Survivor Quarantine Questionnaire: Jacob Derwin says there was a treasure chest on Ghost Island
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.
Who can forget the riveting action of the "Guess that bamboo" game on Ghost Island for Survivor's 36th season? Anyone… Bueller… anyone?!? Well, it turns out that there was initially something else on the island littered with the mementos of the past on Survivor: Ghost Island, and that something was… a treasure chest!
Don't take my word for it! Listen to the first player to ever spend a night on Ghost Island, Jacob Derwin. "There was a treasure chest on Ghost Island," says Derwin. (See, told ya!) "By the shelter. It was locked, of course. I spent most of that day tiring out the limited camera crew in search of a nonexistent key. The one used to open the bamboo shoots at the game of chance was the wrong size. I even mentioned it to Malolo when I got back, I was so befuddled."
Derwin even went to the host himself for answers: "I talked to [Jeff] Probst later, who told me he felt bad for me; the chest was a McGuffin. It didn't mean anything. Watching the show, there was a sign mysteriously posted at the entrance about there not being any advantages hidden on GI that I'd never seen before. Spooky!"
Jacob was a massive superfan of the show when he signed up to be deserted in the South Pacific with a bunch of strangers, but, as with many superfans before him, the experience didn't quite live up to expectations. Jacob's dream turned into a bit of a reality television nightmare as the Brooklyn musician was the second one voted out of the game on day 6. Asked if he ever regretted going on the program, Jacob is refreshingly honest in his answer: "Honestly? Still do. It put a weird and deep stain on my reputation (and search results), and I'm not even close to getting it out."
He may not have succeeded in the game, but Jacob certainly succeeded in putting together a must-read Quarantine Questionnaire. If you were looking for an insightful, informative, and candid take on the highs and lows of the Survivor journey, then look no further: Jacob Derwin's got the goods.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: First off, give the update as to what you've been up to since appearing on Survivor.
JACOB DERWIN: I'm currently working as a caregiver and tutor for a family in Brooklyn. I recently recorded and released a little passion project called the Modern Romance EP with help from a ton of local musician friends. My mom and I appeared on the Food Network Kitchen app series premiere of Better With Age, which was filmed back in January before the end of the world.
Last year, I drove around the country playing any small bar, cafe or bookstore that would have me. Crashed on a lot of Survivor alumni couches! Most recently, I contributed some songs to the excellent narrative fiction podcast F*cking Sober as well as a Sufjan Stevens joke that got out of hand called Our Fifty States Project, which managed to get a write-up in both Pitchfork and the AV Club.
Oh, and I met a woman named Beda at a coffee house in Harlem. We've been together over a year now. Regular fans of Undercover Boss: Celebrity Edition might recognize her!
What is your proudest moment ever from playing Survivor?
Didn't have a lot of time to make such memories, unfortunately. But I'm proud of myself for doing it at all, despite my fears and concerns going into it. And it was wild to be the first to experience a new twist.
What is your biggest regret from your Survivor experience?
Just one? Let's go with this: I should have made a huge scene at the end of our second immunity challenge. I should have flailed and screamed. It got me to Ghost Island the first time, maybe it would have saved me again. Who knows?
What's something that will blow fans' minds that happened out there in your season but never made it to TV?
There's a ton! But I don't think I've mentioned this one publicly before. There was a treasure chest on Ghost Island. By the shelter. It was locked, of course. I spent most of that day tiring out the limited camera crew in search of a nonexistent key. The one used to open the bamboo shoots at the game of chance was the wrong size. I even mentioned it to Malolo when I got back, I was so befuddled. I talked to Probst later, who told me he felt bad for me; the chest was a McGuffin. It didn't mean anything. Watching the show, there was a sign mysteriously posted at the entrance about there not being any advantages hidden on GI that I'd never seen before. Spooky!
Side note: I originally attempted to make a fake idol using that sweet key from the game. Production needed it back, so I ended up with that stupid shell in the 11th hour. Not quite as convincing.
How do you feel about the edit you got on the show?
It was a little worse than expected. Didn't think I'd have people calling me socially inept and "special" on TV, but hey, I knew what I was getting into when I signed up.
What was it like coming back to regular society after being out there? Was there culture shock or an adjustment coming back?
I had a lot longer than most to readjust! Spent some time in Queensland with the rest of the pre-jury reacclimatizing to society. I had a lot of time to think about my life and what I wanted next. For years, it felt like it was all leading up to Survivor, and that didn't go well. As soon as I got back to the States, I knew I needed to get my ass in gear. I'd only graduated from college a few months prior to leaving for the show, so I was essentially starting my adult life on a broken foot. I moved to Brooklyn with a chunk of my consolation prize, started taking voice acting lessons and worked any job I could get. It was time to move on and forward.
Was there ever a point either during the game or after you got back where you regretted going on the show?
Honestly? Still do. It put a weird and deep stain on my reputation (and search results), and I'm not even close to getting it out.
Whom do you still talk, text, or email with the most from your season?
Laurel and I are close. I adore her an awfully big amount. Even without having been cast on the show, I suspect we would have found each other eventually. I keep up with Stephanie J. regularly too, as well as Kellyn and James when I can.
Do you still watch Survivor, and if so, what's your favorite season you were not on and why?
Nah, it's a bad idea to watch nowadays. And my therapist agrees! I've seen a few episodes here and there at events, and have met some players from other seasons, but it all kind of hurts too much. Favorite season is China, though.
Who's one player from another Survivor season you wish you could have played with or against and why?
Simone from 35 very kindly mentioned me here! I've really enjoyed becoming friends with her and her husband. I suspect if we played together, our fates would have been pretty much the same though! I would have loved to play with Lyrsa from 37. We've hung out a little bit, and we get each other on an existential level. I think we'd make a fun team.
If you could make one change to any aspect of Survivor, what would it be and why?
They're working on it: the show needs a ton more representation. They're the longest running arc competition series on American television. The cast and crew should reflect the population the show represents by now.
Finally, would you play again if asked?
Oy. Probably not? It would have to be under very specific circumstances. I'm not interested in being a primetime punchline for millions of people again.