Robert 'Bob' Crowley crowned the winner of 'Survivor: Gabon'
By John Bracchitta, 12/15/2008
Robert "Bob" Crowley became the oldest winner in Survivor history last night when he was revealed to be the winner of Survivor: Gabon during the finale of the long-running CBS reality series' seventeenth edition.
"My plan was to fly under the radar as long as I could, be necessary, and be a nice guy so people would like me," Bob, a 57-year-old physics teacher from South Portland, ME, said after Survivor host Jeff Probst revealed him to be the competition's winner.
Bob -- who won five of the game's final six challenges as well as Tribal Council tiebreaker to make it to the competition's Final 3 -- claimed Survivor: Gabon's $1 million grand prize during the live portion of last night's finale broadcast from CBS Television City in Los Angeles, CA.
"[The fake Immunity Idol] saved my place in the game, because I knew they were gonna take me out, and they traded it for [Randy Bailey]," said Bob of the use of the now-famous first fake Immunity Idol that he created during the competition.
Bob received four of the game's seven jury votes, besting runner-up Susie Smith, a 47-year-old hairdresser and assistant teacher from Charles City, IA, who received three jury votes. Second runner-up Jessica "Sugar" Kiper, a 29-year-old pin-up model and actress from Brooklyn, NY, received no jury votes.
Survivor: Gabon's finale broadcast began with a video montage of the competition's first 36 days before the remaining castaways returned to the Nobag camp following the previous elimination of Crystal Cox.
After not receiving the Immunity Idol from Bob after being promised it in a previous agreement between the two, Ken "Kenny" Hoang, a 22-year-old professional video gamer from Westminster, CA, said that he felt "betrayed" by Bob. Bob responded by saying that he had felt that "all promises were off" once he had learned that Kenny had been conspiring to take the idol and then blindside him at the ensuing Tribal Council.
The following day, Kenny was calmed after speaking with Sugar and learning that she intended to eliminate Bob at the upcoming penultimate Tribal Council unless he won immunity, in which case she would eliminate Susie.
"Last night I felt I got blindsided, and I felt a little betrayal. But Sugar and I went on a walk today and I feel comfortable now," Kenny said after his meeting with Sugar. "I feel that Sugar has no alliance to Susie, so I think that Sugar really wants me to take her to the Final 3 with her."
Later that day, the castaways met with Jeff for the their penultimate Immunity Challenge, where they learned that they would each have to race past a wall by digging a hole beneath it. After getting under the wall, the castaways would have to make their way across a series of planks that led to a maze containing 25 Gabonese huts, three of which contained bags filled with puzzle pieces.
After each castaway found each bag and individually brought them to the finish line, they would use the pieces to build a replica of a Gabonese hut. The first castaway to successfully build the replica would win immunity at the upcoming Tribal Council.
Susie was the first contestant to get underneath the wall, however Sugar was able to jump into the lead as the castaways made their way into the maze. While she was able to maintain her lead into the final section of the challenge and got all three bags to the finish line first, she was ultimately overtaken by Bob, who quickly built the replica first to win his fifth consecutive challenge.
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"[The] wizard, fantastic Bob won," Susie said following the challenge. "I don't know how you beat that guy."
Although he hadn't won immunity and was therefore on the block for elimination, Kenny was so confident of his safety going into Tribal Council that he put aside his usual gameplaying ways to 'chill and relax all day' instead.
"I really confirmed it today with Sugar during our walk that if Bob wins it's Susie that's gonna go first, so I'm not worried."
However, Sugar -- who had previously told Bob that she was more interested in keeping Kenny from feeling threatened than actually keeping him in the competition -- was not as committed to their conversation, As she left for Tribal Council, she acknowledged that while she had no alliance with Susie, Kenny was a "liar."
"I just have to think really hard about what should be done," she said. "No matter what I decide to do, I think Bob and [Matty Whitmore] will vote along with me."
At Tribal Council, Jeff asked Bob if his fifth straight challenge win -- which tied a Survivor record for most consecutive challenges won -- had made the target on his back even bigger.
