Survivor Quarantine Questionnaire: Alison Raybould on her 'warped body image' after playing
When you last 37 days in the game of Survivor, you can expect to see some changes. And that's exactly what happened to Alison Raybould after she was voted out in fifth place on Survivor: David vs. Goliath. Those changes became apparent when she first looked into a mirror, and even bigger changes in terms of how she viewed herself and her body followed.
"I recall my relationship with my body being very confusing," says Raybould about her experience after playing the game. "When I first was voted out of the game and saw my reflection for the first time, my immediate thought was that I had a Victoria's Secret body. Then I stepped back and realized how messed up it was that only after 37 days of starvation did I feel like I had a perfect figure. This was slightly foreign for someone who, as a former athlete, always celebrated her body, including her muscular thighs or rounded butt. When I started regaining some of the weight, I would look at myself and think that I was fat, even though I was still 15 pounds underweight. Thankfully, this warped body image didn't linger for too long."
In her Quarantine Questionnaire, Alison recalls the highs and lows of her Survivor journey, including what really happened with Angelina's fake idol, the time she chose not to break down on camera, and why she would be a different player if she ever returned to the island.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: First off, give the update as to what you've been up to since appearing on Survivor.
ALISON RAYBOULD: Life has been kind to me since being on Survivor, especially considering we are in a global pandemic. I built a lovely little farmhouse in North Carolina (and spend far too much time thinking about pillows, paint colors, and trim work than I care to admit). Prior to the shutdown, I met my fiancé, Jesse, who is by all accounts an incredible and selfless human being. The pandemic quickly revealed that this was the person I wanted to spend the rest of my life laughing with, and we got engaged on a beach during a hurricane (flashes to the two cyclones from DvG). Otherwise, I am approaching my last year in my hematology and oncology fellowship. Being a physician in the pandemic has brought on its own challenges, but I feel fortunate that my training has been able to continue without significant impact.
What is your proudest moment ever from playing Survivor?
There is this tiny moment after Nick wins the final six immunity/reward challenge and has the option of bringing two people with him for a pasta reward where I am about to break down. He chooses Angelina and Mike to join him on the reward. Jeff [Probst] can see the devastation/despair all over my face, and in true Jeff fashion, he wants to rub a little salt in the metaphorical wound, and says something along the lines of, "Alison, once again, not picked. That has to hurt."
In this moment, after 36 days of starvation, physical discomfort, and emotional isolation, I want to just give in and start bawling or complaining about how unfair it is. But, instead, holding back tears, I tell him, "I am still here, and I am still smiling." This moment is one of the only moments that I have rewatched from the show. I love it because it is a small reminder of resilience in action. During crappy days at work, when it all feels like too much, I just think back to that day and that moment and the rush of emotions when it would've been really easy to lean negative, I stayed positive.
What is your biggest regret from your Survivor experience?
Calling Angelina a "contingency plan." Oh, and eating those wraps…
What's something that will blow fans' minds that happened out there in your season but never made it to TV?
All of the day 37 antics, a.k.a. my last day on the island. They showed Angelina planting a fake idol on me, but they cut that fact that I stumbled upon her placing it in the tree and pretty instantaneously knew it was fake.
I wish they had shown all of the theatrics around it because they were highly entertaining. She was fake crying on the beach pretending she was going to be the one to go home. Honestly, if I hadn't been so close to it all and already known I was headed home, I would've found it all hilarious. The other part of day 37 that I would've loved for them to have shown was my conversation with Nick in which I pitched to him why Mike should be the one to leave. I believe in my heart of hearts I had him convinced of what a giant threat Mike was, and we sealed the deal with a handshake (something Nick had never offered me previously). Alas, it was my closest ally Kara who backed out at the last moment.
How do you feel about the edit you got on the show?
We are all the hero/heroine of our own story, and I had spent the months between playing the game and the season airing writing my own heroic narrative arc, so it wasn't easy feeling like I was getting the "purple" edit for much of the season. I genuinely love every moment they included (even "boogerless," getting taken by a wave, doing "yoga" on the beach, and all the troll-y B-roll) because it was authentically me. While watching it, though, I just wanted more of my story told. But I understand that production has the impossible task of condensing 24 hours times 20 contestants into 45 minutes, so I have accepted that some of my favorite moments were left on the editing room floor.
What was it like coming back to regular society after being out there? Was there culture shock or an adjustment coming back?
So many different forms of culture shock! After walking around in a bra and underwear for a month, proper etiquette went out the window. For example, I literally dropped trou (just my pants, not my undies) in front of everyone at Ponderosa because I had forgotten all sense of modesty and decorum.
On a more serious note, I recall my relationship with my body being very confusing. When I first was voted out of the game and saw my reflection for the first time, my immediate thought was that I had a Victoria's Secret body. Then I stepped back and realized how messed up it was that only after 37 days of starvation did I feel like I had a perfect figure. This was slightly foreign for someone who, as a former athlete, always celebrated her body, including her muscular thighs or rounded butt. When I started regaining some of the weight, I would look at myself and think that I was fat, even though I was still 15 pounds underweight. Thankfully, this warped body image didn't linger for too long.
Was there ever a point either during the game or after you got back where you regretted going on the show?
Honestly, no. The experience of playing Survivor was such a joy for me and my family. It brought some incredible people into my life and gave me an adventure like none other. I sometimes still cannot believe that it all happened to me.
Whom do you still talk, text, or email with the most from your season?
Well, Dr. Joe and I routinely talk shop, just to exchange recent New England Journal of Medicine articles. Seriously, though, I am still close with Mike and have asked him to be an usher in my wedding! He took a group of us back to Fiji for the trip of a lifetime. We went on our first scuba dive and swam with tiger sharks there. Between shark diving and Survivor, we have experienced enough that he is stuck with me for life.
I am also still really close to Gabby and owe her a phone call to wish her a happy birthday. She's my coconut queen (a really cool nickname we made up for ourselves on the island when the boys all left on reward and we started chopping coconuts like champs — weird that this really clever name got cut from the edit). I would be remiss if I didn't also mention Kara. Right before the pandemic, I was arranging a trip to visit her in Cali, then the world had other plans, but I can't wait to see her and a few others at my wedding once we are all vaccinated.
Do you still watch Survivor, and, if so, what's your favorite season you were not on and why?
I used to watch Survivor with such intensity that I would absorb the strategy through osmosis, but ever since playing, I have shifted to being a much more causal viewer. My favorite season would probably still have to be Heroes vs. Villains because of all the incredible chicanery and mind tricks. Maybe Blood vs. Water too because in case you hadn't heard, Cierra voted out her mom. Oh, and of course any time Coach is on screen.
Who's one player from another Survivor season you wish you could have played with or against and why?
I would like to reunite the Triforce of Jay, Figgy, Taylor, and Michelle. Fingers crossed that I could be named their fifth member.
If you could make one change to any aspect of Survivor, what would it be and why?
Is it cliché to say less advantages? I realized playing the game that the type of Survivor strategy I most value is more akin to "old school" philosophy — pure social politicking to convince those around you that the plan you want is actually in their best interest too and less flashy tricks from found advantages. Also, give the contestants their swimsuits (still bitter that we never got ours)!
Finally, would you play again if asked?
Definitely! I cannot believe it has been three years since I played, but I would go back in a heartbeat! The first go around, I was very aware of how my actions would impact my life outside of the island (something similar to the Hawthorne effect seen in studies on human behavior). Now, I have lived through both playing and watching myself play and realized the positive impact Survivor has had personally and professionally. I feel like I am in a different place in my life and would play with less fear and without abandon.