Jeremy Collins was done. A one-time super fan who kept a journal with obsessive notes, the firefighter overcame his painful blindside in Survivor: San Juan del Sur and returned to win the game in impressive fashion in Survivor: Cambodia — Second Chance. His Survivor story was complete. He was ready to move on. Or so he thought.
But Jeremy was lured back yet again. Lured back by the chance to be part of the most epic season in Survivor history. Lured back by a chance to go against the best of the best. Lured back to become just the second two-time winner ever. (And, yes, lured back by a bigger financial guarantee.) But there was one thing Jeremy was not looking forward to: the Edge of Extinction. When I spoke with him the day before the game began, Jeremy explained why he was not a fan of the controversial twist and why he didn’t think a jury of all winners would ever reward someone who had spent any time there.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What’s going on, Jeremy?
JEREMY COLLINS: What’s going on, brother? How’re you doing?
Good! First question: Who’s the best fantasy football player you’ve ever met?
Who is it?
Alright, you got it, totally got it. You got it. But listen, that was my win.
Because I was the number one… Well, no, I wasn’t. You were number one ranked.
I had most points.
You did, you did. But going into the finals…
I had it. You didn’t even watch the Monday night game!
Listen, I had to get up early to do early morning radio. But I will say this, and listen, people don’t want to hear us talk about fantasy football, but I will say this: In this league with all these Survivor players, I had an even better understanding of why Jeremy Collins won Survivor. Because you were convincing people to make the worst deals for themselves, and they were doing it! In any event, give everyone the update: What’s been going on? Your family’s bigger.
Yeah, the family’s bigger. I went from two kids to four kids since the last time I played. I had two daughters, and now I have two sons. Remy is 3 and Lennox will be 2 in a couple of weeks.
So how the hell did you get Val to let you come out here and do this? How does that work?
Last time was so successful.
I come in, I give her a check for a million dollars. If I lost last time I think she would be like, “Alright, enough is enough, it’s time to come home and go back to work.”
So why come do this again? You’ve won the game so that itch has been scratched. You’ve done it, you’ve scratched it, you won. Why are you here?
So I didn’t have the itch, I was done. Cambodia broke me, it was too much. The gameplay, the weather, everything. I was done. And I said I was done to everybody, for years. And when they called me for this and they started talking about it and at first I said, “I’m done, I’m not coming back,” but then I hear rumblings of what the season could be. Could be an all-winner season, it could be this, it could be that. And I’m like, “If I’m sitting at home watching an all-winner season, how would I feel?” And I’m like, “You know what? It would kill me to be sitting home and watching it. I’ll give it another shot, see how it goes.”
Listen, there are a few big numbers or big seasons. Season 8 was All-Stars. Huge. Twenty — anniversary season, Heroes vs. Villains. This is season 40. I can’t confirm what the theme is, but I can tell you that season 40’s an anniversary season. It’s going to be big, and I know that you want to be a part of that. How many conversations did you have with Stephen Fishbach about what your game should be like out here?
So, Fishbach called me, and he said to me, “Good luck, I hope you flame out,” so that basically me and JT flame out if we don’t play with Fishbach.
Right, he’s the key!
He’s the key! So I said, “Thanks, Fish, I appreciate the support.”
So no hesitation about coming back?
There was hesitation. I was done, I was really done. But they didn’t have to do a lot to pull my leg to come back.
You’ve seen the group here, you’ve got nine other men, all winners here. I’m sure you have your suspicions about other people that may be here. But in terms of this group here that you’re with before the game, whom do you want to work with? What do you think of them? Give me your take on some of these guys.
So, my game, all about the meat shields and stuff like that. The biggest threat out there is Boston Rob. I would love to sit behind his big head and let everyone try to take him out. I like Tony Vlachos. He’s going to be all over the place, and that’s another threat that I could sit behind. Tyson’s going to be someone that’s the loudest person out there, always trying to make people laugh. It’d be cool to sit with him a little bit and work with him. But again, I’m doing the meat shield, but also the voting blocs. So I’m going to be moving around. I found that, my last season, when I did that, it works out. You could jump ship and work with somebody for a second, and then go back to another group the next round. And three days later go to another group. And it makes the game a little bit more confusing, but it keeps everyone on their toes and it’s kinda fun.
Hashtag real talk: Let’s get into the game before the game, because everyone knows that you guys talk back home. I mean, even before this, you guys are talking about this or whatever, you guys do events together and fantasy football leagues together. Let me bring that up as many times as possible.
You deserve it, go for it!
So talk a little bit about that process, and something that maybe you went through with Cambodia as well, because in Cambodia you knew the group, and some people weren’t going to make it, but you essentially knew the group you were playing with. What was it like in terms of talking to people and how much can you trust those things? Having been through that with Cambodia, how does it impact the game because it’s obviously clearly a very different game than being with strangers.
I will say this: So I’ve played poker with Rob, Tyson, and Kim. And we have a group chat that we have going, and the group chat went for a while, and then it stopped. And it stopped right around the time when all the rumblings for this season started. So I will say we respect the game enough to leave our personal out of it. And we didn’t talk about it.
I don’t believe you.
I’m telling you!
I don’t believe you.
I’m telling you. I have had conversations, well… not conversations. People have reached out to me.
That’s what everyone says, Jeremy. Everyone says, “People reached out to me and I didn’t respond.” C’mon.
