The 115 Funniest Things to Ever Happen on Survivor
#24. The Fall of
Chip Silas Gaither
Africa - episodes 1-5
Hi, I'm Silas. I suck!
Like I said in my disclaimer (above), Silas' storyline in Africa was so perfect, and so unbelievably fitting, that it's almost impossible to believe it wasn't scripted. At the time, I couldn't believe a character arc could be so absolutely perfect on a reality show. I couldn't believe a character this irritating could get such a brutal comeuppance. Silas was on top of the world one minute, he walked head-on into the first twist in Survivor history, and he was voted out of the game the very same episode. It was the most shocking storyline we had ever seen up to that point (season 3) and I've always been amazed that Silas never filed a lawsuit over how badly he got screwed by the producers.
Yep, they really bent me over a log with that twist. And I have to say it actually kind of hurt.
I mean think about it. Some producer looked cross-eyed at Stacey Stillman during Borneo... and... bam! Immediate lawsuit. Yet Silas completely got screwed by the first ever Survivor twist, and he didn't even bitch about it. The producers switched up the tribes at the exact moment Silas was in complete control of the game, they completely sabotaged him at the absolute apex of his power, and he never even said a word about it. Silas never complained, Silas never cried foul... heck, the guy even raved about how awesome the game was in his final words! And for a player to be okay with how badly he just got screwed, well I always had a lot of respect for Silas afterwards. He never whined, he never complained, and I turned into a big Silas Gaither fan because of the way he handled everything. In fact, Silas' magnanimous behavior after the show was also the reason why I lobbied so hard to use him as a character in my second All-Star story (All-Star Survivor: Alaska). You see, none of the other writers wanted anything to do with Silas, and most of the readers hated him with a passion. But I didn't care. I lobbied hard for Silas to be in the story, I tried to give him a good storyline in Alaska, and I was particularly proud I was able to use him. I've always thought the world owed him a second chance after how badly he got screwed by the producers back in Africa.
I hate twists. Twists bad!
Anyway, just keep all this in mind when you read the following entry about Silas. It may seem like I'm making fun of him, but to this day he is one of my guilty choice selections as "favorite Survivors." I may have hated the Silas Gaither experience when it was going on, but in time I have actually started to appreciate the guy. In time he has turned into one of my favorite parts of Survivor: Africa<. So when I make fun of Silas in this entry, please realize that I am actually talking about one of my favorite players. I am literally doing it out of love. Oh, why must we always hurt the ones that we love? Why? Why?? WHY?
Why's Mario makin' fun of me? Damnit, Ethan, why?
For starters, you have to love the fact that Silas' nickname is "Chip." I mean, who has the nickname Chip nowadays? That's such an odd thing to be called in the 21st century. The only things I ever hear referred to as "Chip" anymore are either:
A) Sitcom characters from the 1950's
B) Small wafer-thin slices of potato (or corn)
C) Casino gambling tokens
D) British french fries
E) Small things inside a computer
or F) Cow crap
And as far as I can tell, Silas "Chip" Gaither aint any of them.
"Silas is a lot of things. But he aint no potato chip. Ha ha ha ha ha."
From what I have read, apparently Silas Gaither was nicknamed "Chip" because of his amateur boxing career. You see, Silas was a boxer back in Tennessee. And not only was Silas a boxer, but his dad used to be a boxer too. And since Silas reminded a lot of people of his old man, people said he was "a chip off the old block." Hence the nickname "Chip." See, don't say you didn't learn anything from this countdown.
So here comes Chip Gaither to apply for Survivor. And right away he must have been a shoo-in to be cast on the show. Because Silas... er... Chip... was everything they were looking for in a castaway, and more. He was handsome. He was intelligent. He was well-spoken. He was physically enormous (look at those arms!) And, most importantly, Silas was already living in Los Angeles, trying to make it in the world as a bartender/wanna-be actor. And as we all know, Survivor can NEVER have enough bartender/wanna-be Hollywood actors. So Silas/Chip was probably cast right there on the spot. He was going to be the alpha male of the new Samburu Tribe in Survivor: Africa. He was going to be the Colby Donaldson of the Africa season. And I have to think the producers expected big things from the guy right from the start.
Colby version 2.0
Almost from the start, however, I think the producers realized there was something a little bit "off" about Silas. There was just something about him that wasn't quite right. But what was it? Was the fact that nobody actually knew what to call him? I remember reading a really funny quote once by Jeff Probst regarding this topic, and how nobody was sure what Silas' name was supposed to be. Probst said something in an interview like, "So we cast this kid, Chip, on the show. And then the first day he shows up and tells us he wants to be called "Silas". And I was like, okay, sure, whatever."
