8:09am PT by Josh Wigler
'Survivor David vs Goliath': The Most Legendary Battle, According to Christian Hubicki
[This story contains spoilers through the Dec. 12 episode of CBS' Survivor: David vs. Goliath, "Are You Feeling Lucky?"]
The Survivor community suffered a massive loss in the latest episode of David vs. Goliath, in which robot scientist Christian Hubicki was eliminated from the game. Spirits are understandably low as one of the most compelling castaways in several seasons came up just a single episode shy of a shot at the Sole Survivor title. (Thankfully, he will of course factor into the upcoming season finale as a member of the jury — destination television in the making, to be sure.)
With all of that said, there's a silver lining in Christian's elimination. He's now able to weigh in on what was easily the most entertaining challenge in Survivor history, let alone on David vs. Goliath: his victorious endurance competition against surfer bro Alec Merlino, a six-hour battle of physical and mental strength, a head-to-head gladiatorial collision that perfectly demonstrated the kind of dig-deep grit executive producer and host Jeff Probst loves to wax poetic about.
"To be completely honest, we had no idea that the challenge was going to last that long," executive producer Matt Van Wagenen recently told The Hollywood Reporter about how the challenge played out. "There's a ton on the edit bay floor. Christian rambled on about exoskeleton research, sex robots, the psychological concept of a second wind, his favorite seasons, how Jeff was hired by Mark Burnett, and there was a moment where he impersonated a stripper and yelled, 'These hips don't lie!' Seriously."
Others involved with the challenge have told similar tales of Christian's relentless banter assault, with ally-turned-rival Gabby Pascuzzi telling THR: "Christian is a verbose guy. We played several games of 20 questions. Christian is a Survivor superfan, so he would pester Jeff about previous seasons, his favorite players, challenges he wanted brought back, or whatever. Eventually the whole sit-out bench engaged in the Jeff interrogation too, asking him questions ranging from whether they'll bring the Survivor auction back, to what Jeff's workout routine was." Even Alec, on the receiving end of the good doctor's psy-ops, remembers Christian's tactics with a big laugh: "It was really, really frustrating. But you have to hand it to Christian. He honestly would have stood up there for 12 hours, no doubt."
In Christian's must-watch Ponderosa video (embedded below), the robot scientist tells Dr. Joe Rowles that he remembers every single detail of his legendary challenge win. But that was months ago. What does he remember today? Other exit interviews with Christian will focus on his emotional journey across his more than 30 days on Survivor. Here, today, speaking with The Hollywood Reporter, Christian will focus on one six-hour odyssey, and one six-hour odyssey only. (OK, with maybe one or two other factoids, if not factorials.)
Others will ask you about the great emotional journey today. I want to ask you about the six-hour challenge. Talk me through it, start to finish.
Oh, wow. This is creative. (Laughs, then draws a deep breath.)
Okay, six-hour challenge … so, we go into it. Jeff reveals there are nachos in play, potentially, if you sit out. But I can't sit out for nachos. And you see my dejected face when he says, "… and beer!" I'm thinking: "Beer. I want that beer. But I cannot get you, beer."
I stand up there and figure, "We'll see how long it goes." We're told the record was set by Tai Trang at 45 minutes for this exact instantiation of this challenge. We go through it. People start dropping out. We're at a point where Alison is up there. Gabby is up there. Alec and myself are there, too. There's four of us. At a point, I'm thinking, "This is so boring. I want to talk." I always wanted to talk in a challenge. I turn to Alison and ask if she wants to talk. She says, "Sure." I say, "So what's the curriculum for your med school program?" She says, "I'm not sure I want to talk about that." I say, "Oh, OK. Fair enough."
We start bantering with Jeff for a little bit. He does this whole preacher routine. It's sort of a Southern preacher version of Jeff, who is announcing the challenge for a little bit.
Well, I think we're just having a fun time! At that point, people are in pain, but I think other people are trying to distract from the pain, too … except for Alec, who was way down on the other end by himself. I can't hear what he's saying. I can't tell if he's suffering. Now, watching it back? Oh, that poor man. That poor man. I tortured him. Where's Amnesty International?
