Survivor Quarantine Questionnaire: Rick Devens reveals a crew member medical emergency
With season 41 of Survivor 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.
We've seen plenty of contestants get medivaced out of Survivor due to injuries or medical emergencies, but it's easy to forget that the players are just a small fraction of the people actually out there in the wild. While they may not appear on camera, the hundreds of Survivor crew members that put the show together are just as integral to making the magic happen. And if you ever questioned the impact they have, check out our behind-the-scenes story on the marooning of season 38, Survivor: Edge of Extinction.
That very same season, there was a big event that happened 37 days later that once again showed how the well-oiled machine of a crew can jump into action. This time, it was to attend to another medical emergency, but in this instance, it wasn't due to one of the players, but rather amongst the crew themselves.
Contestant (and veteran news anchor) Rick Devens was on the scene.
"On the day of the fire-making challenge, there was a medical emergency among the crew," reports Devens. "I think a crew member had a heart attack. Gavin, Julie, and I had spread out around the island and were practicing fire when you could feel the mood shift. Suddenly, crew members were running back and forth. The three of us and Chris were herded into camp. No one was there to film us. Every member of the crew was focused 100 percent on the emergency. The four of us just held hands and sent good vibes towards the sick crew member. We did our best to stay out of the way and not add to a bad situation."
While Rick was obviously worried, he was also impressed how folks responded to the situation like the pros that they are.
"We had grown close to the crew at this point," says Rick, "and you could see the fear and concern on their faces. They acted quickly. Some people on the island had lifesaving training, and the helicopter arrived fast. I was told after the game that the crew member was okay. It was scary."
While the good news was that the crew member recovered, the bad news for Devens was that later that night he still had to take on Chris Underwood at fire — a one-million dollar battle Rick lost, sending him to the jury. Now, in his Quarantine Questionnaire, Devens looks back at his Survivor journey, including his decision to save Chris at the earlier vote, his odd assimilation back to life in Georgia, and why he didn't end up in a different season on a tribe with Mike White.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: First off, give the update as to what you've been up to since appearing on Survivor.
RICK DEVENS: I've been quarantined at home with my 7-year-old son, Jack, and 3-year-old daughter, Juliet, for over a year. It makes Survivor look like a walk in the park. After Survivor, I chased some dream jobs, working with some agents and pitching shows with folks "in the business." Unfortunately, nothing has come of that yet.
I was about to accept another news job in a slightly bigger TV market when my wife, Becca, landed a dream job of her own as a nurse educator. It was my turn to support her dreams, so we decided to stay in Macon, Ga. Around that time, COVID struck. One of us needed to be at home, so I've been dad/ZOOM teacher's aide ever since. It has been a blessing. This time at home has made me realize that "news" hours aren't conducive to being the dad I want to be.
What is your proudest moment ever from playing Survivor?
I think anyone who goes out there and plays has a lot to be proud of. If I have to pick one moment, I'd pick winning the Edge of Extinction challenge to reenter the game. It's such a tangible moment to show my kids and say, "This is why you don't give up. There's always a chance, and sometimes if you commit yourself and believe in yourself, you're going to find success." Unfortunately, my game also has a very tangible moment to show my kids and say, "Sometimes, even when you commit yourself and believe in yourself, you're going to come up short. But don't let that stop you from believing and trying again."
What is your biggest regret from your Survivor experience?
I don't have any true regrets. If I had not given Chris the half of the idol he needed to stay safe at final 5, he would have gone home that night. I think if that had happened, I would have ended up in fire-making against someone different and won, and then gone on to win the million. So I regret that decision in a sense. But I also know why I made the decision in the moment. I'm very happy with the relationship I have with Chris, and I'm overall so happy with how things turned out. Sia really helped take the sting out of not winning.
What's something that will blow fans' minds that happened out there in your season but never made it to TV?
On the day of the fire-making challenge, there was a medical emergency among the crew. I think a crew member had a heart attack. Gavin, Julie, and I had spread out around the island and were practicing fire when you could feel the mood shift. Suddenly, crew members were running back and forth. The three of us and Chris were herded into camp. No one was there to film us. Every member of the crew was focused 100 percent on the emergency. The four of us just held hands and sent good vibes towards the sick crew member. We did our best to stay out of the way and not add to a bad situation.
We had grown close to the crew at this point, and you could see the fear and concern on their faces. They acted quickly. Some people on the island had lifesaving training, and the helicopter arrived fast. I was told after the game that the crew member was okay. It was scary. The emergency did not affect the actual fire making challenge in any way. I had plenty of practice before it happened. But it did give me a healthy dose of perspective.
And on a lighter note. Day 1, on the ship before the marooning. We meet Jeff for the first time.
Jeff: "What's your name?"
The Wardog: "The Wardog."
Jeff: "What's your name?"
Me: "This is awkward, but my name is also The Wardog."