"Yes, that why I keep working harder and harder, and I make sure I have this necklace on when I come here," Bob told Jeff.
"Bob's money man, he's an expert at these challenges," Matty, a 29-year-old personal trainer from Pacific Palisades, CA, added. "I don't know how he does it, but there's not even a target on his back because we can't even see him. He's so far ahead of us. The guy is just good."
When Jeff asked about the deal he made with Bob, Kenny reiterated his stance that Bob had "backed out" on the agreement and elicited a response from the science teacher.
"Well what I didn't realize was he went back to the tribe and discussed with people that when I gave him the necklace that they would then blindside me," Bob told Jeff. "I was trying to take care of him, and he was gonna take advantage of me. That changed things quite dramatically."
"It's not really a blindside. It's called saving me if I feel like I'm going," Ken responded as Bob laughed in disagreement.
The castaways then cast their votes and Kenny was eliminated over Susie in a 4-1 vote.
"[It is] definitely game over for Kenny. Sometimes, like it is in video games, it doesn't go your way and you lose," Kenny said following his elimination. "I thought I did extremely well in this game. I was playing a lot of people and in the end I ended up getting played myself. I hope for them the best, they got me good."
After returning to camp, Susie admitted to Matty that her near elimination had served as a "wakeup call" for her. She also realized that she would surely be the next castaway sent home unless she was able to win the final Immunity Challenge the following day.
Susie also added that, if she were to win immunity, she would be casting her vote for Bob at the final Tribal Council.
After remembering Survivor: Gabon's 14 previously booted castaways via the game's traditional "Fallen Comrades" journey that began at Exile Island and ended with a ceremony from a Gabonese tribe, the Final 4 arrived at the location of the game's final Immunity Challenge.
Unlike Survivor's usual endurance challenges, Survivor:Gabon's final challenge required each castaway to construct a "house of cards" using 200 wooden tiles. The first contestant to build ta 10-foot-high structure that could stand on its own would win immunity for the game's final Tribal Council later that evening. If no one built a 10-foot-high structure, the castaway with the highest structure after 30 minutes would win the challenge.
After 25 minutes, and numerous collapses of each castaways' wooden structures, Sugar had established a lead with her seven-foot-tall structure while Susie's structured trailed at six-and-a-half foot and Matty as in third place with a five-foot structure..
However, Susie stopped building her structure after getting it to eight-feet-tall and surpassing Sugar. While Matty was able to get his structure to seven-feet-tall, he was unable to catch Susie, who was surprised as she won the challenge and ensured herself a spot in the game's Top 3.
"I was totally in shock that I won today," Susie said after her crucial win. "I was totally not expecting that at all."
After admitting that she had erred in thinking that Kenny was more of a threat than Susie (hence her decision to eliminate him) Sugar teared up as she realized that Susie's win had all but guaranteed that Bob would be the next one eliminated.
"Susie won, and that means we have to vote for Bob" she said through sobs. "It's obvious that Bob would win, so Susie's voting for Bob. He knew it, we know nobody would win against him."
After arriving back at camp, the castaways quickly became annoyed with Susie, who repeatedly told each of her tribemates how surprised she was that she had won the challenge.
The time at camp also enabled Sugar to come up with a last ditch effort to save Bob after she realized that, if she and Bob voted for Matty to tie the vote at 2-2, they would have to compete in a tiebreaker challenge to determine who would advance to the Final 3 and who would be eliminated.
Bob approved of the idea before leaving the camp to be alone and practice starting fires, which he guessed might be incorporated into any tiebreaker challenge.
"I told Matty I would never write his name down, I never promised Bob that," Sugar said prior to leaving for Tribal Council. "But to me Bob is a father figure. It's like choosing between my dad and my brother."
At Tribal Council, Susie continued to express her happiness over her challenge win to Jeff and reiterated that she was certain she would have been eliminated without immunity.
Conversely, Bob told Jeff that, without immunity, the Tribal Council session was probably "the most uncomfortable Tribal Council that I've been to in 38 days."
