The Emancipation of Colton Cumbie


Monday means it’s Feature Article day on Survivor Oz and today we have an absolute cracker! Over the last two weeks, much debate in the Survivor world has resulted around Colton quitting the game during Blood vs. Water. This bought up a lot of questions. Did he deserve to come back? Is he a two time quitter? Is he the worst player of all time? Was quitting a smart move? Well today, we’ve bought out the big guns, with host Ben Waterworth weighing in on the debate. In an article that is sure to have it’s critics, Ben discusses his thought’s on Colton, whether he is a two time quitter, whether he deserved a second shot at the title of Sole Survivor and just why a man from Collinsville, Alabama has divided Survivor fans worldwide. Don’t forget to comment your thoughts, (Ben would love to read them), below!

Colton Cumbie. Two words that have divided Survivor fans since he first appeared on One World in 2012. Now after his recent exploits on Blood vs Water, it’s safe to assume for the most part that Colton will go down as one of the most hated contestants the show has ever produced. But is it warranted? Is the hate justified? And is Colton really the worst player in the history of Survivor? It’s time to find out.


One World Mastermind

Let’s go back and try and remember those initial moments of Colton during One World. There was a lot to digest during the opening episode of the twenty-fourth season, with a brand new cast of all new players for the first time in three seasons, an interesting new twist as well as some great conflict happening before our very eyes. Colton though was a standout based purely on his personality. There was no way this guy was going to go unnoticed and a few episodes in it quickly became ‘the Colton show’. I’ll be the first to admit that during the first couple of episodes I couldn’t stand him. He was whiny and annoying and easily didn’t seem suited to a game he claimed to love so much. But he warmed to me, to the game and before long he was in control. You don’t go from being at the bottom of the totem poll one minute to getting your entire tribe to give up Immunity to get rid of a person you don’t like without some skill. You can argue it was the players he was with rather than his own strategy. But you can argue that point with every season and certain players, point being that he made the most out of a situation to gain control and put a sense of fear into everyone that saw nobody wanting to go against him. This doesn’t automatically give a player a million dollars. We know that. But during those initial few episodes, Colton stamped his authority on Survivor like nobody had ever done before. The switch changed things up and Colton found himself on the weaker tribe. But he adapted. He got Alicia on side, worked things against Christina, (in somewhat questionable ways), and blindsided his so called ally in Monica. His tribe may have been losing, but Colton was still in control. He was the first person on a season divided by sex to work fluidly with the opposite gender and this could’ve worked to his advantage had he stayed in the game.


Medivac or Quit?

It all went against him of course when he was forced to leave the game. The question has been raised though about whether or not it was due to illness or if he actually quit. We saw Colton struggle early on and Monica mentioned in her interview on this show that Colton very nearly quit early on and that she had to talk him into staying. So the argument/evidence is somewhat there. However, this doubt was raised by Jeff in quite a heated discussion during Blood vs Water, and people seemingly are quick to believe this.



This coming from the same man who claimed Dawn won her first Individual Immunity on Caramoan, ignoring the fact that she had previously won one on South Pacific? Small details can often be overlooked in the heat of the moment, yet people are quick to believe them if it’s in front of them. It was a medivac. It might not have been appendicitis as first thought, but Doctor Ramona isn’t going to pull him from the game unless she is worried for his heath. Remember Dana from Philippines? She had the option of staying or quitting as it wasn’t that bad, so I’m sure the same option would’ve been given to him had he been faking. And do you really think that CBS and Jeff would’ve allowed Colton to get a somewhat decent edit by being seen as a medivac given all the hate that was blasted at Colton after his ‘racist’ rants? If it was a quit, I’m sure that Probst would’ve done everything in his power to have Colton painted as nothing but a quitter, as we all know how much he hates quitters. It would’ve done his edit justice for all the critics. To also have a contestant flown all the way from Samoa to New Zealand for medical treatment goes to show that something was wrong. CBS aren’t going to spend that amount of money on a contestant for care unless something was wrong, and where else would Colton get to watch his Kiwi soaps that he fell in love with?


Deserving of another Shot

Colton was so closely considered for a slot on the Philippines as that was a season for medivac contestants and Probst weighed in on whether or not we would see Colton so soon and even gave his first musings of Colton potentially being a ‘quitter’ in an interview around Philippines premiering in late 2012.

“I will be honest in saying that when I first went out there with the medical team, my gut was he’s quitting. But there’s no way to know that. Our doctors told us Colton was saying all the right things, and his heart rate is elevated, [so] it’s hard to think that. It’s possible but it’s very hard. Colton could’ve been in as much pain as he appeared he was. I did empathize with him.” (Interview with E-Online)

It’s hard to ignore a contestant like Colton and overlook them for a season, especially one that fits in perfectly with the fact he was medically evacuated. Given that the filming of Philippines and Caramoan were back to back and happened while One World was still airing, it made it difficult for any of the contestants to return so soon, so put it down for that. But you can’t ignore Colton to return for a second time, no matter what went on to happen. Between his strategic brilliance and his water cooler discussion opinions, he is perfect television. Look at some of the contestants that have been brought back in the past who sometimes aren’t considered ‘justified’ on the grand scheme of things. They generally either make great television a second time around and go out in a blaze of glory or even surprise the hell out of people and win. Colton potentially should’ve been held back for Heroes vs Villains 2, but without him returning this season we wouldn’t have gotten Caleb, and as of right now he is turning out to be a chip off the original Colton block which is making for great viewing. This brings us back to people saying…

“Well you shouldn’t bring back a quitter as he was a waste of a spot that should’ve gone to so many other players”.

