7. Borneo (season 1) Rating: 7.25/10
“Think back to when this show first came on the air — and how we had never seen anything like it. The season may not quite hold up when watched next to some later ones, but nothing will ever be able to duplicate that sense of wonder and excitement…” – Dalton Ross ranking the seasons with Borneo as #1
“This spot will never be replaced. Like my first girlfriend, it will always hold a special place in my heart. It birthed the show, laid the foundation for how the game would be played for the next 10 years.” – Jeff Probst ranking the seasons with Borneo as #1.
If you hate my anecdotes, stop reading this post now. There’s a lot of memories I feel like I have to share in regards to Borneo, and how I grew up with reality TV in general. I can almost guarantee you that this will bore you to death, but I haven’t written my overall initial Survivor memories before, so it’s more like I’m writing to myself than for the enjoyment of all you reading this. If you can get through this post without needing a cup of coffee in the process, I commend you. So if you get through this post and whine about how crappy it was, don’t say I didn’t warn you. Ok then, moving on. . .
This is highly unorthodox, but I’m going to tell you the first thing I enjoy about Borneo:
1) Because it is the first season, virtually everyone who watched it as it aired could probably recall every major Survivor-related moment that occurred during and after Borneo until season 2 debuted. If a television show can make you reflect back to it and what was going on during that period in your life from time to time, then I say it’s done its job. So for the first time ever, I’ve typed out a written account of how I came into Survivor:
Once upon a time, Logan and his family moved from everything they had ever known in the summer of ’99. (It would have been sweet if it was a witness relocation program.) Logan didn’t know anyone, was a very quiet kid, and outside of showing off his electronic globe and a World Wizard gadget in the third grade, he didn’t really make too many close friends. As the third grade drew to a close, Logan was watching TV shortly before bedtime and tuned into the second episode of a show called Survivor. His siblings were out hanging with their new friends, playing sports, playing video games, or working during the summer, his dad worked most nights, and his mom keeping herself busy, Logan watched much of these episodes by himself. Eventually, Logan spoke much about the show and his mom watched one of the episodes herself with Logan. In the following days, Logan’s mom would call her friends and relatives and boast about the new show that Logan was watching. An eight-year-old was the root of about 30-40 people getting hooked into watching reality television. Go me. Oops, there goes my third-person streak.
The season finale is probably one of the longest-lasting Survivor memories I have. Every summer up until grade 12, I would travel to my aunt’s in the Cascades. They had a wicked swimming pool and Game Show Network. Seriously, those are the only two activities I would do each time I was there with the exception of maybe attending a Mariners game. That year’s trip coincided with the week of the season finale. It was the last episode of Survivor that I watched away from home. I can still recall our viewing party where we ate gummy worms and wrote on a small slip of paper our “vote” for who was going to win with a Crayola crayon. I also remember how much we all wanted Rudy to win, and how disappointed at first we were when Richard won because Kelly was our back-up choice and we were convinced she would win at the end. I haven’t really publicly posted my original experience with Survivor too often, so it’s sort of funny to being forced to remember the fact that Richard was just a jerk instead of his current status of being a legend.
