Survivor Quarantine Questionnaire: Brooke Struck on surviving crocodile attacks in Guatemala
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.
Betrayed! Brooke Struck's Survivor game ended far too soon. After a tribe swap on Survivor Guatemala, Judd Sergeant switched alliances — abandoning his Nakúm mates and joining the rival Yaxhá members to vote Brooke out on day 11. Getting booted fourth in the game had to be a bummer for Brooke. On the bright side, at least she did not get eaten by a crocodile!
As Brooke reveals in her Quarantine Questionnaire, that threat was all too real. It turns out producers even halted the game and had a crocodile expert come talk to the Guatemala cast after some of the contestants were ignoring the advice to not swim in the water. Not only did they pause the game, but they filmed the crocodile expert instructions… and not for TV.
"Having my law degree, I was keenly aware that they were filming this expert talking to us," Brooke told Entertainment Weekly. "They did this in the event we ignored the advice and got killed by a crocodile; Survivor could defend against any wrongful death lawsuit by showing we'd been fully warned of the danger and chose to ignore it!"
Luckily, no one ended up dead, meaning the footage of this mid-game wildlife chat remains deep in a Survivor vault — likely buried somewhere on Ghost Island, where it's gaining new mystical powers! But no need to — as Probst would say — "Dig Deep!" to uncover an enlightening and entertaining Quarantine Questionnaire. It's right in front of your eyes, and it comes courtesy of Brooke Struck. Enjoy!
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: First off, give the update as to what you've been up to since appearing on Survivor.
BROOKE STRUCK: I can't believe it's been over 15 years since Guatemala! It seems like just yesterday, but so much has happened since then. Days before flying out to film Guatemala, I had just walked in my law school graduation ceremony at Pepperdine, which meant that I would miss out on the July Bar Exam (the Bar Exam is only held twice a year). It was a fairly easy choice to make, though! Survivor was a once in a lifetime opportunity, being an attorney could wait!
Thankfully, I passed the February California Bar Exam on my first try, followed by the Oregon Bar Exam that July. A few months later, I moved to the Sacramento area and got married. After that, life moved pretty fast! My husband and I now have three kids: ages 11, 9, and 7, and I have a very successful family law firm that I founded with two partners.
It's funny because I always said I never wanted to do criminal defense law (sorry, Eliza Orlins!) or family law, yet that's where I ended up. I really do love my work though because I get to help people through some of the worst things (divorce, domestic violence, custody battles, etc.) and see them through it to a new start in life. Plus, it's never boring! The stuff I hear daily makes Jerry Springer episodes seem mundane.
The highlight of my law career thus far was on October 8, 2019, when I had the honor of being admitted to the U.S. Supreme Court Bar. On that day, the U.S. Supreme Court was hearing the controversial Title VII cases. People had camped out for days to hear oral arguments, protestors were everywhere outside, and I literally had a front row seat on the floor to watch history being made. It was also especially meaningful for me that I got to see Ruth Bader Ginsberg on the bench before she passed away less than a year later.
What is your proudest moment ever from playing Survivor?
I don't know if there has ever been a harder Survivor challenge than our 24 hour, 11-mile jungle hike. So not only to survive that, but to be on the winning team, with me having been in charge of the map, was definitely my proudest moment. That hike took a serious toll on the majority of the men on our team. You saw them with heat exhaustion, vomiting, getting injured. It was brutal!
Watching it summarized on a television episode for approximately 20 minutes did not do it justice. At one point, we were actually on rafts, with poles, trying to navigate a small river. There was no way to properly convey the misery of sleeping on the floor of the wet jungle with nothing but the clothes on your back. No fire, no shelter, nothing. In spite of all that, we had so much adrenaline from just starting the game that our tribe stayed up all night laughing about how crazy we were to be doing this.
What is your biggest regret from your Survivor experience?
Superficially, my biggest regret is that the only time I've flown in a helicopter was when they blindfolded me and flew us to the starting location for our jungle hike! Game wise, my biggest regret is being too naïve after the tribe swap. I should have never believed that everyone was voting Lydia out for being the weakest at challenges! Once the teams are shuffled, it's all about the numbers and I should have realized it wouldn't be that easy. But when you're exhausted, starved, and sleep deprived, you aren't thinking clearly.
