Survivor Quarantine Questionnaire: Bobby Jon Drinkard reveals his biggest regret
With Survivor filming for seasons 41 and 42 indefinitely postponed 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.
It is often forgotten because it has been so long since we have seen his face and heard his name, but there was a time when Bobby Jon Drinkard was one of the most popular Survivor players on the planet. With his matinee idol good looks and genial personality, Bobby Jon was an immediate standout on Survivor: Palau. Unfortunately, for him, he ended up on the ill-fated Ulong tribe — a tribe which lost every single immunity competition.
Bobby Jon managed to escape elimination all the way until it was just him and Stephenie LaGrossa left on the tribe. When they were defeated yet again, that meant their fates would be decided by a fire-making challenge. Bobby Jon lost, making him to be the first person ever eliminated from the game due to fire-making.
Bobby Jon and Stephenie then became the first players to return alongside new contestants when they were revealed to be part of the very next season’s cast for Survivor: Guatemala. Bobby Jon’s fate the second time around was almost as harsh as his initial outing as he became the first ever victim of a hidden immunity idol. When Gary Hogeboom played the first hidden idol in Survivor history at Tribal Council, the tribe instead moved the target over to Bobby Jon, who was eliminated — a tough end for a season that began with his eyes rolling into the back of his head after a brutal hike to camp felled Bobby Jon and many other contestants.
How does the old school Survivor fan favorite feel now about his experiences on the show? We sent Bobby Jon a Survivor Quarantine Questionnaire to find out!
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: First off, give the update as to what you’ve been up to since appearing on Survivor.
BOBBY JON DRINKARD: I’m married with 7-year-old and 4-year-old daughters, Vivi and Drew. We live in Pike Road, Ala., and for the last 14 years I’ve been involved in Workforce Development for the State of Alabama with an organization called Alabama Industrial Development Training, where I am the Training Manager. My wife, Hayley, also owns a jewelry design business which keeps us both pretty busy (and is named after our daughters — “Vivian Drew”).
What is your proudest moment ever from playing Survivor?
There are so many, and it’s hard to nail down just one! I would probably have to say coming back to play for a second season in Guatemala was a pretty big highlight for me. Palau had so many amazing experiences, but to nail down one of my proudest Survivor moments would have been on Day 1 standing on top of a pyramid in Guatemala as I was about to make the descent to join the game for another run at it. At that point in Survivor, there had not been any contestants called back to return and play the game (other than All-Stars). So for me to go out and be part of something that at the time had not been done before was something I was very proud of.
What is your biggest regret from your Survivor experience?
Of course, everyone wants to win the game, but I regret not making it far enough in both seasons I was on for the family visit. Survivor is something that most players want to share with their family, but it’s just so incredibly hard to put in words what the experience consists of. All former players will tell you that while Survivor is rewarding, the game is also extremely mentally, physically, and spiritually draining. A family visit can really help re-center a player and give them that nudge that they need to not only finish the game, but, as we’ve seen in some seasons, help them win the game.
What’s something that will blow fans’ minds that happened out there in your seasons but never made it to TV?
I think it would blow fans minds to know that while you’re out there playing the game, and trying your best to live another day, players are forming real relationships out there. Yes, clearly there is lots of game talk, but not always. When people are put in a situation where they are stripped of everything, and you have to work together, you find out a lot about them. While the relationship building of the game is sometimes slow and uneventful, I firmly believe it’s one of the reasons this show has continued to thrive through the years.
How do you feel about the edit you got on the show?
I had no complaints with the edit I got on the show. This is a very big production with lots of moving parts, with a very tight window to tell a story. In my opinion, the entire Survivor production team is some of the best in the business at what they do.
What was it like coming back to regular society after being out there? Was there culture shock or an adjustment coming back?
Obviously, taking a shower and sleeping in a bed for the first couple of nights after being out-of-the-game was an adjustment. But, luckily for me, it was a pretty smooth transition going from being wired to play the game every day to getting back into the swing of things with everyday life.
Was there ever a point either during the game or after you got back where you regretted going on the show?
Not one time. The entire process was a tremendous growth experience in more ways than one. No regrets whatsoever.
Who do you still talk, text, or email with the most from your seasons?
For years, I spoke with casts from both seasons quite often and would even see them at different charity events and so forth. However, ultimately, I settled down and started a family, and a career of my own. For the last several years, my family has been my entire focus, and unfortunately, I have not kept up with my former tribemates as much. The good news is I re-connected with Coby not too long ago, which I’m very grateful for. In addition, I participated on a Zoom call for charity with some of the Palau cast not too long ago as well, which I thoroughly enjoyed. It was great to hear what everyone was up too — such an amazing group of people!
Do you still watch Survivor, and if so, what’s your favorite season you were not on and why?
Yes! I would say Winners at War. This was the Super Bowl of Survivor, and I felt like it was one of the best seasons yet — jammed pack with big moves, solid strategic game play, and for the most part was a fairly intense season from start to finish.
Who’s one player from another Survivor season you wish you could have played with or against and why?
Tony! Not because he’s a winner, but because there would never be a dull moment!
If you could make one change to any aspect of Survivor, what would it be and why?
Honestly, I can’t say that I have one. Yes, there are always aspects that could improve the show, or help spark change, perhaps. But the facts are after 20 years the show is still alive and prospering, which speaks for itself.
Finally, would you play again if asked?
It’s been 15/16 years since I played. I will just say, I’m a little wiser, and I’ve got plenty of gas left in the tank!