The 115 Funniest Things to Ever Happen on Survivor
#38. He's fat, but he's good
Borneo - Multiple Episodes
Rudy Boesch is known for a lot of things in Survivor, but in my mind his top Survivor legacy is his relationship with Richard Hatch in Borneo. Because no matter what you thought of the guy, or what you thought of his repeated use of the word "queer", you have to admit that the Rudy/Rich partnership was one of the most memorable moments of the first season. In fact, if you look at their backgrounds on paper, Rich and Rudy were easily one of the most memorable (and unlikely) Survivor pairings of all time.
Rudy Boesch, esteemed Navy Seal
Richard Hatch, fat naked guy
Rudy Boesch came to Borneo as a grizzled old Navy Seal with ice water in his veins and possibly the most narrow scope of the world we have ever seen in a Survivor contestant. He knew military things, he knew how to survive in the wild... and really that was pretty much all he brought to the Tagi tribe. He really had no way to relate to his younger tribemates, he had no idea what they were talking about half the time, and really he wasn't all that interested in getting to know them. For the most part the rest of Tagis seemed to annoy him to no end, and it was clear early on that Rudy wasn't going to get very far in the game of Survivor. In a social game where you had to learn to get along with people, Rudy just wasn't meant to be all that successful. He really had no idea how to relate to non-military people.
But Rudy's most prominent trait at the start of the Borneo (and the one that most people remember) was the fact that he didn't want to be on a tribe with any gay people. He didn't like gays, he didn't want to be around them, and he had his gaydar working overtime from day one. Rudy knew that there were going to be gay people on his tribe, he tried to ferret them out from the moment he started the game, and it really defined his character at the start of the season. Rudy's number one priority in Borneo was to find out who the "queers" were on his tribe.
How do I know all this? Easy, because Mark Burnett wrote about it in his book summarizing the first season. Burnett wrote that Rudy had been tipped off by the producers that there were gay people in the cast, and Rudy spent the first few days of the game just trying to figure out who they were. That seemed to be all he really cared about.
So was Rudy just a big homophobe? Well it's hard to say because he had such a narrow and specific military background. I mean, even though he was 72, it's possible he had never met an uncloseted gay person in his entire life. And I'm almost -positive- he had never been camping with one. So Rudy got labeled as a homophobe and a bigot right off the bat, partly because he didn't want to be on a tribe with a "queer", and partly because he was so blunt and honest in telling people about it.
Oh, and the fact that he described one of his favorite singers as "Perry Homo" certainly didn't help.
Enjoys Perry Homo
So one hand you have Rudy Boesch, a 72-year old Navy Seal who was obsessed with the fact that people on his tribe were gay. And on the other hand you had Richard Hatch, a 40-year old corporate trainer who was openly gay, was quite eager in wanting to talk about his lifestyle, and also had a penchant for walking around naked.
In other words, this was an alliance pairing that never really should have happened. Yet for some odd reason, it did. Watch and see...
"Hey Rudy, have you ever rimmed out a twink before?"
Episode 1: Rudy doesn't yet know that Richard is gay, because Richard is wise enough to hide this fact from people so early in the game. And the tactic works, because Richard is the first member of Tagi that actually impresses people with his ability to lead. Rudy knows right away that Rich should be the tribe's leader, and he tells us so in the most memorable (and blunt) quote of the first episode:
"The guy surprises me. You know, he's fat... but he's good"
Episode 2: Richard comes out to the tribe during the first Tribal Council (we never saw this on TV but Burnett wrote about it in his book). And Burnett wrote that it actually saved Richard at the first vote because the tribe started to respect his honesty, and his willingness to share his big secret. But -no one- is more surprised by Richard's confession than the old Navy Seal, Rudy Boesch. Could it be that Rudy actually likes and admires a gay person? Could that actually be true? Rudy doesn't seem to believe it himself.
"The homosexual, he's one of the nicest guys I ever met. And he's good at what he does."
Episode 2: Rudy is still stunned that his best friend on the island is gay. In fact it seems to be all he wants to talk about during this episode.
"He says 'You wanna talk?' And I said 'Nah, I don't wanna talk.' And he was gonna tell me he was queer then."
Episode 2: Rudy seems to have developed a sudden acceptance of homosexuals (even if his terminology isn't quite right yet). But Rudy does want to remind us that this is a "business only" proposition for purposes of the game. And in one of the most famous confessionals in Survivor history, Rudy takes the time to remind us what is -really- going on here:
"Me and Richard got to be pretty good friends. (pause) Not in a homosexual way, that's for sure."
Episodes 3-8: Richard considers Rudy to be his best ally (and best friend) for two reasons. Number one, because Rudy is honest. Rudy will tell you exactly what he is thinking, he is completely unable to bullshit, and this is a wonderfully refreshing trait in a game built on deceit. Richard always knows where he stands with Rudy and I think he really respects it.
Best friends. But not in a homosexual way.
