Survivor Quarantine Questionnaire: Gavin Whitson reveals Aubry called him out during the game
With Survivor filming for seasons 41 and 42 delayed 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.
A Survivor superfan, Gavin Whitson almost did it all on his season of Survivor: Edge of Extinction — and maybe he would have done it all had it not been for that dreaded season subtitle. Gavin won individual immunity. He saw his loved one. He made it all the way to day 39. Annnnnnd then he lost to someone who was voted out on day 8.
But Gavin blames himself for his loss, and he specifically blames himself for being too quiet every time he visited Tribal Council. "I thought I was doing myself a favor by laying low and only speaking when spoken to," says Gavin. "I was wrong. I thought this would keep a target off my back and let me keep advancing in the game. It turns out I was right, but it also doesn't earn you any respect from your peers."
As a result, Chris Underwood's big moves once he returned from the Edge gave him the victory along with the million-dollar check that went with it. But while Gavin may have played it too safe with his Tribal Council performance, he apparently was devious and deceptive enough to anger one of his victims. In Gavin's Quarantine Questionnaire, he reveals a scene that never made it to TV when he got called out by none other than Aubry Bracco. Read on to get the goods on that and more as Gavin looks back on his Survivor journey.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: First off, give the update as to what you've been up to since appearing on Survivor.
GAVIN WHITSON: Aside from polishing my shadow box with my pineapple shirt and game buffs daily, I have been up to a couple new things since Survivor! I started a new job that I absolutely love. I also work from home, so wearing pajamas and a button-up is the new work outfit of choice. This May, I will be celebrating three years of marriage with Carly! The last time you saw us, we had just been married for a few days, so it is crazy to think almost three years has already passed since the first time you saw us. I also play Fortnite with Rick Devens and Stephen Fishbach weekly, which was ultimately my end goal when I first applied for the show. I mean I really wanted to play Fortnite with JT, but Fishbach will do.
What is your proudest moment ever from playing Survivor?
That's such a tough question for me because I did ALMOST everything someone would want to do when playing Survivor. I won immunities, I made the family visit, and I made the final 3. Those things are on everyone's Survivor bucket list. With that said, I think my proudest moment happened both inside the game and eight months after when the show was airing.
The day I won my first individual immunity, I was over the moon. I was so proud of myself in that moment and all I could think about that day was, "My family is going to be so proud." Jeff even said after the challenge, "You've been dreaming of a moment like this, and now here you are in this moment. What is it like?" I told him what was going through my head to get to the end of that challenge and eventually win. I said, "I was just thinking about watching this with my family and I could hear them cheering and saying, 'Come on, just a little bit more.'"
Well, it worked, and eight months later that vision came to life. I was watching that episode with a room full of family and friends, and when it came time for the challenge, my heart was pounding out of my chest. I am still not sure why I was so nervous in that moment because I knew exactly what was going to happen. I win the challenge and the room goes crazy, it reminded me of the videos you see of when a team wins the World Series or Super Bowl, everyone is just going nuts, and that was my Super Bowl moment, and I will never forget it. The cherry on top was when I gave my spiel that I mentioned earlier about me "just thinking about watching this with my family," I remember looking at my dad and he gave me the nod, and all was right in the world. (See video below.)
What is your biggest regret from your Survivor experience?
After the show aired, I was too proud to say I made any mistakes. I stood by my choices and I said I wouldn't change a thing about my gameplay. Although I am still VERY proud of the game I played, I do not have a million dollars in my bank account, and I think one of the biggest reasons why was due to me being too quiet at Tribal Councils.
It is easy to be critical of the choices people make in Survivor when you are sitting on your couch on a full stomach. When you are actually in Fiji looking Jeff Probst in the eyes as he asks you questions, you feel a whole new sense of pressure. I did anyways, and every time I went to Tribal, I stayed a quiet as possible because every time I saw someone give a huge performance at Tribal Council, they were the next person on everyone's hit list.
I thought I was doing myself a favor by laying low and only speaking when spoken to. I was wrong. I thought this would keep a target off my back and let me keep advancing in the game. It turns out I was right, but it also doesn't earn you any respect from your peers, when you have one of the greatest narrators to ever play (Rick Devens) giving the performance of his lifetime night after night. To sum all that up, I should have been more vocal at Tribal Council, plain and simple.
What's something that will blow fans' minds that happened out there in your season but never made it to TV?
Okay, so I just knew this was going to be shown and I was so excited for it, but it did not make the cut. A little background info: During the first week on Kama beach, a few people began calling me Tennessee. Thankfully that didn't stick, but nonetheless I was called Tennessee for a few days by a few people.
Fast forward to Rick just re-entering the game after winning the first Edge of Extinction challenge and the Edgers who had just been defeated more than likely thought their time had come to an end. Aubry was very upset and yelled to the whole group as we were standing there, "If he squeezes your hand before Tribal Council, just know you are going home!"