Those were the first words out of my mouth on Survivor.
How do you feel about the edit you got on the show?
I was very pleased with the edit I got on Survivor. Admittedly, I had a lot of screen time, so I feel like my story was well told and fleshed out. It showed my highs and lows, my good moves and my… not so good moves. I definitely think it reflected what I experienced on the islands. We had such a strong, fun cast that with the Edge and with time restrictions, it was hard to show everyone off, but I have no complaints about my portrayal. They included MOST of my best one-liners.
What was it like coming back to regular society after being out there? Was there culture shock or an adjustment coming back?
I went straight back to work as a news anchor and as a dad. I think having to get right back in the mix is a good distraction. That being said, I did have my moments. My first day back at work, I'm in the studio with my coanchor Ashley and our reporter Tavares. These are my dear friends. We finish talking and they walk out of the studio. My mind immediately jumps to, "They're working together."
My news director also mentioned later that I seemed zoned out for my first couple weeks back. I think my mind was still in Fiji. And then Becca would look at me in wonder as I'd walk barefoot across gravel or lay down in dirt. These are things I wasn't doing before Survivor.
Was there ever a point either during the game or after you got back where you regretted going on the show?
Nope. Not yet.
Whom do you still talk, text, or email with the most from your season?
The people from my season that I speak to the most are Julie and Gavin. My wife, Becca, got close to all the loved ones during family visit. It was a great bunch. Now I'm almost as close to Mark and Carly as I am to their spouses, Julie and Gavin.
When our family visited the Apple Festival in Gavin's hometown, Irwin, his parents, Kim and Tony, tried to adopt Juliet. Gavin and I also play Fortnite every Thursday with Stephen Fishbach and our great friend, Adam. Adam's not a Survivor, so we boot him if Cochran shows up. I talk with my good buddy, Chris Underwood, all the time. David Wright is on the other side of the country, but I love him dearly, and we stay in touch as best we can.
Pre-pandemic, Ron Clark was kind enough to host me at his academy and on top of that he also hosted my sister, Katy! Katy is a kindergarten teacher, and it was a thrill for her to get to visit the famous Ron Clark Academy. Victoria and I are almost always on the same wavelength and text back and forth about our animals, mostly. Also, pre-pandemic, I got to room with my pal, Aurora, at Hearts of Reality. She and Becca were fast friends. I try to reach out to Keith, Julia, Reem, Wendy, Wardog, and everyone's favorite, Eric, as much as possible. It's always great to touch base, but they're busy folks leading productive lives! Wendy's boyfriend, Janni, is such a cool, chill guy. I think he'd do great on Survivor.
I've also gotten to make a lot of other great friends through Survivor. Wendell, Desi, and Davie were the first Survivors I ever met, and they could not have been a nicer more welcoming bunch. Now I'm constantly hounding my great buddy, Wendell, for advice and love to watch his success. Rob Cesternino has been terrific. He also gets hounded for advice. I love talking sports with Brendan Shapiro, and we may take our text chain with a certain EW reporter to the next level with a Washington Football podcast. Sunday Burquest was kind enough to taxi me around Minneapolis and share tales of David Wright over a Juicy Lucy. Sunday was such a special and positive person. I'm so sad that she recently lost her fight to cancer. You can still support her family by sending love and donating to Sunday's gofundme.
There are too many others to name individually, but just know, I still get really excited every time I meet a fellow castaway.
Do you still watch Survivor, and, if so, what's your favorite season you were not on and why?
I'm still a huge Survivor fan. My parents and I have started rewatching seasons together. My favorite season is Heroes vs Villains. I'm admittedly a major "casual" when it comes to how I enjoy the show.
Who's one player from another Survivor season you wish you could have played with or against and why?
There are so many players I would be thrilled to play with. I geek out when I meet castaways, which reminds me of a story.
I was at casting week with mostly David vs Goliath people. One of those people was Mike White. I recognized him right away. I'm a big fan. I watched him on Amazing Race, which was fun, but I'm a bigger fan of Mike White, the filmmaker. I wanted to play with him so badly. We weren't allowed to speak, but I kept trying to make him laugh because of how personally rewarding it would feel to make THE Mike White laugh.
During interviews with producers, I was fanboying and basically running down his entire filmography, Enlightenment, School of Rock, Nacho Libre… I went on and on. In hindsight, I realize I was probably tanking any chance I had of being on the same season with him. And sadly, I've had no contact with Mr. White since finals week.
If you could make one change to any aspect of Survivor, what would it be and why?
I'm the worst at this sort of thing. I'm excited about the initiatives for more diverse casting. I like that Survivor tries new things. That's why it's been on for 40 seasons. Speaking selfishly, let's have returnees on every season. It works for The Challenge, right?
Finally, would you play again if asked?
Becca has given her permission, so I'm ready to roll.
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