Adam Klein knows he is not considered one of the best Survivor winners ever. Jeff Probst even said so. He knows that there are people out there who were underwhelmed by his victory in Millennials vs. Gen X. He knows that some folks thought his final 3 was filled with goats — himself included. And he knows that is all a blessing in a disguise when it comes to his return for Survivor: Winners at War.
We spoke with Adam the day before filming began on season 40, and Adam was not only keenly aware of his underdog status, but embracing it in terms of the advantages that provides him as he attempts to take down some of the legends in the game who may be overlooking him. Legends, he says, whom he has built relationships with in both the Survivor community and out on the poker circuit. Legends who reached out to him right after he won to lay the groundwork for a pre-pre-game alliance. And legends who Adam hopes will finally give him the respect of an all-time great… after he wins the $2 million.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What’s going on, man?
ADAM KLEIN: Literally a dream to be here.
Right? I mean to not only win the game, but then come back for season 40, which you know is going to be a big and epic because it’s a big number.
You can just say that it’s because all the winners are here. You can say that it’s because it’s all winners.
No, you can say it. I can’t say it.
I’ll say it for you then.
But I will say, you are here with nine other men that you’ve seen, and they all happened to have won the game.
What a coincidence!
Give people the quick update, Adam. What have you been up to since you won Survivor?
Well, I still am the same person that I was when I came on Survivor to begin with. But a lot has changed in my life. I had a lot of opportunity to make an even greater impact on the world around me as a result of winning Survivor. And so now one of the things I do is I give keynote speeches. I am a motivational speaker and I am getting into the world of hosting. And so I now host a poker and lifestyle streaming channel out in the Virgin Islands. So it’s been a lot of fun and I am still just as big of a Survivor fan as I have ever been.
So no hesitation to come back and do this again, right?
No, I would play Survivor anytime, all the time. I love this game. I always have.
So you look around and you see nine other men here that you’ve been put with pregame.
Pretty epic company, don’t you think?
Starstruck by anyone at all?
I would not call it starstruck because I think that that would imply that I would change the way that I would play the game in any way. Am I super impressed by the talent around me and super excited to be like meeting these people and hanging out with them? Obviously. But I’m not going to let that impact the way that I play the game.
Is there anyone that you’re thinking, “Hey, I want to work with this person. This is someone I could do well with”?
Absolutely. I think you want to be coming into the game and looking at most people saying, “I could work with you.” I think somebody like Ethan is someone that I have a lot in common with. And maybe you want to call it starstruck. Yeah, sure. I am just a little starstruck by Ethan because I wanted to be him. When I was 10 years old, I watched Survivor: Africa and it was like, “That’s a really good person that was able to play in an incredible game and win Survivor — that would be the ultimate dream.” And now I get to be friends with him and maybe allies with him and play Survivor with him. And that’s pretty wild to me. So, you know, we have quite a bit in in common.
Yul and I have quite a bit in common as well. We both went to Stanford. I think he’s the type of guy that wants to work with rational, predictable people. So I’m going to make a point to make it clear that even though I come from the big moves era in terms of seasons of Survivor, I am not a big move kind of player that needs to make a move just for the sake of making a move. Only if it’s the right move and the smart move. And I think someone like Yul would appreciate that and want to work with that. I think someone like Tyson is someone that loves to have a plan B. He always has somebody in his back pocket. Why not have that person be me? We’ve played poker together. I know Tyson socially, and in the same breath, I’ve played poker with Rob as well.
We recently played a charity poker tournament together. We were the last two standing. I won and I won $5,000 for charity. And the very first thing I did was I said, you know, “Hey, Rob, let’s do $1,000 for your charity.” And his whole attitude towards me shifted in that moment. So I think I earned a little bit of a respect from Rob. I know those two guys are very close, so I think I could work with them. I mean, I can go on like I think there’s some connection with everybody. I’m really close with Ben. I like Nick, you know, there’s a lot of guys out here that I think I would have a connection with.
