Bob Crowley Conquers Survivor: Gabon

The 57-year-old physics teacher wins $1 million on the season finale of Survivor: Gabon

By Natalie Finn Dec 15, 2008 3:30 AMTags
Bob Crowley, Survivor: GabonMonty Brinton/CBS

After 36 days of roughing it in a coastal African nation, the five finalists savvy—and dumb-lucky—enough to become members of Survivor: Gabon's catchall Nobag tribe went through one last stretch of challenges to win a chance at winning.

Finally, when placed before a jury of their peers (and sworn enemies) on Sunday's two-hour Survivor finale, aka Day 39, the last three castaways pleaded their cases to the best of their ability.

And when all was said and done, bow-tie-wearing Bob Crowley, proving that nice-and-scrawny guys do not finish last, was named Sole Survivor on the 17th-season finale of CBS' pioneering reality show, the oldest winner in the history of the game.

But while everyone figured in the beginning that "mind over matter" would be how Bob would be how the 57-year-old high school physics teacher from Maine would outlast his opponents, the increasingly sinewy dude showed he had more than enough physical prowess to beat an Olympic gold medalist, a personal trainer and a strapping young doctor.

Not to mention 14 others.

Here's how the last few days of Survivor: Gabon played out:

Kenny Huong confronts Bob about not turning over the Immunity Idol at the last Tribal Council. "Get your own idol," the oldest man on Gabon told the 23-year-old gamer.

"All promises are off," says Bob, who has forged a new alliance with the scheming little Sugar, who says she's aiming for a final three consisting of her, Bob and Matty Whitmore (yet tells Kenny she's all about having him in the final as well).

Each member of the still competing quintet has to dress up warrior-style for the day's first Immunity Challenge. Jeff Probst deems Bob's red getup "very Village People."

Immunity Challenge No. 1: Dig under a wall (like a puppy digging under a fence), make your way across a series of planks (if you fall off, it's back to the starting point) and navigate a maze dotted with 25 Gabonese huts, only three of which house bags of puzzle pieces. When you grab a bag, take it back to the finish platform. Collect three bags total and use the pieces to build a replica of a Gabonese hut. Winner is guaranteed a spot in the final four.

How is Bob stuck? He weighs 31 pounds! Instead, Susie is the first under the wall. Matty falls off a plank during his first run and has to start over again. Bob is looking a bit peaked as he drags his second bag of pieces up to the building platform. Ultimately, Sugar is the first to collect three bags and start building, while Susie has trouble finding that last bag.

Eh, what did the struggle matter? Bob, now the victor in five straight challenges, wins immunity!

Monty Brinton/CBS

Tribal Council No. 1: Kenny's brain reign ends as he becomes the sixth member of the Survivor: Gabon jury, 4-1. "Just like in a videogame, sometimes it doesn't go your way and…you lose," he says.

The final four are instructed to head to Exile Island, where they'll find tribal masks representing each of the 14 contestants who have gone before them. And then torch those suckers.

After the ritual symbolic cremation, it's off to the final Immunity Challenge.

Immunity Challenge No. 2: Each has 200 wooden tiles to build a 10-foot-high house of cards. Winner (whoever completes the task or has the highest structure after 30 minutes) gets a chance to plead his/her case before the jury.

Sugar makes it to 5 1/2 feet in nine minutes…and the precariously skinny structure promptly collapses. Same thing happens when she makes it to 6 1/2 feet. Meanwhile, Matty's house has yet to topple, as Bob the Physics Teacher struggles. Heading into minute 29, Susie is sitting pretty at 8 feet, not wanting to risk her house's stability.

Susie wins final immunity, as she was going to have to do to have any further chance at that million dollars.

Bob, Matty, Sugar and Susie share a final hug…before the sad honesty begins. Matty informs Bob he'll be writing his name down. Sugar also seems pretty broken up about knocking the shaggy challenge champ, whom she considers a father figure, out of the game. Sugar suggests that she and Bob vote for Matty to ensure a tie, assuming Susie and Matty vote for Bob, and leave the result up to a tiebreaker.

Tribal Council No. 2: Sure enough, it's a tie between Bob and Matty, 2-2. On to a fire-making tiebreaker challenge.

Bob wins, coaxing enough of a flame to burn through his rope first. Well, the tribe has kinda spoken this time, as Matty becomes the seventh and final member of the jury.

After a pancakes-and-champagne brunch, the final three burn their hut down. Good times.

Final Tribal Council: Kenny wants the truth—why does Susie deserve to win, how could Bob lie and still call himself an honorable man, and how did Sugar do it! Randy Bailey: "I genuinely don't like any of these three people." Sugar's made a few decent moves, he admits, but Randy's planning to tear Bob a new one. Tribal is "a chance for me to be me," Corinne Kaplan says. Okay.

• Susie: "I feel I deserve this because I came into this just wanting to try. That's all I wanted to teach my son."

Monty Brinton/CBS
Monty Brinton/CBS

• Bob: "I played with gusto, with my heart. I've played hard. My game strategy was to come in here and use my personality, my survival skills to make my life and your lives better. While I was here, I don't think I outwitted you. I don't think I outplayed you. The only thing I did was outlast you."

• Sugar: "I'm sitting up here because I feel like I played the perfect social game. [A concerned-looking Corinne shakes her head.] I surprised myself in the physical department a couple times. But I had to lie—and that's part of the game—a couple times, and I had to sacrifice some innocents, and I'm really sorry. Thirty-eight days and nobody wrote down my name."

Then, the requisite Q&A session: Charlie Herschel asks Bob just how much he enjoyed cuddling when they were Kota members. "You're nice and warm at night, I didn't give a hoot," Bob replies. Crystal calls Susie a coattail rider. Kenny then asks Bob why he lied to him. "Once I became aware of the fact that you were organizing an assassination on me, you became the enemy," Bob says.

"That was not what I wanted to hear from you, Bob," Kenny says gravely.

Marcus Lehman asks how Sugar will use the $1 million to honor the memory of her father, who died of lung cancer. Corinne, apparently being herself, takes the cake by telling Sugar: "You are an unemployed, uneducated leech on society, and the only thing I would vote to give you is a handful of antidepressants so that no one has to be subjected to your constant crying anymore. And maybe if you got some, then maybe it would sound a little more sincere when you are crying about your dead father."

Sugar flips her off, rightly so.

The votes are cast, some more memorably than others, with Kenny pacing before his blank voting card and Randy, pulling for no one, loudly saying, "All three of you, kiss my [dead air]."

Back in Los Angeles, Bob, who's unrecognizable—in a good way!—after a shower, a shave and a few good meals (not to mention a fresh, bright bow tie) is named Sole Survivor.