The 115 Funniest Things to Ever Happen on Survivor

#49. The Greg Buis Experience
Borneo - Multiple Episodes

Some people call him the first comedian in Survivor history.

Some people call him the strangest player in Survivor history.

And some (like a certain unnamed host of Survivor) have claimed that he was the biggest asshole in Survivor history.

But I just know him as Greg Buis, iconoclast. The guy who talked into the coconut phone. The guy who nobody could figure out. And the guy who frightened Richard Hatch half to death. You see, Greg was bizarre. Greg was brilliant. Greg was unique. And he also happened to be one of the most entertaining Survivor players of all time.

Greg bursting out into song

Writing about Greg Buis is always a challenge because he is almost impossible to categorize. In fact I have had more problems writing this entry than I have with any other moment on the countdown. It has literally taken me about five days to write. Because how on earth do you describe Greg to somebody who has never seen the show before? I mean... you can't just say that he was "a comedian" because I don't think that Greg was trying to make people laugh. Unlike Rob Cesternino or Brian Corridan (among others), I never felt like Greg was actually playing to the cameras. True, he did bizarre things... and true, he made people laugh... but I never really thought he was trying to entertain the other players. To me, it seemed like he was only trying to entertain himself.

Greg slept every night in the jungle, away from the shelter and the other players

Deep down, Greg was an amazing Survivor player. His ability to separate the game from real life was so good it was almost frightening. And his capability of changing his real self at the drop of the hat (or whenever he felt like it) was the trait that scared Richard Hatch half to death. You see, Richard knew good competition when he saw it, and Richard knew he wanted no part of Greg anywhere near that million dollars. Because it was not a coincidence that many players in Borneo referred to Greg as "a chameleon." He could be whoever he wanted to be. He could act however he wanted to act, depending on his particular mood. Because in many ways... it was like he had been playing Survivor all his life.

But the quirkiest thing about Greg (and the trait that I don't think a lot of people "get") was that Greg really didn't care about winning Survivor. Oh sure, I think he liked tricking people into playing his little mind games, and I know he loved playing "forest boy" and running around in the jungle 24 hours a day. But winning a million dollars by manipulating other people? I don't think he had the slightest interest in something like that. I think Greg's main motivation out in Borneo was that he just didn't want to go back to the real world. I think he was having too much fun to ever want to go home.

A typical picture of Greg Buis, jungle boy

So how do you describe a player like this? Is it possible to categorize a player like Greg Buis? On one hand, he was probably the single best player in Borneo. But on the other hand he had no interest in winning the million dollars or actually playing the game. Then of course there is the fact that Greg was incredibly funny. The Pagongs loved him. None of them ever said a single bad word about him (including nitpick queen Gretchen.) But on the flip side of that is the fact that the Tagis couldn't stand him. Oh and plus Jeff Probst (and the production crew) hated his guts. So that makes Greg awfully hard to characterize in a one paragraph summary.

The closest comparison I can make to Greg (and it's not that much of a stretch) is when I say he was a lot like Gabriel Cade from Survivor: Marquesas. Because like Gabriel, Greg came out to play Survivor solely for the experience. He loved the aspect of living on an island. He loved trying to outthink people. And he loved the idea of competing in the ultimate mindgame. Greg loved all of these aspects of the game.

The only problem was that Greg hated the fact that he was doing this on a TV show.

From what I have read, Greg Buis seemed to be against everything that television represented, and he tried to go out of his way to disrupt the process whenever he could. There is a famous story floating around about how Greg cracked so many jokes at the first Pagong Tribal Council... and he showed so little respect for the process... that he forced an emergency meeting of the production crew to discuss what they needed to do about him. Also, I have heard that Greg pissed off Jeff Probst so much (by not respecting his authoritah) that Probst nearly walked up and punched him right in the face.

Jeff Probst after Tribal Council #2. "GREG WILL RESPECT MY AUTHORITAH!!!"

