SURVIVOR: Island of the Idols

Joey Amazing is back! After becoming a fan favorite in his first two Survivor stints (Worlds Apart, Second Chance), Joe Anglim his hoping the third time is the charm for him in terms of finally taking home the million-dollar check and title of Sole Survivor. And his strategy to take home that million dollars actually began in 2016 when Joe turned down an offer to appear on Survivor: Game Changers.

Why did he decline to compete then? Why was season 38 (Survivor: Edge of Extinction premieres Feb. 20 on CBS) the perfect time to return? And how is the Joe we will see the time around different from versions 1 and 2? We asked the returning player all that and more when we sat down in Fiji right before filming began, and found a player that couldn’t be happier with both his life and his decision to head back to the island.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Why come back and do this again?
JOE ANGLIM: To be honest, I felt it. I felt it in my heart, prayed about it, all the other people in my life that I told that I was contemplating doing this said that they saw good things, they felt good energy, good vibes. Most importantly, I felt like I had unfinished business. I feel really good about the situation I’m in. It took me a little while after Second Chance to recover. I’m still not fully 100 percent, but I’m at 98 percent, so this game is hard. This game, it pushes you, it challenges you in ways you never even thought possible. I have one more challenge to prove, and that’s that I am the Sole Survivor.

Well, there’s so much in Survivor you can’t control and is up to chance, so is the best thing you can do to prepare just to be in a good mental and emotional place when you go into the game?
One-thousand percent, because wherever you’re at mentally, that’s where you’re going to be. If you’re dealing with stuff back home, if you’re dealing with personal, whatever you got going on inside of your own psyche, that’s going to be a distraction from dealing with all of these other strangers or people that you’re on the island with, because that’s where you fully need to be, is present with them.

Yeah, I would say that’s the most important thing, because if you’re not in a good place out of here, you’re not going to be in a good place while you’re here. For me, I do a lot of breathing, meditation, yoga. I’ve really gotten into learning about the mind-body connection in mental psychology, and how to heal, how to heal yourself. There’s really no medication or antidote for after you go through this survival experience and this isolation therapy, which is Survivor.

Then you’re thrown right back into your old routine of reality of life. You were a totally different person as soon as you left home, so how do you reacclimate? How do you share and communicate what you went through with people who have no idea outside of the game? It’s been a learning curve for myself of how to handle the stress of what was Survivor, and then real life. Getting back into the swing of work and relationships and family and friends, and especially when they can’t relate.

How are you different now? How is the Joe that goes out to play Season 38 different from the Joe that went to play the last two times in terms of where you are in your life, and how that makes you a different player?
I feel like I’m much more confident in myself. I’ve always had a level of confidence, but now it’s a confidence where I don’t really care what other people think. I know that’s bad, because in this game you have to care about what everyone else thinks. I’m just at peace with myself, I’m in a really healthy state of my spirituality, my relationship with God, and all of the people in my life, where I’m not afraid.

I’m not afraid, and even if I got voted off first, I’m not afraid of that, and I think that’s what you have to have in order to win at anything in life, is you have to believe it wholeheartedly, or you’re not going to succeed, it doesn’t matter what you do. I think that’s what’s different about me now, is I’m just in a better state spiritually and emotionally, and I’ve made some amazing friendships.

I’ve gotten to travel and speak and facilitate to other people, and help them through their pain and journey. Now I don’t know what it is, but I just feel like I’m being called back here, and it’s not me. I was asked to come back for Game Changers, and I said no, because I just knew in my heart I didn’t feel it. I didn’t want to, I wasn’t ready. And now I’m hungry, I’m ready, I’m feeling good, I’m feeling confident, I’m excited to play the game again.

It’s so interesting you say that, because most people just jump at the opportunity to come back, but if you know you’re only going to get a certain amount of shots at this, isn’t it better sometimes to wait? And for two reasons. One, to make sure you’re in a better place. And two, maybe you’re then off the radar a little bit more.
Oh, absolutely.

Maybe now when Joey Amazing shows up, maybe you’re not the first person that people are looking to take out possibly?
With this game, there’s so much luck, there’s so many variables that are out of your control. The one thing that you are in control of hopefully, is your emotions. Again, this game, it isolates you so fast, and so quickly, and you just are stripped of everything that you’re so used to having in your real life, that now if you don’t have all of that together coming back, then you’re going to fail, it’s inevitable, or you’re going to be burned out by day 14, 15, 20.

This is a marathon, and you have to be in the best shape possible, physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually to do well, or to even especially to win. The longevity of your overall health in life, if you don’t take care of yourself in your early years, all of a sudden now you’re in your 50s, 60s, and you’re having heart problems, or you’re having intestinal failure. Cancer, of what I’ve learned about, there’s something that wasn’t right, it’s not all there.

