! When you consider the total number of reward challenges and immunity challenges they are one of the incompetent tribes ever
Mark: That reward was a pretty cool locale, though.
John: This time, the challenge was keep-away. A) That’s not a very creative challenge, and B) Sugar, the most well-fed of the Fang tribe, just doesn’t even try.
Mark: The sad thing is, I think she IS trying.
John: Well you know what her trying got her? Yet another trip to Exile Island. At this point, is she even really playing Survivor? It’s more that she’s Survivor-adjacent.
Mark: Are they going to do Exile after the merge or just say “screw it”? Because it really is just a mini-Ponderosa at this point.
John: I hadn’t even thought of that. It would be pretty funny if even post-merge they just kept sending her there and everyone kinda forgets she’s still in the game.
Matt: Do they have idols that aren’t on Exile in this era of Survivor?
John: It seems like they don’t have idols at the camps. So maybe Exile’s is the only one?
Mark: I think Exile is the only one. I remember this era doing it like that.
Matt: I think so, so I think they will continue sending people there. Which means they will continue sending Sugar there. Unless Sugar gets the choice somehow.
Mark: Which is why I hope it ends soon.
John: But that Kota tribe is really interested in keeping both Sugar and her theoretical immunity idol in the game. Because when Marcus wins immunity and Probst lets him give a freebie immunity to someone on the other tribe, he picks Sugar.
Matt: It does make a certain amount of sense. Keep it to the one person who would have found it and make sure they are still in the game. And then you know where it is for sure, especially if you are taking Dim Dan out.
John: Well, remember earlier when I said I’m pretty sure Crystal doesn’t understand how immunity idols work? She gives a confessional about how Sugar is the most powerful person in this game after getting the immunity necklace from Marcus.
Which, sure. For one vote.
Matt: Yeah Crystal definitely doesn’t understand how any of this works. The Immunity necklace is like a gold medal.
John: In that it’s taken from you so easily.
Matt: It can be taken away from you at a moments notice.
John: Nailed it.
Mark: I was going to say “good in theory but useless a few years later” but.
John: Another fun Crystal moment: After spilling the rice at the start of the episode, she refused her portion so the others could eat, even as they encouraged her to just go ahead and eat.
Matt: Right and she got mad at them for encouraging her to eat.
John: So naturally at tribal council she points out that they didn’t save her any rice.
Matt: That moment made me do the unthinkable and sympathize with Ace.
John: Well, in her words, “If you cared enough you would have saved me rice anyway”. You know, after I explicitly refused it multiple times.
Mark: Because that is how empathy works!
(Says a group of staffers without emotions.)
Matt: If you cared enough, you would have held me down and forced rice into my mouth even though I was trying to spit it out the whole time.
John: Even though such an act is prohibited by the Geneva convention!
Matt: Yeah, Rice Boarding was explicitly labeled torture.
John: But the fun part of all this is that we got two immunity necklaces because both of these tribes are going to tribal council. I can only assume they did this because otherwise Kota was just never going to have to vote anyone out.
Matt: And of course Marcus won.
Mark: Yeah, why did they set this up? And the three people at the end strategy?
Matt: I liked that Bob was apparently a championship log roller in college.
John: Look at that, insight into what Bob is like as a human!
Matt: Championship Log Roller Bob!
John: Except that Bob loses in round 2. To Sugar.
Mark: This was not a great episode for Bob. His only confessional is crying at letters, and failing at a thing he was a champion at.
Matt: That Bob moment made me think of Coach. That was almost an “I have” moment.
John: Eh. Bob probably actually did do log rolling at some point, though.
Matt: John, are you saying Coach lied!?
Why I never!
John: So let’s talk Fang’s tribal council first: Sugar is immune, and she decides to blindside the one person on her tribe that she’s been legitimately aligned with since the beginning.
Mark: Let’s not forget it was Kenny’s idea. But he made Sugar think it was her’s.
Finally! Someone is playing this game.
John: And credit to Kenny, because he actually sold it well.
Matt: I mean when you have that chance to vote out your one ally you have to take it.
Kenny did sell it well, though. But Ace knew he had to be going home when Sugar wouldn’t give him the idol despite having immunity.
Mark: Sugar wasn’t too bad, but really waffled in her conversation with Ace. Still, she leaned into that Tai edit and blindsided Ace.
So if you’re anticipating a merge: good move or no?
John: A good move for Sugar?
Matt: I think taking out your closest ally when you don’t have to this early is always a bad move.
John: Especially because the merge is coming! Wouldn’t it be nice to have at least one person you’d worked with?
Mark: She does admit to having had used him, though.
Matt: So… keep using him. After the merge will people target Ace or Sugar? They’ll target Ace who is a challenge threat
John: Exactly. Ace is a shield for her. And Kenny’s shown a willingness to work with her. She could still work with him if she’d voted out Crystal.
Matt: I think those four will actually largely stick together though. But I’ll save the big prediction for after discussion of the Kota tribal.
John: Well let’s move on to the Kota tribe, then.
Matt: So again people do the right thing. There is a possibility of idol, so they split the vote.
John: A vote split to protect against an idol! I was blindsided!
Matt: But I think this is going to backfire horribly
John: Oh, it will absolutely backfire.