"There's only so much scrambling I can do, there are only four of us here," he added when asked if he had tried to save himself in the time between the challenge and Tribal Council. "I do have target on my back, but I'm gonna duck at the last moment if I can. I don't know how to do that, but I'll give it a shot."
Matty said that there had been less voting talk at camp when compared to the rest of the competition. However, he added that he had still be very worried before leaving for Tribal Council, adding that "You never know much about what's going on in this game."
Sugar admitted that she was having great difficulty making her decision of whom to vote for and openly acknowledged that she loved both Matty and Bob and that she felt both of them would beat her in the Final 3.
"It is the cruelest situation that she can be put in without a doubt," Bob said of Sugar's position as the deciding vote." But she's there and I hope she makes a good decision."
The castaways were then instructed to vote. After reading off the votes, Jeff revealed that there was a 2-2 tie between Bob and Matty. He also revealed that -- as Bob had predicted -- they would be participating in firemaking challenge, in which each castaway would be given firemaking materials. The first castaway to build a fire high enough to burn a small string above it would advance to the Final 3, while the loser would be eliminated.
Bob put his training to good use, and was able to build a fire with relative ease and win the challenge before Matty was able create a fire and give Bob any serious competition in the challenge.
"Well Susie, Bob, Sugar, congratulations! You have gone as far as you can go into this game," Jeff said following Bob's victory. "The power in this game now shifts to the jury."
"I've leaned more about myself and about life in the last 38 days than I ever have," Matty said following his elimination. "I grew up quick, and I'm grateful to have this opportunity and I wouldn't trade it in for the world."
The following day -- the castaway's 39th and final day in Gabon -- Bob, Susie and Sugar performed the ritualistic burning of their Nobag camp's huts. They then proceeded to their final Tribal Council, where they would give their final statements and be questioned by the seven former castaways/jury members.
Susie said she wanted to win the competition in order to send a good message to her children and students that it is good to "try" at anything you want to. She added that the competition had improved her confidence drastically throughout the game as well.
Bob said that he had played the game "gusto" and "with [his] heart." He added that his strategy for Survivor has to use survival skills "to make everyone's lives better while on Gabon," and that each of the castaways whom he had shared time with in Gabon had made the game the "most exciting adventure" of his life.
Sugar stated that she had "played a perfect social game" and had "surprised herself" with how she had performed in the competition. Aware that she was not well liked among the jury members, she also apologized for any lies or votes that may have angered anyone and stressed that she had been a "free agent" for almost the entire game until "seeking out" and alliance with Bob in the final rounds.
The jury members then took turns addressing the Final 3. They made a variety of comments -- ranging from Charlie Herschel, a 29-year-old lawyer from New York, NY, asking if Bob had enjoyed it when they had snuggled together (he did) to Corinne Kaplan, a 29-year-old pharmaceutical sales representative from Los Angeles, CA, charging that Sugar had been crying crocodile tears over the death of her father (to which Sugar simply responded with a middle finger).
Still upset over her blindside elimination only three days earlier, Crystal Cox, a 29-year-old 2004 Olympic gold-medalist track athlete from Durham, NC, asked Sugar why she had turned on her and voted for her elimination after they had been such close allies for much of the competition. Sugar responded that she had been turned off by the way Crystal had treated people by trying to bully them. She added that her vote for Crystal had also come with the hope that she would be forgiven by her.
Kenny asked Susie why she felt she should be the winner of the competition over Sugar or Bob. Susie responded that she and Kenny had been the underdogs for much of the competition, and that she should be rewarded for making it so far through the game.
After openly acknowledging that he did not care for any of the three finalists, Randy Bailey, a 49-year-old videographer from Eagle Rock, MO, asked why Bob had decided to provide Sugar with the fake Immunity Idol in order for her to fool him into playing it and getting eliminated. Bob stressed that he had not meant for the situation to play out in such a humiliating fashion for Randy, instead saying that it was one of the few times in the game he had pulled off a strategic move. He added that he had scolded Sugar and Crystal for their behavior during he elimination once they had returned to camp.
The seven jury members then cast their votes and anointed Bob as the winner of Survivor: Gabon, awarding him the $1 million prize.