Survivor: Gabon Recap: Michelle & Gillian Get Ousted
Welcome, Survivor fans, back to Africa for the 18th season of Survivor: Gabon: Earth’s Last Eden (sub in glamour shots of pandas and coral reefs with a lot of elephants and hippos). But beautiful terrain is never a match for ruthless backstabbing and shifting alliances, so let’s get down to business.
Schoolyard Pick: As the 18 new contestants walked across the African plain to reach Jeff Probst at the start of the show, they look like survivors of the plane crash in Lost. Probst asks them to identify themselves and what they do; most answer accurately. Then Probst says that per African tradition, the elders are usually the respected leaders of the community and singles out Bob, the physics teacher, and Gillian, the nurse, to come forward and choose teammates for a yellow and red team, respectively. Things get strange immediately when on Gillian’s squad, Crystal (an Olympic gold medal-winning sprinter) selects Susie, a middle-aged mom, instead of going for strength. Then they select young and athletic Michelle last, causing a long series of sulk to unfold. Bob’s team is called Kota; Gillian’s is called Fang. And They're Off!: Racing through a flat stretch of land and then up a steep hill, the teams are told that the first individuals on each tribe to reach the top will get individual immunity, but the first tribe to reach the top will get an extra bag of food. Both Marcus (of Kota) and GC (of Fang) prove fast and sturdy and win immunities; Michelle shows up her tribe by getting to the top in third. But Gillian, Crystal and Susie struggle and there’s no doubt Kota’s got it together as they win their first challenge.
Tribal Meet and Greet: At Kota, the happy crowd works quickly to improve the camp, which already came with a hut. Bob emerges as a resourceful leader (remember Tom from Palau?) and everyone is content. Charlie says he feels a connection with Marcus although Marcus says, “We’re in Eden but there are no two Adams here.” Meanwhile, at Fang, the tribe seems in disarray, made even more random by Gillian bringing back to camp piles of elephant dung and explaining what can still be edible in it. Michelle gripes that her skin-and-bones quality makes her cold and she whines to Ken, a professional gamer who seems to have a yen for Michelle, that the rest of the team is stupid and she can’t stand them. At night, Randy the videographer hits his head on a branch and gets stitched up by the Survivor medical unit.
First Tribal Council: In an obstacle course immunity challenge involving the tribes being tied up together and bags of puzzle pieces and such, Kota wins fairly easily. Before deciding the fate of the first Gabon contestant that night, the camp seems split between losing complainer Michelle or constantly chippy Gillian. At tribal council, Fang lapses into spat after spat and Probst chastises, “I asked a simple question and immediately you went and argued about something else.” Then Probst asks who the leader of the tribe is and when everyone hemmed and hawed, Probst all but appoints maintenance supervisor GC as the defacto leader. Clearly not wanting the responsibility, GC resigns himself to the post as the rest of the tribe mates vote for him nonetheless. As for the one leaving the tribe, Michelle Chase, 24, a music production assistant, gets the boot.
Exile Island: GC’s administration gets off to a bad start when he wakes up late at night to do laundry and others join him to chat. Gillian berates them for being noisy and not sleeping and GC immediately resigns as the leader. However, the team tries to pump itself up for the next challenge but putting charcoal markings on their face as war paint. Sure enough, in the next challenge involving rolling giant balls up and down a hill and unlocking gates with keys, Fang is more competitive, but Kota still wins. Kota selects Dan to go to Exile Island and wins immunity and fishing gear; Fang slinks off in defeat. Kota’s Jacquie gloats, “I don’t envision us losing ever.”
Dan, an attorney, treks to Exile Island (more like Exile Wide Lonely Expanse of Land) and discovers a choice between Clue (to finding individual immunity) and Comfort (an apple beautifully positioned in the middle of a lovely hut). He chooses the clue but cannot solve it. Meanwhile, his Fang tribe is actually making a go of the unity thing when Randy and GC team up to make fishing gear out of an eyeglass stem and shoelaces, and the ladies find worms for bait. They eat their first bit of protein in what Ken terms “five sardines.” Over at Kota, an alliance seems to be forming between Marcus, Charlie, Jacquie and Corrine. Marcus says Charlie, his closest ally, is the inner layer of his “large onion alliance.”
Second Tribal Council: Although there is kerfuffle when Dan returns from Exile and some Fang members think his acting strangely could mean he found the immunity idol, the vote was really never in doubt. Physically weak retired nurse Gillian Larson, 61, becomes the second person voted off. -- Cynthia Wang
Tell us: Does team Fang have a chance against Kota? How would you have picked the teams? Was Gillian too upbeat for her own good?