There’s one other memory that I have while Borneo was airing (or back then, Survivor. Not even Survivor 1. Just Survivor.) There was only one occasion I hung out with somebody during the third grade. But my parents never kept their number and they didn’t live anywhere close, so I essentially didn’t have any friends during the summer. My mother, however, recently connected with a family friend from her childhood who lived in the same town. She had a son who was in the same grade as me, but a year older. I can’t go into much detail about him because it would be mean and non-Survivor related, and the fact this is going to be published on the Internet and my blog for the world to see (yes, I’ve been archiving these rankings in a blog.) Let’s call her son ‘Daryl,’ because that’s the name Charlie Murphy made up for his friend in the extra Charlie Murphy Stories on the Chappelle’s Show DVD. I love the Charlie Murphy stories. Anyways, back to the story at hand:
My mother brought me over to her friend’s to play with Daryl. She never knew Daryl too well yet, so she had no idea that games with Daryl were a baaaaad idea. We were deciding what we wanted to do. How about that show my mom told his mom about? Yeah, we both have been watching it. So let’s play Survivor! I believe we started out with each being in control of a tribe. Eventually, when it came to Tribal Council and losing some of his members, Daryl decided to create a new rule that some of his characters get to have the right to cast two votes at Tribal Council. Initially, my numbers advantage still trumped him with how he split his own votes so he was about to lose a person regardless. He then came up with a new rule that they could have however many votes he wanted. He added on additional votes like the King from the Robin Hood cartoon added on additional taxes spontaneously. Somehow, his alliance was able to cause a major upset but the game never finished because he wanted to play something else right before his claim to victory. On the drive home, my mom told me that Daryl’s parents let him win at games, so she warned me all games with Daryl would likely end like they did with Survivor.
After the Survivor experience, I vowed to never hang out with Daryl again. Only my parents were truly connected to Daryl’s family, so at least one of my siblings could babysit me. But then one of my siblings decided to date Daryl’s older sister, making our families ridiculously intertwined. I would look forward to much dread each time I hung out with Daryl having the Survivor experience fresh in my mind, and it wouldn’t be until my brother and his sister broke up for good that I was no longer obligated to hang out with Daryl. The last time I was with him was about four years ago when I destroyed him and his friend at poker. Nothing changed from the Survivor days as whenever I won a hand, him and his friend would see what my cards were regardless if I mucked or not. They accused me of being a liar whenever I bluffed them, and once I won, they immediately went to a different room leaving me with the duty of cleaning up their own poker set at his own house…right in front of his mother. Then they came back and wished to play their own version of Michigan Rummy where they lied about the rules and tried to confuse me, but I figured the game out on my own and still beat them anyway. That event always comes to my mind after I recall the Survivor experience. Isn’t that the rule of first and last in Psychology?
Following Survivor’s airing, my parents bought the Survivor board game for me that Christmas. Yes, a nine-year-old’s most prized gift for Christmas is the Survivor freakin’ board game. December 25th, 2000 would be the first time I ever played Survivor without the aid of fictional characters or Daryl. I have a huge number of people in my extended family, and I think we had around 10-15 people for Christmas crammed in my parent’s house that year. And when you have around six or seven of them be in the range of ages nine to twenty, and one of the other families being extraordinarily rich, and even more company dropping in and out, you have so much gifts and crap and sleeping bags and food and plates and cups taking up the entire house. I don’t know how we cleared enough space for a board game in the living room, but we did. You can see how unprofessional and unequipped this area was for a game of Survivor. I remember being in charge of the rules and how much I thought it was lame that maximum amount of players was eight, and how even more ridiculous it was that the jury had to unanimously agree on a winner. Nobody else had a problem with it, but I did. I was already showing signs of a Survivor purist by the age of nine. Truly remarkable. I tried to change the rules but that didn’t fly.
In our first game, I remember the wonder of collecting supplies and doing these neat little questions and games. I can’t recall if I was on Tagi or Pagong, but I know that I REALLY wanted to be part of the Pagong tribe. It’s not like these tribes mattered anyway because the Survivor board game had you collect supplies for a certain amount of time, then you divide the supplies evenly and it becomes an individual game. Nobody gets eliminated in the tribal stage. I can remember one of my cousins doing the math of handing out the supplies, and hoping how much he would screw up in my favour. For those of you not familiar with the board game, there is a category of questions where you answer one of the three options yourself, then everyone else tries to match you to roll ahead to claim immunity. I ended up being unfortunate enough to be asked ‘what kind of woman are you attracted to’ question. None of the three options really suited me, and I remember picking ‘funny’ as the option. For a nine year old in front of a group of teens and adults, that’s not the most appealing question to answer publicly. Now whenever somebody asks me that at a family event (which I never go to anymore), I simply go with the response that will make the highest number of people uncomfortable. Sorry, I’m getting off track, aren’t I?