Eventually, Alison drops. I'm sitting next to Gabby at that point when I say, "Jeff, can I tell you a story?" I start talking about my plant root circumnutation robot story, where I was required to make this plant root robot. "It's a story about perspective, Jeff. I want to tell a story about perspective. I'm making this robot and I'm so obsessed with getting the robot to work the way I want to that when I'm all done with it, I look at it, and it looks like a certain piece of human anatomy. It wasn't until I took a step back and had perspective that I noticed this." That was the punchline, and people were supposed to laugh, hopefully guffaw over it, and fall off the post … but they did not. Instead, Gabby turned to me and said, "Christian, I love you, but you need to shut the eff up."
So, that didn't work! I didn't want to knock Gabby out of the game, for sure. After two and a half hours, though, she drops. Then, as you saw, at the three-hour mark, I'm starting to feel it a bit. How much longer can I last? But now that Gabby's gone, I don't have to worry about annoying her next to me. Now I can just talk. Alec can't hear me. [He could, turns out.] I go on and play 20 questions a few times…
I have heard "hot dog" was the answer to one of the rounds.
Yes. The sit-out bench had said, "hot dog," as their answer. My key questions were: "Is it bigger or smaller than a bread box? Is it bought or sold in a Walmart?" That got me close. "Is it made out of beef?" They said, "Sometimes." I said, "Aha! Hot dog!" So I got that. For another one that I came up with, the answer was my robot shirt. I said it was a very specific thing you have to guess.
I started lecturing on my exoskeleton research talk I had given back when I was on a trip to Korea. Then I started asking the bench a bunch of questions: "Alison, I feel like I'm hitting a second wind. Is that a psychological or physiological phenomenon?" She says, "I think it's more of a psychological phenomenon." I say, "Oh, I thought it was more physiological. But you're the doctor! I refer to Dr. Raybould's expertise."
I ask Mike what food he would want, and he says he would eat vegan nachos back at home. He made a compelling case for why they would be a good thing to eat. People talk about how they don't like vegan cheese, but nacho cheese isn't normally normal cheese melted over chips; it's sometimes the more queso like cheese, that you want to be really gooey. He said there are far better approximations of vegan cheese that have that viscous cheese. I said I would be interested in trying that.
Then Kara and I started composing a song, which we started composing back at camp. I believe they had the lyrics: "Schemers be scheming, Survivors are themeing, about David and Goliath somewhere …" Those were the lyrics. I actually had a good song with Lyrsa back on David beach. I wish that had made air. We can get into that another time.
I believe Nick was passed out from margaritas.
Angelina, I tried making her laugh, shaking my hips. I believe that's where the infamous "My hips don't lie" line comes from, that Matt Van Wagenen told you about.
I'm sure you're curious about the reuben sandwich, Josh. At some point, Jeff said, "I'm surprised none of you have started negotiating for food after three and a half hours." I said, "It's always been my dream to request a reuben sandwich on Survivor during one of these challenges. So, Jeff … do you know what a reuben sandwich is?" He said, "No." He was checked out. He was not taking it anymore.
At one point, I openly wondered about how this was going to be edited. That would have been pretty meta, if that had made air.
How about the macaron?
Well, I thought this was going to be a nice moment. I told Jeff: "One of my happy thoughts out here, the thing that keeps me going, is that I want to win a bakery for [my girlfriend] Emily. If I win a million bucks, I want to help her start a bakery, because she loves to bake, and I love macarons. Do you know what a macaron is, Jeff?" I asked because people frequently confuse macarons and macaroons. A macaroon is somewhat coconut-based. People think there's a different pronunciation of the same thing, which is a horrible mistake. Macarons are amazing, delicious things that should never be defiled by the word "macaroon."
At a certain point, you start doing my job, which is to grill Probst on Survivor. Did you really ask Jeff about the Survivor auction?