She then proceeded to say something along the lines of "Tennessee whiskey," and everyone was looking at each other confused as to what this meant. Everyone but me… I knew exactly what she meant. She was referring to me squeezing her hand for reassurance before Tribal, and then soon after sending her packing. Whoops! In that moment, I thought my whole game and been blown up and I would be sent home next. I was mistaken, but at the time I was very worried. I do think it would have been a great addition to the merge episode, though.
How do you feel about the edit you got on the show?
I feel like my edit was good. I think I was portrayed positively, but just like everyone else who plays Survivor, they were the star of their own show. Yes, I wish more stuff that I did in the game could have been shown, but I also believe the outcome of the show limited what could be shown, and I understand that. I was basically invisible in the finale, and that usually does not happen with someone who is going to be in the final 3, let alone runner-up, but this was due to Chris coming back in and becoming the hero. He had to have his time to shine, which meant I got sent to the Edge of Extinction during the finale and was not seen or heard from until final Tribal Council. I am still very happy with how things panned out, and I will be proud to show my future kids season 38 one day down the road!
What was it like coming back to regular society after being out there? Was there culture shock or an adjustment coming back?
I remember telling Carly before I left that I read people had a hard time adjusting to normal life, and she still makes fun of me for saying, "I bet I will have to sleep in the backyard for a few days to get reacclimated." Spoiler alert: I did not sleep in the backyard when I got home. I had one moment the first day I came home that was strange, but otherwise a seamless transition back to the real world. I was napping on the couch after I got home and when I woke up, I got up and asked Carly where everyone was. I was referring to the people I had just spent 39 days with, and you never want to wake up alone. If you wake up alone, this means everyone else is off somewhere plotting against you. It happened for a split second and never happened again, but when I woke up, I was still playing Survivor and automatically thought everyone was off plotting. I promise I am no longer crazy; it was just a onetime thing.
Was there ever a point either during the game or after you got back where you regretted going on the show?
I will never regret Survivor. It was one of the greatest experiences anyone could ever have, and I am lucky to say I played. With that said, when I was on the island withering away to nothing, I think after day 12 or 13, I asked myself why in the hell would I put myself in this situation. I thought Survivor was going to be fun, but Keith Nale said it best: "Survivor ain't fun. Going on a cruise is fun!" I was miserable. I couldn't sleep at night because I would be making grocery lists in my head. During the game, I told myself I would never do this again.
Whom do you still talk, text, or email with the most from your season?
I still talk to Rick every day. From watching our season, you would have never known we were so close, but we really got along great out there, our friendship happened to end every night when the sun went down and I tried voting him out, but the sun came back up and we were friends again. It was a strange, great relationship and that might've been the reason we got along so well. Rick knew I didn't want to work with him, and that allowed us to just have a pure relationship.
I also still talk to Julie quite often! Julie is such an amazing person. They also could have given a whole episode of our season to Julie featuring a montage of her falling over random objects. I also still talk to Lauren, Victoria, and "Wentworth" occasionally!
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! I love it more now than I did before I played. Now I get to watch the episodes and tell Carly, "That's where our camp was!" I just have a new appreciation for the show. I would have loved to played on season 40 with all of those legends! I will say it is my favorite season because TONY VLACHOS did the unthinkable. I thought he had zero chance, and the man did the impossible.
Who's one player from another Survivor season you wish you could have played with or against, and why?
Before I played Survivor, I was a huge Joe fan, so of course I got to play with Joe and all I wanted to do was vote him out. To make things quick, I would love to play with Boston Rob, just to have the satisfaction of voting him out. I really like watching Rob play, but it would bring me large amounts of joy being able to vote him out.
If you could make one change to any aspect of Survivor, what would it be and why?
Eliminate the Edge of Extinction for good. I am very, very, very biased, but still I was a superfan before a player, and as a fan, I still believe once you are voted out, you should be gone for good. I might be sitting on my yacht in the Bahamas right now had Edge of Extinction never happened (just kidding).
Finally, would you play again if asked?
Runner-up season: Survivor: Unfinished Business (cough cough), we can iron out the details later, Jeff.
I would without a doubt play again if given the opportunity. If it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, then I am very thankful for that experience, but I am ready to play again and learn from my first season. Let us not forget it took Boston Rob four times to win. All I am asking for is one more chance.
- How Survivor inspired Nicole Delma to take on Amazon and plastic
- Stephen Fishbach still feels shame about his portrayal on Survivor
- Michelle Schubert almost pooped on the Survivor hidden immunity idol
- Vince Moua on why Asian and LGBTQIA+ representation matters on Survivor
- Tijuana Bradley on being a victim of the infamous Survivor dead grandma lie