Image Credit: Monty Brinton/CBSFabio: “I call it being cool.”

Ah Fabio. You’re awesome.

Fabio continues to crack me up…in the best possible way.. every single episode. More on Fabio and “being cool” later…


One of the most enjoyable aspects of Survivor is you truly never know what is going to happen next. For the reward challenge, we did a random draw and ended up with all men on one team and all women on the other. To make it even more dramatic the challenge was the most physical of the season. The women had very little chance simply due to strength. The “stick crossing” and the “brick wall” at the finish was extremely tough to get through. We never anticipated an “all men vs. all women” challenge but that’s just how it played out.

I was very impressed with the women. Jane was completely spent by the time the challenge was over because she gave everything she had. Remember they have been eating very little for nearly a month. They are already severely depleted. To then be tested with one of the biggest obstacle courses we’ve ever done was a major challenge. The women really gave a huge effort and made it much closer than any of us predicted.

Another fun aspect of hosting Survivor is that you are living in the moment along with the contestants. After the challenge was over, I was very moved by the effort of the women. Purple Kelly was crying she was so hungry and Jane was barely standing. So I took the opportunity to give the men a chance to step up and say “I’m gonna give up my spot on the reward to one of the women.”

The reason you ask this question is that regardless of the answer, it is guaranteed to reveal something that will move the story forward. In this case, none of the men were willing to give up a spot to any of the women. Fine. I don’t blame them for the decision. But their answer gave us a story. What this showed everybody was despite any alliances this was an individual game. It’s a small moment but it registered with everybody and will live inside their brains as this game continues to progress. Survivor-is-an-individual-game. Never forget that.

Another surprise from the reward challenge was Chase choosing to back the women. It was a very revealing move and definitely raised a few eyebrows. He let the guys know that he is pulling for the women, which means he probably has an alliance with a few of them. In addition, not being with all the guys on the reward challenge removes you even further from the men. That move could haunt Chase for a long time. You could argue it was a bit of a lose-lose, as no matter which side he chose the other might be upset, but in this case I think choosing the guys would have done less overall damage.


If Brenda represents “every woman,” then Brenda is giving a free class on what women look for in men. Her comment about Chase…

Brenda: “Chase is like a little baby who is always going ‘wah, wah, wah.’”

…said it all.

Women want a guy with some balls. Balls! Come on, Chase. Where are they? Your balls, that is. Women don’t like wishy-washy. Chase is wishy-washy.

Brenda is in charge of this game. She says it’s her and Sash together but it’s not. It’s her. Not Sash. If you remember, when Brenda asked Sash what his plan was, Sash said, “My plan is your plan.” There ya go. Brenda is in charge. Don’t misunderstand – Sash is a very good player. He is great at looking out for himself and that simple little strategy is how Sandra Diaz won this game twice… by looking out for herself and nobody else.


At this point in the game, the immunity challenges are really pressure filled. Everybody wants it and depending on where the alliances stand in each episode, a few absolutely need it. Tonight, Jane needed it, Chase needed it and Marty clearly needed it.

Memory Challenges always seem so easy when you’re sitting at home with your bag of Doritos and a Diet Coke. It’s kinda like watching Jeopardy. The answers are always so much easier from the couch. Okay that’s a lie. I could Tivo Jeopardy, watch it twice and still struggle to come up with the answers on the third viewing. But you get my point. It’s much more difficult to do these types of challenges when you’re actually out there with all the distractions, such as cameras and crew. You’re tired, you’re hungry. It’s hard to hold even the smallest thought in your head.

Whenever we do a challenge like this, I always ask the challenge guys to prepare lots of extra rounds because I am always afraid everybody will get every one of them right. In reality it never seems to go more than a few rounds. Pressure.

These types of challenges also tend to show whose mind is the sharpest. If you watched Marty during this challenge he kept running the list in his head, you could see him saying the words to himself over and over and over. It was clearly a pretty effective strategy, but in the end he lost to another very sharp mind – Brenda.


Benry and Fabio hanging in the shade, talking Survivor strategy. It was almost like a trailer for a new comedy:

Benry: You and I should just lay low… play stupid.