So here you have this kid who is obviously a genius, who is obviously an athlete, and who obviously loves the outdoors... but he doesn't give a rat's ass about making a TV show or playing the game that the producers want him to play. He is there only to amuse himself. He's there because all he wants is the "Survivor experience." And if you don't see the parallels between Greg and Gabriel by this point you would have to be blind. In fact the only difference I see between the two of them is the fact that Greg didn't take himself as seriously as Gabe did, and Greg was a little bit meaner (witness his mockery of B.B., or the way he subtly made fun of Joel by repeatedly calling him "the strongest man in America.")

By the way, Gabriel Cade was originally considered for Survivor 1, but eventually lost his place to Greg Buis in the final cast. And it's no shock to me that that happened. Because when you talk about a guy who was smart, well-liked, athletic and a contender to win... but really didn't care about anything other than "the experience"... then you really could be talking about either one of them. In fact the only real difference in their legacies is that Greg was cast in an earlier season (Borneo), when playing for the experience wasn't yet seen as an anomaly. By the fourth season, everybody thought Gabriel was foolish and an idiot.

So anyway I've talked enough about Greg, and why I found him so interesting. Because I truly do think he was one of the most unique (and misunderstood) players they have ever had on the show. And the guy was definitely entertaining. Oh sure, he may have been laughing at you more than with you, but it was still always interesting to see what Greg would come up with next.

So now, without further delay, I present to you Greg Buis's top eight moments from Survivor: Borneo. Every one of these moments was memorable. Every one of these moments was funny. And every one of these moments was TV gold. Even if Greg himself probably wouldn't have wanted it that way.


Greg Buis, the scourge of Tribal Council

1. Greg is such an asshole (and is so disruptive) at the first Pagong Tribal Council that Jeff Probst calls an emergency meeting afterwards so the producers can discuss what to do about him. This prompts Jeff to take far more control over the TC questions and answers starting with the third episode. Watch and see for yourself. The first two Tribal Councils in Borneo were essentially just an open forum. Anybody could talk whenever they wanted to. But all that changed starting in episode three.

Note: All of Greg's disruptive antics were cut from the show. We only know about them because Mark Burnett discussed this at length in his book about the first season. Burnett said that Greg was a major production obstacle from day one. The filming crew always had a hard time trying to deal with him.

2. The Pagongs are starving, so in episode three they decide to catch and eat a wild rat. Who knows, maybe it will actually taste good? This leads to one of Greg's most famous confessionals in the game, where he sits down and explains to us that:

"I'm concerned that it'll be a bit gamey. We won't have quite the gravy we're looking for, which would really be helpful. When cooking rat, I imagine the sauce is of utmost importance."

3. Greg is always looking for ways to let off a little mental stress and get people to wonder what he is up to. So he comes up with the "coconut phone" in episode three. This is essentially a coconut that he walks around with and talks into whenever he feels like having a conversation. Needless to say, this freaks the shit out of the rest of his tribe. Everybody now thinks that Greg is genuinely insane. Joel even mentions that somebody should "hit Greg in the head."

The coconut phone

The Pagongs' stunned reaction while Greg is speaking on the phone

4. In episode six, the Pagong tribe is stunned to find that a monitor lizard has eaten one of their pet chickens (I think it was the one named "Dinner".) But the tribe's tension and frustration is dissipated when Greg comes storming down the beach, angrily yelling, "WHO DID IT?? WHO COUNTED THAT CHICKEN BEFORE IT WAS HATCHED??? WHO DID IT????"

"Who counted that chicken before it was hatched? WHO DID IT??"

5. In truly one of the most bizarre moments in Survivor history, Greg wins a video from home featuring his equally-bizarre sister. Most of this video is made up of his sister uttering nonsense words and childish rhymes, but a good portion of it also deals with incest jokes about Greg and his sister "feeling" and "touching" one another. Greg seems to find this hilarious. But Rudy and the others? Not so much. I think Rudy actually ages five years just from watching Greg's video. He can't believe that a brother and a sister would actually talk about each other this way.

Greg's sister wants him all up inside her

Ha ha! I love incest talk!

