An interview with former Survivor contestant John Carroll and a preview of Survivor: Cambodia

15 years. 30 seasons. 17 locations. 460 contestants. For Survivor, all these statistics culminate in the series’ biggest celebration – Survivor: Cambodia – Second Chances. Featuring 20 players ranging from the series’ debut to this past season that ended May, Survivor: Cambodia – the series’ third “All-Stars” season – promises to be another milestone for the trailblazing show. Premiering September 23rd, the hype for this season is reaching a fever pitch – not only are Survivor fans getting to see some of their favorite players return to the game, they’re getting to see contestants that they personally voted into the cast get their second chances.

Image courtesy of survivor.wikia.com.

After the May 6th episode – a shocking blindside where Tyler Fredrickson, a front-runner candidate, was betrayed by his allies – Survivor host Jeff Probst dropped a bombshell. From that day until the finale two weeks later, voting was open to the public to decide which 20 out of 32 potential returnees (16 men and 16 women) would ultimately be selected for redemption. Once the ballot went public, the Survivor world went crazy. Discussions about who made it to the ballot and who were snubbed ran rampant; speculation about pre-game alliances ran wild; and campaigning by the former contestants was taking place in various spots across the Survivor universe. For any fan of the show, it was a truly exhilarating time. The reveal of Survivor: Worlds Apart’s winner Mike Holloway, who won in a 6-1-1 vote and tied the record for most individual immunity wins in a season, was nearly eclipsed by the fact that within an hour, Jeff Probst would tell the viewing audience and the potential returnees for the very first time what their fates were.

Jeff Probst has been the host of Survivor since its series premiere in 2000.
Image courtesy of buddytv.com.

Between the excitement of seeing people like Jeff Varner (10th Place, Season 2) and Ciera Eastin (5th Place, Season 27) get announced to be returning, there was a few moments of heartbreak. Jim Rice (12th Place, Season 23), who had campaigned so hard, was told he’d have to keep waiting. Teresa “T-Bird” Cooper (5th Place, Season 3) and Shane Powers (5th Place, Season 12), who most of the Survivor community assumed to be locks to get on, were devastatingly told that their time had not come. When the cast was finally revealed, however, I personally was satisfied with the group America had put together. While some contestants I’d voted for failed to make it on, and while there was a saturation of players from recent seasons (11 of the 20 contestants initially playing between Seasons 27 and 30), Survivor: Cambodia is set to have a dynamic cast featuring some of the most memorable contestants in the series’ long history.

For big names on the roster, we’ve got Kelly Wiglesworth (Runner-Up, Season 1), who lost the very first season by just one vote. Having lived a private life and distanced herself from the show for over a decade, it’s exciting to wonder what a woman who helped invent the game is going to do in a much more modern Survivor. We’ve also got Keith Nale (4th Place, Season 29) who despite barely understanding Survivor was able to survive simply on social skills and luck. Another big question on the minds of fans centers on Keith and how he’ll go about playing now that he’s learned a bit more about the game. And, it’s impossible to leave out “Chaos” Kass McQuillen (3rd Place, Season 28), definitely the series’ most polarizing character in years and arguably the show’s greatest character in the modern era. A woman who was argumentative, flipped on her alliance, was loathed by her fellow contestants, and enjoyed every second of it, it’s hard not to wonder whether or not Kass has a chance to even make it past the first vote or even win the game.

Kelly Wiglesworth from the very first season of Survivor.
Image courtesy of survivorfever.net.

When it comes to who has the best chance to win the game, Kelley Wentworth (14th Place, Season 29) needs to be kept in people’s minds. The worst-performing contestant in the cast, Kelley falls into the Survivor archetype of an unthreatening young female who won’t be targeted as an early threat and who won’t be viewed as an immediate threat later in the game – an archetype that has won before. Ciera Eastin falls into a similar archetype, and she could take the whole thing herself. But, what separates her from Wentworth is her baggage: not only have we seen more of Ciera’s strategy, as she lasted twenty-four days longer in her original season than Wentworth did, but Ciera demonstrated herself to be a ballsy player, one who is willing to let her chances in the game go down to a draw of rocks. Ciera and Kelley are the front-runners in my mind, but Ciera’s going to have more to overcome than Kelley does in terms of reputation.

