Survivor Africa: In Retrospect

I decided to rewatch every season of Survivor, starting from the very first one.  Here I share my thoughts on the season, the winner’s strategy, who they should bring back, and the most iconic moments of the show.

  1. Borneo
  2. The Australian Outback
  3. Africa
  4. Marquesas
  5. Thailand
  6. The Amazon

In this post, I share my thoughts on the third season, Survivor Africa.


The (Survivor) Gods Must Be Crazy

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After two great seasons, Survivor had its first dud season in Africa. Set in Kenya, season three had arguably one of the most interesting locations in all 30+ seasons. The biggest problem this season was the lack of drinking water, leading to the dehydration of a few castaways. They were also unable to fish, hunt or scavenge for fruit, only relying on the rations provided by the show. Most of the time the castaways were resting or sleeping, since there was literally nothing else to do. They also had to designate people to watch their shelter at night since wild animals could swoop in and attack.

The two initial tribes were Samburu and Boran. The pre-merge was mostly focused on the Samburu tribe, wherein two generation-splitted factions emerged. After losing two challenges, the Samburu young-people alliance was able reduce the old-people alliance to just two, T-Bird and Frank. On the Boran tribe, an alliance between Ethan, Tom and Lex was made, eliminating the weak Diane and Jessie. For the first time in the series, a tribe swap happened, with T-Bird, Frank and Silas, a member of the younger alliance, were sent to Samburu, and Lex, Tom and Kelly were sent to Boran. During the swap phase, two members of the young-people alliance were voted out. When it came time for the merge, two Boran members, Clarence and Kelly, were voted out by the threesome of Ethan, Tom and Lex together with Samburu grandma Kim J. A sweep of the former Boran tribe followed. At top four, and Kim Johnson winning the immunity challenge, Tom was singled out as conniving by the others and was voted out by the majority. Kim J proceeded to win the final immunity, sending the largest personality of the game, Lex, home. In the end, well-liked Ethan beat Kim in a 5-2 vote.

To be honest, Survivor Africa was quite boring. It kinda just went along. There was a noticeable lack of strategy in the part of the castaways. Basically, the original Boran alliance cruised to the end. There were two times in the tide of the game could have been changed, but questionable choices by some castaways didn’t allow it.

First, the Kelly Goldsmith vote-off could have been a Lex vote-off if it weren’t for Brandon. His flip to Lex’s group was extremely questionable, with his rationale being that he didn’t want to align with the homophobic Frank (Brandon is gay). In the process, he stabbed the back of his friend Kim Powers. If he didn’t flip, the game would have been way different, and probably one of Kim P, Kelly G, and T-Bird would have won the game.

Second, the Kim Powers vote-off could have resulted in a tie between Kim P and Lex, if only Kim J flipped to the women’s side. I don’t really understand why Kim P didn’t flip. She was fourth on the totem pole in the Boran alliance, and if she hadn’t won the last two immunities, she would have been a casualty. Flipping to the women’s side would have guaranteed top three, and probably top two since T-Bird told Kim J she would have her allegiance if she flipped.

In a perfect world, I would have wanted Lex or T-Bird to win. Lex was the ring leader of the Boran alliance and basically dominated the game. T-Bird played hard all throughout the game, trying to find opportunities to live one more day since she was never in the majority.


The Winner’s Game

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Ethan Zohn

In terms of the physical game, it was apparent that third-placer Lex had it over Ethan. Heck, a strong case for runner-up Kim Johnson, a grandma, since she won the last two immunities.  In terms of the strategic game, Lex still one-upped him, leading the Boran alliance to the top 4 of the game. So why did Ethan win?

Ethan won because of a flawless social game. He was the Mr. Nice Guy of Africa. He had a top three pact with Lex and Tom but still took time to bond with those outside his core alliance. It was incredible, really, how he wasn’t targeted at any point in the game. It was all Lex, Lex, Lex. Everyone was oblivious to the fact that Ethan was also a massive jury threat.

It was also Ethan’s social game that made Kim Johnson pick him over Lex to sit beside in the final two. Granted, Kim J said in the reunion that one reason why he picked Ethan over Lex is because Lex won so many rewards. I believe a great factor why she picked Ethan is that Kim J had a stronger bond with Ethan.

In modern Survivor, however, I don’t think that Ethan’s strategy would work. He would be tagged as a massive jury threat, not unlike Malcolm and Joe, and would probably be targeted early on.

Throughout the show, he kept on saying that he wanted to prove that in order to win Survivor, you don’t have to backstab and hurt people. In the end, Ethan proved his point.


Please Bring Back

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Teresa “T-Bird” Cooper

T-Bird was a sweet older lady from the Samburu tribe. Prior to the tribal swap, T-Bird was next on the chopping block in the younger-people dominated Samburu. However, the swap gave her new life in the game.

It was after the merge that T-Bird shined. Singing “Tomorrow” during the first immunity challenge and subsequently winning it, T-Bird showed how competitive she was, shunning Clarence’s persistent deals to make him win. In the merge tribal council, she cast a vote for Lex, which led to Lex’s witch hunt for the vote caster. It was highly entertaining to see how she was aware of her own hypocrisy, preaching honesty and loyalty, but lying about her vote for Lex.

Though she was very warm to her fellow castaways, T-Bird never stopped playing the game. Down in number to the Boran 4, she tried to swing the votes in her favor by trying to manipulate Kim J to flip on the Boran. If only Kim J flipped (which would have been a better position for her, if she didn’t win the last two immunities), then we would have likely seen T-Bird win the title.

T-Bird plays a lot like Tina Wesson – putting on a motherly facade, but never really forgetting about the game. It was a HUGE travesty that she wasn’t picked by the fans for Survivor Cambodia. I hope she gets her second chance someday.


Moment of the Season

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First Tribe Swap of Survivor

To be honest, I had a hard time picking the “moment” of the season. Nothing really spectacular happened during the season. If I were to single out one, it would probably be the tribe swap. It really changed how the game turned out. If Samburu had lost the next immunities without a swap, T-Bird and Frank would have been next to go. On the other camp, Boran would have likely voted out the weak Kim J. It was the first swap in Survivor, effectively ending Silas’ game and giving Frank and T-Bird new life.

Runner-up: Brandon and Kelly G. Flip at the Final 9 Tribal Council.


Most Hilarious Moment

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Frank and Brandon’s Movie Date

Frank and Brandon got paired up after the Moto Maji tribe drew lots for the reward challenge pairing at Final 8. The stars aligned when homophobic Frank and flamboyant Brandon got paired up, but even the Sun joined the line when Frank and Brandon won the reward challenge. The reward was a movie date, which was hilarious and awkward for the two, and was one of only a few memorable moments during the post-merge.

Runner-up: Lex’s Mystery Vote Paranoia


Season and Winner Rankings

Season Ranking

  1. The Amazon
  2. The Australian Outback
  3. Marquesas
  4. Borneo
  5. Africa
  6. Thailand

Winner Ranking

  1. Brian Heidik
  2. Tina Wesson
  3. Richard Hatch
  4. Vecepia Towery
  5. Jenna Morasca
  6. Ethan Zohn

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