Silas Gaither (left) and Chip Gaither (right)
(Note: The "Chip/Silas" name issue was never really explored to its full extent on the show, but there were a few mentions of it here and there if you happened to be paying attention. At one point (in episode four) Linda tells us that she doesn't trust Silas at all. There's something strange behind his eyes, she has no idea what's going through his head... and then she adds that she doesn't even know what his name is supposed to be. And then later (in episode four), one of the Samburus casts a vote for Silas at Tribal Council, writing "Silas a.k.a. Chip" on their ballot. This is supposed to be a dig at his dual name usage, and Silas actually takes offense to it the next morning in a confessional. He angrily tells us "Oh, they set my ass up. With an a.k.a.!" So there did happen to be a few "Silas/Chip" jokes during the season, even if it wasn't explained to us all that well. I bet there would have been a lot more if Silas had actually stuck around for a few more episodes.)
The episode four vote for "Silas aka Chip."
So anyway, here comes Chip, or Silas, or whoever, to play Survivor. And right away he is thrust into the ageism divide that plagues the early days of Camp Samburu. The older players hate the youngsters, the younger players hate the elders, and smack dab in the middle is our friend ChipSilas. He's the swing vote of the tribe almost from the very start, both sides are actively vying for his vote at Tribal Council, and right off the bat he has more power than he probably really knows what to do with.
Carl and the elders making a play for Chip's allegiance
So which way does Silas decide to turn?
Does he vote alongside the pushy older players, and take the bratty kids out of the game? Or does he take his chances with the annoying younger Mallrats of Samburu, and take the insufferable old people out of the game?
Well, I think we all know which direction he decided to go:
Ha ha! Fuck you, old people!
Silas voted out older alpha male Carl at the end of episode three, and that is where the SilasChip Gaither experience truly began. Because with Carl out of the picture, and the old people screaming for mercy under his iron rule, Silas was now officially the master of the Samburu tribe. The older people had no choice but to do everything he said, the younger people looked up to him like a Roman god, and Silas was suddenly thrust into the enviable position of "Survivor deity." The entire game now bended and buckled under his mighty Olympian rule.
Silas laying down the law after Carl was voted out. This is what we're gonna do, and this is how we're gonna do it.
(Note: I always like comparing Silas to an ancient god, for several reasons: A) Because he was enormous. B) Because he was unbeatable in challenges. C) Because he was a natural born leader. And D) Because like Hermes/Mercury, Poseidon/Neptune, and Artemis/Diana, Silas/Chip also had a Greek and a Roman name. Not bad for a kid from Tennessee!)
The god of smug
With Carl out of the game for good, Silas now called all the shots. He controlled every aspect of this game, he had the wonderfully insane spitfire Lindsey Richter as his second-in-command, and this suddenly catapulted him into the stratosphere in terms of cockiness.
You thought Silas was cocky and confident before he took over the tribe? Heh. We hadn't seen nothin' yet! Because this is the point in the game where Silas decided to dust off Richard Hatch's old "I'm the winner, I win the million dollars" quote from the first season. He actually sat down and gave us this confessional very early on in the game:
"You might as well write the check and hand it to me."
Silas played the Richard Hatch card. Silas publicly stated that he was the winner of the million dollars. And the sound you immediately heard was a million voices crying out from Planet Alderaan. Because when Silas publicly vowed that he was the winner of the million dollars, all you heard was a million Survivor fans screaming one simple, little word, all at the exact same time around the world...
Silas winning Africa? Are you shitting me? This doofus was going to be the third winner of the most intense and cunning strategy game known to man? This big grinning sleaze bag was going to walk away with a million dollar check, just like Richard Hatch? A boxer who goes by the name of Chip?? Nooooooooooooo!!!
Come on, America. You know you loved me. Just admit it.
I can't begin to describe how horrifying it was when people realized that Silas was probably going to win Survivor. There was mass hysteria in the streets. Children named Silas (or Chip) were beaten in schools. President George W. Bush raised the DEFCON level to a then-unheard-of level 2 like in Wargames. Silas winning? SILAS CHIP GAITHER WAS GOING TO WIN SURVIVOR?! WTF?
Vote for Silas. And then eat me.
Why was Silas so irritating, anyway? I mean... on paper the guy wasn't all that different from Colby. And Colby remains one of the most beloved male Survivors of all time. But, then again, Colby didn't have an irritating little cocky smirk on his face 24/7, which you can't really say about ChipSilas. Maybe this smug little grin is the reason why people hated Silas so much back in the day:
Yep, that's the one.
It was either the smirk, or the fact that Silas willingly aligned himself with Lindsey. One of those two things must have done it. Because Lindsey was probably even more hated than Silas, if that was possible. And the combination of King Silas and Queen Lindsey together, ruling the game in absolute power? Inconceivable!
