Who Won Survivor: Gabon?
I may have written almost nothing about it this season, but Survivor: Gabon has been an intriguing and entertaining season of Survivor. It hasn’t been that interesting as a far as the game structure itself, which is the same as ever, but the casting people have managed to put together a variety of people who are either desperate to control the game but lacking the wits to do so, or wonderfully flighty in such a way that dramatically impacts the game despite a distinct lack of forethought. Some tribes were dominant, some contestants were emotionally unhinged, and there was enough of a story to keep me as entertained as we’ve seen in the past.
Heading into the finale, the cards were dealt: Sugar the flip-flopping pin-up girl, Bob the physics professor who has dominated the latter part of this game, Matty the personal trainer who has performed well, Ken the video gamer who thinks he owns this game, and Susie who…has done absolutely nothing of note.
Considering this, we ask ourselves the big question: did the winner from the three-person final tribal council reflect the game’s broader developments, or was it another instance where the jury got it wrong?
Let’s find out.
After Ken was eliminated for his cockiness, and Matty was bested in a one-on-one fire burning challenge, Bob was the winner of Survivor: Gabon, although he has a certain blonde-haired and highly unpredictable young woman to thank for it.
The decision that Sugar made at that final elimination challenge was highly dangerous: she knew that she would be beaten by either Matty or Bob if it really came down to it, and for her to place them into a tie was to remove the decision from her hands. It would be fate, or fire as it would have it, that would decide who would beat her in the Final Three, and that is something that could be seen as highly admirable.
But her admirable qualities were enough to get her to this point, but never to win her this game. She was responsible, blatantly so, for too many of the strategic moves in this game. And if she had made these decisions in a systematic way, perhaps she could have been respected as opposed to abhorred, a source of quality game play as opposed to someone who no one could trust. She was never going to get a vote at that final tribal council, and part of her knew that.
So when she decided to let Bob into the Final three, she gave him a million dollars. The jury of his peers was in his favour, his gameplay was always strong, and through a number of key immunity wins he won himself this chance. He is the oldest Survivor winner ever, and was dominant in a way that was through something like sheer determination: he made the right decisions, and without having to orchestrate any major decisions.
Some could argue that this invalidates his win, that he wasn’t the strategic mastermind and that he didn’t dominate in some other parts of the game. But he was the best player of this game, if we’re connecting the Outwit/Outplay/Outlast parts of this show to his victory. He was a strong physical and mental threat, and through his actions and gameplay he won the right number of challenges, at the right times, and is perhaps the most likeable and audience-favourite winner of this game in a very, very long time.
Susie’s second place finish is reflective not so much of her performance in this game than the divisions that drove it: the tribe divisions never died in this game, and with everyone slighted by Sugar it became a question of allegiances. Susie got three votes for being a friend and colleague, not for anything approaching gameplay and strategy.
Which is why Bob is the decision here: Susie walks away with $100,000 for riding coattails and winning a really timely challenge, Sugar walks off without (surprisingly) her token $100,000 prize for the people who the game let down but who were fan/producer favourites (Bob taking that as well), and I think this goes down as an interesting and effective season of television’s first reality show.
- As far as the final tribal council goes, the two most obvious things we saw where Corrine’s abhorrent comment to Sugar (which was, indeed, the cruelest thing this show has ever seen and deserving of the ridicule he received) and Kenny’s stark humanity. As someone who turned himself into some sort of mastermind in his own, well, mind (which he even admitted during the reunion show), he entered that tribal council as he started this game: an immature and innocent young kid who was in over his head and was smarting over realizing it. It really humanized him, and I thought this was good and well justified by his reunion performance. He’s a good kid, and this experience really changed him.
- Elsewhere in the reunion show, we got to see something more about Randy – he really is someone who is quite tragic within this game, and I agree with Susie’s tribal assessment. He is someone who is sad, who unlike Corinne isn’t really someone who owns their meanness from a place of internal awareness as opposed to the internal struggle that dominates him.
- I’m kind of surprised that Bob didn’t immediately try to give Sugar that $100,000 – it seemed like the thing to do in many ways, and even if you don’t like Sugar’s emotions it felt like what the audience wanted to see happen. Maybe Bob has a crippling gambling problem that we’re unaware of.
- Next up for Survivor: Tocantins, the Brazilian Highlands, which are certainly quite majestic on the Rio Novo. It sounds dangerous, hot, rainy…like every other Survivor setting. Oddly, though, it didn’t rain much in Gabon.
- I haven’t talked about the show much if at all this season: any other readers been watching and have any thoughts on the finale?