Exclusive: Marcus Lehman dishes about his time on 'Survivor: Gabon'
By John Bracchitta, 11/07/2008
All that Marcus Lehman, a 28-year-old doctor from Atlanta, GA, needed was the merge. After coasting through the first seven episodes of Survivor: Gabon in the dominant Kota tribe, Lehman had secured enough allies to make it far into the competition with little resistance.
However, after 24 days into the game and an unexpected "fake merge" that resulted in an additional shakeup of the tribes, Lehman found himself with some tribemates who were more manipulative and "sneaky" than he had grown used to and ended up being the ninth castaway to be eliminated from the show.
On Friday, a high road-touting Lehman talked to Reality TV World about what had surprised him during his final Tribal Council, who he felt had played the game improperly, and why he didn't just sneak the Immunity Idol into his pocket while throwing it into the ocean.
Reality TV World: After you were voted out, Jeff called your elimination a "blindside" but earlier in last night's show there was a confessional clip where you said that given the opportunity, you thought [Susie Smith] would sell you down the river in a second. So which was it -- did you leave camp pretty much already expecting to be voted off or did Susie's decision come as a surprise?
Marcus: You know honestly, I've gotten a lot of that "I was the next blindside" kind of thing, and it's not about pride at all. The thing that caught me off guard was [Crystal Cox] more than Susie. Susie had been hedging against having any sort of trustworthy standing for a long time and she kept saying "Well it's just a game, my promises don't mean anything" and it's like "Oh really, well than why are you making me promise you?" stuff.
But Crystal was the one that was tough, because I knew that we had a relationship outside of the game, which I think is very rare but also something that you should be kind of careful with. She chose to use that in a different way than I would've, and I had to have some trust in somebody at some point. Unfortunately it didn't work out for me.
It was expected but not enjoyable.
Reality TV World: What was your reaction when Susie came out and threatened to jump alliances unless you promised to form a Final 3 alliance with her?
Marcus: Yeah you know it was so weird because one of the things as a Kota 7 [member] in the middle Kota tribe [that] we had really tried to foster was that idea of: "Everyone stick to the plan and have faith that, over the course of the experience, we will be able to figure out who we want to align with, and making promises now is unrealistic because you can't guarantee anything. You can't guarantee me anything, I can't guarantee you anything. Let's just see what happens when we get there."
So, it's so confusing to find myself in this position when this lady asks me to promise her stuff when literally the words that came out of her mouth right before that were "Promises don't mean anything, it's just a game."
It was like, well how are you asking me now to promise you Final 3? It was a weird situation, I think that's why I didn't say anything because, like, what am I supposed to say here?
It was funny, but that was just Susie.
Reality TV World: Going off of that, do you think you would have actually kept that Final 3 alliance promise or would you have still voted her off as soon as you could?
Marcus: I would keep my promise. I mean that's why I talked to Crystal about getting rid of [Ken "Kenny" Hoang]. I was trying to honor my commitment, in spite of the fact that she wasn't gonna honor hers. It's the higher road and that's where I wanted to be.
I saw it as "Let's get to the Final 6 with the people that we talked about, If something has to happen in the interim because someone is proving to dishonor the commitment that they made, then hopefully we'll have someone we can replace them with."
And then when it comes to that Final 6, that's when we'll really see because we'll be able to look back at the entire experience and say "Okay, this is the person that I would like to see at the end, and this is a person that doesn't wanna see me at the end." That would be a fascinating game to see where six people who have really been through thick and thin and stuck it out, how are they going to react? What are they going to do? I was excited to see where it was gonna go.
Reality TV World: So how would you have handled your promise to Crystal to give Susie's [vacated] spot in the Kota 6 alliance to her?
Marcus: Given the relationship I had with Crystal on the outside of the game -- her cousin's name is Kenneth -- I would have loved to honor my friendship with him through helping her dodge some bullets, because to me she's been a pretty nice person and I really didn't have a lot of the gripes that [Randy Bailey] had.
And really at that point we didn't know who was gonna do what. We knew [Jessica "Sugar" Kiper] had an [Immunity Idol] in there somewhere. [Matty Whitmore], we were on the fence on how he was gonna be. So no matter what was gonna happen we would get to that merge and we would have some work to do and I was hoping that Crystal, maybe she would usurp Susie's position and then we'd find ourselves in a Final 6 where it's almost like "Where's the Immunity Necklace gonna land?" because that's the only person that's really safe for the next day.
I would've loved to see Randy, myself, [Corinne Kaplan], and [Charlie Herschel] in the Final 4. It would've been a fun time. I loved a lot of those people, so it would've been nice either way.