Silas and his sidekick/crazy person, Lindsey
So this is where we stood at the end of episode three. Chip Gaither was in complete control of the Samburus, he was almost universally disliked by Survivor fans around the world, and it's safe to say that the elder members of Samburu probably couldn't stand his guts. They all felt Silas had betrayed them, and they would do anything they could to make sure this kid wasn't going to win the game,
But do you know the most amazing part of the Silas story in episodes four and five? The amazing thing is that he actually got more irritating than he previously had been before. As if that was even possible! Once Silas took power over Samburu for good, oh baby, this is where we saw a whole new level of cocky smarm. This is where the Silas Gaither legend was officially born.
First, Silas took on the role of football coach. Whenever he wanted to speak to the rest of his tribe, he would walk to the center of camp Samburu, hit a knee, and ask the rest of the tribe to gather around him. And then he would deliver his strategic advice.
The elders really hated when he did this, by the way.
Coach Silas, calling the shots
And what was ChipSilas's first strategic advice to give to the rest of the tribe? Well, he decided that the older members of the tribe needed to "assist" the younger ones so that either Silas, Brandon, Lindsey or Kim could win this game. Silas knew that the elder members of Samburu were angry and more than a little bit bitter about the way they had been treated, but he implored them to "look past that". You shouldn't just think of yourselves, he told them, you should be thinking about the future success of the team, damnit! So work with me on this strategy, please!
What happened next was possibly the ballsiest move I've ever seen in the history of the world. Because not only did Silas try to get the elders to work with the younger four, he actually tried to tell the elder members how to vote!
Silas stood before the elders of the tribe, he asked them to pile their votes onto Lindsey at the next Tribal Council, and he did it with that big irritating smile on his face at the same time. Um, gosh, it really would help us kids out if we could make sure only Lindsey had prior votes going into the merge. So could you old guys, you know, play ball here and put aside your anger just for a few minutes? And just all vote the way that we ask you to vote? Please?
Silas asking the older players to all vote for Lindsey
Frank making fun of Silas's stupid request
I will tell you I was practically rolling on the floor when Silas actually tried to tell the elders how they should vote. I mean, I couldn't believe that request would actually come out of someone's mouth. Who does this kid think he is?? And (naturally) the elders didn't like it. The elders would never give in to a Silas request, they all wanted nothing more than to wipe that cocky little smirk off his face. So, collectively, they decided to stick it to him at the next Tribal Council, just to make a point. Instead of voting for Lindsey, all three Samburu elders cast a vote for Silas. Just to make sure he'd lose a future tiebreaker. And this was the biggest slap in the face they ever could have given him.
Linda casting a spite vote
Jeff revealing Frank's vote for "Silas aka Chip."
The funniest thing about this moment was the fact that Silas actually seemed to be -surprised- when he got three votes at Tribal Council. I don't know how he didn't see it coming, but he actually seemed to be shocked. Shocked. And pissed!
Angry Silas, with the Tom Cruise grin of fury
(Note: When Silas got particularly angry, he didn't like to show it. So rather than get pissed off in front of everybody, he would just smile extra wide. I always call this the "Tom Cruise" look, because Tom Cruise does the exact same thing in movies. Whenever he's furious about something, he just smiles extra wide and gets a crazy intense look in his eyes. And you can see in the picture above that Silas does the exact< same thing.)
Linda is voted out at the end of episode four, and Silas laughs at her on the way out. Note that the Tom Cruise grin of fury is still there.
So Linda was gone. And Silas now had three votes against him. And this is where things started to get particularly ugly. Because Silas may have been in complete control of the game (at least on paper), but he had completely burned all his bridges with the older members of Samburu. And, frustrated, he then had it out with them the minute he got back to Camp Samburu.
Silas yelling at Teresa and Frank for throwing three votes at him just for revenge
Silas was rapidly veering out of control by this point, but he still really wasn't all that worried. He may have lost control of the elder members of his tribe, but he was still unconcerned that they could actually do anything about it. And this is where he sat down for his most famous confessional of the game. This is the quote that would forever dictate the way that Survivor editors portray someone who is about to take a fall:
"There's not an event in the future that would alarm me."
Silas had no idea that a twist was coming up right around the corner. He had no idea that the producers were about to throw him the most confounding curveball in the history of the game (up to that point.) No, Silas just sat back and told us that there was no way anybody (even the producers) could stop him.
Silas was confident.
Silas was cocky.
And Silas never saw it coming.
Episode five was the famous "twist" episode in Survivor: Africa, where the players were forced to swap tribes for the first time ever in the show's history. Silas walked right into the twist, Jeff Probst tossed him a new yellow Boran buff, and Silas's collision course with wackiness was now complete.
