Survivor Quarantine Questionnaire: Bob Crowley on how winning the game changed things back home
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.
Bob Crowley did not jump out as a major threat to win Survivor: Gabon. Maybe it was because of his age (the oldest male member of the cast at 57-years-old). After all, how would someone more than 30 years older than many of the other cast members be able to form bonds and relate on a social level? And yet he did. Maybe it's because the physics teacher from Maine did not appear likely to be a challenge beast. And yet he won three straight immunity challenges down the stretch.
Bob walked out of Gabon with both the title of Sole Survivor and a million-dollar check. Not only that, but winning Survivor made him a celebrity back home in Maine — and he has used that celebrity to help raise a lot of money for a lot of different causes since his victory back in 2008. And while Bob was not brought back for 2020's all-champions edition of Winners at War, he said in his Quarantine Questionnaire that if he has anything to say about it, his Survivor career may not be over after all.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: First off, give the update as to what you've been up to since appearing on Survivor.
BOB CROWLEY: After I retired from teaching high school physics, our family created a year-round campground in Durham, Maine called Maine Forest Yurts. My family and I live on 100 acres of woods, so we thought this would be a wonderful way to share our love of the Maine outdoors and our love of hosting and entertaining people. We currently have four yurts and we have had guests from all over the world come stay with us and quite a few have been Survivor fans. My daughter Page Atherton runs the company with my wife Peggy. Our sons helped build the yurts and create the business. And I do whatever they need me to do.
We also started a nonprofit called the Durham Warriors Project that gives a free stay at Maine Forest Yurts to veterans, active military and their families, and other nonprofits like Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. Over the years we have been lucky enough to host hundreds of guests.
Additionally, we launched a competition called the Durham Warriors Survival Challenge to raise money for Durham Warriors Project guests to stay for free at Maine Forest Yurts. The event was a 3-day, Survivor-themed competition. It was a fast-paced, accelerated version of Survivor that gave Survivor fans and actual Survivor players a chance to play the game of Survivor and raise money for charity. It also gave my family a chance to meet an amazing group of Survivor players and Survivor fans that volunteered.
The Survival Challenge fundraiser is still going on and it is now hosted in Macomb, Illinois. For anyone looking to get a taste for what it is like to be on the show, I would highly recommend playing in the competition. It is also an amazing way to meet a wonderful community of people that have a shared love of Survivor.
Those are some of the things that I started since being on the show, but an average day for me entails getting up in the morning, grabbing a cup of coffee at the local corner store, then calling my daughter Page to see what my chores are for the day. If Page doesn't have any chores for me, I grab my chainsaw and my tractor, truck or snowmobile and head out into the woods to cut firewood for our house and the yurts. In the summertime, Peg and I spend as much time as we can at our island house off the coast of Maine. I have a commercial lobster license and, together with my friend Janimal, we haul 100 lobster traps. So between lobstering, cutting firewood, being a new grandfather, and sitting in my rocking chair, I generally have something on my agenda every day.
What is your proudest moment ever from playing Survivor?
Peg and I have been involved in a lot of fundraisers since I was on Survivor. When our children were young, I used to offer a day lobstering with Bob Crowley to raise money for the elementary school. Usually it would raise $200-$300. After I was on Survivor, I was at a fundraiser for the Center For Grieving Children and offered the same lobstering trip only now with Survivor Bob. At the auction, the bidding started approaching what I thought was a crazy amount of money. It went from $3,000, then to $4,000, and then up to $5,000. When the bid got to $5,000, I realized it wasn't going to go up much higher, so I jumped up and offered a second day so both families who were bidding against each other would be able to have some lobsters and spend some time on the island. So instead of raising $5,000 for the Center For Grieving Children, it raised $10,000. And that was one of my proudest scams!
Peg and I continue to help raise money for nonprofits, which we are both extremely proud of doing. Some of those nonprofits are Hearts of Reality, Reality-Rally which Gillian Larson from my season of Survivor started, and Brian Hogue organized a group of fellow Survivors to go to Kansas to fundraise for Habitat for Humanity and for Terry Dietz's charity Danny Strong on behalf of his son Danny. When we were in Kansas, there was an earthquake. This has nothing to do with Survivor, but it was my first earthquake which was pretty cool.
What is your biggest regret from your Survivor experience?