When we broke off into the individual stage, I was super excited. I had been looking forward to this all of Christmas Day. Win every immunity. Get to the end. Win. But of course, that doesn’t happen. I was completely blindsided…and finish sixth out of eight people. See, that’s the contrast between families like mine and families like Daryl. His isn’t competitive at all so why not just let the nine year old son win most of the time. On the flipside, you have a family like mine that’s so dang competitive that you have to fend for yourself by the age of six or seven if you want the crown. I suffered my first Survivor blindside at the age of nine. I didn’t cry. But it sucked. I stayed to watch the rest of the game and everyone on the jury asked me who I wanted to win, and that’s the person who was declared the winner. So I guess I still got my way, in that sense. I know that the youngest of my older siblings was first voted out, and that my aunt’s 15-year-old grandson was the winner. I can guarantee you if I asked him about winning Survivor, he’ll have no idea what in the hell I’m talking about. Not a chance. He’ll say something about if it was that game we played at his grandma’s a while ago, and then I’ll correct him and say “No, that was The Mole.” and then he’ll shrug, smoke up a cigar, get into his souped-up truck, and storm downtown to soak up the Cascades nightlife. I don’t think he has watched more than maybe about an hour of Survivor , and that would have been nearly eleven years ago.
So after the first game concluded, I asked everyone if we could play again in the morning on Boxing Day (a Canadian holiday the day after Christmas). They said ’yes,’ and now I was more determined than ever to make up for how badly I performed the previous day. So we play in the morning before some of them had to depart for the long trip home. I ask if we can change the rules so we can each vote individually on the jury instead of unanimous, but yet again, my request was shot down. My tribe gained more supplies than the one I was on in the previous night, so things were looking up. We head into the individual stage. The previous champion is the first one voted out. Another person is voted out. And another. . .Then me. I finished 5th. I would have the worst overall average of anyone who played. At the end, the person who was voted out first in the previous night’s game is the person who was declared the winner in the morning game. Seems fair, doesn’t it? But I digress. . .
Since that Christmas, the Survivor board game would still get some use, but not for long. My soon-to-be best friend got hooked into reality TV also, and we would use beanie babies to fill out our 16-person cast. Not long after though, we stopped playing Survivor and started to grow apart until he moved away right around when All Stars aired. I haven’t opened the Survivor board game box since, and the only times I even touch it is if I am re-organizing my closet. It always ends up on the very bottom of the stack. Even Loopin’ Louie and Gooey Looey are used more frequently. Exactly two years ago, right before my high school graduation, I chose to give away over a dozen board games out of our two dozen board game collection. As you’ve probably figured out, I still kept Survivor even though I haven’t opened the dang thing since fifth or sixth grade, and it will likely be collecting dust for another ten years unless a Survivor freak comes into my life and asks to see its contents. It’s more of a trophy of my Survivor fandom, if anything.
Who knew the Survivor board game would lead to 4 real life family Mole games, 2 family Mole ORGs, 1 Survivor ORG, 1 Amazing Race ORG, ten years worth of Survivor conversations, 1 classroom Survivor, a Survivor musical in elementary school, and many many ORGs that I’ve participated in myself.
So now I’ll hand out a camcorder, and you will all head into the jungle to find five masks, each with a question on the back of them. You will videotape yourself answering the questions, then race back here where you have to wait several minutes for me to review the footage, essentially zapping out all suspense for television. HAW HAW HAW.
For more memories of watching season one, please read Mario Lanza’s 20 million pages of Experiences With Survivor. These are the only paragraphs I’m devoting to the airing of the first season. Sorry. And sorry if you actually took the time to read through all of this.
Now that the boring crap is over, here are the issues I had with Borneo:
1) That long intro. During the first season, I know the explanation about the game was necessary, but after 11 years and going back to watch Borneo, you have to skip well over three minutes before the episode even starts.
