Survivor Quarantine Questionnaire: Davie Rickenbacker on how the show 'changed my way of thinking'
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.
Davie Rickenbacker did not win Survivor: David vs. Goliath. But the last-minute addition to the cast who made it all the way to sixth place before being voted out received something even better. No, not the $14,000 for international pop sensation Sia! But that was pretty cool. Davie got something else as a result of his time on the island: a new perspective. The self-described "Blerd" found himself a changed man after his experience, and changed for the better.
"Survivor changed me in ways I can never fully explain," says Davie. "I've become close friends with conservative Christians, feminists, people who I might have never met if I didn't take that leap of faith. I've been exposed to racist fans, I've been exposed to people on the spectrum, and I'm thankful for all of it. It's challenged my ways of thinking, which absolutely make me a better person. I know that I've had an impact on these people as well, and that's what growth and maturity is about for me."
The fan (and Sia) favorite shares some stories from the island — including things we did not see on TV — and more in his Quarantine Questionnaire.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: First off, give the update as to what you've been up to since appearing on Survivor.
DAVIE RICKENBACKER: Most know the story already, but for those that don't, I quit my job at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to go on the show. It took me quite some time, but eventually I was able to begin working for the organization again. I now work in a division that advocates for Native Americans and their public health, I'm currently developing a campaign to persuade communities within the Indian country to further promote mask wearing during the pandemic.
I've also been quite busy with my voice talent career, I've booked quite a few pay-to-play gigs but am far from where I would like to be. The pandemic has been good in allowing me time to fully continue to perfect my craft. Visit www.davierickenbacker.com to learn more…
This year has been an emotional roller coaster for everyone, Black people especially, from surviving in a pandemic and national crisis to the continuous fight for fair treatment in a society that doesn't seem to care for our well-being. I've just been trying to keep a level head, do what I can to support my people, and know that God has a plan for better days.
What is your proudest moment ever from playing Survivor?
My proudest moment isn't the #BrochachoBlindside, winning immunity, or even finding multiple idols. It has to be, without a doubt, catching a freaking octopus on day two. It might not seem like it, but on the island I was extremely introverted. I mean, you heard it yourself this was my first time outside of my career assimilating with people outside of my race. Catching that octopus allowed me to show my worth to the tribe, gave me confidence to build strong relationships, and, most importantly, reassurance that God would be with me every step of this journey.
What is your biggest regret from your Survivor experience?
I honestly regret not being able to get Gabby and Carl on the same page. I'm partly to blame because I didn't share my plans for the idol play with either of them, but changed my mind and told Carl at the very last second before Tribal. I probably should've told Gabby too. That night after Tribal, Carl gloated to everyone about the move, revealing all David men knew except for her. She rightfully felt left out of the loop which created paranoia within the David 5.
What's something that will blow fans' minds that happened out there in your season but never made it to TV?
Alec and I had a big back-and-forth at the idol nullifier Tribal. I don't even remember what it was about now, but I remember Dan chiming in and pissing me off entirely, but keeping my calm because I didn't want to give anything away for our move that night. When I went to the voting booth I let them HAVE it, I even remember saying "F THE POLICE!" I realize now that I was only projecting my frustrations with the way that some cops treat Black men in our country onto him, and that wasn't fair. Dan's a good cop as far as I know, so I'm glad it wasn't aired. But there are bad cops out there and that message is for them. If you rewatch the episode, you can see me mouthing it when they reveal who we all voted for at the episode's end. STOP KILLING US!
How do you feel about the edit you got on the show?
My edit was okay. In the beginning, it annoyed me for several reasons, I felt like they were making me the comic relief of the show at first without airing any of my close relationships or strategizing. But it got better with time — if you don't consider the merge episode, which shocked me completely because we found the steal-a-vote that day. In hindsight, I think they portrayed me pretty well, and even saved me in some regards. I guess you can't really count on the perfect edit unless you will the million dollars. Jeff should start calling that part of the prize.
What was it like coming back to regular society after being out there? Was there culture shock or an adjustment coming back?
Survivor changed me in ways I can never fully explain. I've become close friends with conservative Christians, feminists, people who I might have never met if I didn't take that leap of faith. I've been exposed to racist fans, I've been exposed to people on the spectrum, and I'm thankful for all of it. It's challenged my ways of thinking, which absolutely make me a better person. I know that I've had an impact on these people as well, and that's what growth and maturity is about for me.
Was there ever a point either during the game or after you got back where you regretted going on the show?
Naw, not for me, but I think that has a lot to do with my entire cast. Casting really did a good job finding people who weren't trash human beings just looking for 15 minutes of fame and a shot at a load of money. The people that I played with, at least for me, made my time out there memorable.
Whom do you still talk, text, or email with the most from your season?
Just last week I was in Nick's wedding, Kara, Alec, Carl, Elizabeth, and I had a great time reminiscing on our time on the island. With social media about, it's easy to stay in contact with everyone. The only people I don't keep in contact with are the ones that don't support Black lives mattering.
Do you still watch Survivor, and if so, what's your favorite season you were not on, and why?
Of course I still watch Survivor. My best friend was just on the last season. My favorite is probably Cambodia. It's the one I use to get new viewers to watch, which is weird because they don't already know the characters. It's a favorite because it wasn't filmed in Fiji. I miss when they went to different locations. Not to mention my Obama won.
Who's one player from another Survivor season you wish you could have played with or against, and why?
I would have loved to play with Woo, his energy was always the best. I modeled a lot of my positivity on the island from him. If you can find a way to make Survivor fun for yourself out there, then you won't be as miserable as they make things seem.
If you could make one change to any aspect of Survivor, what would it be, and why?
I would change it so that Survivor is not a microcosm of society. We know now more than ever that this country is not all it was hyped up to be in grade school. There is systemic racism, extreme biases, and loads of inequity in our great societies, so why not change that. Mix it up, give us a season of the same sex, all minorities, people who are chosen by the fans. We've been playing the game for 40 seasons as this "microcosm" based on U.S. statistics, but it seems to me if we have the chance to show people what the world could be, why not explore that?
Finally, would you play again if asked?
If I'm still broke when they ask, sure. No, but seriously, if I play Survivor again, I'd want a completely different experience from it. I hope to have my own family by then so I could experience what it's like for those husbands and wives, mothers and fathers who have had to leave loved ones behind. Maybe that fuels me in a way that couldn't motivate me my first go at it because I was only playing for myself and my dog.
Strangers starve themselves on an island for our amusement in the hopes of winning a million dollars, as host Jeff Probst implores them to "DIG DEEP!"