Reality TV World: Susie seemed to make her fencesitter stance pretty obvious to both sides and a lot of times what happens with Survivor fencesitters is the two sides come together and decide to vote off the fencesitter instead. Did you ever discuss that idea with Crystal and Kenny or was getting Crystal to vote for Kenny the only idea you considered?
Marcus: Well no, if you watch the show -- and this is, I think, easily missed -- they only point out for a second [that] one of the things I kept saying to Crystal was "Crystal, if you don't think this works let me know." The door was wide open for Crystal to step in and say "Hey look I respect the relationship that you have with my cousin [but] I really don't think I can vote for Kenny. Let's talk about Susie some more," and it would've been like "Hey awesome!"
Because at that point I'm the only one who's doing anything. [Robert "Bob" Crowley] is taking another nap or up there whittling something. He wasn't really involved, so although I did have two of my supposed "alliance people" in there, I was really the only one that was doing any work in any direction there to kind of keep us together.
So I really left the door open for that because, like I said, Susie was really proving herself to be kind of frustrating in that regard. Corinne and Charlie had struggled with her the whole time too.
Corinne spent hours with Susie [trying] to develop a friendship, so that was a real slap in the face for her to have Susie say something like [her Day 21 criticisms of Corinne.] It was like, yeah Susie helps out around camp, but to try and call Corinne out when Corinne was very helpful. She was also a very good asset in the tribe.
It's almost... it's arrogant in a way to assume that you're so much better [and] that you can point out that Corinne doesn't help out in the one way you help out [and] that makes her not as good as you. It's strange.
Reality TV World: During one of your pre-Tribal Council conversations with Susie, you told her you'd get her, Charlie, and yourself to the Final 3 by voting off Randy, Bob, and then Corinne. Does that mean that, despite what you'd told Randy on last week's episode, he hadn't actually replaced Bob as the fourth member of your core alliance?
Marcus: Well the problem with Randy was [that] I was close to Randy, and through me Charlie and Corinne [also] were. But a lot of that, and again I keep emphasizing, we were trying to keep the Final 6 very (pauses) fluid. We knew a couple -- I was really close to Charlie and I was close to Corinne. But we knew because if you can't trust all six people implicitly -- which we couldn't with Susie and we were pretty sure we could with Randy -- then it's not even worth talking about it at that point.
So, in a sense you can make light promises like "Oh yes, you're in the [Top 3]" but at the same time they're really not worth the paper they're written on. And we wanted to keep it that way because you don't make good promises unless you have all of the information you can. That was really what we were hoping to accomplish.
Reality TV World: Susie seemed to switch very quickly from wanting either Kenny or Crystal gone to voting you out. Is that an example of her odd gameplay tactics that had made her so disliked on Kota?
Marcus: Yeah, but honestly it looks real quick on the show but it's over the course of a couple of days. What I think I noticed was that these people saw Bob and myself and the rest of the Kota tribe that were on the other tribe as being strong, confident players.
And we were reveling in each other's successes and we were trying to really enjoy our time out there. [Meanwhile] these people had been coniving and scheming for days, and days and days. They really had a (pauses) basically like a (pauses again) I don't know, a "get out of jail free" card come out of nowhere and give them another chance in the game. I think their reaction to our confidence and our enjoyment of the situation was to be threatened.
We shared the spotlight. They don't understand that sharing it makes it brighter instead of [taking] it away from you. I really think that there was nothing I could say or do at that point to really feel like I would have reached Kenny, Susie, or Crystal.
Reality TV World: During Tribal Council, Bob said that given the tribes hadn't merged, he'd come to regret his vote to send [Dan Kay] home at Kota's last Tribal Council. Did that mean that you guys had come to think that unlike Susie, Dan wouldn't have flip alliances on you guys?
Marcus: I wonder... It's an interesting point you bring up because I never... I saw that last night and I was like "God, what the hell is he talking about?" You know, let me just point out -- and I love Dan because I argued for him for the longest time to hope that he could come to an understanding -- but to be young, good looking and athletic in our group of people and to still get voted off before Susie takes an amazing amount of effort. And I hate that, because I love that Dan is really taking his life into his own hands, it's a super important thing.
But I'm wondering if maybe [Bob's comments] had to do with the Immunity Challenge, because those big shoulders of [Dan's] probably would have done better than my stumpy arms and better than Susie's. Maybe that could have gotten us out of the Tribal Council. I can only gather that because that was the biggest problem: for all that Dan would say, his actions belied his desire to get rid of me or get rid of somebody else.
