The 115 Funniest Things to Ever Happen on Survivor
#19. Dr. Cesternino and Matthew von Frankenstein
Amazon - Season long storyline
I love this storyline.
Not only is the relationship between Matt and Rob my favorite alliance in Survivor history, I also happen to consider it the funniest pairing of all time. Because when else on the show have you seen a wisecracking college kid hook up with a reputed serial killer? Has there ever been another pairing remotely like that? In any season ever?
And the answer is no, of course not. There's never been a character quite like Matt, and there's never been a character quite like Rob. They hooked up for no reason other than necessity, they somehow became the master team of Survivor: The Amazon, and nearly every single moment they spent together on screen ended up being bona fide comedy gold. The relationship between Rob and Matt ended up being, without a doubt, the heart, soul (and machete) of the spectacular Amazon season.
There are three reasons why this pairing ended up being so damn funny in the long run. Because, sure, there have been other great pairings in other seasons. But none of them could compare to this one. And honestly, I don't even think it is very close. Because while the other great Survivor duos may have been fun to watch, they didn't possess these three attributes, which really put Matt and Rob over the top as my all-time favorites:
A) One person (Rob) was scared to death of the other one
B) The smarter one (Rob) trained the other one so well, that he actually lost control of his creation at the end like Dr. Frankenstein
C) One of them (Matt) was a legitimate crazy person
The brilliant (yet terrified) Rob Cesternino
I loved the fact that Rob was scared to death of his own alliance partner. In fact I loved this subplot so much that Crazy Matt is going to get his very own entry a little bit later. But this entry isn't just about Matt. No, this entry (#19) is specifically dedicated to Rob's alliance with (and creation of) Matthew von Voorhees. And, specifically, the way that Rob "lost control" of his creation at the end of the game. You see, Crazy Matt actually defeated Rob Cesternino at the end of the Survivor season. He did it through methods that Rob himself had taught him throughout the game, and the sheer irony of it all has always been one of my favorite Survivor storyline.
So sit back, relax, and enjoy. The relationship between Dr. Cesternino and Matthew von Frankenstein might take a little while to explain (after all, it developed slowly over 13 episodes!), but it will be well worth it in the end. I promise.
I still can't believe I lost to that spaz!
EPISODE 1: Rob Cesternino and Matthew von Ertfelda arrive at Camp Tambaqui. Neither one of them are particularly significant for the first three days. Rob is the camp goofball, and Matthew is the pretentious camp cook. And both of them are considered to be little more than fringe members of Tambaqui. Both Rob and Matt are far away from the "real" power center of the tribe.
EPISODE 2: In interviews, Rob starts revealing himself as a master Survivor strategist. Oh sure, he might hide behind the persona of being "a goofy kid", but in reality this guy is ready to start cutting some throats. Matthew, on the other hand, seems to be mainly concerned about the fact that the tribe doesn't have proper seasonings or service vessels with which to enjoy the culinary masterpieces he has been preparing. Matt doesn't seem to realize that there is actually a game of Survivor going on around him.
It's possible that Rob and Matt have not actually spoken to one another at this point in the game. I'm not even sure what they would have said to one another.
Rob talking about who he wants to vote out
Matt explaining why cardamom is the superior dinner spice
EPISODE 3: This is where things start to get interesting. For starters, Rob makes his first comment about oddball Matt in this episode. Rob says that Matt is "weird and pretentious." Then, at the end of the episode, Matt's best (and only) friend, Daniel, is voted out of the game. And suddenly Matt is left all alone. He is no longer just the oddball cook of Camp Tambaqui. Now he's the oddball cook with no friends. And he's teamed up against five other Tambaquis who don't like him and don't particularly want him around.
Oh yeah, and to make matters worse, it's possible that Matt still doesn't realize the game of Survivor has actually started. He seems unaware that any strategy is going on around him at all. So this is the point in the game where things are looking especially bleak for our oblivious Richard Kiel-esque man-child.
