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, join us on our descent into Survivor madness.
Matt: Ok I just want to start in completely uncoordinated fashion by noting that in episode one Corinne is basically Neal-esque.
Mark: Corinne was barely a factor considering how “iconic” she’s become since then. Curious to see how she breaks out.
Matt: And when she did talk it was someone who thinks they are more interesting than they are.
Andy: You just defined Corinne.
Matt: Stay out of here Andy! We talking Gabon!
Andy left #gabon
Mark: That whole intro sequence was weird. You have a lot of random animal shots, a spastic hippo (metaphor for the season), and then a low-key intro where no one seems particularly jazzed to be there.
But the great Randy Bailey is a wedding videographer who hates happiness? Sign me up!
Matt: Oh Mark, you don’t hate happiness you are just incapable of finding it.
Mark: Low blow!
But as much as we love pick-em’s for challenges, that was an odd way to start the season. “You don’t know these boring people, but watch how bad they are at choices”.
Matt: God they are so bad
John: Let’s talk about that opening tribe selection, because in theory it’s a great way to start a season. It worked for Palau, and it worked after the first vote in Panama.
Matt: The Panama selection is one of the greatest moments of comedy in Survivor history. This is just sad
John: Panama’s selection process is funnier the second time you watch the season, because you realize all the mistakes they’re making in selecting each other.
Matt: Exactly. And yet that is the tribe that can’t lose. Anyway, I think this one self-destructs because they have the oldest people picking the tribe.
John: This one is weird because it’s not a requirement that you have to pick a man or a woman based on the round, seemingly. It’s just free-form.
John: I think the first two picks (made by the olds) are actually pretty defensible. Because Crystal Cox is the most jacked preschool teacher I’ve ever seen.
Matt: Did she win a gold medal? I think she won a gold medal. She may have mentioned it a few times.
John: Indeed. Also mentioned? How terrible the selection process was. I think it was Charlie that said, “Are these people idiots? How are they selecting their team?”
Matt: This was multiple people’s assessment.
John: But generally, you’d want to find someone with strength, someone who looks dexterous, and someone who looks smart. That should cover your bases for early challenges.
John: So Fang (red tribe) picks Crystal first. She certainly looks strong. Then Crystal picks Susie because…she’s a mom?
Matt: Yea that is the pick that was the worst. She is totally redundant with Gillian.
John: Just gonna throw this theory out there: Susie would have been available in later rounds.
Matt: Pretty sure she is the last pick with Gillian gone. But Crystal only gets this pick, and she wanted her.
John: To be fair, Ace also decided that he was an idiot and picked Sugar.
Mark: I really don’t get how Michelle was the last pick.
John: Mark, none of the picks make sense.
Matt: Yeah especially because she is HOT
Mark: Calm down, tiger.
John: Meh-chelle. A Survivor tradition that began in Gabon, apparently!
Matt: I imagine that Michelle was giving off that don’t give a fuck vibe early and often. Like she obviously hated everyone there.
Mark: Wouldn’t you after being picked last?
Matt: Yes! Hence my attraction. She is the person I identified with most.
Mark: And here I thought that was because she ate a grub.
John: This actually leads into something I wanted to discuss: Survivor involves so much luck, even down to what tribe you end up on, or even what season.
Mark: Very true. Wasn’t Max an alternate for Caramoan or something?
John: Yes. So imagine you’re finally cast for Survivor, and you end up on a tribe with Gillian, Randy, Kenny, D-bag Matty, and G.C. Who are you forming an alliance with?
Matt: Yea that tribe is terrible and you don’t even mention robot lawyer the idiot.
John: Exactly. Even the lawyer on this tribe sucks. Matt would go talk to him and be like, “Nah. Pass.”
Matt: Randy is by far the most competent person on that tribe.
Mark: Which says something.
John: I was actually going to say that Randy would be the first one I approached. Because somehow he seems the least objectionable.