Probably my biggest regret is not being able to go on tour of the country Gabon. We left Gabon the day after the final Tribal Council. But I have no regrets about being on Survivor, going to Gabon and well... winning.
What's something that will blow fans' minds that happened out there in your season but never made it to TV?
It's difficult to come up with mind blowing things that were not shown on the season. I had a pretty amazing season to be part of. But one thing that didn't make the show was an incident that happened one night when I woke up at about 2 o'clock in the morning to start boiling water so we would all have water for our canteens for the day.
When I came out of the hut, the night-cameraman was looking around with his infrared camera. I asked him what he was looking at and he said, "Nothing." So I started the fire to boil water and he told me not to start the fire because he couldn't see with the infrared camera with the light from the fire. I asked him what he was looking for again. And he confessed that a large cat was walking around the hut and he was trying to keep an eye on where it was. Keep in mind that there was no one and nothing at our campsite to protect us from the animals.
I tricked him into picking up his foot, at which point I took off his sneaker and threw it out into the Savanna. Surprised, he yelled, "Why did you do that?" I said because "I think I can probably run faster with two sneakers on than you can with one." I regret to inform you that I did run faster than him and the cat ate the cameraman. Okay, I get carried away with my stories once in a while!
How do you feel about the edit you got on the show?
Hey, when you take a skinny, ugly, old high school teacher and edit him to look like they did me on the show, I have no complaints!
What was it like coming back to regular society after being out there? Was there culture shock or an adjustment coming back?
After the final Tribal Council, the first person you meet is the psychiatrist. She said to me, when you return to the States, you'll still have an urge to collect firewood and collect berries and pee in the bushes, but you'll get over that. I asked her "Why?" I said that I'm going back to the island where I live in the summer. I'll collect firewood, I'll pick blackberries to put on my pancakes, and I do s--- in the woods. She said, "I bet you'll acclimate just fine." Other than that, I didn't really have any culture shock or adjustments coming back.
Was there ever a point either during the game or after you got back where you regretted going on the show?
No, not in the least. Survivor has opened up amazing opportunities for Peg and me. We have made wonderful new friends. And we have visited some wonderful countries since I was on Survivor including Greece, Turkey, Italy, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, and Croatia.
Whom do you still talk, text, or email with the most from your season?
I text and talk and visit when I'm in California with Corinne and Sugar, obviously at separate times and in separate locations. We see Gillian when we are able to go to her Reality-Rally fundraiser. Charlie Herschel has come to Maine to visit the island and the farm and Maine Forest Yurts. Susie Smith has invited us to her town in Charles City, Iowa and she has come to Maine to visit and she played in our Durham Warriors Survival Challenge. Randy Bailey hasn't been here yet...but he's always welcome!
I do have to say I have gotten to know many players from other seasons of Survivor. Richard Hatch, Sandra Diaz Twine, Ethan Zohn, Terry Dietz, Yau-Man, Kathy Sleckman, and Natalie Anderson have all come here to visit us at our farm, and some have stayed in the yurts. Being on Survivor has been a great opportunity to become friends with so many Survivor contestants and Survivor fans.
Do you still watch Survivor, and if so, what's your favorite season you were not on and why?
Oh yes, I still watch Survivor. I enjoyed watching Winners at War which I like to call "Some of the Winners at War." It was fun watching the winners compete. I know most of them personally and that adds excitement to watching them play. I was rooting for Ethan Zohn.
Who's one player from another Survivor season you wish you could have played with or against and why?
This is a hard question for me. I've met hundreds of the players so it's difficult for me to choose. There are so many that would be fun to play with and some that wouldn't be fun to play with. I'll pick Jimmy T from Nicaragua, but that's because Jimmy has become one of my closest friends post-Survivor. As a matter of fact, Jimmy's coming this week to play in the woods with me. We call it the Huck Finn Gym, where I let him come and cut firewood, cut trails, snowmobile, catch lobsters in the Summer, and tell lies. Peg and I often visit with Jimmy and his wife Laurel in Gloucester, Mass. Timber Tina of Survivor: Panama often joins us for the good times in the woods.
If you could make one change to any aspect of Survivor, what would it be and why?
Although I cannot think of anything that could make Survivor a better show than it has proved to be over the last two decades, I often say I would prefer to be put on an island with a chainsaw and five gallons of gas and whoever has the coolest shelter at the end of 39 days wins.
Finally, would you play again if asked?
I'd play again in a heartbeat.
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