17. Gabon: Earth’s Last Eden (season 17) 4.999999/10 rating
It’s always difficult to rank Nicaragua, Vanuatu, and Gabon because they directly follow a season filled with returning contestants. They seem to serve as a “cooling off” period for production and stay away from casting too many extreme over-the-top characters. Woops, deja vu. Pardon me.
For me, Gabon is a very weird season for me to analyze. It’s like production combined old twists that worked in the past and other twists that they knew failed before. Along with one of the funkiest edits for a winner and runner-up, it’s tough to be satisfied with this season. When I rewatched Gabon, I seemed to dislike it much more than when I saw it play out during its initial run. And if you’re curious about my ridiculous rating for this one, it’s because a) I will likely never watch all of the episodes the next time I rewatch it and b) I felt a very ‘so-what’ feeling when I reached the end. Recently though, I talked with an old friend and my parents about Gabon out of the blue and figured out why Gabon made me feel this way.
Issues I had with Gabon:
1) Exile Sugar Shack. I thought production finally realized that two people from opposite tribes was so much better to create intrigue on exile. Instead we’re treated to a bonus scene of Sugar crying on exile for five consecutive episodes. Joy. You could’ve skipped out on this scene, producers.
2) Danny/Dan/GC/G Sizzle/Golden Child. You’re one of the central focuses for the first few episodes then you freakin’ quit at the end of episode five? Another thing that bugs me is that this guy isn’t even a power player in this season. He’s just a footnote. After the hilarious Probst-randomly-forces-GC-to-be-leader storyline in the 2 hour premiere, I think you could’ve just let this guy alone. But nope. Editors robbed us of quality Randy time and instead gave us more Sizzle. And the “zomg we won’t be able to play in the challenge if GC doesn’t show up” bit was one of the lamest things in recent memory. It was even more ridiculous when Kelly wraps it up by saying “O-M-G! So glad you’re like here, GC! Five minutes and we would’ve had to forfeit the challenge. That would’ve been like a total bummer!” You’re telling me they still had five freakin’ minutes? Yeah, sounds like it was real close. *eyeroll*
3) The delayed merge. If memory serves me correct, no season after Gabon with the exception of Heroes vs. Villains merges any later than day 20. Gabon went to a bit of an extreme by not having them live together until after day 27’s immunity challenge. The most exciting phase of the game is effectively removed when you’re leaving us with a very rushed day 27 elimination along with only five other ejections before we’re at Final Tribal Council. If it were a final two, then I wouldn’t be complaining. But the fact it’s a final three and a Bob win is all but sealed up isn’t particularly spectacular.
4) Kenny’s vote for Matty on day 33. If there was a top ten for moves that didn’t make sense and pissed me off, this would easily be on it. You have to understand that I was rooting for Kenny even before the season began. I already knew who he was from being a big fan of Super Smash Bros. Melee and was well acquainted with his near-perfect mind games and SSBM gameplay. If there is any reason why you shouldn’t be emotionally attached to a Survivor player, this would be it. It’s day 33. Bob has already demonstrated his supreme capability of creating fake idols. Kenny KNOWS Sugar has the idol from exile, and SAW the other idol being thrown into the ocean. There is the dying alliance of Bob and Corinne vs. the triumphant uber cool alliance of Kenny, Sugar, Matty, Susie, and Crystal. All that needs to happen is for Bob and Corinne to be taken out, and Kenny will presumably waltz his way to day 39 with Crystal and a handout of anti-depressants. Bob and Corinne approach Kenny and Crystal claiming they have an idol. Corinne will use it to oust Matty because Bob already has immunity and Matty is a threat. Kenny and Crystal (should) be skeptical of this. Throw all five votes on Corinne and Corinne doesn’t play the idol, and she goes home anyway. Throw all five votes on Corinne and she plays the idol, Matty goes home without blood on their hands.
If Kenny throws a rogue vote for Matty and Corinne plays the idol, Matty goes home but now you look like a complete a–hole and even if Kenny voted Corinne it didn‘t change Corinne receiving the majority of the votes. If Kenny throws a rogue vote for Matty, Corinne goes home and you suddenly look like a major a–hole, and even if Kenny voted for Corinne it didn’t change Corinne receiving the majority of the votes.
5) Susie’s edit. She supposedly talked a lot, but yet she is overall one of the quietest players on-screen. She was only one vote away from winning, but yet remained completely ignored including in the Crystal blindside. I still remember thinking “well, it’s gonna be a 3-3 vote between Matty and Crystal. If they talked to Susie about it, I’m sure she would’ve shown it.” So when the vote comes out 4-2, I found out it ridiculous that a pivotal vote if an idol weren’t played was supposed to be viewed as a non-factor. Boooo.