The second reason why Rich likes Rudy is because Rudy is loyal. Rudy will never break a deal, he will never break the honor of a handshake, and that's why Rudy becomes Richard's #1 ally and right-hand man all throughout the middle section of the game. And in one of the most stunning developments in Survivor history, Richard Hatch and Rudy Boesch somehow develop into inseparable allies.
Episodes 3-8: In my favorite development of Borneo (and one I personally find to be adorable), Rich and Rudy actually switch gender roles when it comes to providing food for the tribe. Richard goes out and catches food all day, and Rudy cooks it up for the rest of the tribe to eat. The gay whiny guy takes the hunter/gatherer role, and the rigid military guy takes the food prep/homemaker role. And Rudy doesn't even seem to notice this either (although I'm guessing it wasn't his proudest moment at Navy Seal reunions.) Still, their gender role reversal was awfully cute to watch.
Rich brings home the food
Rowdy Rudy cooks it up
Episode 9: The game is nearly over and Rudy is fondly reminiscing about his time in Borneo. And lest ye think that he has softened too much in the past twenty-seven days, every so often he reminds us that his language is still as crude and as salty as ever. I mean, come on. If he didn't, he really wouldn't be Rudy.
"When I go home and my wife asks me about 'who was with you?' I'll say a queer that ran around bare-ass half of the time, for one thing."
Rudy ends up lasting 38 days in Borneo, finishing the game in 3rd place. And Richard, of course, ends up winning. But the most charming thing about the whole Rudy/Rich relationship was the fact that they seemed to carry over their friendship even out of the game. At the reunion show they still seemed to be the best of friends, and it was awfully heartening to watch. In fact Rich made one of the sweetest comments of the night during the reunion show when he defended Rudy's repeated use of the word "queer." Rudy made some joke about he didn't know he'd end up friends with a queer and the audience sort of half-laughed, not really knowing if they were supposed to encourage that or not. But Richard defended his friend, pointing out to the audience that when Rudy says that, he's saying it in a "really, really nice way." In other words, Rudy isn't trying to be mean. That's just the only word that he knows.
This sentence capped off one of the most amazing storylines of the first season. Richard and Rudy, the two best friends to come out of the first season. Who ever would have predicted that at the start?
Next up? The reacharound.
So were Rich and Rudy the best pairing in the history of Survivor? Some would say so. It was clearly one of the purest friendships the show has ever seen. In my personal opinion, I would have to say they are probably my favorite Survivor duo of all time, although for purposes of -this- list they aren't actually ranked the highest. There is actually one Survivor duo coming up who was even more unlikely and even more hilarious than Rich and Rudy.
We'll be seeing them around number 20...
P.S. I did an interview with Rob Cesternino a few years back and he told me that Rudy was one of his all time favorite Survivors to meet in person. He said that hanging out with Rich and Rudy after they were all booted from All-Stars was a blast. In fact Rob gave me this great quote which I always wanted to share: "One day I told Rudy that he should be getting royalties from the "Queer Eye" show, because it wasn't until Rudy that the word "queer" became socially acceptable. Maybe that was Rudy's lasting contribution to American culture."
P.P.S. Rudy Boesch is also the first Survivor I ever met in person. Well, kind of. I'll explain.
In February of 2002 they were taping the finale of Survivor: Africa and I heard it was going to be held in Los Angeles. Since I live near L.A. I figured this would be a prime opportunity to go meet some actual Survivors. I knew we could never get tickets to the actual show, but I also knew that all the Survivor alums from Borneo and Australia would be flying into town for the taping, and odds were they would be taking their families to visit the L.A. tourist spots over the weekend. So Diana and I drove out to the first L.A. tourist spot we could think of (The Santa Monica Pier - where they filmed the movie Cellular). We sat down at a table to do some people-watching and... sure enough... Rudy Boesch walked right by us about a minute and a half later. Wow, that worked even better than I had expected! We waved to Rudy and said hi and he seemed a little bewildered. It seemed like he thought he knew us but couldn't quite place our faces. So anyway Rudy walked away and then Diana turned to me and said, "We probably should have said hi to Marge too. She was right there next to him. That was probably kind of rude." Because sure enough Rudy's wife Marge had been right there and we hadn't said a single word to her. Oops. So if you're reading this, sorry Marge! We were just very excited to see an actual Survivor in person. Our mistake!
Oh, and Rudy was the only Survivor alum we saw in Santa Monica that day. I guess the rest of them all went to Grauman's Chinese Theater instead.
P.P.P.S. There were -so- many good Rudy quotes from the first season that I had a hard time figuring out where I wanted to rank them. Should I rank them individually? Should I lump them all together in one entry? But when I realized that almost every one of them was about Richard, I realized I had to just make Rudy/Rich into a topic and post it on its own entry. So that's why Rudy only shows up a few times on this countdown, despite the fact that he is one of the funniest Survivors of all time. Sadly, this is in fact his last appearance on the Funny 115, even though I laughed my butt off every single time he spoke during All-Stars ("Who do I look like? Magellan?") So thank you for entertaining us every time, Navy Seal. You did your country proud one more time.
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