‘Survivor: Gabon’ Star Matty Whitmore Created the Buddy System — Not Rob Mariano
Survivor fan-favorite and first-ever five-time player Boston Rob Mariano popularized the “buddy system” during his win on Redemption Island. He also attempted to implement it in Winners at War, but his plan ultimately backfired, resulting in his early elimination. Although many people credit Boston Rob with creating the buddy system, Matty Whitmore executed it first in Survivor: Gabon.
Boston Rob Mariano’s game before the buddy system
After getting voted out at the merge in his first season, Marquesas (2002), Massachusetts-based construction worker Rob Mariano returned four seasons later for All-Stars (2004).
He formed a longstanding alliance with Amber Brkich early in the competition, and the two ran the game. Even though he made it to the end alongside his now-wife, his several betrayals and reneging on deals created a bitter jury, and they awarded Amber the win instead.
In Rob’s third season, Heroes vs. Villains (2010), he quickly gained the favor of the majority of his tribemates due to his physical prowess in challenges and hard work around camp.
However, his alliance quickly crumbled after Russell Hantz convinced Rob’s ally, Tyson Apostol, to switch his vote, which resulted in his own elimination. Rob went home the following week after Jerri Manthey flipped to Russell’s alliance.
Boston Rob Mariano successfully implemented the buddy system strategy
The rivalry resulted in both popular competitors returning a couple of seasons later for Redemption Island (2011). Rob received a warm welcome from his tribe, the opposite of how Russell’s reacted to him, and they listened to him due to his previous experience.
He controlled his alliance, and they stayed loyal to him through the merge, where he implemented the “buddy system.” The strategy prevented anyone from going anywhere alone, as that would allow someone from the other side to have strategic conversations with them.
Therefore, they had to go everywhere in pairs. The plan worked for Rob as Natalie Tenerelli immediately reported back to him that Ashley Underwood considered working with the rival tribe.
Matty Whitmore created the ‘buddy system’ in ‘Survivor: Gabon’
Once the merge happened in Survivor: Gabon (2008), Matty Whitmore, Crystal Cox, Kenny Hoang, Susie Smith, and Sugar Kiper were all in the same alliance.
In a deleted scene, Matty described the buddy system to his allies, minus Kenny, who wasn’t there at the time, and advised them to follow the strategy.
He told them to “make a pact” that if others outside of their alliance want to speak with them, they should invite another ally to come with them. Sugar asked why they couldn’t go alone, and Matty explained it’s “better” if they stick together as a team, so “no one has any doubts.”
While viewers didn’t see the buddy system play out in Gabon, likely because Matty didn’t win, he seemingly thought of it first. It also seems to have worked as the five of them made it to the final six, and Matty likely could have won had he beat Bob Crowley at the fire-making challenge.
However, it worked out for Rob and ultimately played a huge part in his dominating win.