With Survivor filming for seasons 41 and 42 delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, EW is reaching back into the reality show's past. We sent a Survivor Quarantine Questionnaire to a batch of former players to fill out with their thoughts about their time on the show as well as updates on what they've been up to since. Each weekday, EW will post the answers from a different player.
Survivor: David vs. Goliath is widely regarded as one of the best seasons ever of the CBS reality franchise. Not only did the installment feature big personalities making big moves, but the drama even extended to the weather when a cyclone forced production to be shut down and the castaways to be evacuated from their camp for two days and brought to shelter for safety while the storm passed.
However, as Gabby Pascuzzi reveals, there was not just one cast evacuation during the season… there were two!
"We were evacuated twice during our season," says Gabby. "Not just once like was shown."
While the cyclone and evacuation seen on TV happened in episode 5 on day 12 of the game, Gabby explains that the first unaired evacuation happened in the very first days.
"On night two or three, we suffered through several hours of extremely cold wind and rain during a cyclone," says Gabby. "I think they were worried people might get hypothermia; it was that bad. We were finally taken to a small-sheltered area on the same island where our camp was. We had to walk there in pitch-black darkness, holding hands in one big chain, while sand was pelting our faces from the wind. We managed to sleep and warm up for a couple hours in the shelter, and then it was back to the game."
Gabby's account matches what host Jeff Probst told EW before the season began airing, as he mentioned two cyclones hitting during the season, including one at the very start.
"There is a cyclone in the first episode that hammers the tribes with extremely strong and relentless rain as they attempt to establish shelter and make fire," Probst said then. "This is not the last of the bad weather and this is not the worst of the cyclones they will have to overcome."
Since the first evacuation was just a matter of hours as opposed to days — and happened during the time frame of a first episode in which producers also had to introduce 20 new contestants to viewers, explain a new theme, stage a marooning challenge, run an immunity competition, while also having to deal with an off-camera boat injury that ended up medically evacuating the very first player (Pat Cusack), it's not a big surprise that one of the two cyclone evacuations did not make the edit.
But Gabby is clear that the danger was absolutely dire.
"Survivor is real, so I don't want people to think we were coddled just because it rained. I think it was a legitimate safety concern, similar to the necessity of the second evacuation that actually was aired. We were interviewed about the first evacuation in confessionals, so it wasn't a 'secret,' but I guess they chose not to air it. We went through hell in those first three days!"
Hell is also an apt word to describe what Gabby went through from segments of the Survivor fanbase after she turned on her island BFF Christian Hubicki and tried to vote the fan favorite out (which resulted in her elimination on day 32 after Christian was tipped off and played his idol.). It's a move Gabby defended at the time, but now, in her Quarantine Questionnaire, she has a much different take on the maneuver and what she should have done instead. And she also uses her own experience to heed caution to any superfans looking to sign up for the show. Read on to get all the goods!
Robert Voets/CBS Gabby Pascuzzi on 'Survivor: David vs. Goliath'
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: First off, give the update as to what you've been up to since appearing on Survivor.
GABBY PUSCUZZI: I have pretty much returned to normal life, no moving to LA to become a comedian or influencer or iron man competitor. I live in Pittsburgh, Pa. with my boyfriend, Charlie, which is a fun full circle for us because it's where we met in undergrad many years ago.
What is your proudest moment ever from playing Survivor?
I don't have a list of idol finds or immunity wins to humblebrag about here, so I will be a normie and list a personal challenge moment, which for me was staying on a perch for immunity for two and a half hours. It was small potatoes compared to Christian and Alec lasting five and a half hours, but for me it was a testament to my willpower that I stayed until I physically couldn't anymore. There's no other circumstance in the world that would make sense for anyone to choose hours of pain over margaritas and nachos, so doing that really felt like I was on Survivor!
What is your biggest regret from your Survivor experience?
Three years ago, when you interviewed me after my elimination, I said I didn't regret trying to vote out Christian. At the time, it was true. But now I would like to submit an amendment, as hindsight is 20/20! With time and space between me and the younger Gabby with big-move-itis, I do regret it, and here's why:
Most obviously, that move caused my immediate downfall in getting voted out. But regardless, it was strategically a rookie mistake, since I knew he had an idol, and it made sense for people to split the votes on me, his ally. I also rushed the move when I didn't need to, because he would have probably remained a target in the future. And I misread people — the others didn't want to work with me much as I thought they did.
Lastly, I could write why I regret this move based on post-show backlash alone. The ire I received on social media was overwhelming (Christian was such a favorite, rightly so). It was exhausting to explain and defend the move ad nauseum, and I received many nasty comments. It detracted from one of my favorite parts of the game, which was this really great duo and friendship we had formed, and turned it into something I felt guilty and defensive over. No one was more upset about the outcome of that failed move than I was, I assure you, fans! Thankfully, my friendship with Christian remained intact, and he actually helped me through a lot of that.
Gabby Pascuzzi and Christian Hubicki on 'Survivor: David vs. Goliath'
What's something that will blow fans' minds that happened out there in your season but never made it to TV?
We were evacuated twice during our season, not just once like was shown. On night two or three, we suffered through several hours of extremely cold wind and rain during a cyclone. I think they were worried people might get hypothermia; it was that bad. We were finally taken to a small-sheltered area on the same island where our camp was. We had to walk there in pitch-black darkness, holding hands in one big chain, while sand was pelting our faces from the wind. We managed to sleep and warm up for a couple hours in the shelter, and then it was back to the game.