Yes. Oh yeah. Jeff said the Survivor auction, in his estimation, will not come back. I told him I liked it! His reasoning was that it's not as interesting to watch hungry people eat food anymore. But for me, I think the issue is more that people have gamed the auction to death, ever since Shirin did what she did in Worlds Apart about paying $20 for letters. That takes away the uncertainty. If there's a way where they can bring it back in season 39 as a surprise or whatever, I think it would be a hit.
I gave him all my critiques about Survivor Game Changers, which I'm sure he appreciated. Then he said at some point, "Christian, have you ever seen the movie The King of Comedy," which I had not. He said it was a movie where a deranged man abducts the king of comedy and declares himself the king of comedy. He said, "I feel like I'm the abducted guy right now who can't escape from the basement."
That's largely the experience. I wish I remember how it all ended up. It eventually got a little quiet. Alec started dozing off a bit. He started to nod. I noticed Jeff taking closer and closer looks at Alec. I wanted the challenge to go as long as possible. I knew it would delay Tribal Council. I wanted the extra day to talk things over. It kept going. The sun started setting. I wanted it to be a night challenge, another Tom and Ian situation. I wanted to see the production go out and get the night vision cameras to film me and Alec. But of course, Alec ultimately had to give in at some point.
Did it take much time to physically recover from the challenge?
No. I was pretty good, honestly. I was up and walking around. As soon as I stepped off, I was numb, and it took a second to get recirculation in my legs. Medical came over, talked to me, and I told them I was OK. I was fine.
Where does the challenge rank for you in your all-time proudest accomplishments, in and outside of this game?
Oh, God. It's up there. It was the thing I was looking forward to watching the most on the show, out of sheer morbid curiosity on how they were going to edit that sequence. When I found out in your interview [with Van Wagenen] that it took them an extra week to edit the episode? I'm just … I'm so sorry. I didn't realize I created such a hassle for production. But I was looking forward to it. And dreading it a little bit! I was worried what they would cut out. You do get loopy up there and you start saying all kinds of things that you're like, "I hope that didn't make air."
For example, at one point, remember when they did this challenge with Natalie Anderson and she tried to spit, and she actually spat on herself? I realized I had to spit, but I didn't wanna do that. I tried to go for a real projectile move and really go away. It kind of failed. As soon as it left my mouth, I was thinking, "Oh no. That was moisture. I have a finite amount of moisture, of water content in my mouth."
Let's close out with your actual exit from the game. Was it a surprise?
It was. I didn't know that's how the votes were going. I was pleased to see on the show that it was as crazy as it felt on the island. Names were being thrown around like crazy. I was so happy to see that. What I would have hated is if people said, "Christian, your number's up. We know where the idols are. You're going home. Everyone's voting for you. There's nothing we can do about it." I was pleased to see via the previous happenings of the season, the fact that there's no strong alliances left in the game, it allowed the game to become fluid. It boiled over, like you and I talked about long ago. It at least gave me a chance to survive that seven without immunity. Even though I went home, I still feel there were ways I could've survived that vote without immunity. I'm proud of that.
Final question, before I cut you loose: best season ever, or what?
Well, it all depends on how it ends, right? We'll see with that final episode. It looks like there's some juicy stuff, based on that preview! (Laughs.) Man, it's hard not to look at your own season romantically. We had all these votes that were really interesting and awesome that you kind of even forget about. Natalia, who I would love to work with, by the way, she had this awesome exit — "Shut up! Shut up!" — and it's so hilarious, but it's probably not even listed as one of the top five votes of the season. It's almost frustrating to look at the Jessica vote, which I love. I didn't want to see her go, but I had so much fun going into that vote. I talk to people about it: "I just loved that vote." And they go, "Which one was that again?" And I'm like, "You're kidding me!" I know it sounds arrogant to say, but I feel so great about the season. I'm so thrilled I was part of a game where not only did everything work out in an awesome and interesting and complex and fluid way, but everyone was there to play in their own way, trying to make the moves that were best for their game. I couldn't ask for anything more from a Survivor game and a Survivor experience.
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