Like many Survivor fans dealing with a year without a new season, I’ve been spending my extended off-season rewatching the oldies. Throughout the massive rewatch, I’ve brought my wife along with me. She’s seen most of the modern seasons but missed out on many of the first 30. One of the best parts about bringing someone new with you on a rewatch is that they give you a fresh perspective. In her case, it’s a newfound love of the old finale vote deliveries Jeff Probst did in early seasons.
Survivor hasn’t done one of these in a long time; however, Jeff used to have absolutely ridiculous ways to deliver the votes from Final Tribal Council to the live vote reading in the United States. Sadly, we’ve only ever gotten six of these over the show’s 40 seasons. The closest we’ve gotten since Guatemala is either the surprise costume change in China or when Kass Quillen said, “I hope he gets on a jet ski” at the end of Cambodia.
However, without fail, each of the six has been special. Now that Jeff’s hosting the live reunion during the finale, we likely won’t see any of these coming back anytime soon. But which moment is the best? Let’s find out.
6) Guatemala – The Rehash
I’m starting with the most recent (and by recent, I mean, 2005) variation on the epic vote delivery, largely because it’s a carbon copy of a better version that’s coming up later. Considering we got confirmation from Jeff that they stopped doing these because they ran out of ideas, it makes perfect sense to slot this in at last place. Unless you just really want to see Jeff ride in a helicopter over the Mayan ruins, there’s nothing to see here.
5) The Australian Outback – The Original
The one that started it all. And also, the one that they essentially copied for Guatemala. The show was younger then, and so was Jeff. He wasn’t confidently striding into the helicopter. Instead, he’s hunched over, scared of those rotating blades. Guatemala Jeff has evolved and has no fear.
However, the older season adds so much more to what is presented as Jeff riding in a helicopter from Australia to the CBS Headquarters (which doesn’t seem physically possible from my rudimentary understanding of helicopters). We get a live band. Jeff’s copter flies over a Ferris wheel. He’s even using proper safety measures and wearing a harness! Sure, you could argue that they linger on the whole thing a bit too long, but for a first effort, this is how you deliver a vote.
4) Vanuata – The Big Adventure
Survivor really pulled out all of the stops with this one. In some ways, you almost wish they’d stopped here. After all, the way the vote delivery goes out with a whimper in Guatemala just doesn’t do it justice like this one does. We start with Jeff seemingly spending an entire night hacking his way through the Vanuata jungle before finding a cargo plane. Why we’re supposed to believe CBS has asked its Emmy-winning host to bushwhack his way through miles of jungle, I’ll never know.
But anyways, that happens. Jeff shows he’s super-human by coming out of his late-night adventure without a bead of sweat on his brow, and we’re treated to an Indiana Jones-like scene showing the plane’s flight path to California. Jeff then jumps out of the plane because it’s important for him to land in the desert where he stashed his motorcycle. I really want to meet Jeff’s travel agent. Is this some level of peak efficiency that’s reserved for only the stars? Regardless, Jeff’s escapade puts Pee Wee Herman’s hit movie to shame with all the insanity he gets up to.
3) All-Stars – The Badass
Okay, maybe I’m too high on this one for most fans’ taste, but hear me out. Again, I don’t know much about helicopters, but watching Jeff hang off the side of the copter as it flies past the Statue of Liberty is such an iconic shot. It doesn’t have the sheer insanity of Vanuatu, but that shot makes it worth it.
Jeff does his best to be a man’s man, and this is his action movie star moment. The only thing that could make it better would be if he had some kind of machine gun that shoots out buffs that he could unload on the fans as he flies into Madison Square Garden.
2) The Amazon – The Jet Ski
Speaking of controversy, I think a lot of people are going to be surprised to not see this at the top of the list. I mean, the implication here is that Jeff travels by jet ski from The Amazon to New York City. A quick Google search tells me that journey clocks in at just under 3,000 miles. I’m not sure what the fuel efficiency of a jet ski is, but that seems slightly unbelievable. Though we do see Jeff pass a tanker ship on his way, so maybe he had fueling stations set up along the journey.
Once he gets to NYC, Jeff has to go by Lady Liberty. It’s basically required at this point. However, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how rad Jeff looks when he whips that jet ski around. How many takes do you think it took to get that shot perfectly? There’s no way he did that in one, right? As great as this moment is, though, it doesn’t take the top slot for me because it is a little one-note. The jet ski is incredible, but otherwise, he’s just riding a subway.
1) Marquesas – The Receipt
For me, Marquesas takes the cake. It’s not as iconic as the jet ski, but it’s full of little moments that I adore. We start with Jeff hopping into a helicopter, which is something of a theme with the vote deliveries. I’m not sure why because, again, a helicopter probably isn’t flying that far, but Survivor seems in love with the idea.
Next, we get a great shot of Jeff flying over Lady Liberty. That shot of the copter slowing descending into the frame in front of the statue is an inspired choice. Then, we get some more shots of the city with some of my favorite Survivor music ever. And remember, this aired just a few months after 9/11, so there is a poignant yet triumphant feel to these shots of New York City.
Now, stuff starts to get really great. Jeff lands on a dock and immediately hails a taxi. When in Rome, I suppose. I’ll also take a second to acknowledge that Jeff is a top-tier whistler. Seriously what can’t this man do (outside of skateboarding, apparently)? But it’s this next bit that gets me every time.
The cabby and Jeff share an awkward glance with each other, and when Jeff exits, he makes sure to ask for his receipt. I’m sorry, this is insane. We’re supposed to believe that this cab hasn’t been pre-arranged and Jeff is actually paying for it. And beyond that, Jeff is going to get his receipt so he can, what? File an expense report?
This is so unbelievable on every level and yet so mundane that it broke my brain when I first saw it. Sure, lie to me about the travel capacity of a jet ski, but have Jeff ask for a receipt, and my brain immediately turns to mush. On top of that, the driver has all of two seconds to both swipe Jeff’s card and get his receipt. There’s no way any of this actually happened, so why bother including it. If I ever see Jeff, this is the first and probably only question I’m going to ask him about.
While we probably won’t be treated to any more epic finale vote deliveries in the coming seasons of Survivor, it remains one of my favorite relics of the simpler days of the game. And who knows, maybe someday Jeff will jump back on that jet ski.