Matt: At least he makes his contempt open and obvious
Mark: I mean you have Randy, nebbish Kenny, bland persons 1,2,3, a guy who can’t lead, and Gillian, who is a cross between Debbie Wanner and Jane Goodall.
John: Let’s talk about that first “win the supplies” challenge. Crystal lost a fucking running competition! The lone skill involved was running! No puzzles, no digging, no knots. Just running.
Don’t you think they set up that exact type of challenge so that Crystal could outrun everyone else and have them all think “Damn, she’s fast!”
Matt: Yea and she got smoked. It was pretty funny honestly.
Mark: Yeah that was just sad. And it’s a bit of a tangent, but it sets up what has so far been a very green and brown season. There is just not a lot of iconic landscaping. Even camp fishing is like, a swamp.
John: Yeah, I think the appeal of the scenery is going to be more about the animals.
Mark: I’d chalk it up to being landlocked, but even Africa and Tocantins were more appealing.
John: So in the challenge, I get maybe wanting to hang back and not expose yourself as some prime athlete or something, but Crystal couldn’t get up a hill!
And she blamed it on her running shoes being heavy. I ran for a very long time. Even New Balance, the lead weights of running shoes, are not that heavy. She has quads like tree trunks! Sorry, I can’t avoid commentary on running.
Mark: That’s your thing! Just like my visuals tangents. And there’s a big difference between holding back and needing to be pulled up by old people.
John: Yes! She needed help from others! That’s not holding back, that’s just being weak.
So GC and Marcus get there first and get the idols. In this situation, are you racing to get the idol first?
Mark: 60 seconds more and Michelle would have been safe. So maybe. But I get the impression, at least from editing, that people weren’t pushing for it so much as the athletic types made it up first naturally. This wasn’t a Cambodia bag of rice push.
John: Generally, I don’t know that I’d want to put a target on my back right away. But in this case, since everyone will know who has the idols on both tribes, I don’t think it’s a huge risk to grab it. It might help you form an early alliance. The biggest benefit might just be keeping it away from others.
Mark: Wasn’t it just for that first TC though?
Matt: I think you push a little for it but yea I think it’s just that first TC. So someone like Michelle who was chosen last has to push, but I’m not sure the rest do.
John: So because they suck at challenges- and really, who could’ve seen that coming?- the Fang tribe ends up at the first two tribal councils and we get a lot of them on screen. Do you have any favorites in this tribe yet?
Mark: Randy and Kenny.
Matt: I like Kenny because i too am nerdy and a video-gamer. But he is clearly on the outs
Randy as mentioned is probably competent and at least his contempt is open and obvious so I’m ok with him
Mark: But are there really alliances yet? Both votes have been 8-1.
John: That’s not how numbers work, Mark.
Mark: Well, 8-1 and 7-1. You know what I mean!
John: Also, it was 7-2 and 7-1. Kenny voted with Michelle because Kenny has never kissed a girl.
Mark: Clearly this season is very memorable.
Matt: To be fair to Kenny… she is hot.
Mark: Hey these days, all you need is a dynamic duo to succeed.
John: Well here’s the thing about that duo: They aren’t dynamic. At all.
Mark: It was an interesting first vote though. What’s better? Being too negative or too positive?
And I maintain keeping Michelle might have won them the second challenge.
Matt: Gillian was a huge dead weight and the challenges were pretty physical
Mark: So by the end, they repented for the original sin of keeping Gillian.
Matt: i don’t think it was Gillian’s positivity that got her voted her out, it was her complete failure at challenges.
Mark: No, but her positivity saved her on Day 3.
John: I have to believe they got rid of Michelle because she was annoying them.
Matt: Yeah Michelle I think was making it well known how much she didn’t care for anyone.
Mark: Fang is just a mess. Leader, no leader, paint, fire, failure.
John: I’m glad Mark brought up the leader thing, because Probst mentioned it at both tribal councils. Is that just because this season is old enough that they still pretended to care about who was the “leader” of a tribe?
Matt: I think so? But also remember this is right before Samoa where they forced them to pick a leader, so that was something that they not only pretended to care about but made the tribes care about.
