Introduction by Martin Holmes
CBS officially announced their upcoming Second Chance season during the airing of Survivor: Worlds Apart, and if you were to visit the official Survivor Facebook page afterward (that hotbed of Survivor opinions), you would have seen an interesting reaction. Among the expected “Where’s Ozzy?” and “Where’s Malcolm?” posts were an alarming amount of comments suggesting that CBS should have done a Survivor First Boots season instead. A season comprising entirely of players who were voted out first. This wasn’t just one or two comments; it seemed like every other post was bringing up this concept.
A First Boots season has been suggested online before many times, but it has never been one that has completely grabbed my imagination. Yet the fervor for this theme from a particular subset of fans after the Second Chance announcement peeked my interest. Why do people want to see it so much? And could you legitimately compile a compelling enough cast to make it worthwhile?
Newest Inside Survivor contributor Jacob Derwin tries to do just that…
Jacob Derwin Talks Survivor First Boots
It’s no secret that getting on to Survivor is a long and arduous process even beyond the casting process: months of preparation, training and putting your life on hold in the hopes of making it the full 39 days. But, as an unfortunate class of castaways has learned first hand, someone is always eliminated first.
If we count Wanda Shirk and Jonathan Libby from Survivor: Palau as co-first boots from their season, and I do, 30 contestants have the distinction of being the first sent home from the game. To get on Survivor, you need to be an interesting character in some way or another. Even the first boots, though often limited in screen time, must have left some sort of impact on the casting directors and producers of the show to get out on the island in the first place.
Remember Sekou Bunch from Cook Islands? The man has performed and recorded with Michael Jackson, Quincy Jones and Ray Charles among other music greats, but many only remember him for his performing of a Survivor tribute song during the reunion show despite his early removal from the game. Zane Knight from Philippines, though sadly mistaken in his peculiar reverse-psychology strategy, absolutely left an impression on the viewing public before his departure – as abrupt as his nicotine withdrawal.
Many a fan of the game has suggested, at one time or another, that a season of first boots be brought into existence. The typical response: something along the lines of, ‘compile that list and see a disaster of a season unfold before your eyes.’ Is that so?
I am going to attempt to “cast” a best-case scenario 16-person season of first boots with even gender representation. I will not consider returnees who went out first on their retries unless they have only ever come in dead last. Of course, a lot of this comes down to opinion, but I can’t imagine better circumstances than what I’m listing below.
Sonja Christopher – Borneo: If Sonja were to return to Survivor today, she would surpass her Borneo peer, Rudy Boesch, as the oldest contestant of all time at 78. Sonja’s personality, described as “very pleasant” by Jon Stewart, was not her issue. Her early elimination is generally attributed to a poor performance in the first Immunity challenge. I don’t believe Sonja would ever return to the game, but if she ever did, I think we would see similar results. Regardless, a large, nostalgic part of me would love to see her ukulele show up on my television again sometime.
Peter Harkey – Marquesas: Peter Harkey had no idea what he was doing. I could attribute his self-destruction to being on an early season of Survivor when it was not common knowledge that trying to control voting policies was a bad idea, but we’ve seen it happen since then. I personally would love to see if Peter repeated the exact steps he took to anger the rest of his tribe, or if he learned from his massive mistake in Marquesas.
Ryan Aiken – The Amazon: Ryan was the youngest contestant on his season. Had he come into the game with a better work ethic and a greater sense of balance, Ryan probably would have been fine for a while longer. Now, in his mid-30s, I could see Ryan at least making it past the merge if he were to try again. He’s not stupid, nor weak, just socially unaware of himself.
Nicole Delma – Pearl Islands: “Not one of The Outcasts! No!” I might get some heat for this, but I genuinely believe that if Nicole had re-entered the game with Burton, rather than Lil, the Outcast tribe would not be looked back upon so negatively. She didn’t play very stealthily, as her plotting got back around to the tribemate, she was trying to send home, Tijuana, but at least she was trying to play the game. With more precaution, Nicole could do well on a second attempt.
Brook Geraghty – Vanuatu: I genuinely love Vanuatu. It’s one of my favorite seasons with a lot of my favorite characters. That said; I really do feel bad for Brook. The guy wanted to play the game so badly, and he went out first for being too strong in the eyes of “The Fab Five” alliance. There is no doubt in my mind that Brook would have been fun to watch further down the line.
Jonathan Libby – Palau: I’m putting Jonathan Libby on the list simply because I feel he would have made it past the first Tribal Council had he attended one. The schoolyard pick eliminations in Palau were brutal. I’m not putting Wanda in the lineup because I believe she would have been the first out of the game even without the schoolyard pick.
Jim Lynch – Guatemala: Dear lord this man went through hell and back within the three days he was out in Guatemala. Voting Jim out seemed more like a mercy killing than anything. He was the oldest person on the tribe; he was sick from the grueling 11-mile hike Reward challenge that opened the season, and he had somehow torn his bicep during the first Immunity challenge. I’m not saying the man would make it too far in a second attempt, but he sure worked hard just to be booted first.