Somehow the only way I think he was gonna be comfortable was if he was running the show himself and I don't think we were really at that point where anyone was willing to do that.
I doubt [Bob's comments] had to do with the "flipability." It probably has more to do with just [Dan's] strength.
Reality TV World: After you were eliminated, you said how "sneaky" you felt the new Kota tribe was. What did you mean by that -- do you think you hadn't also been "sneaky" when you were going around making conflicting deals with both Susie and Crystal?
Marcus: Yeah, I hope you guys see a little bit of a difference, in you know... (pauses) I was trying to honor a commitment that I made and, like I said before, I was trying to honor the friendship that I had with Crystal's cousin and if that's "sneaky" then by all means I guess I fit that definition.
But it's a different kind of "sneaky" than "I'm gonna tell you that I'm not gonna write your name down and then write your name down," and it's a different kind of "sneaky" than Kenny which is "I'm gonna use you're pity and compassion and learn how to fish and learn all these things, and they try and sell you out in front of Tribal Council and make you looks silly."
It just doesn't work. I mean you can write down whatever you want and say what you want but at the end of the day... people see what they see, and you can't replace that.
Reality TV World: In your exit statement you mentioned that you thought Bob was going to be in trouble. What did you mean by that -- did you see him being the first target a merged tribe or did you just think he's going to be the next person voted off if there isn't a merge and Kota has to go to Tribal Council again?
Marcus: If there wasn't a merge, that was my concern.
Because we really, at that point (pauses) When I said I crumpled up and threw away my plan it was like, I just need to stop trying to predict what's going on or stop having conversations like "when's the gross food challenge?" or "when's this?" or "when's that?"
It's like forget it, let's just "day-by-day" on this thing. I felt that if they stayed in that same situation, [the remaining Kota tribe] didn't have any assets to win an immunity so the next guy down on the totem pole was definitely gonna be Bob because everyone would know that he voted for Kenny. But that was his risk.
Reality TV World: Last night, we saw you come up with that strange plan to throw away the hidden Idol that was on the feast beach. Do you think you would still have come up with plan if you had known the tribes weren't merging right at that point?
Marcus: Yeah, because there were six of us and four of them, but arguably Susie was five-and-five so the chances that any of my tightest people were gonna end up with it -- and the chance of me ending up with it was one in ten.
If you really watch it and get a feel for the athmosphere, everyone was trying to be very neutral. And it's not a hidden Immunity Idol, it's just an Immunity Idol. Whoever puts that in their pocket, their target immediately triples in size the moment they got it.
In my position it would have been the worst case scenario because it would have been a guarantee that they were going to vote against me. Then the minute it's free, that's such a relief that they'd vote against me again. So it might've guaranteeed me one more round, but it certainly wouldn't have put me in a good situation at all.
Reality TV World: It looked like, except for Randy, everyone else stayed back on shore when you waded into the water to throw it away. Did you ever think of quietly slipping it off the bottle and into your pocket before you threw the bottle?
Marcus: Yeah man, but that thing was tied on, it was like soldered on there. And we weren't that far away, I mean it would've been obvious to everyone that we were pulling that thing off.
You could try that, but realistically no way are you gonna get away with it.
Reality TV World: How far away from the tribal camps was that feast beach? Were you ever worried that someone snuck back to the beach and managed to retreive the idol?
Marcus: Honestly there's no way. It would have been dangerous, scary and stupid. You might have been saved from Tribal Council but you would have gotten eaten.
Reality TV World: Had the possibility that the tribes might not actually be merging never actually crossed anyone's mind before you guys opened the box?
Marcus: Oh yeah, definitely! In fact I whispered to Charlie right before I walked into the camp area where the food was "Dude, I think this is gonna be a fake merge.'
It just (pause) the way that they led us in you got this sense that something wasn't right. I mean, most of the time when the box is on the "after" side of the feast... You know, why wouldn't they just have us merge and put our little buffs on and ride out from there into the sunset. You knew something was up.
I definitely think it all crossed our minds. In some of the interviews where that got brought up didn't get put it on TV, but it certainly had been considered.
Anyone who's thinking in this game needs to have considered it. But since you don't know the method, you're at a loss. And the way that they did it, I mean literally the only way we would've been okay would've been if somehow Randy, Charlie, Corinne, Bob, and myself ended up on the same tribe. I mean, that would've been the only way.
Reality TV World: After you were eliminated, who did you want to see win?
Marcus: It's a toss up. I would love to see someone who has the same positive attitude and is encouraging do well. Charlie was one of my best friends out there and I would love to see him do well.