John: It’s that weird holdover from the days when the show pretended to care about survival and building communities and whatnot.
Mark: And yet their camp had pre-built huts.
Matt: Yeah well there are fucking elephants near them.
John: Are elephants afraid of huts?
Matt: Yes. mice and huts. I am a lawyer, I have to know this stuff.
John: That does sound like something a law-talking guy would know.
So Kenny and Randy are our two “favorites” at this point?
Mark: Few memorable people.
John: Right. This is slim pickings. What about the other tribe? Any standouts there?
Mark: Charlie. Paloma was hot and then she opened her mouth…
John: So sexist. You want your women to shut up and look pretty?
Matt: I think that tribe has interesting people, even if I don’t like them all.
Mark: There’s too many generic bros and blondes on that tribe.
Matt: One thing about Bob, every shot opens with him. He is always the first person you see.
John: That’s what’s known as the winner’s edit, Matt. Just look for him to blandly regurgitate producers’ statements back to them later.
Matt: Anyway, I think Ace is an entertaining blowhard.
Mark: Oh yeah, Ace. He could be promising. Several interesting accents this season.
John: Ace feels like the arrogant idiot being set up for a fall later.
Matt: Oh I don’t like him but I find his self-absorption entertaining.
Marcus is a generic leading man, but I kinda like him despite that.
John: I like Marcus. My wife really likes Marcus.
Mark: I don’t even know which one that is.
Matt: Speaking of which, Charlie is so thirsty for Marcus
Mark: OH, that’s Marcus. Ok. Still don’t get it but I get it.
Matt: I think I liked Marcus by how he played that off, like ok I like the dude, but I am not gay, but if this makes him like me more sure I’ll entertain it.
John: I loved how Charlie was like, “I feel like we have this amazing connection.” It’s basically how every teenage boy tries to get into a girl’s (or, in this case, a boy’s) pants.
Matt: Exactly. I swear Charlie thinks he can turn Marcus.
John: And Marcus was right to be totally fine with it, because Charlie is going to be a loyal vote with him. Just like Kenny was thirsting for Michelle and happily voted with her.
Matt: Right, Marcus is playing this right.
John: Which leads to my next point: Marcus is doomed, right?
Matt: Oh most definitely. Either merge or victim of a bad swap would be my guess.
Mark: Yeah, no way he makes it far.
John: Ok, so going into episode 2 we’re all aboard the Randy train, then?
Matt: Weirdly, yes.
John: But in the caboose, probably. Trying not to let other people see us.
Matt: Hiding behind the drink cart.
John: Episode 2 is entitled “She obviously is post-op!”, and yet we (or at least I) never heard that quote on the actual show. Anyone want to venture a guess who said it?
Mark: I missed it too. Guessing Corri—ugh.
Matt: Dammit Emma!
Emma: It’s not on the show
John: If only someone had mentioned that, EMMA!
Matt: Yeah no crap. Now the harder question is who did she say it about… (ok that isn’t harder at all).
John: So yeah, unanimous choice: Corrine said it.
So are we going to have consensus on who Corrine said it about?
Matt: Crystal. Explaining why they lost the challenge.
Mark: Sugar when choosing Exile?
John: Nah. I’m with Matt. Gotta be Crystal, and for the exact reason Matt mentioned. Because Crystal beasted that reward challenge.
Matt: Well it didn’t involve running, so she was golden.
Mark: The only thing she’s beasted in 12 days.
John: She somehow can’t run up a hill, but she will drag a bitch.
John: Well, apparently she and her tribemates have also been beasting on rice, because Randy very calmly presents the idea that maybe they should consider rationing. And the basic response is “Fuck you, Food Hitler! Don’t tell me what to do!”
Matt: Again Randy (Randy!) is the reasonable person on that tribe. This is surprising me. But that tribe is a disaster.
Mark: Or was.
Matt: Right because of the swap.
John: Yeah, are we going to move out of the caboose of the Randy train? Are we ready to publicly embrace him yet?