The doomed prisoner, walking off to meet his fate over on Boran.
The minute Chip "Silas" Gaither walked over to join the Boran tribe, you knew his time in the game was essentially over. Because Ethan didn't want him there. Clarence didn't want him there. Kim Johnson couldn't stand him. Silas had walked right in to an inescapable deathtrap.
"Hi, I'm Ethan. Don't unpack."
Oh yeah, and on top of that, Frank and Teresa (Silas's mortal enemies) now happened to be members of Boran as well. So that made it five people over here who couldn't stand Silas's guts. Five people, all on the same tribe, stacked five-to-one against our friend the Chipmeister. And he knew his situation was now hopeless.
The Tom Cruise grin appears again
It was no surprise at all when Boran threw the next immunity challenge. They threw the challenge, they gang-banged Silas with five votes at Tribal Council, and they didn't shed a tear as they booted his smarmy ass right out of the game.
Silas went from top of the world, to a unanimous bootee. And it happened in the span of one episode.
Boran throws the challenge in the background, while Silas works frantically to win it all by himself
A dejected Silas sits forlornly at Tribal Council, awaiting his fate
So why was Silas's fall so funny?
Well for one because it was so dang abrupt. I've never seen a player go from so high to so low in one single episode. He literally went from the most powerful player, to the least powerful player, and it happened in the blink of an eye. There was no way it possibly could have happened any faster.
Did Silas deserve what he got? Well on one hand I can't think of a cockier, more irritating player from the first three seasons (and yes that's including Jerri AND Lindsey). So in terms of cosmic karma you're damn right he got what he deserved. His downfall was really one of the most satisfying moments I can think of in Survivor history. It was really just the way his storyline was supposed to go. No other outcome really would have felt right.
But on the other hand, the twist was completely unfair. It came out of nowhere, it completely decimated a guy who had the entire game in the palm of his hand, and Silas really had very little to do with it. He was just a victim of fate. A very deserving victim, mind you, but it doesn't take away from the fact that the producers absolutely screwed him.
By the way, if this screwing had happened to any other character besides Silas, there would have been holy hell to pay. If Ethan... or T-Bird... or Big Tom... or Jessie had been the victim of the twist, you wouldn't have been able to count the number of viewers who would have written the network in protest. But since it was Silas? Meh, no big deal. With Silas, the audience seemed to be okay with it.
And I still say the producers got lucky it happened to him. Anybody else, and there really might have been some lawsuits coming out of it. The producers were lucky Silas never seemed to hold much of a grudge.
Silas's final words: "I'd play the game tomorrow, I'd play it next year. It's unreal!"
So that's it. That's the fate of Silas "Chip" Gaither. Like I said in my intro, it was hilarious the way it went down, and I've always admired the fact that Silas never seemed to be all that upset about it. He praised the game in his final words, he never had a harsh word to say about anything or anybody, and by all rights he seemed like a very genuine, very sincere person when he was interviewed during the reunion show. He really did seem like a very nice guy.
I have to say I've done a flip-flop on Silas over the years. Like I said earlier, I'm actually a big Silas fan by now. And I was thrilled to actually see him pop up in a car commercial in the summer of 2006. Yes siree, that's Silas "Chip" Gaither on TV again, selling a car, and I have to say I'm very happy for him. I've always felt that Silas truly didn't get what he deserved (even though he was an annoying little turd on the show). And I really hope he actually reads this someday.
So anyway, here's to Silas Gaither, the guy who was screwed worse than any other player in the history of the show. He was the first victim of the twist, he was the first guy to look like an idiot for "promising" that he'd win (and then fail to do so), and he was also one of my guilty-pleasure favorite players of all time.
Even if his downfall was the 24th funniest moment in Survivor history...
P.S. There was one moment in Africa where I actually felt for SilasChip (I know, hard to believe). Because after he came to Boran, Silas was so completely out gunned that his attempts to save himself were just downright embarrassing. He couldn't tell a lie to save his life, none of his stories came even close to matching up, and Ethan basically toyed with him just for the sake of making the big guy look dumb. See below:
Ethan messing with Silas before the fateful vote
Silas trying to strike some sort of a deal
The moment that was particularly sad (and almost heartbreaking in a way) was a scene in which Boran all sat around the campfire and talked about how bad things had been over at Samburu. Teresa and Frank told the Borans everything that Silas had been up to, they basically trashed him right to his face, and we got a very poignant shot of Silas standing off to one side, his back to the tribe, as everybody else on Boran laughed and made fun of him. And even if you did hate Silas, you had to admit this was a particularly pathetic sight. Silas was at absolutely his lowest point in the game right here:
Chip needs a hug
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