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Survivor: Thailand - Robb's Epiphanyby Susan Schechter -- 10/30/2002
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I don't know whether or not to nominate Robb for an Oscar for best performance at the end of episode six or not. I may have been one of the few people who thought he was sincere. But when I hear from friends of mine that they thought Robb was bs-ing them, well, it makes me wonder.
Could Robb have had a legitimate epiphany, or was he pulling the wool over my eyes?
Let's look at the facts, shall we? Episode one: The very first image the viewer has of Robb is him skateboarding through a Thai village. Ah! So Robb fits into a dumb blonde/California Dude stereotype. This gets reinforced later in the first episode as well. He is working on making the shelter. His hands are raw from working (I guess they don't have manicures in Thailand, dude!) and he yells at Shii Ann to show him her hands.
Right there and then, I said, "idiot," and started looking at the other contestants. I mean, what do I have in common with a pierced, tattooed skateboard dude? Besides, I was lusting after Ken, the NYC Cop, who is more my type. I continued thinking Robb was an idiot during episode three, when he tried to strangle Clay during a challenge and gave Jeff Probst the finger.
But something happened on the last episode. The skateboard dude from episode three would have been incapable of the higher thoughts Robb the philosopher had on episode six. This was a kinder, gentler Robb. This was a Robb who tried to listen to what his teammates were saying at the lavish Thai dinner. This is a Robb who was sobered up by the loss of Stephanie and Jed. This is the Robb who knew his tush was on the chopping block. Sure he delivered for his team during the reward challenge. They got to eat a sumptuous dinner because of Robb. Robb the athlete had come through for them. That was the Robb everyone in the audience knew.
Robb the philosopher, that was a bit harder to get used to. This is the Robb who realized he would probably be next to go home unless his team won immunity. And if his team won immunity, he knew unless he could physically win an individual challenge, he could well be the next to go home. He was the lone team member of Soup Kitchen without an alliance. He knew his team would turn on him quickly. He knew he wasn't going to score points with Chewing Gum because of his behavior during the challenge from episode three. Clay wasn't going to back him, neither was Ted, and Brian was a wild card. It didn't look like the women would likely be his allies either. So in his mind, he knew if he wasn't going home this time he would most likely go home three nights later, and not even make the jury. So what could Robb do?
Easy. He did what any of us would have done if we felt we were going to take that last final walk in a matter of hours: He savored the time left, enjoyed himself, breathed as if every breath were his last. He followed the Epicurean School of Philosophy: Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die. Or in Robb's case, tomorrow we get booted off.
The banquet may have changed Robb. A full meal on an empty tummy can do wonders for a tired psyche. He probably felt like a new man. The elegant repast made him think. Good friends, good food, oh my gosh, I am really the last one here without an alliance. I gotta be good. They are going to vote me off, dude! I'd better get them to like me!
Or maybe it was even something less sinister than that. Maybe it was a sincere thing, a small thing. The boy from Arizona had become a man in Thailand. He realized he was miles away from home, he was in a place that most of us reading this article can only dream of. His game life was about gone, his torch was going to be snuffed out. His time was up.
So like I said, he stopped playing the game and just allowed himself to be. He experienced a culture different than his own, smelled the different smells, embraced the different feelings, breathed the different air, looked at a different sky and different stars, got drunk on a couple bottles of vino.
So he became truly nice. He had his epiphany. He thought about the dad he hasn't seen in eons. He thought about the friendship he forged with Ken. And as I said, the boy from Arizona became a man.
When he left, he hugged his teammates like few other Survivor players have done. Sure, his hugs could have been theatrical. But I do think it was sincere.
I think his epiphany was real. I think when he left the show, he really was a changed person. I just don't know whether the lessons he learned in his time on Survivor stayed with him once he came back to the States.
I hope Robb didn't play us all for suckers and really did grow up. I like the new and improved Robb. On the other hand, it may have all been for naught. In that case, I nominate him for an Oscar for best acting job ever in a reality show. He sure fooled me.
Susan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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