Rob making fun of Matt in episode three. He calls him "weird and pretentious."
Matthew seems alarmed when Daniel is voted out at the end of episode three. "Why are the humans voting out Matthew's friends? Why humans do this to Matthew? Matthew smash humans! Argh!"
EPISODE 4: This really should have been Matthew's boot episode. But, instead, Matt suddenly finds a way to redeem himself and make the tribe want him to stick around. See, Matthew decides he's going to become the camp fisherman. And this strategy winds up paying off in dividends. Because not only is Matthew suddenly seen as "valuable", he almost single-handedly wins immunity for the Tambaquis in the Piranha fishing immunity challenge. All of a sudden Matthew is king for the day. And he gets an unexpected stay of execution when Jaburu has to attend the last Tribal Council prior to the twist instead.
Also noteworthy in this episode is a scene where Rob actually gives Matt a high-five. It is the first actual moment of physical contact between the two. Happily, it will not be the last.
Matthew discussing his plans to become the tribe fisherman
Matthew celebrating his first big catch. Meanwhile, the humans gather around him in awe and admiration.
Rob tells us that it will be a lot harder to vote Matt out now that he's the fisherman. Maybe they should let him stick around for a few more days instead?
The actual high-five. Note that Matt's arm is roughly the same size as Rob's torso. Immediately after this picture was taken, Rob quickly yanked his hand away before Matt could chew it off at the wrist.
EPISODE 5: The twist! Jeff Probst announces that Dave and Jenna will be picking new teams, the boys are now going to be mixed with the girls, and that's pretty much it for the Tambaqui alliance. Rob and Matt are sent over to live at Jaburu (along with Alex), and Rob now has to think about changing his alliance plans in this game. Now he might actually have to start talking to Matt once in a while.
By the way, note that Matt is the very last player picked in the "new player draft." This isn't an accident.
Jenna picking her team. Note the sad little "Matthew" tile stuck on the end. Nobody wanted Crazy Matt on their tribe.
Rob's stunned face when he realizes that Matt is now living with him
I can't believe that freak is gonna be in my alliance!
Here come the boys to live with us! Here come Rob and Alex! Yay!
Oh, is Matthew here too? Shit.
I cannot believe Matthew von Ertfelda is now on my tribe.
EPISODE 6: This is the episode where Rob starts playing the game, hard. First, he makes an alliance with Deena (the alpha female of Jaburu) and they vow to work together all the way to the end of the game. Rob tells Deena that he desperately wants to get rid of Matthew, but for right now they need the guy because he actually knows how to catch fish. So Matthew is off the chopping block. For now. Rob says it won't be for very long though.
Rob's alliance chat with Deena. "I would like to get rid of Matthew. He annoys me to death, but I'm gonna have to suck it up and get over it. Cause we're gonna need him for a while."
"As soon as he stops catching fish, or as soon as he stops doing what we tell him to do, he's out."
Rob's next plan of attack is to bring Matt into an "alliance" and start stringing the guy along as an extra vote. Rob doesn't particularly want to do this, but he realizes that A) Matthew is no threat whatsoever because he always has his head up his butt, and B) Matthew will just be happy that somebody is actually talking to him for a change. So Rob starts telling Matt fake stories about how the vote is going to go down, just so Matt will feel like he's actually a part of things for a change.
Rob's first "strategy" talk with The Creature
Matt, of course, buys Rob's friendship act hook, line, and sinker. "It seemed like a real genuine offer."
Rob can't believe how naive this guy is. "Matthew has no idea that he's being played by myself. The guy is... uh... a complete idiot. And has no concept of what's going on in this game around him."
EPISODE 7: Rob seemingly has the game under control by this point. The tribes have merged, everybody has come together to live in bliss and harmony... and this is where Matt starts acting really, really weird. The rest of the players might have considered Matt to be strange and a bit out-of-touch with reality before, but after the merge they suddenly start honestly being afraid of the guy.