That’s granted. There are numerous other players wanting a second shot who more than likely wouldn’t have quit. Having said that, nobody knows going into a season what will happen and who will quit. Every single player who has played Survivor goes in thinking they are going to win, not that they are going to quit. If they thought they were going to quit, I’m sure they wouldn’t bother playing. Why would you? There is no point. It seems to be a quick fire excuse for critics to blast Colton as a quitter who quit again, without actually looking at the facts on paper. Colton went in to the game believing he was going to play WITH Caleb rather than AGAINST him. That automatically threw him a curve ball he wasn’t expecting. He then soon found that playing with returning players was no easy feat, and that his old ways wouldn’t work a second time around. His cards fell down, his back was against the wall and his only exit option at the time was to quit. Of course it wasn’t a smart move on paper, but nobody could foresee it happening before the season so is it really appropriate for people to judge him based purely on that fact?


A True Fan Wouldn’t Quit

One of the comments that I saw most frequently on Twitter in the aftermath was “LET ME PLAY, I’M A TRUE FAN AND WOULD NEVER QUIT!” That might be true, and for every superfan out there who wants to play, I’m sure that the majority would go in ready to play and not want to quit. But you just can’t fathom how difficult the circumstances are until you are put in that position. Personally I think I am a massive superfan who would love to play the game. Given a return to an Australian version, I would apply in a heartbeat and be ready to play the game that forms part of my job. Does that make me an automatically good player? Of course not. I know for one that I would struggle with the elements and conditions that are forced upon a player during their time out their playing the game. And it’s a point that is so easily overlooked by a lot of people in modern Survivor. If you were watching Survivor ten years ago, you saw how difficult the game was on a weekly basis. Now it’s rare to even get one mention during a season on how hard the elements really are. When was the last time you saw somebody complaining they were hungry? Couldn’t sleep? Smelled? Looked terrible? Lost weight? The list goes on. It just doesn’t happen anymore. People are so quick to see the ‘strategic’ side of things and forget the ‘survival’ aspect which people can struggle with the most. Colton summed it up perfectly on a tweet during the fallout from his quit:


So one of the biggest Survivor fans out there who finally got his dream to play the game, not once but TWICE can admit to how difficult it is. There is just no way for a fan of Survivor, casual or professional, to judge a contestant quitting unless they have been in the same situation as the person who quit. In no way am I ‘defending’ a person who quits the game, but I’m simply stating that in order to fully understand what a person goes through during their time on the show that than ultimately leads them to quit, you need to have experienced what they have at the same time.



The Worst Player of All Time?

Another thing that was continuously brought up after the Colton quit was people referring to Colton as ‘the worst Survivor player of all time’. That has to be one of the most outlandish assumptions in the history of the show surely? A player who has the audacity and nerve to get an entire tribe to give up Immunity and pull it off, then swap tribes and retain control and only be forced out due to illness, before coming back a second time and quitting automatically makes somebody the worst player? Well, if that is an argument then what do you make of Sue Hawk? No disrespect to Sue at all, as I in no way feel she is even in the conversation when it comes to ‘worst player of all time’. But she is a player who didn’t exactly set the world alight in Borneo who then quit on her second season for emotional reasons. I never hear her name in that conversation though so what is the difference? Yes, I can hear the argument screaming at me now that they are completely different, (SUE NEVER WAS A BULLY, SUE DIDN’T MAKE SLIGHTLY RACIST COMMENTS), but in hindsight are they really? I would by far say Colton played a much better game first time around than Sue ever did despite not making it as far, but there’s a whole other debate. You also have to look at the reputation Colton had coming into Blood vs Water. If say Parvati, Boston Rob or Sandra quit on Day Seven, would there be as much hate blasted at them as there was for Colton? Would Jeff Probst have dared to belittle his beloved Colby or Rob had they chucked in the towel at such an early stage? Extremely doubtful. A person’s reputation will always follow them, but people then are always open to trying to change. Colton went in with that viewpoint and didn’t succeed so it was hard for an already polarising character to change people’s minds on how he played the game. But a contestant is only ever an inch or two away from swaying into moves that will benefit them in the game or completely have people against you. Let’s rewind back to the Australian Outback when Jerri was universally hated by every blood pumping human being who watched Survivor. And back then there were a LOT more people watching then there are now. She has gone on to change her reputation and is now generally liked by most. Will it take a third shot for Colton to redeem himself? Well it’s doubtful that would ever come, but in no way is he even remotely in the league of ‘worst player of all time’ based on his two seasons.



