The 115 Funniest Things to Ever Happen on Survivor
#56. "I dunno."
Borneo - Episode 12
This is probably one of the most famous scenes in Survivor history. It was funny at the time, it is still funny today, and it stands up as well as just about any of the pantheon moments from Borneo. Rudy forgetting the answers to the immunity challenge is a moment that will live on and on in Survivor history. And just why is it so funny?
It is the second-to-last episode of Survivor: Borneo, and the producers have come up with a creative idea for a challenge. They have decided to take the biggest movie of the past year (The Blair Witch Project) and turn it into a Survivor-style spoof. Their bright idea will be called "The Survivor Witch Project". If you didn't see it, this challenge involved players racing through the forest to find trivia questions, then recording themselves with a handheld camera saying the right answers. The first person to return with footage of themselves answering all five questions would win immunity. Oh, and like the Blair Witch Project, all five players would end up being murdered in the corner of a basement at the end.
Sadly, the murders themselves were deemed "too graphic" to be shown on TV, so they wound up being cut from the final episode. True story.
The Rattanas reading treemail about the Survivor Witch Project immunity challenge. Rudy looks uninterested in the background.
Probst's cheesy video treemail that he probably wishes he never filmed
The crux of this challenge involved Jeff Probst sitting down with the players beforehand and telling them a "Malaysian Ghost Story." This was supposed to tie in with the Blair Witch Project storyline, but in reality it was just Jeff telling them a bunch of Borneo folk tales. He told them why you weren't supposed to say your name in the forest, why you weren't supposed to taunt a snake, etc. Basically he was giving them the answers to the questions they would be answering later during the challenge.
Jeff tells them Borneo folk tales
The only problem was that Rudy just wasn't paying attention. Jeff was sitting there telling them Malaysian folk tales, and Rudy just didn't give a rat's ass. His mind was off wandering somewhere. Maybe he was thinking about the Gish sisters, who knows. And when Jeff told the players that they should have paid attention to what he just told them, Rudy was now more or less screwed. He had no idea what Jeff had been yammering on about. Rudy had probably been thinking about what he was going to cook for dinner.
Rudy trying his best to appear interested
(Side note: It has never been proven what the real story was behind this moment. Was Rudy not paying attention? Did Rudy just not care? Or was Rudy just an old man with memory retention problems? I prefer to think he just wasn't paying attention, because it makes it a funnier story. If it was caused by the fact that he was just old, then it becomes a lot sadder. So we will stick with the first explanation for purposes of this writeup).
Rudy gets his handheld camera. Uh oh. What the fuck is a handheld camera?
So anyway the challenge stats and Rudy is up shit creek without a paddle. He has no idea what the answers are to the questions. Honestly he probably doesn't even care. So he just runs around in the jungle, he reads each trivia question off the back of a mask, and he answers repeatedly with one of the most famous Rudy quotes of them all.
It's funny the first time it happens, because it's clear that Rudy is the only player who wasn't paying attention. All the other players are finding this challenge quite easy.
The other players are flying through the answers without a problem in the world. And that's when we realize that Rudy isn't going to get any of the questions right! He is going to "I dunno" his way through all five answers. And that's exactly what happens! Rudy doesn't get a single one of the questions right. It is just "I dunno..."
After "I dunno..."
After "I dunno..."
Not surprisingly, Rudy doesn't win immunity at the end of the episode. Kelly wins immunity, and Dr. Sean ends up being voted out. But Rudy's repeated mantra of "I dunno" became one of the most repeated catchphrases on the message boards, as well as one of the most beloved moments among the worldwide cult of Rudy. You see, Rudy Boesch was already the most famous castaway in Borneo by this point. But the addition of "I dunno" to his legacy helped cement his status as a Survivor legend for years to come.
And to think it was all because he just wasn't paying attention when Jeff was telling them a story.
P.S. Not only was this challenge memorable (because of Rudy), it is also one of the stupidest ideas I have ever seen on Survivor. Whose bright idea was it to reference a movie that nobody would care about a year later? Who were the ad wizards who came up with that one? Is there any faster way to date your TV series and ensure that it would always look stupid in syndication? I have always believed that if the producers could change one thing about the first season, it would be to remove this challenge and replace it with something more traditional. Blair Witch Project tie in, my ass.
P.P.S. I assumed this was the last time the producers would whore out their show to a movie tie-in. I really did. But then the Survivor producers set a new low during Exile Island when Jeff deliberately plugged an Adam Sandler movie during the reunion show. That was ridiculous. Come on, CBS. You're better than that. Don't let it happen again.
P.P.P.S. Spoiler: The producers would do it again.
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