Well mostly because all Matt does is sit there and sharpen his machete. Slowly. And then stare blankly off into space. Needless to say, it creeps the other players out when he does this.
Matt sharpening his killing knife
Matt's blank stare into nothingness
Christy says it best. "Matt's cweepy. He's cweepy."
Is this "machete sharpening" all just a big act by Matt? Is he "acting crazy" just so the other players will be afraid of him and not want to vote him off? Or he is genuinely starting to lose his mind out in the jungle? Nobody seems to know for sure. In fact, all Rob knows is that he's now frightened by his new bestest buddy alliance partner. All of a sudden, Rob realizes he's very much genuinely afraid of the guy.
"He sits and sharpens the machete for an hour at a time. Why does he need the machete so sharp? I think he's gonna kill us. I'm afraid that when he is voted off, he's gonna take the machete and kill us after the vote."
Needless to say, Matt is going to be safe for a few more days. The rest of the Jacares aren't going to do anything that might in some way anger the guy.
EPISODE 8: Rob can't believe the situation he has somehow gotten himself into. Because on one hand, Matt will do anything Rob tells him to do. In many ways, Matt is like Rob's little pet dog. But on the other hand, Matt is going to slaughter Rob once he realizes how badly Rob has been playing him. So Rob seems to have gotten himself into quite a little dangerous pickle. And he's not exactly sure what he's going to do about it.
Tell me again... why did I make an alliance with a potential serial killer?
Despite the warning signs, Rob decides to keep up the premise that he and Matt are actually friends. And even though he lies constantly, Rob inadvertently starts teaching Matt how to play the game of Survivor. He starts giving The Creature strategy lessons. And he develops in The Creature an ability to start thinking about the game on Its own.
"I really appreciate and value my relationship with Rob. He's taught me a lot. And he's also a great guy."
"To keep Matthew from turning on "The Five", I need him to believe that he has a different deal going on than the actual one he has. So I've come up with this big story about how Matthew, Alex and I are going to be the final three. In reality I would like to get rid of Matt the sooner, the better, because I am taking my life into my hands with the amount of lies I am telling him, just to keep him happy."
EPISODE 9: Rob finally figures out a way to keep Crazy Matthew busy. In order to make Matthew feel "important", Rob comes up with the idea of "The Chain." This involves Rob telling Matt how the next vote is going to go down, and Matt being responsible for "relaying" this information to Butch when the time is right. Rob turns Matt into a secret agent, and Matt could not be more thrilled about it. But alas, poor Matt. He doesn't seem to realize that this is just a big sham. Rob has never actually told him the truth yet at any point in this game. All Rob wants to do is keep Matt far away from the actual truth.
"Every morning I give Matt a debriefing on the wild goose chases I want him to work on for the day, just to keep his mind busy, so he doesn't really have any chance to figure out what's actually going on."
Matt like The Chain! Matt like!! Matt like!!
Matt takes his new "secret agent" role extremely seriously (which always kills me). As Matt explains to us later in a confessional, "I'm Butch's link to what's happening. I told him that I will decide when we speak. I will initiate all communication. I'll decide how much information he gets. I am his lifeline."
Butch explains to us how "The Chain" is going to work
Meanwhile, back at camp, Rob is making fun of this latest development, and laughing at Matt in front of the rest of the tribe. "I told him 'this is very highly confidential. bwahahaha.'"
Even though Matt is treated like a big joke all throughout this episode, this also happens to be the most pivotal moment in the game for him. Because two things happen towards the end of episode nine that will have major repercussions down the road. For everyone involved.
A) Rob tells Matt that he needs to start throwing challenges, otherwise the other players will start seeing him as too big a physical threat.
The archery challenge that Rob desperately tries to get Matt to throw
B) The bigger development, however, is that Deena starts getting greedy with her power around camp. So Rob winds up turning the vote against Deena at the end of episode nine, instead of the otherwise-intended target, Matthew.