2) B.B. was annoying. Whoops, I didn’t mean to insult the dead. 😥
3) Some of the challenges are uber lame. Everyone sharing the same tiny balance beam would be blasphemous today, or the Blair Witch challenge where the answers you gave were completely subjective, or the 3-part balance challenge with the infamous ‘no touch’ and ‘you gotta stay up’ rules. There was also the ‘don’t duplicate an item’ challenge that seemed to end way too early for how cool it looked.
4) Jenna Lewis missing her tape was memorable enough for her to be on All-Stars. If only the mail was delivered on time. Sigh.
5) The rewards were lame. (Eat this melted chocolate! Here’s a slice of pizza and a five-minute phone call home! You won immunity, so you get to have Dr. Scholls! Here’s a bud light and a plate of spaghetti!) It wouldn’t be until season 22 where the rewards became exceedingly awful.
6) Their living conditions seemed much easier than most seasons of Survivor. Again, season 22 is probably one of the few that would go on to trump this.
7) I was a huge fan of Pagong and seeing them get, well…..Pagonged, wasn’t the greatest thing to watch for six episodes in a row (I’m including Joel going home in episode 6 considering he was Pagong too)
8) The lack of strategic savvy by a huge percentage of the cast has a very frustrating side to it. None of these players read John Nash’s guide to non-cooperative gameplay, so there’s nobody there to shake Kelly and say ‘you’re a fluctuator Kelly! That’s why Rich, Rudy, and Sue will always be in control! Choose a side permanently and the game will reset!” Or the alphabet strategy where The Alliance piggybacks Sean’s announced vote, and Sean chooses to abandon it right when he would’ve been forced to vote a former Tagi member out of the game. The game was in Richard’s hands all along.
9) Kelly won immunity for a premature Colleen exit on day 33.
10) At the time, Richard winning against Kelly was a disappointing ending. Now it’s one of the most memorable victories in eleven years of reality television. Hatch is now a legend thanks to his victory, and may have been why Survivor has stayed successful for so long.
11) Joel talked too much at the reunion.
Reasons why I liked this season:
1) It’s the original. For people like Dalton Ross and Jeff Probst, this reason alone is enough to put it at the top. I say that’s a cop out for putting the effort into ranking it. Sure, it’s a major positive for liking this season, but nowhere near enough to have it be entitled to the number one position out of twenty-two on the countdown. For quite some time, this was probably the most memorable cast. But with eleven years passed and Hatch being the only one in the spotlight in the seven years since All Stars, many of the names have since faded. Unless you own a copy of Etre the Cow, of course.
2) Family Guy making fun of BB, and my futile impersonations of BB’s voice. Whoops, I didn’t mean to make fun of the dead. 😥
3) Jeff Probst got in the water. Jeff Probst hung out with the players on the rewards. Jeff Probst got mud on his hands. Jeff Probst also didn’t comment on everything everybody did in the challenges. He merely explained the process, and asked questions and listened to what the players were saying. He was much more innocent, and what’s the word I’m looking for –oh, he was a HOST! Not the 17th/19th/21st contestant that tried to influence the game. If there was one complaint I hear the most from family and casual fans around me, it’s that Jeff Probst is getting too annoying in present-day Survivor. The people on the opposite side of that argument say ‘nobody does more as a host than Jeff Probst,’ which is true, but a host that is too involved in the game can’t really be considered a host in the first place. A TV host doesn’t tell Fabio, Dan, and Jane to make an alliance of three and cause a tie to help make the game more interesting from a strategic perspective. If you look at Phil Keoghan, the only time I saw him step out from being a host was when he tried to keep his composure after The Push incident. And Phil has been doing his show for eighteen seasons! Jeff, you need to back off a little bit. You were so much better back in Borneo.
