Bob Crowley: “I’m not playing the game, I’m here to have a good time”

Bow-tie wearing high school teacher Robert Crowley was a likable guy, but like a few too many other Survivor Gabon contestants, I couldn’t decide whether or not he’d be a good player–especially when he said he’s not really interested in the money.

“I’m not playing the game, I’m here to have a good time, I’m here to experience–Christ, I’ve already won the game. I’ve got a free trip to Africa, I have got two free trips to L.A. And a million dollars only buys you friends you don’t need and tempts you with sins you shouldn’t be committing anyway. So, I’ve already won,” he told me.

If it’s not already obvious, Bob Crowley told me he was recruited for the show, and has only seen the show “a couple of times.” He said he was concerned most about the wildlife, building a shelter, and then the other contestants, in that order. “I’m in it for the adventure, so it doesn’t really matter which challenge I’m up against, since they’re all going to be fun to deal with,” he said, and that, never mind placing the social game last, makes him sound like a player who’s going home sooner than later.

Despite his apparent lack of interest in the social game, he also had a good understanding of some fundamental parts of it. “I am clever; I’m good at figuring stuff out. I think I do well at entertaining people at being pleasant. And I’ve noticed in the show, you don’t want to stand out, you don’t be somebody that’s a threat. And I’m pretty non-threatening,” Bob said. “I have a habit of talking, I have a habit of being honest.” That is true: he does love to talk, telling long and detailed stories to answer simple questions.

Bob also revealed to me that he “took copious notes” about the other players when they were in L.A. during final interviews, and during pre-Ponderosa. While we talked, he flipped through his notebook to find the nicknames and identities he assigned to the other players, which impressed me until he basically revealed it was just a sort of game for him. “It’s going to be fun to sort of try to figure out–it’s going to be fun to compare what I think somebody’s like compared to what they really are,” he said.

Some of those nicknames, incidentally, were offensive and, as he acknowledged, “politically incorrect”; he nicknamed Olympian Crystal “Amazon” because she’s a “real tall black girl,” and called Susie, the “sweet, nice” Latina woman, “Mexico.” Saying things like that to a member of the media, he sort of then seemed like one of those older people (he’s 58; not that old) who aren’t quite oblivious or clueless, but kind of don’t care, which could help or hurt him in the game.

Bob did bond with a few of the cast members even despite not knowing their real names or being able to talk to them, and he revealed something that up until that point I never really considered or knew: Survivor contestants spend so much time with each other before the game starts that, really, the game has already started long before the cameras start rolling.

They’re forbidden from talking to each other or interacting, but they do, mostly non-verbally. For example, Bob said he bonded with one of them–someone I eventually decided was Ace, based upon his description of the person’s accent and his tattoo–on the plane, as they were sitting next to each other and had multiple drinks; they were also rooming together at pre-Ponderosa. He even said something to me about not telling the producers about one of their shared non-talking moments.

Perhaps the most interesting bit of trivia about Bob is that he taught Survivor Vanuatu cast member Julie Berry, who’s also Jeff Probst’s former girlfriend. Bob called that a “strange coincidence” and said that he’s “sort of kept this quiet” but “haven’t seen her since she graduated from high school.” An amusing anecdote about that connection and Jeff Probst is in the clip below, as his his discussion of nicknames; the clip starts with an amusing story that he’d clearly been dying to tell. It’s about Survivor school, when the contestants are taught about how to live in the jungle but still can’t talk, so he’d been saving this quip for a while:

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.