So Matthew is unknowingly spared at Tribal Council at the end of episode nine. He lives to fight another day, and he'll take the lesson that Rob taught him (about why you should throw challenges) with him all the way to the end of the game.
It probably wasn't the best idea for Rob to have taught him about that, by the way...
EPISODE 10: As if the Deena vote hadn't been shocking enough, now we have another unexpected turn of events in the very next episode. And this one is even bigger!
Alex Bell (Rob's best friend) suddenly gets very cocky and makes a very critical strategic mistake. Because during an early morning chat session, Alex tells Rob that he's going to vote Rob out at the final four. And this sends Rob into a panic. Now the Amazonian mastermind is legitimately spooked. Rob suddenly realizes that he can no longer let Alex get to the final four. And that means that Rob will have to find a new final two partner, and quick.
So who does he turn to?
That's right, he runs right over to the creepy guy who thought he had been Rob Cesternino's friend all along! And this is where Rob and Matt make their real final two pact, for good.
Alex makes the mistake of saying he'll vote Rob out at the final four
Panicked, Rob now goes to Matt. Rob needs a new final two ally, so that means he has to tell Matt the truth. And he tells Matt everything. He explains how he tried to play Matt early on. He explains that the whole concept of "The Chain" was pure B.S. And now Rob wants to make a legitimate final two pact with Matt to the very end.
This conversation makes The Creature happy. "Rob can be very underhanded, but I appreciated his honesty. And I appreciated what he had to say."
So what happens at the end of episode ten? Well, Matt is spared for the second episode in a row (this time by winning immunity.) Alex receives a very unexpected backstab boot at Tribal Council. And Rob is suddenly locked in an ironclad Final Two deal with the player that he never thought would be here.
Did I just make a final two deal with Crazy Matt? DEAR GOD, DID I??
EPISODE 11: Rob may have made a final two deal with Matthew, but this is the episode where Rob suddenly realizes he may have severely underestimated his "idiotic" protege. Because this is the episode where Matt really starts to take over the game.
First off, Matt starts strategizing with Butch on how they can get the two of themselves to the endgame. Rob isn't aware that Matt is doing this, of course, because Rob has taught his protege very well along the way. Rob has no idea that Matt actually knows how to play the game of Survivor now.
The Creature is alive! The Creature lives!
Secondly, Alex being out of the game means that Matt is nearly unbeatable in the challenges now. He just has no more physical competition. And that's why Matt starts to dominate. By the way, this problem (Matt will never lose a challenge) is an eventuality that mastermind Cesternino had never actually accounted for. He never actually planned for the fact that Matt might actually be unbeatable over the last couple of episodes.
But the third thing that happens in this episode (and the one that really pisses Rob off) is when Matt gives away his family visit at the reward challenge. Matt wins the challenge (as he always does), Matt gives away a visit from his mother just so everybody else can have one instead, and Matt suddenly wins a lot of brownie points with the other members of the tribe. And all of a sudden, he is no longer "that crazy machete guy." After this moment, Matt now turns into "that super nice guy who gave us a family visit." Amazingly, the other players are actually now raving about Matt because, after all, he's just such a nice guy!
Matt gives away his reward in the family visit challenge, just so everybody else can win the reward instead
The new hero of the Jacare tribe!
Like I said, Rob could not be more pissed about this latest development in the game, because it shows that Matt is a much stronger player than Rob originally gave him credit for. And now Rob's whole tone towards The Creature changes. Now Rob starts talking about Matt like he's the biggest threat in the game. Now Rob starts getting all pissy towards his one-time naive, idiotic little protege.
"Come on, everybody would have done that. It's not like this guy is the patron saint of reward challenges."
"You want to stand at the end next to a guy who's more disagreeable than yourself. I thought that I'd be able to beat him because he's a spaz, but now I'm not so sure. I may have to cut him off before the final two."
Because of Rob's paranoia, Matt once again becomes a potential target at the end of episode eleven. His head is once again (unknowingly) up on the chopping block.