4) The strategic game was talked about way more than Australia, and just as much as any of the other earlier seasons. It was a pleasant surprise to find the editing had a really good balance. It’s not Australia where they’re hiking to TC and you wonder what the heck is going on.
5) The conch shell. Not only do they have to ring that stupid bell as they walk in, but one of the Tribal Councils had a freakin’ conch shell! Production was trying really hard to find out what works for a TC format, and I guess they figured that the conch shell wasn’t it. People find it ridiculous, but it’s that very ridiculousness that makes it such a gem in the Survivor universe.
6) The game was symmetrical. For it to be the first season, of course the format is in its purest form. Six Tribal Councils in the first 18 days. A merge halfway through day 20 to mark the literal halfway point of the game. Six Tribal Councils in the next 18 days. A Final Four with three days to go, results in the two speed rounds, then exactly half of the eliminated contestants come out to simultaneously vote out the 15th person from the game and declare the sole survivor. Such an awesome format.
7) On one side some of the challenges and rewards are lame, but on the other its failures are such a neat thing to watch. They didn’t affect the structure of the game so the harmless mistakes can be viewed as adorable and lame at the same time. I can only imagine if they revived this in the next All-Star…
JEFF PROBST: 28 days you’ve been out here in Survivor 24, and we thought you’d like what we have to offer…
MATT: C’monnnn bible!
JEFF PROBST: It’s a chocolate bar! (smiles)
SANDRA (confessional): And I was like ‘oh s—’
NA ONKA: What the f—! A chocolate bar, Jeff! That’s it, I QUIT!
DREAMZ: Didn’t I just go on a shaquilo about how much I need a car, Yau-Man?
YAU-MAN: Did you know you can construct a car from 95% recycled material? Science!
CINDY: I already have a car. I can look through the sun roof of my new car at your new car.
JEFF PROBST: No, just a chocolate bar. It’s a Mars bar. Peanut free. First one to bring back the tiles one through ten and put them in order gets this chocolate bar. I admit it’s been sitting in the front dash of MY car all day, so it’s probably melted, but hey, I know it’s worth playing for.
ANDREA: I love chocolate! ^_^
JEFF’S NIECE: Me wantee chocolate tooth, uncie Jeff!
Okay, that’s enough.
8) Rudy. If a self-proclaimed huge fan of Survivor talks to you and doesn’t claim to remember Rudy, or think he’s just an idiot, please bash them over the head for me. Rudy should’ve replaced Jimmy Johnson for the gimmick slot on the Espada tribe. It would have been so much more entertaining. And Rudy would’ve been on the only season to not feature any physical battling challenges so he wouldn’t be sent flying by James in the sumo battle of Heroes vs. Villains, or die in Schmergen Brawl.
9) Greg is hilarious for a first season of Survivor. If he was on Survivor after season four, he would be forever marked as a complete fool for thinking that alliances should be avoided and something that we should refuse to take part in. As soon as 2002 rolls around, alliances and strategic mastery as opposed to being strong in challenges, likeable, and good at camp would change to being the dominant valued traits in TV Survivor as well as Survivor in the ORG world.
10) The Alliance is a much less laughable alliance name than The Core Four, Foa Foa Foursome (didn’t Heidik and Ozzy star in that?), and Stealth R Us. Nobody cared about alliance names back then.
11) The Alliance is very telling of how Survivor was originally viewed. This would be the first push for a trend that would forever be part of Survivor’s main source of gameplay.
12) The adventures of the Superpole 2000.
13) “What fun are alliances when everyone is scheduled to go several weeks in advance…” oh how naïve they were back then. Always cracks me up whenever they talk about alliances as if they’re stable and constant entities.
14) “Jeff asks ‘Hey Sue, is there an alliance?’ Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaat a question!”
Not much else to say about the first season. Very little to complain about and not an extraordinary number of things to praise about it. No twists to debate. No twists to praise. Just an extremely solid season of Survivor that has a format which will never disappoint if you used it in every single season. Now we’re stuck with Redemption Island. Boo