When you think of Survivor and the people that have been at the forefront in terms of cancer awareness among the contestants, it was Jenn Lyon, and then you and Ethan. I can’t imagine that there’s a scenario where you guys are on the beach and aren’t talking about that at some point, whether that makes you allies or not.
Yeah. And I hope that people don’t think that Ethan and I have ever spoken before, but I know Ethan pretty well actually, and that’s something that I sort of have in my back pocket. We actually share the same manager for speaking engagements and so I certainly want to make my manager happy. So we have some sort of vested interests here that I think would keep us united, hopefully.
And there’s a lot of that, I should say. There are so many connections in this group. I mean, this game really started 15 years ago. I really believe that that. People have considered the possibility of an all-winners edition of Survivor for a very long time. Some of these relationships are a lot more public than others, like Tyson and Rob. But there are lots of relationships under the surface and I have a lot of those. So it is going to be a very interesting season as a result of that.
So how much can you count on those? Because we know people talk before the game. It’s part of the game.
I mean Sandra has been playing this game with every person that has come out of the game. I got a call from Sandra right after I won, and I think she lays the groundwork. It’s the reason why I want on the Sandra train when it leaves the station, because I think she’s going to have a lot of people on her train. And you’d be a fool to try to push the train off the tracks. It’s just too heavy.
But how much can you count on that? How much can you count on that train stopping when you need it to stop, and that they’re going let you stay on the train to get to the final destination?
Well, like you said, this game has been going on and I’ve been playing it too and I’ve made it very clear to Sandra that if we ever do play Survivor together, I am in her corner — and this goes way back from before calls were put out for this season. I mean, we’ve known that this might be coming one day and so I want the Queen to know, “I am your loyal servant. Whatever I can do to please the Queen, I am here to serve.”
How do you think the other players see you?
I think that I will be underestimated. I think I was underestimated the last time I played. I played up to that on purpose and I’ll do it again. I need to be careful that I don’t do it so much that I can’t win if I do make it to the end. But I do think that people can’t decide if I won because of my social game or in spite of it. You hear a lot of people talking in the Survivor world talking about Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X and they think the final three was all goats, you know? Or that they were voting between the lesser of three evils or whatever it might be. I know from being out there that I was friends with the members of the jury and I would say most of them, if they couldn’t win themselves, were kind of happy that they could vote for me to win the game.
Now as someone that’s involved in the Survivor community, and you’re a huge fan before you play and you were reading a lot of stuff about Survivor, does that…
Yeah, I’ve been reading your articles since the get go. Since I was probably, like, 13 years old.
Now you’re making me feel old. So you get on Survivor. And you win Survivor.
A dream come true.
But was there part of you that got upset when you say you would read out there that “Oh, these are all three goats”? Did that get you?
Yeah, absolutely. But now everything that bothered me at the time about what people were saying that, you know, I only won because I was sitting next to goats or whatever and that I was a goat myself — it’s an advantage now. It really is. I’m so blessed that people thought that and may actually think that now, because if they think that they can beat me and I can find two other people that think that they can beat me, that I know I can beat, I can do the same thing I did last time. That’s what happened last time, and if I can find myself in a situation, all it takes is two people that think that they can beat me that I know I can beat. That’s all it takes.
What’s your biggest weakness?
My biggest weakness is my mouth, and it’s that I don’t give up on people. I think we saw that backfire with Taylor when I voted out of his girlfriend and then I tried to align with him. I think that can get me in trouble because sometimes someone will be just done with me and I won’t quit. It’s also my greatest strength, because I don’t give up on people. I give myself options in the game and if I do make it to the end, you know, and Taylor is sitting on the jury, he can’t really say, “Well, Adam wronged me.” I didn’t, I really tried to work with Taylor and he just wasn’t willing to work with me and he got voted out as a result of it. But he, in the end, you know, voted for me to win.
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