Once again, Matt should have been gone this episode. Because if you spook Cesternino, you normally don't live to see another vote. That's just Survivor: The Amazon 101. But, amazingly, Matt ends up being spared yet again (for the third episode in a row!) when another player winds up making a suicidal mistake. This time the mistake is made by Christy. She tells Rob that she's not sure who she's going to vote off, this sends Rob into a paranoid tailspin, and Christy ends up being the third ally in a row that Rob blindsides right out of the game.
So Christy pays the price for her strategic mistake. And guess who just waltzed his way into the final five?
EPISODE 12: Rob has officially lost all control of this game. Oh sure he may appear to be in charge on paper, but Rob is no longer the single biggest threat left in this game. Matt has far surpassed him in terms of a player who's stealthily (and dangerously) creeping his way towards that final vote.
First off, Matt wins the reward challenge (yet again). Matt wins a picnic barbecue. He takes Rob along as his best friend in the game, and this is where Matt confirms to us that he's a much savvier player than he has been letting on. Matt shows us that the lessons of Master Cesternino have been learned, and memorized, to perfection. Rob may have thought that Matt was a joke. He may have thought he was messing with the mind of a doofus. But Rob never realized that what he was actually doing was teaching. All he was doing was teaching a Survivor class to a formidable Survivor opponent.
By this point, there's no way Dr. Cesternino can stop the Frankenstein Monster anymore. It's grown far too powerful for him (or for anybody) to get in its way..
Rob and Matt on their final picnic lunch
"I learned the game through Rob. And he learned survival skills through watching me. He helped me a lot initially, and I'm helping him a lot now."
This is the quote that would have stunned Cesternino if he had ever heard it. "I've crafted very strong relationships with Rob and Butch. And as far as they know, I'm going to the final two with each of them."
Of course, there's no chance to vote Matt out at the final five, because Matt wins immunity yet again. It's too late to stop The Creature now! It's going to the final four, and there's no way you are going to stop it!
EPISODE 13 (FINALE): Rob thinks he still has control of the game, but he's wrong. This game has completely passed him by at this point. And when Jenna wins immunity at the final four, Rob's time in this game is essentially over. There are literally no more moves he can possibly make.
Especially when Matt starts cutting deals with Jenna like a Survivor pro.
A very wet Jenna Morasca wins immunity at the final four
Matt immediately cuts a deal with her, offering to take her to the final two over Butch or Rob. Bet Rob didn't see this move coming.
Matt makes a final two deal with Jenna, and that's game, set and match for Master Cesternino. Because while Rob still thinks Matt can get the two of them to the end of the game, all that hope is dashed when Matt throws the final three immunity challenge. Matt throws the challenge, Rob is left dangling in the wind, and when Jenna wins immunity that is lights out.
Sorry Mr. Cesternino. You just got played by your very own "clueless" protege.
Matthew von Ertfelda just pulled a Richard Hatch on you, son.
Matt (left) steps down to throw the final three immunity challenge. Just like Rob taught him how to do a few episodes ago.
Dr. Frankenstein is no more. The Creature saved the best lesson he learned for last.
And guess who ends up being the final two
So that's the story of Rob (the mastermind) and his unstoppable creation, Matthew von Ertfelda. It's a story of hubris. It's a story of pride. It's a story of needless paranoia. And it's the story of a really, really sharp machete.
And okay, sure, Matthew may not have won the final vote. I think he should have, but I understand why he didn't. If the other players think you're a spaz for 30 days, nothing you do in the last 9 is going to change their minds. And a jury has every right to vote the way they think is correct. No arguments here, the right person won.
But the fact that Matthew von Ertfelda ended up in the final two, while God's gift to Survivor Rob Cesternino didn't, well I don't see how anyone wouldn't be able to see the humor in that. That's just funny. Especially when Rob taught Matt every single lesson he needed to learn along the way.
Rob's faithful idiot manservant actually beat him in the game of Survivor.
It doesn't get much more fitting or ironic than that.
I still can't believe I lost to that guy!
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