6) Episodes 4-7. “That’s not change, it’s more the same!” Promoting the use of HD camera shots isn’t intriguing for anybody who doesn’t own an HDTV yet. All we get is a very repetitive sequence of pre-merge episodes.
7) Survivor: Fast Forward. I think Gabon’s biggest mistake was being over-saturated with challenges in a shortened thirteen episode season (Survivor since Vanuatu has always been 14 episodes with the exception of Gabon and Tocantins). Along with a shortened season, they cram two eliminations and three challenges in a two-hour season premiere. Gabon is also the only season that has two challenges in a pre-merge double boot episode making for a double elimination that has very little story to it.
8) No accountability. As I said with EI, I don’t like it when a tribe can lose numerous times but never have to pay the consequences for it. Despite Gabon having the longest pre-merge phase in Survivor history, the game is set up so a tribe never dips below four members.
Phase #1 worst case scenario: 8-5, but then you mix up tribes to make it 7-7, and if you vote somebody out, the person from Exile will re-join you making it 7-7 once again.
Phase #2 worst case scenario: 7-7 and lose two challenges to make it 7-5, but then there’s a double boot so it will be 6-4 and a switch to make it 5-5.
Phase #3 worst case scenario: You lose an immunity and go down 5-4, but then you merge anyway.
9) Marcus Lehman got screwed. In Thailand when they had a tribal endurance challenge during episode 8, they made it truly a tribe effort by combining every tribe member’s efforts to determine who receives immunity. But for some reason the team from Men In Black came to erase the production’s memories of Thailand. Gabon’s episode 8 tribal endurance challenge merely hinged on a Last Man Standing = wins immunity for the whole tribe. So when Marcus, Charlie, and Corinne claim that there was supposed to be a merge in episode 8 and accuse production of changing their minds, you can’t help but think they may be correct.
* Random fact: Marcus has the longest immunity streak in Survivor history. The first time he was vulnerable was at the ninth Tribal Council on day 24.
10) The finale challenges were rather lame. It also featured the first time since the Outback (or arguably Exile Island) to not have an endurance challenge as the final immunity.
Reasons why I enjoyed Gabon:
1) Randy, Kenny, and Crystal. Three of my all-time favs.
2) Picking your own tribes to start out the game. I love it when producers set up twists that leave the contestants themselves in control. Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter a heckuva whole lot when you switch the tribes twice in a span of six episodes. Also, the only other time they started out with the picking of the tribes by the elders was in Thailand. Guess production won’t revisit this twist anytime soon considering they dislike Gabon and Thailand.
3) Dan searching for the idol in a sandy underwater crater. You don’t need a Funny 115 entry to remind me this happened.
4) Bob’s underrated fake idol tricks in consecutive rounds. My dad, who is usually a big fan of the older contestants on Survivor (particularly Yau-Man), and picked Bob in a Survivor pool because they were the exact same age, claims Bob as being one of the least strategic winners. I argue that Bob’s consecutive fake idols is one of the most strategic moves anybody has ever made. If Bob doesn’t create BOTH fake idols, I highly doubt he makes it to final three. If Bob doesn’t succeed with being convincing with BOTH fake idols, I highly doubt he makes it to final three. Can you imagine how difficult it is to use the exact same strategic ploy against somebody who isn’t named Jason? Prior to Gabon, the only time somebody set up a fake idol and got somebody else to bite was with Ozzy’s stick. Despite how amazing and effective Bob’s plan was, nobody has repeated that kind of success since then. Not even self-proclaimed Idol King Russell Hantz set up a fake idol. Since Gabon, the only season to feature attempts were by Jalapao and Timbira during Tocantins but Joe was planning to throw Jalapao’s fake idol into the fire at the next TC and Sierra only put the idol clue that would force Erinn to dig for days and days in the Timbira beach just for her own amusement.
5) Long-time applicants were accepted.
6) The genius of the fakeout merge on day 22 mixed with an idol being thrown into the ocean. If they did this with twelve people remaining instead of ten, I think it would’ve worked out much much better in the long run.
7) “It was like they were sleek weasels and we were legless chickens.” Nobody else but Ace could come up with such an eloquent and unique analogy to describe a contrast in challenge performance.
P.S. It is ranked #17 and it’s season 17? oooooooooooo