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“I’m the type of person when I am upset, and someone’s betrayed me, I speak my mind. And that’s what I’m doing.”
These were not the words of Colton Cumbie on Wednesday’s episode of Survivor but were from former Survivor Nicaraguan player, Shannon Elkins, seconds before he was about to ask possibly the most offensive question in Survivor history. When fellow tribemate and New York resident Sash told Shannon, “You’re pretty much digging your own grave,” Shannon pointed to Sash and asked, “Hey, I’m going to get this out of the way right now, are you gay?”
I bring up Shannon because when he got voted out in the second episode in Nicaragua, many considered him a homophobe. After Wednesday’s episode of Survivor, Colton is being called a racist by many.
Shannon felt betrayed by tribemate Chase. They had an alliance and Chase broke it, much like Leif broke Colton’s trust by telling Bill he was next on the chopping block. Shannon would later say, “New York is full of gay people, more than they have in Louisiana.”
It was cringe-worthy for many and last episode’s Tribal Council was eerily similar. Colton told host Jeff Probst, “I’m the type of person, that if I don’t like you, I’m not going to talk to you.” When Probst asked who he didn’t like, Colton smiled and said, “Bill. He’s obnoxious, he’s loud, and plus, he’s a (insert air quotes) struggling standup comic. Like, get a real job.”
Bill seemed to get emotional and retorted passionately, “I’m not trying to make it this whole black-white thing. We just have two totally different upbringings. I’ve been on my own since I was 17 years old man. Me being poor, that’s just my life. When you’re a struggling standup comic, that’s just what you do. You don’t make that much money, you sleep on people’s couches and you go from gig to gig. That’s what I do.”
Watching at home, I felt for the guy. He made a colossal mistake, agreed to go to tribal when he didn’t have to, was about to get blindsided, and now had to hear the man that was sending him home, bash him on his way out. But while I, and the rest of America felt for Bill, Shannon felt for Colton.
A week prior, I emailed Shannon and set up an interview for later in the season. But when I woke up Thursday morning, Shannon emailed me saying, “This is the episode you wanna interview me for.” He’s right. Perhaps no one knows what lies waiting for Colton after this episode better than Shannon. I asked Shannon, what he thought of the openly gay Colton. Shannon said, “Ahhh Colton! I actually like Colton. He’s a gay republican, so you know he’s crazy. He’s a great character.”
Shannon isn’t the only former Survivor who considers Colton a character. Survivor China winner Todd Herzog, who is openly gay himself says, “Colton is the most stereotypical gay guy there is. It’s almost like they found him on Saturday Night Live and decided to cast him on Survivor. I personally think he’s a fantastic character, but he’s a real human being.” Unlike Shannon, Herzog isn’t a fan of the human being. “At first I hated him and thought he was a disgrace,” Herzog says. “The second episode, I thought he was funny. But right now, I’m thinking, ‘Wow buddy, you are a piece of work.’ He makes me want to punch him in the face.”
Herzog has many issues with Colton, and a large part of it, comes from when Colton had this to say about Bill to Probst, “I don’t have a problem with Bill because of his race at all. The problem I have with Bill is that he’s poor pitiful me, I’m poor. I don’t associate with people like that in the real world and I’m sure as hell not going to associate with people like that here.”
Herzog, 27, wonders how someone so young, can act like they know so much. He says of Colton, “How old is he, 19? [He’s 21] I want to know what he’s thinking. Who thinks like that? He has all this life inspiration and thinks he can tell people what they should and should not do. He’s disgusting.” Shannon understands the disgust Colton is facing, ““People thought I was Hitler for talking about gays. I thought the gays of New York were never gonna leave me alone.”
Despite Colton saying at Tribal Council that he doesn’t dislike Bill because he’s black, Herzog isn’t buying it. He says, “I think that Colton is unintentionally racist. When Jeff asked him what African American he associates with, it was almost like Colton wanted to say his housekeeper. That’s not cool.” However, Shannon says eventually, the firestorm will pass. “After a week or two, America forgot about my gay rants. Colton will be fine. And he will play this game again.”
As for Shannon, the 32-year-old says he doesn’t care what people say about him, but feels misunderstood. “As a believer in Christ, being gay is clearly wrong. But that doesn’t mean I hate gays. It doesn’t mean I don’t like gay people.”
Count Herzog as a fan of Shannon. “I find Shannon to be one of the most hysterical people in Survivor history. I love his Twitter (@survivorshannon). He’s proudly an asshole and owns it. I really appreciate his honesty. I like him.”
So does Shannon associate with any homosexuals? Turns out, he does. Shannon says, “I have a gay person in my life. He cuts my hair.”