Greg making incest jokes of his own in a video to send back to his sister. Note that Rudy isn't exactly pleased to be hearing all this.

6. This is one of my favorite moments from Borneo because it is just so wonderfully random. Greg is giving a confessional towards the end of episode seven, and while speaking he spots something in the distance that momentarily distracts him. It is actually sort of cute. Check out the transcript:

"If people band together, I hope they vote me out. Because, uh, that to me is... uh..... whoa, cool flying fish."

7. Greg is voted out at the end of the eighth episode, which is not a surprise to anyone. But Greg shows he is still able to catch people off guard when he bursts into tears and he starts crying. It is a really funny moment because it is so exaggerated and so out of character for Greg, plus it's always fun to watch somebody break the tension at Tribal Council. Even Jeff Probst cracks up when Greg starts crying, and that's not something that happens every day.

Greg bursts into tears

8. True to form, Greg gives us one of the most bizarre final word speeches in the show's history. Here is what actually aired on the show. "A twist of fate that maybe some didn't expect and some... well... (pauses to look around, then dramatically leans in close to the camera)... some did. An excellent game. Well manufactured. I harbor no resentment for any of you... who voted for me, against me, or otherwise. I feel like it's probably a pretty darn good time. Thanks guys."

Leaning in close for his final words

And while Greg's final words are amusing enough on their own...wait until you read the uncut transcript from what he really said after he was voted out. These are his complete final words, as detailed on the official CBS website:

I'm glad you could all join me here. It has been quite an evening. A twist of fate that maybe some didn't expect and some... well... some did. It seems I've been voted off! There are a few things I would have like to have done had I remained on the island. Climb a tree, some vines perhaps, and go for a bit of a run. It's hard to say otherwise.

It's an excellent game, well manufactured and well thought-out. A microcosm of humanity and humanitarianism possibly, possibly not, possibly just a game.

Confess my deepest, darkest secrets, is that what we're here for? I'm not sure. In fact, I'm not exactly sure what I'm here for anymore. I know that we're here; it's just you, me, and those around us.

I'm not sure when they'll start closing in. I hear noises in the jungle now. Things might be happening. Things might be taken over sooner than we think. Whether the rebel forces will be able to counteract with something like Operation Tapioca, I will not say.

But if it does happen, I know nothing about it. I was never part of any such operation or involved with any people that were. I'm just saying it might happen soon. This is the deep dark heart of the Bornean jungle. Never underestimate what could happen.

So anyway that's the story of Greg Buis. You didn't understand him, I didn't understand him, but he was always a lot of fun to watch. And I have always wondered how good a player he would have been if he had actually wanted to play. I honestly think he could have wiped the floor with the rest of the players if he had ever really wanted to.

P.S. A few years ago I used to write Survivor fiction stories. These "All-Star Stories" were very well received, and indeed I still get mail about them to this day. And I have to say that the most popular character I ever had in my stories was my fictional Greg Buis character in All-Star Survivor: Alaska. If you have read Alaska, you will know exactly what I am talking about. Greg was the villain of the story, Greg was the biggest star of the story... and I still get email about Greg in Alaska almost on a weekly basis. He was the single best character I have ever written.

P.P.S. In 2004 I was a guest on Rob Cesternino's radio talk show, "Survivor Live," in which Rob wanted to talk about my stories (including Greg in All-Star Alaska.) Well one of the other guests on the show that day was Kelly Wiglesworth (also from Borneo) and she confirmed to me that everybody on Tagi thought Greg was the biggest asshole when they were taping the season. In fact Kelly dropped a bombshell later during the interview when she told me that Greg "decided he was gay for about a year after Survivor, so he decided to do the gay thing for a while." And you know, the most amazing part about this story is the fact that it really didn't surprise me. Nothing Greg does would ever surprise me.

I have no idea if this story is true or not, but I heard it directly from Kelly and I have to say it wouldn't surprise me for a second. After all... if it was true... it would be just another chapter in the Greg Buis experience. Who are we to actually try and understand the guy?

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