Mark: For now, yes. Also Sugar. Because she is craftier than she looks.
Matt: Randy’s severe dislike for his tribe mirrors my own so sure I’ll embrace him. But ugh, Sugar
Mark: I can see how they were both the returnees.
Matt: I’ll fight you on that.
John: Well let’s talk Sugar, because she got her first trip to Exile “Island”.
Matt: Sugar seems like someone who plays to the camera only she seems this way when she isn’t playing to the camera.
Mark: I think that she’s getting a bit of a Tai edit. Emotional, adept at finding idols, and underestimated.
We have to give her credit, though. This was back in the day when finding idols took work.
Matt: And when she is playing to the camera in confessionals she is fine and likable, but in her every interaction with people she is putting on such a persona that I just fucking hate.
Yeah I’ll give her credit for finding that idol.
John: I get the impression that Sugar is someone I wouldn’t enjoy spending time with. Which, let’s be clear, makes her fit in perfectly with a lot of others in this cast.
Matt: I liked her on Exile Island a lot more than any other portion of this show.
Mark: Oh I’m not saying she’s by new BFF. But she’s played the idol pretty well.
John: Right, let’s give her full credit for the idol find, because Dan the Dim Lawyer was there first, and he didn’t even manage to find the first clue!
Matt: Yeah well lawyers are idiots. Trust me I know.
John: So Sugar plows through all the clues, then comes back to camp with her idol.
Matt: She did play off the idol well, like obviously I didn’t find it, what did you expect?
John: And Fang suddenly becomes competent in the next challenge as well. They even beat the physics teacher on a fairly simple math challenge.
Matt: I loved that one team put up a physics teacher for a math puzzle and the other team put up the Asian guy.
Mark: Because Kenny is awesome.
Matt: So stereotypical.
Mark: It’s not like he was Yul! Dude is a scrawny gamer.
Matt: If I know anything from my friends who are physics PhD’s, it is that physics people don’t know math either.
John: That’s why we have computers.
(I mean, we all do. But they need them for the math, is my joke.)
Matt: You don’t have a computer John? Explain your joke more!
John: Well, you see, the name Tai is a homonym. It sounds exactly like Thai! So…
Anyway, Fang wins immunity for the first time, and we get a relatively uneventful vote: Bye, Paloma. Anyone care to deliver the Paloma eulogy? Because I’ve got nothing.
Mark: RIP both attractive women this season. Shame her scheming didn’t convince more than one of the Blonde People, because Ace seems like a liability down the line.
Matt: I do like that people are just kinda done with Ace as a person, because wow that guy seems irritating. You know what I said about Sugar putting on a persona? Ace does that times a million
Mark: No wonder they’re allies.
John: Ace might actually be worse than Sugar. Ace takes Nick’s fake douchebag routine to its illogical extremes.
Matt: Affected. That is the perfect word to describe Ace
John: Ok, let’s talk episode 3.
Matt: Another pick-em! And man this one isn’t so hot either.
John: Instead of a reward challenge, they bring out ridiculous pedestals and have the tribes rank everyone in the tribe in accordance with their importance to the tribe.
Matt: I loved how uncomfortable Marcus was to be ranked #1
John: And I like that it’s just a vague “importance to the tribe” ranking. Like the MVP trophy, where “valuable” gets debated. But Marcus and Matty end up as the most important from their respective tribes.
Mark: Actually that whole pick em set up the vote at the end.
Matt: So Kelly was on the bottom because she was the obvious outsider.
John: And maybe also because she sucks?
Matt: And then she goes to a new tribe and is again the outsider.
John: Well, one thing happened there that’s actually interesting: Ace was stupid enough to say “No, don’t pick Kelly.” So Kenny was smart enough (although it took him a minute) to realize that meant he should definitely pick Kelly.
Matt: Yeah I think Kenny played that pick em well for maintaining his voting edge, but his alliance still has GC in it. And good lord GC.
John: Well GC and Sugar were the last available choices.