Fabio: I know dude, I hate playing stupid so much… but it’s like the smartest thing to do right now.

Benry: It’s easy.

Fabio: It’s… real easy.

Come on! That’s brilliant. That’s yet another beautiful element of reality shows. People forget the cameras are there, they stop thinking about what they are saying and they get so depleted that can’t even monitor what they are saying. Put those elements together and you end up with moments that wouldn’t be half as funny if you wrote them in a script.


Naonka deserves a special achievement award for still being in this game. That alone is one of the most most amazing achievements this season, maybe ever. She stole Fabio’s socks, she stole flour, she stole food, she tackled a woman with one leg, she yells at everybody whenever she’s in a bad mood and is one of the most despised contestants to ever play Survivor…but she is still in the game. Not only is she still in the game but she has a hidden immunity idol. In case there was any doubt, I am so happy Naonka is still in this game. In order to have a good season you need big polarizing characters like Naonka. Love her or hate her, she is a gift from the reality gods.


It’s so easy to backseat drive. I do it all the time. Every day. “Monday morning quarterbacking” is one of the great American pastimes. And while I do it every day, I hate it when people do it to me about something I did or said.

Case in point: It was the second episode of the first season of Survivor. We had just finished tribal council and Mark Burnett, the Executive Producer of the show, came up to me and started to make a suggestion about a different way I could have asked a question. To be clear, as EP he is fully entitled to not only suggest but to firmly encourage me to do something differently. But being a new host of a new show with a format that had never been done before, I was overly sensitive to being “back seat” driven during Tribal Council. I sensed that he was about to criticize the way I ran tribal and my brain (ego) quickly foresaw a problem. If he said something that made me think he was second-guessing me, how would that impact the way I’d run Tribal Council from there on out? So I stopped him and said something to the effect of “You can’t second guess me. I need to know you believe in me or I’ll never be able to fully run tribal council with confidence.” In hindsight, it was probably a major overreaction on my part but to his credit, Mark never said another word.

I’m sure there have been many times when he wished I might have asked a different question or handled something differently but he never lets on and in doing so, he instilled a confidence in me that has helped me do my job for 21 seasons over 11 years.

But like I said, that doesn’t stop me from doing it! Especially with Marty.

I’ve given Marty a hard time the entire season but I’m the first to admit, I’m really bummed he is gone. Marty is a story starter and a story finisher. He’s a good interview. He’s confident enough, even cocky enough to believe he is the best player in the game. He is willing to make big moves and say outrageous statements.

Marty is a pretty good player of Survivor but with a bit of tweaking I believe Marty could be a great player.

If Marty made a mistake it was in not seeing that maybe his best option would have been to just “back off.” Pushing to get Jane voted out seemed to me to be a personal agenda as opposed to a truly “big picture” strategic play.

I could be wrong, I’m not inside his head. I am merely backseat driving as I do every week in these blogs. I think his ego got too involved. If Marty played again I think he would play a better game. I’m sure he learned a lot.

I too have learned a lot from Survivor and one of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned is that in any negotiation (and Survivor is a 39-day negotiation) the less you talk and the more you listen the better off you will be. Marty should have listened more.

So is that advice for future Survivors… or simply lippy “Thursday morning quarterbacking?” You decide.

SURVIVOR MEMORABILIA HEADS UP: I’ve opened up my personal stash of Survivor memorabilia and it will be up for auction immediately following this season’s live finale. I found some great items such as:

a. My “oversized” shirts and shorts from our first season, Survivor: Pulau Tiga. (Talk about a great Halloween costume!)

b. The rice tin that Tina pulled from the raging river in Survivor: Australia.

c. The pot they used to boil their water in Survivor: Australia

d. The original buffs from Survivor: All-Stars.

c. Some original Q/A cards from Survivor: Africa.

I’ll have all the details as we get closer to the finale.

See ya next week.

Oh, be sure to check out several treats in the video player below, including: an exclusive deleted scene from last night’s episode, my personal pick for the best Survivor Tribal Council ever, and Dalton Ross’s pre-game interview with Marty. And don’t miss Dalton’s ‘Survivor: Nicaragua’ recap: Open Warfare.