Tina Scheer – Panama: I’m not saying Tina is top notch Survivor material. Her lacking social game is what caused her tribemates to turn on her, rather than voting out Cirie, seemingly the weakest member of the tribe. That said, the circumstances that led to Tina being in Panama were harsh. In case you don’t remember, she was supposed to be in Guatemala, but her teenage son died in a car crash just a week before she was meant to leave. That’s no minor distraction. She actually took time away from her tribe, while they plotted against her, to grieve her loss. I doubt Tina could ever succeed much in Survivor, but it would certainly get my attention if the lumberjill returned to give it another shot now that more time has passed since her tragedy.
Sekou Bunch – Cook Islands: Sekou is a super interesting and accomplished man and musician, but he wasn’t much of a player. He and his ally Nate Gonzalez targeted tribemate Sundra Oakley, citing her as the weakest member of the Manihiki tribe. Reliant on Stephannie Favor for the crucial third vote, their plan failed when she decided to side with Sundra and Rebecca, claiming Sekou was the least productive member of the tribe – and they were probably correct. He appeared to be a somewhat demanding, but struggling and weak leader. If you’re going to lead in any capacity, leading through action is a highly recommended approach. I don’t believe Sekou would last very long in any season.
Chicken Morris – China: Man, just take one moment to consider what China would have looked like had Chicken lasted a little while longer. Though tribemate Peih-Gee Law said she was voting for him because of his reluctance to step up in times of need, it was relatively clear that Chicken didn’t exactly mesh well with most of his tribe. But what if Chicken had another chance? He has lots of outdoor experience, and had his tribe been more cooperative with him, and he with his tribe; maybe he would have become a real asset. I can see it now. Chicken Morris: power player. What a day that will be, but I don’t see it happening anytime soon. Damn!
Carolina Eastwood – Tocantins: There is unreferenced information on the Survivor Wiki claiming that Abi-Maria Gomes from Philippines was originally supposed to be on Tocantins, but she was replaced last second by Carolina. Regardless of whether it’s true, I do see similarities between the two. It makes me wonder what would have happened if Carolina could have kept her mouth shut for a little while longer. She wasn’t the only member of her tribe lacking in challenges. Maybe she would be over in Cambodia right now preparing for Second Chance instead of Abi-Maria… okay maybe not.
Francesca Hogi – Redemption Island / Caramoan: One more time! One more time! One more time! Put Francesca out there without one specific former federal agent (?), and she might actually succeed.
Kourtney Moon – One World: This one is more out of curiosity than anything. We really know nothing about Kourtney in terms of the game. It became pretty public knowledge that Kourtney’s doctors found a large, cancerous tumor in her abdomen around the same time of the One World premiere. Unfortunately, I can’t really find anything about her from after 2012, but I hope she is doing well.
Zane Knight – Philippines: Zane is, well, Zane. I want him back just to see what he does. Does he have another backward scheme cooking inside that brain of his?
David Samson – Cagayan: David, in the grand scheme of Survivor: Cagayan, ends up being little more than a piece of ally Kass McQuillen’s origin story. As the designated leader of the Luzon (Brains) tribe, David was told by Probst to single-handedly vote out the “weakest” member of his tribe. Believing he would be too big a threat later in the game, David selected Garrett Adelstein. Garrett would not be voted out, though, instead being flown to his new campsite, this would lead to David’s demise. I believe David fell into his tribe’s label harder than Mike with the Blue Collars on Worlds Apart. He wanted to represent the Brains by playing a strategy-first, physicality-second game but started overdoing it the first opportunity he had. If David were to return, he would have to slow down and remember that the game goes through many phases, twists, and turns.
Nadiya Anderson – San Juan Del Sur: It is always interesting when your out-of-game identity plays a role in your in-game life. Though her sister, Natalie, says she would not have been able to win the season with her “twinnie” around, there’s no telling how far Nadiya could have gone had Dale not played The Amazing Race card like he did.
Unfortunately, a common thread among many of these first boots is an “annoying” personality trait or a general lack of self-awareness. On top of that, more women are voted out first than men, leaving a smaller pool of men to select from, resulting in a relatively large portion of the gender being picked from necessity, where picking the best of the women allowed for at least some give-and-take. Basically, there are a lot more conceivable female-first-boot-returnees than male ones.
I think it’s fair to say that an all-first boot season of Survivor would be less than satisfactory. That said, there are several names on this list I would absolutely be interested to see try the game again: Sonja, Brook, Nicole, Kourtney, Zane, and Jonathan specifically; some for entertainment value, and some because I believe they had more to give. Maybe one day but not on a season restricted to first boots only!
What do you think about a Survivor First Boots season? Is it a better idea than Second Chance like the Survivor Facebook commenters suggests? Who would you cast? Leave your comments below.