Over the coming months, Inside Survivor is undertaking its biggest list ranking yet, as we count down the 100 best episodes of Survivor ever. As always with these kinds of lists, it’s entirely subjective, and we’re sure many fans will have different opinions. This is simply Inside Survivor’s ranking. Join us each weekday for a new entry.
Episode: “Nothing Tastes Better Than Five Hundred Dollars” (Episode 10)
Original Air Date: November 20, 2008
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Some of the more popular seasons amongst the hardcore Survivor superfans can best be described as trainwrecks. The kind of season where the game goes completely off the rails and it’s up to the best or most likable player to take control and guide it into the station by the end. Then there’s Gabon, where the train goes so far off the rails that it totally crashes, leaving those standing at the end intact largely by pure luck and coincidence.
Along the way in this season-long-high-speed wreckage is this episode, where the people attempting to drive the train carelessly and hilariously push the cranky old man out of the carriage. Of course, we’re talking about Randy Bailey, the grumpiest curmudgeon Survivor has ever seen. Randy suffers one of the most humiliating exits ever, but what makes his dismissal so delicious is how much of a bang he goes out with.
Firmly placed in the minority after the previous vote, which saw Charlie Herschel voted out, Randy begins this episode by heading off to the Survivor Auction. And, at first, things seem to be going pretty well. Randy immediately puts $180 down for a couple of beers and later another $280 for a covered plate of spaghetti and a glass of wine, happily getting drunk as the proceedings move along. It’s not a bad way to spend an afternoon on Survivor.
After a couple more items, Randy decides to be nice for once and pops for a mystery item, which turns out to be a plate of cookies intended to be shared with the entire tribe. This is where things start to get a little tense. Jessica “Sugar” Kiper, Randy’s sworn nemesis, initially turns down her cookie, so Randy splits it between Corinne Kaplan and Matty Whitmore. When Randy offers Sugar one last chance for a cookie, she takes it and hands it to Matty, depriving Randy of his own cookie.
Not only do we have the whole cookie conundrum, but there is the hilarious moment when Susie Smith outbids Randy for a chance to take a soak in a tub—refusing Randy’s “I bid $100 to bathe her if she wins” offer. Susie then has to awkwardly take her bath in front of the entire tribe. What makes it even funnier is that she’s only in the tub for a few minutes before she’s all: “I’m done. It’s too hot.” It’s just another comical moment on top of an already ridiculous auction.
Kenny Hoang also wins the opportunity to steal someone else’s money by sending that person to Exile, and he chooses to send Bob Crowley. The scenes on Exile in this episode are magnificent. Bob decides to take a trek up the hilly mountains and drink in the scenery around him. This allows the Survivor crew to show off some stunning cinematography that highlights Gabon’s beauty and grandeur.
Returning to camp after the Auction, Randy is rightly pissed off with Sugar and the whole cookie situation. In fact, Randy is pissed off with everything. Having reached his boiling point with just about everybody on the tribe, Randy finds his only solution in “Operation Strongarm,” which involves him doing what he does best—being a grumpy a**hole and getting on people’s nerves.
There is a great moment early in the episode where Randy and Corrine discuss their options going forward, and Corinne suggests “Shutting it down.” Randy’s response? “Yeah, shutting it down… but also continuing to be an a**hole.” Randy’s plan is to draw all the votes onto himself, and then his (alleged) good buddy Bob will hand over his hidden immunity idol, and Randy and his allies will send Susie out of the game for having the nerve to flip on them earlier in the season.
Part one of the plan is a success. Randy is as surly as ever, handing out random “f*** yous” and giggling as he tells Matty he “whored (himself) out” and just generally not caring whatsoever about the consequences. There’s only one problem with the second part of the plan, and it’s a big one. Bob’s idol is an expertly crafted fake, and he’s in cahoots with Sugar, who convinces Bob to hand Randy the fake idol just for sh*ts and giggles.
It’s scary to think just how dangerous a player Sugar could have been had she taken the game at all seriously and played to win rather than to satisfy her desire to embarrass the people she deemed “evil.” Her ability to control Bob here is rather masterful, but it gains her nothing in the long-run (and it’s a questionable move for Bob too). Instead, Sugar’s goal is simply to make Randy look foolish, and that’s exactly what happens.
Before we get to the big climax, there are a series of voting confessionals up there with some of the best of all-time. Randy’s vote for Susie: “This vote isn’t strategic; it’s strictly personal.” Sugar’s vote for Randy: “You are a disgusting, old, hot-headed, chauvinistic, alcoholic bigot, and you need to grow up before you die alone. Loser!” And, last but not least, Crystal Cox’s vote for Randy that is so loud the entire tribe, production staff, and sleeping elephants of Gabon can hear it:
Despite the suggestion that Randy knew more than the episode let on, the edit doesn’t let us in on that. Randy confidently plays the idol at Tribal Council while Sugar and the other Fang members burst into laughter as the self-proclaimed “King of Gabon” is sent packing. Randy’s fuming face in his final words provides an excellent capper to one of the most memorable sendoffs in the show’s history, perfectly capturing Randy’s cranky essence in all its glory.
Check back tomorrow when we reveal which episode placed at number 34. You can check out the previous entries here.