The C Word

No matter what is said in this article or others about Colton, people will always have their opinion of him. For the most part, that will be a negative opinion and everyone is entitled to their opinion of him no matter what side of the fence you sit on. Colton will always be one of those players who will bring rigorous debates on their place in the grand scheme of the Survivor universe. The same group as the likes of Russell Hantz, Phillip Sheppard, Boston Rob and Rupert Boneham. But as often been said on this show by myself and others, there is no right or wrong opinion when it comes to anything to do with Survivor. That’s what makes it such a beautiful show to talk about, argue and discuss every little minute detail until the cows come home. Colton will always be talked about for years to come, but sometimes it takes a wider conversation bracket and opening ones eyes before fully closing your mind up on a player who has brought a great deal into the modern form of Survivor.


Do you agree or disagree with Ben? Comment below and let us know!

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13 Comments on The Emancipation of Colton Cumbie

  1. LOVED THE ARTICLE BEN. I relate it to NaOnka, and we just need a new person to take off the heat of Colton to beat his hate, just like NaOnka had Colton.

  2. Actually, it was Dawn herself that claimed it was her first immunity win in Caramoan…not Jeff.

  3. @Ben Do you think anything will be made if this at the reunion?

    • hard to say, if they do what they did last season then no it’ll be fobbed off and he’ll be in the audience or not there at all. Hopefully that’s not the case and it is brought up. I would like to see Jeff and Colton speak about it

  4. He’s absolutely right about Probst! He never would have blasted his precious B. Rob like he did Colton!

  5. Love the podcast, but you made a lot out if Colton getting pulled from the game, but the doctor was responding to what Colton was telling her it would be very easy to give non-descript explanations of stomache pains. I could not stand Colton on One World well before his racist comments and terrible treatment of his fellow castaways. His treatment just showed what a terrible person he is.

    I was sad when it was announced that he would be playing again and his exit probes that he is an undeserving baby. I’m not going to lie and say ” I would never quit”, but the only reason he quit was because he couldn’t bully the MUCH better players on his tribe. He’s that whiny kid who takes his ball home whe he can’t win.

    I hope they invite everyone back for the finale but him. No one cares about the ,are up excuses he is giving now about taking the target off of Caleb’s back. At the time he was just being a wuss.

  6. I am rewatching One World so I am late to the party, but I think it’s worth giving the Colton saga a second look.

    I’m not really excited either way by the quitter issue, although I think quitting should mean quitting so that you do not return to the jury or possibly even the reunion. I take your point about Dr Ramona and long distance flights, but it is at least equally possible it means only that Colton was continuing to report symptoms for which the doctors in Samoa, including Dr Ramona, could find no explanation so New Zealand seemed the safest thing to do.

    Doctors are trained to accept what their patients tell them and act accordingly. It is possible that Colton’s symptoms were genuine. It is possible they were fabricated. It is also possible that Colton genuinely believed he was in some sort of crisis but that the actual causes were entirely psychosomatic.

    I don’t think Colton was an especially great player and the way he sank like a stone in Blood vs Water confirms my opinion.

    One World was part of a run of seasons where the casting was just not very good. Redemption Island, South Pacific and One World all had out tribes whose basic strategy was doing nothing and fulminating when they reached the jury. Samoa also had 2 medical evacuations, but Mike Borassi frankly should never have been cast. If Cochran’s tribe had not behaved like extras in a remake of Revenge of the nerds he would almost certainly not have flipped and his former tribe mates would have had better things to do than get all bitter and twisted as jurors. A competent industrial psychologist would probably have advised against casting Brandon, but that’s another story. You’d also have to wonder about the rather surprising accident of casting players (Matt and Brandon) in back-to-back seasons who first imploded, then insisted (somewhat unconvincingly) that they weren’t playing the game, while imploring divine aid at each and every chance.

    When production cast Colton i think they were looking for a charming combination of Russell and Cochran. What they got was the worst features of both, Russell’s strategy at all costs and damn the jury play, and Cochran’s tendency to anxiety and entitlement without the intelligence, the self-deprecation or the quirky humour. Colton then fell into a strategic vacuum where the muscle players managed to alienate a majority of their tribe, and the misfit players, apart from Colton, did not enjoy a functioning braincell among them.

    I’ll finish this rather extended comment tomorrow when I address the racism question and the quality of play question.

    • Alan I suggest you listen to both Colton interviews as well as the Caleb interview we did in relation to him being sick vs quitting. Jeff Probst even back tracked and apologised for his comments, knowing he was genuinely sick in OW and didn’t quit

      • I usually don’t follow the metagame too closely, preferring to watch Survivor and call it as I see it. I listened to the interviews when they were first posted and I’ll take your advice and listen to them again.

        Survivor makes such physical and mental demands on people the wonder is that so many make it to 39 days, not that some people find they can’t continue. I’m really not too exercised over whether Colton’s first departure was a medivac or a quit, merely commenting on the argument about moving him to New Zealand.

        Flight time from Samoa to LA is 14 hours 40. Flight time from Samoa to New Zealand is 4 hours 30. You’ve got a patient presenting with severe abdominal pain. Appendicitis can be very hard to diagnose. There is really no choice between a 4 hour 30 flight and one almost 3 times as long.

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