Now, when it comes down to who can’t win, it seems a bit simpler. Players like Jeremy Collins (10th Place, Season 29) and Tasha Fox (6th Place, Season 28) are smart, savvy, aggressive players, and those positives are going to work against them in a season of returning players. Kimmi Kappenberg (12th Place, Season 2) and Shirin Ooski (8th Place, Season 30) could be in trouble due to their tendencies to rub people the wrong way. Joe Anglim (10th Place, Season 30) and Vytas Baskauskas (10th Place, Season 27) are the type of triple-threat contestants you might want to favor, but when you’re around cutthroat returning players who are seeking the title for themselves, being smart, strong, and likable can be more of a hindrance than not. Woo Hwang (Runner-Up, Season 28) and Keith Nale might be in trouble because they could just be too nice to play the kind of cutthroat game necessary to win.

20 returning contestants determined to do what they couldn’t before and win the million dollar prize and title of Sole Survivor started the dramatic battle yesterday on Wednesday night, September 23rd. If you’re anything like me, the suspense for what comes next is going to keep you watching week after week. Speaking of former contestants and watching week after week, I was able to get in touch with John Carroll (9th Place, Season 4), and we talked about Survivor in general, what he’s been up to since his time on our TV screens, and his thoughts about Survivor: Cambodia.

John Carroll competed on Survivor: Marquesas.
Image courtesy of survivor.wikia.com.

The Buzzworthy: Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to me today, John! First question – 

When did you first hear about Second Chances? 

John Carroll: I first heard about in April 2015. I heard a rumor that approximately 60 former Survivors were contacted about returning for a Second Chance season. I am not aware of anyone from Marquesas being called up for an interview. Old School seasons 1-3 had people selected for the interview. Hopefully seasons 4-6 will get their shot!

Were you contacted about a potential return, and do you know of anyone that was contacted but didn’t make it to the ballot? 

I did not get contacted. Since only 30 made the ballot, I think a large number did not make the cut for this upcoming season.

Were there any other seasons you were approached to return for? How strong is the itch to get back out on the island? 

I have not been asked back. I hope that one day I will get a second chance. For any of us that love the game like I do, the itch never goes away and the only cure would be to go back. Benadryl won’t work, I tried to get rid of the itch both with Benadryl pills and cream. Alas, only going back will work.

Who are you excited to see come back for Cambodia, and is there anyone on the cast you didn’t want to see make it back? 

I am excited to see Varner, Shirin, Wentworth, Wigglesworth, Kass, oh, heck, I am glad to see most of them back. I think the only one I was surprised to see on the ballot was Woo. Hopefully we will see something different out of him, but I fear there is not much more to see.

Who are you surprised made the cut, and who are you surprised didn’t make the cut? 

Again, Woo was a surprise. I was totally shocked that T-Bird did not make it. That was a complete shock to me.

Off the top of your head, who do you see becoming the first boot and who do you see walking out the winner? 

My prediction is that Vytas is first boot and that Wentworth wins.

The game has changed a lot since Marquesas. In your eyes, what are the best and worst elements of the radical evolution of Survivor? 

I think the extreme paranoia from day one would be very exhausting especially if those with you are basket cases all of the time.

What memories from Marquesas do you cherish the most?

The very first challenge, seeing Jeff and all of the cameras and realizing that this was all very, very real. The first night on the beach all together. We thought the sound boom was an animal. We didn’t realize that it was equipment and I was ready to stab it and eat it.

What’s it like having your blindside be one of those huge, huge game-changing moments not just in your season but in the overall history of Survivor? 

I love that I was memorable. I played hard, probably too hard, but did my part to make our season memorable. The John-Rob-Sean fights were epic.

Out of millions of fans, so few people manage to actually get cast. 

It is very cool to be a part of this very special club. As an Old Schooler, we occupy a very unique part of Survivor history and I love that. Thirty million watch our season. That is nuts when you think about it.

What’s your advice for anyone looking to get cast? 

When doing your audition, be energetic, throw modesty to the wind and DO NOT BE BORING! Find something unique about yourself that is different than other Survivors. And look square into the camera and explain to the producers how and why you are the next Survivor. Did I say leave modesty at the door?

Any advice on how to physically prepare, and any advice on what it’s actually like being there in person? 

Well, first, you better learn how to make fire with a flint. Do puzzles and make sure you are not completely out of shape when you show up. Ahem, Mr. Varner, are you listening?

We’ve seen a lot of twist-heavy seasons since Heroes vs. Villains, from Younger vs. Older to Redemption Island to Blood vs. Water to Brains vs. Brawn vs. Beauty and, most recently, to White Collar vs. Blue Collar vs. No Collar. Which themes do you think have worked out well? 

I like how they keep changing the themes. I think in the end it all comes down to casting. How people audition is not necessarily how people play. Some people get sick, others succumb to the elements. In many ways it is alchemy, and you hope that that particular season’s cast will come up with gold and not lead.

