Marcus voted out, says “even my penis was surprised to see itself on TV”

Marcus Lehman was voted out of Survivor Gabon last night following yet another tribe shake-up. I talked to him a few minutes ago, and he was remarkably and impressively positive, humble, and reflective about the experience and his game play, his relationships, and even, yes, his penis’ appearance on national television. (The headline, I hope, characterizes his upbeat attitude.)

The vote was pretty stunning, if only because it left the game without one of its strongest players (mentally and physically). Despite the outcome, Marcus told me he wouldn’t change anything about his game play, although he wishes Bob would have helped him convince Susie it was in her best interest to stick with the alliance. Instead, she flipped, joining Crystal and Kenny, which disappointed Marcus–especially because he bonded with Crystal over the fact that his best friend is her cousin, which they discovered at the faux-merge feast. “It comes down to having some faith in people. And I do. I hope that for themselves, not for me, that people take the high road, and it’s nice when it works out that I get the benefit, too, but I was hoping that it would work out well and sometimes it doesn’t,” he said.

We got cut off due to time, so I didn’t get to ask him about hurling an immunity idol into the ocean, which he followed by saying, “These people are so stupid. I got 10 people to throw an immunity idol into the ocean.” That happened at the feast after Charlie and Kenny spotted a clue to an immunity idol (amusingly, the show devolved for a moment into third grade when Charlie noticed it, Kenny grabbed it, and then refused to give it up, so Charlie briefly struggled for it). Once its contents were revealed, no one would admit wanting the idol, so Marcus said, “I’ll call all of your bluffs and force you to get rid of it.”

Anywat, while he doesn’t blame CBS for the accidental nudity, he does have criticism for the way they edited his friendship with Charlie. Overall, it seems like he was thrilled with the experience but disappointed about how others acted. Here are Marcus’ thoughts on his time on Survivor Gabon:

On his penis: “Dude, even my penis was surprised to see itself on TV,” Marcus told me. “I can Google my penis. I’ve reached new heights of awkwardness in my life. How do you tell your grandmother, ‘Grandma, not that you ever would, but do not put ‘Marcus and penis’ in a search field in Google, you will be shocked and horrified. … All I know is, I definitely changed brands of underwear.”

He says he kept that pair of boxers and after washing them repeatedly, “wore them to the show every Thursday night. Kind of like my little reminder to bring myself back [to Africa]. Actually, like the first episode, where it came out, literally, I was actually wearing those same underwear,” he said. “I’m a positive person. I hope people feel that way. You gotta laugh at that.”

On CBS’ penis press release and response: I asked about CBS’ remark that Marcus’ penis was “virtually undetectable,” and he said, “I like how you worked that, kind of bolded and italicized that quote to make it very clear that it was virtually undetectable. No, I didn’t read that quote.”

Although I can’t imagine anyone being serious about size criticism from those screen captures, Marcus also said, “It is what it is, ladies. Sorry. That’s life sometimes. The things that you don’t expect to happen will happen, and you’ve got to laugh about it. And [Survivor Gabon executive producer] Doug McCallie was very apologetic. CBS has been really good about it. My car broke down, CBS, I don’t know if you could make things better that way, but, I’m just kidding. They’ve been really good about it and I think it was an honest mistake. Hopefully it won’t impact me in a negative way; so far, it hasn’t.”

On Charlie: “Charlie and I had a fantastic friendship. He arguably will be one of my best friends for a very, very long time. He’s an amazing, special guy. … He said he’s not sure why a million girls aren’t after [me, but] I’m not sure why a million guys aren’t after him. I’m sure they probably are. So you can see and appreciate all that stuff, but it was really cool to have the friendship, and it was so appreciated in a place that can be as lonely as the Survivor situation, where everyone can be your enemy.” Marcus insisted that Charlie would have gone to the end with him. “I would never sell him out because we really just had so much in common and such great, great interaction together. So grateful for that.”

On the editing of his relationship with Charlie: “I was glad that CBS kind of gave us a little bit of a nod in that they acknowledged that we were having a friendship, although they spent a lot of time trying to make it like Charlie was in love with me while I depended upon Charlie as much as he depended upon me. … I know it’s probably minor, but yes, it is possible for gay people and straight people to have friendships. … I would love to go on Amazing Race and prove that once again.”

In his most striking and thought-provoking criticism, Marcus said, “CBS has a challenge. They have a viewership, they’re doing well, it’s a successful show. Do you push the envelope or do you make the same tried and trued jokes? Do you take the risk of letting a tribe that’s doing really well kind of stick it out, where it’s predictable for a while and then have a really interesting finish? Or do you try to mix it up again just to flare up the ratings for a little bit and then let the game play itself out in a different fashion? I think that’s a low road, high road choice. Sometimes it’s tough, because you’re taking this risk. People might not react well to the Charlie/Marcus friendship. We look at the voting that happened Tuesday, and there’s obviously a large group of people out there who aren’t feeling very progressive about homosexual rights and attitudes. I can totally appreciate [CBS'] situation. I think they chose to go with their traditional, make some jokes at our expense–and hey, it’s not the first time, it’s not the last time. Hopefully, the fact that it was a little bit different and the fact that it really truly was a great friendship will come across no matter what.”

On how he was voted out: “I’m not perfect, either. I’m not even claiming to be; I am absolutely humbled by this experience. I hoped we would all try to take the high road. [Crystal] could have still have voted me out, and Kenny could have still voted me out, and Susie could have voted me out, but you didn’t have to necessarily do it that way. There’s certain boundaries that you don’t have to cross and you can still vote people out, and it’s still great television, and it’s still an interesting show.”

On being accused of arrogance: “Honestly, I hate answering the question because what am I going to say? No, I’m not arrogant? If you guys do not understand at this point how hard I tried for everyone in that tribe … I worked my ass off. … I never complained about that. I got lucky in the genetic lottery. I’m so blessed to have parents that pushed me to get an education, and the credit is all theirs, and the credit is all the people that have been in my life that, in good ways and bad ways, have made me who I am. And I am so humbled to have been on this show, and if people want to turn it into vanity then, okay, I guess that’s the bad side of having tried hard for people is that they think it’s all for my own glory. Frankly, I couldn’t care less. I just want to share the spotlight with people.”

On the experience: “I got to have I Jeff Probst put the individual immunity necklace on me. I remember 10 years ago watching that and thinking that was the coolest thing on the planet, and then it happened to me. That’s the cool part about, for me, taking that high road is that you get so many cool experiences living in the present moment like that, and I just want that for everybody. I hope everyone who went out there, and who goes out there in the future, and who’s been out there in the past … does that for themselves. Because even if you don’t get the ultimate prize, you go home with something amazing, which is wisdom and experience for embracing whatever you’re around.”

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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.