I Will Survive

Sit right back and you'll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip. This week CBS debuts "Survivor," a 13-part reality show set on a desolate island off Borneo. Based on a highly successful Swedish series, "Survivor" follows the exploits of eight men and eight women as they struggle with the elements during the day, then convene at night to vote someone -- the weak link, the most obnoxious beachmate -- off the island. Why would anyone in his right mind do this? For one thing, the last person standing wins $1 million. Four of the "Survivor" survivors talked to NEWSWEEK about why they went to the island, how they coped with 24-hour video surveillance and what they ate on those days when the fish weren't biting.

Why he went on the show:
To prove how tough I was to myself, if I could actually hang out there on an island for 39 days. I've never been camping, never been fishing, never been hiking. I didn't know how to swim at the time I was chosen. I'm from the city. I'm not the outdoors type. It was just an intriguing challenge for me.
Scariest moment:
I almost got bit by a poisonous snake one night. Walking through the jungle, I stepped down; an inch from my foot was a sea crate. He whipped his head around and had half a frog in his mouth. Lucky for me he was eating.
Biggest concern about island life:
Food. I love to eat. What am I going to do, just eating rice and water? They gave us fruit when we first got there: pineapple, mangoes. But it's so hot, you pretty much have to eat it right away. The only thing you could eat were fish and rats. We built rat traps from bamboo -- a little tube with a long piece of bamboo and a string and a needle that goes right through their head. I ate a couple of rats. You just skin them, gut them, put them on the stick. They were pretty good. I was surprised. They tasted like chicken. When you're hungry, you're just like, "Let's eat." I lost 15 to 20 pounds. You could just see it in everyone's faces, bones sticking out where they shouldn't be.

Why he went:
I like challenges. This looked like a challenge, and it was. My wife was all for it. She wanted to do it along with me.
What clothes did they allow you to take?
I had two bathing suits, a pair of sneakers, a pair of socks, two T-shirts, a baseball hat and one pair of sweat pants. They gave us a raincoat. Every person could bring one "luxury" item. I brought a toothbrush, which everyone was mooching off me. One guy brought a Frisbee. We fanned a fire with that thing. One guy brought a Bible. One girl brought her beads; she was a hippie. Things like that. Dumb stuff.
What was the first thing you did when you landed?
We started building a shack out of bamboo and palm leaves, the stuff that was lying around on the beach. It took a day and a half. But the palm leaves leaked like a sieve, and it rained almost every night. After about half an hour, you were laying in a quarter inch of water.
Toughest part:
Getting along with the younger generation. They speak a different language than I do. I'm surprised at the language that these young kids use. I've been around every scroungy sailor in the world, and I heard words in this thing that I've never heard before. I probably made enemies with one or two of the women. But you always got the option of voting them off. When I left, I shook hands with the people that were there and said, "Don't call me, I won't call you." These are people I wouldn't pick as friends. There were some odd people there, in my opinion. They are probably saying the same thing about me.
Were you concerned that one of the participants in the Swedish version killed himself after being voted off the island?
I read that in some paper. Personally, I don't see why the guy committed suicide. Suicide is nature's way of getting rid of the weak. That's my opinion.

Why she went:
I was a survival instructor for six years in the Air Force. When I got pregnant with my second child, I kind of just stayed at home. Pretty much all I do is dishes and laundry and the whole business. I guess I wanted a little something to jazz me up.
Hardest part of the show: Definitely the vote, having to pick somebody who you thought their time was up. It was so personal. We each were a little bitchy at times, but I liked living with everybody so much. That's where my conflict came in. I thought I could go into this and play a hard game, but it wasn't that easy. When you play football, you never have to say it's time for the quarterback to go. You're fighting together as a team, and living together; it was really difficult. You really didn't get to say goodbye or try to buck each other up. It was done, it was over. You went back to your camp, and they were gone. You'd be cleaning up the clothes pile on the tree where everybody hung their stuff and you'd find a pair of their socks. It would just bring it back that they weren't there.
Anything you wish you'd left at home?
We were allowed to bring underwear, but after the first couple of days it was a waste. With all the skin rashes and the sand, we just stopped wearing it altogether. We all stunk equally and all looked ragged.
Scariest moment:
When we first jumped off the boat, one of our crates fell off the raft. They started the raft away, and I was trying to swim with the crate. I saw this huge black thing underneath me. My stomach was in my throat. How many times can you watch "Shark Week" on Discovery Channel? I was thinking, "What are you supposed to do? Are you supposed to splash or not splash?" I just kept thinking how much I must look like a porpoise from underneath. It kept getting closer and closer and I was swimming faster and faster to catch up with the raft and it came up higher and higher. And I thought, "Oh, Lord, let this end on the first day. Here I go. This will be how I go out." As it came really close, I realized -- it was a cameraman. So after that, I thought I won't stress out so much.

Why he went:
I would love to be famous. It would be a dream come true if I could not leave my house because there's people and paparazzi outside waiting for me. To get my 15 minutes while I'm young and I can enjoy it -- that was probably the most appealing aspect.
Did the cameras invade your privacy?
The cameras were around you all the time. They were so ubiquitous that you felt funny going to the bathroom. You can't get away with much. I know some people ran away from the cameras at some points. To me they were part of the show. You kind of forget them. You ignore them.
His 'luxury' item:
A razor. I didn't want to look like a hairy beast. I figured 16 people on the island would know what I smelled like, but perhaps a few million would know what I looked like. I shave my chest on television, too. I like to stay neat. I think girls respond to it. They can see your muscles better. I don't mind if they consider me overly foppish for doing it.
Did you ever actually fear for your life?
It's a television show. We all knew we weren't going to die, which was comforting. But there are times when you are hungry, you are cranky. One day it rained for 38 hours straight. We had to sleep on some boards on the sand the first night, and the rats came right up and nibbled on us. I got bitten on my hand and my foot. It was not easy being there, by any stretch. Plus we heard all these rumors about how the snakes come out and mate on the beach at night, and there you are sleeping with them.
Did you ever just want to go home?
The more lavish your lifestyle was before, the harder it was. There was a millionaire on the show who lived in the lap of luxury his entire life; he had a hard time adjusting. Me, I've passed out behind dumpsters before. I had the time of my life. I could have stayed another 30 days.

I Will Survive | News