Which recent seasons have you particularly enjoyed? 

I like every season.

Just for fun: Would you call yourself a Brain, a Brawn, or a Beauty? No Collar, Blue Collar, or White Collar? 

Well, you clearly do not know me very well. I of course would be on the Beautifully Smart Strong tribe. As a nurse attorney, these days I would be classified as White Collar. I am not sure what the producers would do with the goat farmer part!

If you played in a Blood vs. Water season, who would you want to come out to the island with you and why? 

My partner, Chad, says he would not do it. I am not sure about that. But if that is true, I would probably play with my sister, Krystina, or my sister-in-law Carrie, or my nephew Zachary. My sister and I have a very strong bond, but when we fight, look out, it literally is World War Z and then two hours later it is like, hey want some more wine? My sister-in-law Carrie plays some mean racquet ball and I think would be a fun character to watch come into her own on a show. She is part Italian and has strong opinions which she is not afraid to defend. But she is also very, very funny and would have a great social game. My nephew is a smart, good looking, athletic tall soon to be 20 year old. He would be that season’s Joe.

Excluding yourself and your own season, which seasons have been your favorite, and who are some of your favorite contestants? 

I love any season of Survivor. I love the hidden immunity idols. I love blindsides. There are so many that I really like. To name a few besides people from my season, T-Bird, Kelly Goldsmith, Courtney, Eliza, Cirie, Sandra, Brice, Coby, Jeff Varner, Joe, Malcolm, Holly, Shirin, Carolyn, Kelley Wentworth, man there are so many!

It’s near impossible to rank winners because of how differently they all play, but within the past five years, which winner do you think played the best game? 

Each season is a unique experience. Anyone that wins deserves it. I can’t criticize anyone that has one.

Do you stay in touch with any former Survivors? 

Besides Neleh, my main contact with former Survivors is through social media and fundraisers like Reality Rally and Give Kids the World.

You started the #bringbackjohnandneleh hashtag on Twitter. After seeing how campaigning got people from the ballot to Cambodia, are you hoping that campaigning can get the two of you back onto the show? 

I figure the squeaky wheel gets the grease. They cast people for being out of the box thinkers. Once the ballot was released, the campaigning started. I love the game. I can’t stand the way my game ended, in tears and epically dethroned. I am hoping that I will get a look see. I think I have a lot to bring the table. I am hoping for my own personal redemption inside and outside of the game.

What do you think the chances are that the producers will pick up on this and give you a call? 

That is up to the universe. Either it will or it will not happen. Social media is a game changer. We did not have that back when I played. I am probably very, very happy that we didn’t. I was one of the villains from my seasons and I am totally OK with that. The question would be is whether I would play as a villain or something different. I think they know that I want to come back along with 200 other Survivors. Playing once was such a gift. I didn’t always treated it that way. I would definitely not make the same mistake again.

If you did make it back out there, what type of returnee season would you prefer – one returnee per tribe (ex.Philippines), newbies vs. veterans (ex. Caramoan) or all returnees (ex.Cambodia)? 

I would go back for ANY season. I am thinking Robs vs. Johns might cool.

How would you try and play the game? 

For me to know, and for you to watch and find out.

We last saw you on TV thirteen years ago. What’s your life been like since then? 

I was a nurse when I played in 2002. I finished law school in 2005. I have my own practice with a colleague of mine. I work exclusively in medical malpractice helping families affected by medical negligence. My partner, Chad, and I have over 200 of the last remaining 600 or so San Clemente Island Goats. We are looking to start a dairy. I would use any money I won to

continue our efforts keeping them from extinction. They are beautiful animals and we have spent a LOT of money since 2008 taking care of them. We are slowly working our way to our cheese making goal. We also have a tiny house we rent out on the goat farm that my partner runs. You can reach us at @1stsurvivorjohn and @tinyhousegoat. Our web site for the tiny house and goat farm can be found at http://www.willowvalleyfarms.org/

What’s next for John Carroll? 

Hopefully a goat dairy, a thriving law practice, a happy home and a return to the island. That would make me a very happy Johnny Pots-n-Pans indeed! Thanks for the interview Michael!

The Buzzworthy: John, it was great getting a chance to interview you. I hope everything works out and, hopefully, we’ll see you back on our TV screens sometime soon! 

John Carroll: From your lips to God’s and @survivor_tweet and @jeffprobst’s ears! Feel free to follow my social media antics @1stsurvivorjohn, yep, one last shameless plug!

-Michael O’Malley

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