Matt: Even before the swap Kenny was allied with GC!
John: And Kelly, knowing that Sugar was aligned with Ace, took GC.
Matt: I do love that even this early people knew not to pick GC.
John: This was one of those cases where you just have to choose the least-terrible option.
Matt: And yet I don’t think the other tribe has anyone terrible
John: Yeah, the Kota tribe turned out pretty well again.
Matt: And the people in the big old Kota alliance basically stuck together.
They lost Jacky.
John: Let’s not get too hung up on the spelling. It won’t matter for long.
Matt: Because she gone!
John: Yeah, Fang predictably loses the next immunity challenge, but does it because Randy is a goal-scoring machine at the challenge. And sure, it’s because he was cherry-picking for easy goals and because Fang is impossibly incompetent. But it happened!
Mark: More points for Randy as MVP.
Matt: I love watching Kenny and Crystal fail to move at all They just had the worst possible idea of how to steer those things. And the funny thing was that the other side was showing them how to do it!
Marcus was kneeling and rowing, and they were trying to stand and do it.
John: If it ain’t operated by joysticks, Kenny can’t handle it.
Mark: And you all thought I was bad.
Matt: Also should we talk about how thirsty Kenny is?
John: Kenny hasn’t kissed a girl, Matt. If one talks to him, he’s on board. She has three arms? Kenny can overlook that.
Mark: Three arms is perfect for that loving embrace.
John: She’s got a few priors for attempted murder? Kenny’s still down.
Matt: How many times did he mention that Kelly was hot?
John: Do you think Kenny’s heart broke when Kelly called him out at tribal council for being terrible at the challenge? Kelly, by the way, was trying to ingratiate herself with Kenny’s alliance. So really an A+ move by her.
Mark: I think he lost an extra life.
Matt: So do you guys think the swap was the show basically saying “woah these tribes are uneven, lets swap?”.
John: I actually don’t think that was it. I do think they wanted to try a swap that allowed them one tiny bit of information about the other tribe pre-swap.
Mark: I think the show was as bored as we were. But it’s not like they helped themselves with the swap.
Matt: It is kinda interesting how much they could suss out about the other tribe. I feel both sides had a good handle on where things stood generally
John: They certainly didn’t do as poorly this time as they did the first time. Maybe with practice they get better at this stuff.
John: So despite Kelly’s amazing diplomacy, Jacquie gets voted out, 5-2. Thus making it four straight women voted out to start the season.
Matt: I think Jacquie made a certain amount of sense, but really the problems in that tribe lie in the alliance that is in control.
Matt: GC and Kenny are not good at challenges, and Crystal has a niche and it isn’t running.
Mark: Or rowing.
Matt: Ok so through three episodes who is standing out to us?
Mark: Randy, Kenny, Ace (poorly). Sugar! And Crystal maybe?
John: For standouts, I’d say Randy and Marcus.
Matt: I’m with you John, I like Marcus. He is a clear alpha, but he almost seems embarrassed about it. It is a little endearing. Randy, despite being a giant curmudgeon, is seeing stuff with clear eyes thus far.
John: I’m not as sold on Kenny as you guys are. I’m not a huge fan of Crystal, but she’s been a bit entertaining so far.
Matt: I like Kenny but not as much as Mark
Mark: John is a bro.
Matt: I like Crystal for entertainment, but I think she is pretty damn bad at this game.
Mark: Oh, no one here is a good player. They’re just entertaining.
Matt: Bob faded into the background.
John: Ok, so after three episodes it seems like we’re all still on the Randy bandwagon, right?
Matt: Yeah I am just gonna say it: in this cast Randy is by far the best personality. I don’t think the show has had someone with his unrelenting cynicism before.
Mark: Agreed on Randy. And Kenny just because of nerd solidarity.
John is the co-host of the Purple Rock Survivor Podcast. He can get loud too, what the fuck!
Favorite seasons: Heroes vs. Villains, Cagayan, Pearl Islands, Tocantins, Cambodia