Matt: I think Susie will jump ship after seeing her place and Bob may follow since Randy has obviously usurped his position.
Mark: They already set up her vs Corinne.
John: Susie set herself up vs. Corinne!
Matt: Oh lets talk about that. Because that was hilarious
John: Susie told Corinne she was going to vote her out!
Matt: That was beautiful.
Mark: A+ strategy.
John: Then she laughs it off. Like, “Oh, isn’t that hilarious?”
Matt: And Corinne freaks out. Acts like it is the worst thing she has ever heard.
John: I don’t know where Susie thought her votes were going to come from, either.
Matt: Susie is playing some Borneo-level strategy.
Mark: You assume that anyone is thinking beyond dinner.
John: This is the tribe that’s eating! They get rewards every 3 days because Fang fucking sucks!
Matt: Plus they are fishing well.
John: Corinne freaks out because even though Susie couldn’t do it now, Susie potentially could come for her after a merge (which has to be coming soon).
Matt: But also Susie is so inept that would you be scared?
John: Inept doesn’t matter so much here, because all she has to do is find a receptive audience. And I imagine most of Fang would be pretty receptive.
Matt: That was a Rupert-level overreaction in my mind.
John: It was an overreaction for this vote, yes. But I get being worried about keeping Susie out of fear of what she’ll do in the future.
Matt: So should they have taken out Susie then? Is Dan more likely to have stuck with them?
John: I actually think Dan would stay loyal to them because he was trying so hard to win their approval and friendship.
Matt: Also how much does it matter that Dan is probably super annoying and needy? Also, I think there is some thinking from that group that people will gravitate to them naturally because they are the popular people (and Randy), so that is what they are used to.
John: Well, if you were worried that Susie was going to flip, splitting a vote to get Dan is probably not the way to encourage her to stay loyal.
Matt: Right and I think that will really cost them. I think Susie is flipping.
John: And she should.
Matt: And I think Marcus (the golden boy) is going home very soon.
Mark: Just because of nerd’s revenge?
John: Because her alliance just clearly signaled that she’s on the bottom.
Matt: Very clearly.
John: It’s different to split the vote when it’s two people that are against your alliance anyway.
Mark: I see the Fang Four sticking together. If Suzie jumps, does she bring Bob and have a 6-5 advantage?
Matt: It would be 6-4 no?
John: Kota has Randy, Corinne, Marcus, Charlie, and Bob.
The Onion Alliance! (Plus Randy)
Matt: Or now (plus Bob)
Mark: I almost forgot about the Onion Alliance.
Matt: I am not sure Bob stays with them though.
So here is my prediction: basically, I think that vote split leads to Susie defecting and maybe Bob too. They vote out Charlie, Marcus, Randy, and Corinne. Throw in Matty, who is the only remaining challenge threat left; then with Kenny, Bob, Sugar, Susie and Crystal left, they turn on Kenny for being sneaky (i.e. ,strategizing) and yeah, that is how Bob and Sugar get into a final 3.
I just want you guys to take a second to imagine that final five.
John: Kenny, Bob, Sugar, Susie, and Crystal? What a nightmare.
Mark: Revenge of the Nerds and Some Other People.
Matt: Revenge of the Nerd and a Physics Prof who is also there.
Mark: Bill Nye is a nerd, bro.
Matt: But he isn’t revenging anything.
Mark: His barrel loss!
Matt: I think Marcus has to go soon
John: Marcus is the first target.
Matt: Otherwise ,he would Westman the season.
Well maybe not quite that.
John: Settle down. Marcus wouldn’t Westman it.
Matt: But, like, Marcus is the one-eyed man in the sea of blind men.
John: Right. You take out one of the few competent players. Then, it’s a level playing field.
Mark: Anyone else find the preview for Ep 7 weird if it is indeed a merge?
Matt: No, I thought that was classic merge.
John: Drunk Randy?
Mark: “Here’s some goofy shit Randy does”.
Matt: Could Randy be next?
John: Hell no.
Matt: Is this Andy’s Randy episode?
John: Well, I can’t say hell no, because look at how these people play.
Matt: No, maybe they get the numbers because people hate Randy.
Mark: Maybe people hate Randy but he wins immunity! That would be hilarious.
Matt: Oh god I would love Randy to win immunity
John: I’m just excited for Drunk Randy. Even if it is his boot episode.
Mark: So, any eulogies for Derpy Dan or Ace-hole? (Loved Sugar’s vote.)
John: I did dig the Ace-hole vote.
Okay, last thing: Let’s get your current favorites.
Matt: Still enjoying Randy.
Mark: Still Kenny (as the only player so far), Sugar (as a wild card), and Randy (as the entertainment). Even at this late date, no one else really stands out. Crystal only gets airtime when she complains. (Which is often, but still.)
John: Troll Game Randy is still my clubhouse leader.
Matt: I still like Marcus, but his game is kinda boring and he will lose.
Mark: Who? I only remembered who he was when he got immunity!
John: Kenny is okay. Crystal kinda entertains me. And I’m with you, Marcus is good, but he’s doomed.
Matt: Yeah, this is all spot on. Except for Mark’s continuing like of Sugar. That is baffling.
John: Mark always has weird taste in women.
Favorite seasons: Heroes vs. Villains, Cagayan, Pearl Islands, Tocantins, Cambodia