Survivor is real, so I don't want people to think we were coddled just because it rained. I think it was a legitimate safety concern, similar to the necessity of the second evacuation that actually was aired. We were interviewed about the first evacuation in confessionals, so it wasn't a "secret," but I guess they chose not to air it. We went through hell in those first three days!
How do you feel about the edit you got on the show?
Honestly, I liked my portrayal a lot. The first thing I told my folks when I got home was, "Oh my God, I cried so much." That's how I am in real life, so it was not a surprise. Obviously, they were going to show me crying, and I was prepared for that. At least there are some iconic GIFs of me now.
The Survivor "edit" holds up a mirror to your best parts and, potentially, your worst parts — certainly, parts you maybe weren't very self-aware of — and I think that's why a lot of players struggle with their portrayal. Some players don't want to look in the mirror, because it's sort of a fun house mirror... but it does reflect certain truths. My edit taught me a lot about how I wear my emotions on my sleeve and how that can be to my detriment at times. But also, I can't complain, because I was shown as vulnerable, empathetic, dorky, strategic, and ambitious, and those things are true too.
My family, friends, and I all picked up on little moments the edit showed of my strategy, snark, or goofy personality, which was very fun and surreal to watch. The enjoyment I shared with people who actually knew me (and saw parts of me reflected in the show) was ultimately more important to me than how fans may have perceived me, though I'm grateful to fans who I think "saw" me, even through the fun house mirror.
What was it like coming back to regular society after being out there? Was there culture shock or an adjustment coming back?
I think a lot of Survivor players live in pseudo-Survivor land for a few months post-game (which is not the healthiest) and I was no exception. I spent a lot of time on the phone with castmates, rehashing the game, or just chatting because they were my new best friends. There were also nights I couldn't sleep for hours because my brain was troubleshooting problems or recounting votes or thinking through every possible alternative at each decision point in the game. It's hard not to get obsessed after you spend weeks of your life preparing for and then living through this really intense experience.
There were also positives. For example, shortly after I returned, I went to an outdoor concert with a friend. It started pouring and we were completely drenched. Still, we stayed at the concert for the entire two hours with no cover as the heavy downpour continued. It didn't phase me, because I knew that in two hours, I would be able to take a hot shower and change into warm, dry clothes. That was the opposite of how we felt on Survivor — where we had no way of knowing when the rain would stop (it didn't stop raining for more than 30 or 60 minutes at a time for the first 12 days, so our clothes never dried). Some players never want to be caught in the rain again, but I was fortunate to walk away with the opposite: anything less than being in a cyclone for 12 days seems mild now.
Was there ever a point either during the game or after you got back where you regretted going on the show?
After returning, I think I went through a period of mourning the infinite possibilities that existed before I played. When you're a fan, you have an idea of how you would play. After you've become a player, that fantasy vanishes and the reality of what happened on the island goes down as history — your history — and it's impossible for it to line up with what you thought might happen. In some ways, it's worse; in some ways it's better. But regardless, it's done. So I think I was sad that I lost that "innocence" that comes with being a fan and how much fun I used to have watching and fantasizing about how it would be to play.
That's why I tell people who are superfans not to apply unless you're ready for the game to take on a totally different meaning in your life. I know the show is very important to some people, so it's a non-trivial consideration. Be aware that playing the game is not necessarily the next logical progression after being a superfan; it's a completely different beast and will change your relationship with the show — so know what you really want out of Survivor.
I don't regret playing, however, because it was such a formative and powerful experience at a pivotal time in my life, in my mid-20s. It's an adventure I will never be able to recreate, and I'm grateful for it.
Robert Voets/CBS Gabby Pascuzzi on 'Survivor: David vs. Goliath'
Whom do you still talk, text, or email with the most from your season?
Christian, of course — we can and do talk about anything under the sun. Elizabeth is one of my favorite people; we talk frequently and muse about politics and life. Davie is someone I'm so happy to have become closer with after the show. Lastly, I'm hoping to attend Alison's wedding later this year, so please everyone stay home and/or get vaccinated so I can actually go. And I keep in touch with others occasionally, even if they're not named here.
Do you still watch Survivor, and if so, what's your favorite season you were not on and why?
I do still watch the show, though with more cynicism and X-ray vision into confessional interviews and editing tricks than before. I'm rewatching old seasons with my boyfriend now, and we are currently on Pearl Islands. I love the old school seasons. I can't pick a favorite, because it's the same as every fan's: HvV, China, Micronesia...
Who's one player from another Survivor season you wish you could have played with or against and why?
Has everyone said Cirie by now? It's obviously her, one of the greatest to never win (I'd like to play with her for that reason). I also would like to clone Sophie Clarke and then take over her body as the cooler, less emotional version of me. That's less about the game and more just becoming her as a person.
If you could make one change to any aspect of Survivor, what would it be and why?
I don't think anyone can give a better answer to this than Brice Izyah. He said in his Quarantine Questionnaire, "Who says [Survivor] needs to be a microcosm of society? Why can't it be a utopia?" That stuck with me. We've seen 40 seasons of a microcosm of society. Guess what? Society... sucks sometimes? Society can be racist and sexist and random and unfair and ugly. I don't need the game to be those things.
There are changes promised for more representation in casting, but I'm not holding my breath until I see the quality of all folks cast. Just because crappy people exist in real life doesn't mean that the cast has to contain crappy people (cough — conspiracy theory-spouting alumni). Also, if the show casts clever, diverse, interesting people, the game needs fewer built-in twists. Humans and their relationships are inherently interesting. A season can be dramatic without being nasty or contrived.
Finally, would you play again if asked?
If the timing was right, yes. Maybe Kleenex could sponsor me.