You traveled out here with Aubry, so you know she’s playing the game this season. You don’t know much else do you?
I don’t know anything else, except that the Survivor community, I’m friends with a lot of people. There’s lots of chatter, everyone’s chattering and people talk, “Hey, are you going out? I’ve heard so-and-so.” I’ve been in the dark, I’ve been very quiet, I haven’t heard from anybody. I’ve been listening, and it sounds like it’s a season of new players, and then there’s going to be a select few returning Survivors as far as I know. For me, that’s the best-case scenario.

I feel like that’s just an advantage for me. In the past seasons, we’ve seen the Russells, and the Boston Robs, and captains come back and facilitate to new players, and they’re obviously very strong individuals. I would compare myself in that same category as someone who is already established as a strong player of Survivor, and hopefully that will help me, rather than hurt me. I don’t know, I’m really just trying to convince myself of that, whether it’s true or not.

If that is the case, and if it is a mix of new and old, we’ve seen that go two ways. You brought up Boston Rob and Russell. We saw in their season they’re each put on one tribe, and had very different results.
Totally, but I think it just depends on how fast you’re willing to play coming into the game. I mean, if I were to come in guns blazing like Russell did — he didn’t change his MO. People know, they can read him and look at him and read hey, this is what this guy’s trying to do. For me, it is taking a couple of pages out of Rob’s book, which is getting to know these other players, and really getting to the root of how they make their decisions.

What is their motivation? Who do they trust? I just want to be my most genuine self out here, and in doing that I think I’m going to be successful, because hopefully these other players are going to see that, and then want to work with me. I’m really not a malicious guy, I’m really trying to just be a good human every day that I’m on this planet. If I can do that, if I can help them, if I can make them feel that I’m going to help them get deeper in the game, farther in the game, if I have knowledge from my past experience that I can share with them and empower them, I think I’m going to be successful. I’m not too afraid. The confidence I have to have is that I’m not going to put myself in a scenario or a situation where I’m doing too much too fast to get voted out.

You’re talking about the unknown and you’re doing some guesswork on that. What about the known? Aubry is the known. How does she factor into your plans this season?
I like the way that Aubry played her seasons. I’ve had a couple of conversations with her outside of the game. I got to interview her at a red carpet at one of the finales. She’s got a good energy about her, she seems very enthusiastic of her body linkage of what I can tell about being here. I felt like she had a rough go in Game Changers, and I think maybe she even came back too soon in a way.

I’m hoping that it’s a parallel for me and her, where we’re both in a good place. Obviously, I hope she wants to work with me. She also was friends with my current girlfriend [Sierra Dawn Thomas from Worlds Apart and Game Changers], so I think there’s a lot of at least commonality, common ground that we can build off of in the game. Again, this is Survivor, you might think you got a sure thing, and then it ends up backfiring later down the road.

Again, always a level of not resistance, but just caution with everybody. I mean it doesn’t matter who’s on the beach. As much as you want to trust anybody, you have to just keep your guard up a little bit. I’m excited she’s here, I like her as a person, I like the way she plays the game. I think we could both do very well together if we end up being aligned.

Do you think Stephen Fishbach is going to be completely enraged to see you back on Survivor considering he made it his life’s mission to get you out of Survivor?
Oh, Fish? I think he’ll be happy for me. Obviously, he’s gonna razz me in some podcasts, and he’s going to get on my butt a good amount. I like Fish, he’s doing a lot of good things with his life. He’s passionate about the game, and what he did and tried to do, but unfortunately I just was able to dodge a bullet there near the end of the game and took his family visit away from him, which, sorry, buddy, still sorry about it.

That’s the game, there’s something fun about meeting past players and having the camaraderie of knowing that we’ve all shared this crazy experience, but once you’re here, it’s like all the friend stuff goes out the window. Everyone’s trying to win, there’s only one winner, so as much as you want to be friends and have this awesome fun, engaging relationship, and can you still really trust them to align with you and vote the way that you want them to? That’s the beauty of the game.

I feel Stephen may have a little PTSD watching you on this season.
Oh yeah, I think he might. I think you’re right.

Which of your previous seasons did you enjoy more?
Well, they’re both just so different. I mean I have so many great relationships that I got from Worlds Apart, and now my girlfriend, which I’m just so thankful for. Second Chance was really hard, really hard. I mean I thought Nicaragua was hard being in San Juan, but Cambodia was a thousand times more difficult, just in terms of the rain, and the bugs, and the level of competitiveness of all of the players.

I’m thankful for both of them in different ways. I’m really glad I was challenged as much as I was in Second Chance, and I’ve become really close with Andrew Savage, for example. He’s one of my really good, close friends. Jeremy, I’m so thankful for these guys, but I also have really strong relationships from Worlds Apart that I treasure too. As far as that goes, they’re just equally different, but I would say Second Chance just because of how hard it was.

I enjoy a challenge, but that knocked me back in time. I didn’t realize a lot, and that growth is I feel like is really important to me now. I’m glad I went through the dirt and the grime and the hardship.

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SURVIVOR: Island of the Idols

Strangers starve themselves on an island for our amusement in the hopes of winning $1 million, as host Jeff Probst implores them to "Dig deep!"

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