Well, that’s not my game, I don’t respond. I will say that not even people in the game, but people from the season that they lost in their season, their friends, have reached out and said things like, “Oh, maybe you should want to work with this person,” or “If you see someone out there…”
It’s like sending an envoy out for them.
Exactly. I heard from some people, I don’t respond, that’s not my game, I can’t do that. It worked out perfectly for me last time to not respond, or just say, “I can’t wait to go play with you.” So that’s what I’m doing again.
Did you notice a shift from your first time playing against all newbies? It was Blood vs. Water so that’s a little different dynamic, but did you notice a difference between that versus a returning-players season? Because there have been other returning-players seasons where things get much more personal, because you think you’re good with someone and then it’s not like a stranger voting you out. You’re hanging out, you’re playing fantasy football, you’re playing poker, and all of a sudden that person writes your name down, it gets personal. Did you notice that last time?
I will say, my second season, we didn’t really bring that into the consideration. Second season we just went out and it was 100 miles an hour and nobody really worried about personal relations. I think it will get into it this time because people are closer in this season. I’ve just got to be ready to strike before I get hit.
How do you think other players see you? Not how you want them to see you, but you have your book on everyone. I mean you used to literally have a book, a journal, but how do you think they see you, Jeremy?
I think they see me as a threat. I think they see me as someone that they shouldn’t take to the end. But I think that they look at me as… I will play an idol for you. If you’re on my side, I will ride with you. I think that’s good for the short-term of the game. Once we get further into the game I might need to change up and switch things up on people, but I think they look at me as more trustworthy than anything.
And you remind them of that? You’re like, “Yeah, well, when I played an idol on Fishbach.” Do you use that?
I probably will, but not so blatantly. Throw it out here and there and if we’re telling stories about Survivor and our season, I will throw it out there, but I’m not gonna come on and say, “Hey, I played a…” you know?
What’s your biggest weakness? You’re a very well-rounded player, but everyone’s got an Achilles’ heel. What is it? What do you need to be cognizant of and really work on?
I think sometimes I have blinders on, and I got better from my first season, but even last season I didn’t think Kimmi Kappenberg was coming for me. Spencer and Tasha were telling me, “She’s coming. She’s coming.” I have to look at people through their eyes. I kinda look at them and say, “Why would they do that?” It doesn’t make sense to me, but it might make sense to somebody else. That’s my only thing. I looked at Kimmi and I said “Why would Kimmi do it? It doesn’t make any sense.” But it did to her. I look at John Misch and I said, “Why would he try to take me out? That doesn’t make any sense.” And he took me out. So I just have to start opening my mind a little bit better and just trying to be self-aware of what they want to do.
Do you think the fact that you were already on a returning-players season helps you out? Or does it hurt you because it makes you seem like even more of a threat?
I see it as, there are a lot of people out here that I’ve seen so far that have won their first season, and they don’t know what it’s like to step on the beach on a returning season, an all-star season or whatever you want to call it, and how crazy it is out there. And how it’s 100 miles an hour right from the jump, and I think that gives me a leg up, and there are a few of us out there that have played multiple times, and I think that gives us a leg up on the people that have just played once, against newbies.
And its interesting, too, because season 31, I feel in a lot of ways is really the starting point of the super-accelerated gameplay. I guess we have to credit Tony for going back and forth a lot, and ping-ponging in Cagayan. That started with Tony, but the super-accelerated overall gameplay I feel was from 31 on. You got a taste of that. How do you feel about the really old school players that haven’t played from then on? How do you deal with that? And how do you deal with them not having that experience? Does that give you an advantage? Do you want to work with those people or do you want to get them out?
I definitely want to work with them. I had some success with Savage, and Savage played that game. You have to be careful with them though because Kimmi is that game and Kimmi came back after me. So it is a juggling act, but I don’t mind playing with one or two here and there. I could always use them, and then as soon as they see how this game is, and how it’s changed, now it’s time for them to go.
Finally, pitch me a twist or a theme that you’d like to see on Survivor.
I would definitely not do Extinction Island again, I’ll tell you that.
I just didn’t like how… At the beginning I liked it, I thought, “Oh, that’s cool. Put them on an island, see how it goes.” But then when everybody’s there and it just turned out to be like, just camp, you know? And you’re not really playing the game, you know what I mean? There’s a lot of stress when you’re sitting on the island with a bunch of people that are going to vote you out and you take them out and put them on an island where there is no stress, you just have to get through it to try to just get back in the game. That’s a lot of time off, and your mind is a lot clearer. I know there are other aspects of it being hard on you, but there’s nothing like that stress when people are leaving camp and you’re stuck by yourself.
Is there an element, if Edge of Extinction is an element in your game, where you’d think, “Maybe I should go there, to win over the jury,” because that seems to be a legitimate strategy you could try?
The only thing with that is this is season 40. This is going to be an epic season. For season 40, we want a great winner.
If you have someone there on Edge of Extinction and they’re just winning over the jury and then they come back and win the game, did they really play Survivor and win the game? Do you know what I mean? And I don’t want to take anything away from Underwood, but season 40, this is going to be the champ, you know? They have bragging rights over everything.
Right, it’s a question of juries can react very differently to different things. It’s reading the room, and you’re saying that this room, you don’t think that would play, if that’s even an element in the game.
I just don’t. At least I hope it doesn’t. I want the winner of this season to be me, first of all. But then to be someone who can, when we look back on the season, you say “That’s the best. That’s an awesome winner. I’m so glad that they won this season. Season 40’s so epic and it couldn’t have happened to a better firefighter.”
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