The 50 Best Survivor Episodes (No. 45)

“No Pain, No Gain”

Marquesas, Episode 3 (Air Date: March 13 2002)
by Martin Holmes and Ian Walker

The Maraamu tribe had just become the losingest tribe in Survivor history, losing the first three immunity challenges, and it looked like it was Sarah Jones’ time to go. She was the perceived weakest member of the tribe and the target of alpha male tribe leader Hunter Ellis. So, when Maraamu went to tribal council later that night, Sarah was promptly voted out.

Oh, wait, Hunter was voted out instead? Well, how the hell did that happen?

Two words: Boston Rob. Rob Mariano enters Survivor: Marquesas as a brash, 20-something already with clearly defined thoughts on how he wants to play this game, and it’s not from somebody else’s playbook. For the first couple days, Rob lets Hunter take the reins of the tribe, allowing him to build himself up as the most dominant figure, all the while biding his time until he could make a move. Finally, when his island girlfriend was on the chopping block, Rob made like a mafia boss, delivered his infamous “fear keeps people loyal” confessional, and took Hunter out.

It should be noted, however, that this move wasn’t solely a one-man operation. Vecepia Towery had done a great job of pumping up Hunter’s ego to the point where he never saw this move coming. Rob also had help from his right-hand man Sean Rector, who was none too pleased with Hunter’s commanding attitude around camp and was more than happy to send him home.

Not to be forgotten, this episode also serves great educational purposes, as Survivor fans learned the proper way to treat a sea urchin sting. John Carroll encountered the dangerous undersea creature and wailed a cry for help: “I need someone who can pee on my hand!” Kathy Vavrick-O’Brien came to the rescue and unleashed a golden shower onto John to relieve his prickly pain. So, for the next time you face one of these undersea threats, remember to fight urchin with urine.


This episode also gives “For Cod’s Sake” a run for its money in terms of hilarity. Not only do we have the hand-peeing and Rotu’s unfortunate series of injuries, but the ramshackle Maaramu tribe continue with their fictional morning radio show segment. This particular edition features Sean, one of Survivor’s most underrated funny-men, playing a disgruntled Al Sharpton. He “calls” into the show to air his anger about the prejudices held against the black no-nos (a horrible flea like bug – spelled N.O-N.O): “Why are the black no-nos being blamed for everything? The black no-nos get blamed for all the bad stuff, and it’s a conspiracy!”

“No Pain, No Gain” is a top to bottom fantastic episode with closely fought challenges and hilarious moments. The Hunter vote is monumental for the early stages of the show, as no big alpha guy like Hunter had ever been voted out in the pre-merge portion of the game before. While it was certainly unconventional strategy at the time, it was a clear indication of just how hard Boston Rob was there to play, both during this first game and his future games to come.


Ian, from Chicago, Illinois, graduated with a Communications major and an English minor and is now navigating adult life the best he can. He has been a fan of Survivor since Pearl Islands aired when he was 11 years old, back when liking Rupert was actually cool.