What's something that will blow fans' minds that happened out there in your season but never made it to TV?
The thing that I hated about my season is that we could not get in the water. Before the game started, we were cautioned that every body of water had crocodiles in it, and to not enter the water. Did that stop some of my tribemates when it got hot? No. I remember sitting on our dock with Cindy watching people canoe out and jump into the lake. She said how foolish that was because crocodiles just wait under the surface when it's hot. I was like, "I'm listening to the zookeeper on this one!"
Shortly after the swimming incident, we were all at camp and production paused the game to have a crocodile expert come talk to us. With cameras rolling, the expert reiterated what Cindy said and added that the crocodiles are watching our watering habits each morning when we collect lake water to boil for drinking. Apparently, that's what they do when stalking prey, and we were told we will lose if we try to outrun them. The expert advised us that in order to outrun a charging crocodile, we need to run in a zig-zag pattern, since their legs are short and stumpy and they cannot maneuver in that manner. Thankfully, I never had to test out that advice!
The funny thing, too, is that having my law degree, I was keenly aware that they were filming this expert talking to us. They did this in the event we ignored the advice and got killed by a crocodile; Survivor could defend against any wrongful death lawsuit by showing we'd been fully warned of the danger and chose to ignore it!
How do you feel about the edit you got on the show?
It's hard watching the edit because so much happens while you're in the game that you believe is important from your limited point of view. Once the show airs, you realize how much of that is omitted. Seeing as I was the fourth person voted out, my edit was fair. I was portrayed accurately, but since I wasn't in the game long they weren't going to spend a lot of screen time on my story.
What was it like coming back to regular society after being out there? Was there culture shock or an adjustment coming back?
Once you're out of the game, you appreciate every detail of modern life so much more! Food, bed, toilet, toothbrush, soap, etc. Stuff that you took for granted in your daily routine is, somehow now, so fabulous. I've also never missed or appreciated my family more than when I was apart from them on the show. The hardest part of coming back is that no one can understand what you went through, except other Survivor contestants. It's a unique bond.
Was there ever a point either during the game or after you got back where you regretted going on the show?
Never ever. Survivor gave me a once in a lifetime adventure that profoundly changed me. It also gave me my "Survivor Family." We come from different backgrounds, different walks of life, different parts of the country, but we all have this shared Survivor experience that bonds us. I've also met so many amazing fans of the show! They've been very gracious and kind, and I enjoy sharing stories and answering their Survivor questions.
Whom do you still talk, text, or email with the most from your season?
I call Brian my Survivor BFF (although we never played on the same tribe during our season, which is a shame). We had a great time in Costa Rica after we were voted off pre-jury, and I've even visited him out in New York. Brian memorized all our phone numbers following filming so that we could keep in touch prior to the show airing! I also have to say that while Jaime was not my favorite at the time for voting me out, we met up again in Maine at Bob Crowley's charity event and he cheered me on when roles were reversed and he got voted out before me. Jaime definitely made us laugh more than ever out in the woods of Maine!
Do you still watch Survivor, and if so, what's your favorite season you were not on and why?
I don't miss an episode of Survivor! Season 40 is my favorite. Watching two decades of winners compete in a game that evolved into something very different from where it started at 20 years ago was fascinating. Plus, it was the first time my kids have watched Survivor (yes, even before they watched my season). Getting to see how new and exciting it was to them was just as great!
Who's one player from another Survivor season you wish you could have played with or against and why?
I'm breaking the rules and listing two players — Sandra and Tony. If I'm going to play again, I want it to be against the best of the best. Beating them would give you ultimate Survivor bragging rights. I've never met Tony, but I've known Sandra since I met her shortly after my season aired. We share the same birthday (as does Troyzan), and I admire her unapologetic self-confidence. Somewhere out there is a photo of her and I sharing a midnight birthday cake in Discovery Beach, Fla.!
If you could make one change to any aspect of Survivor, what would it be and why?
I'm an old school Survivor purist. Take away all the new types of immunity idols and advantages of recent years and get back to basics! I believe winning should be based on outwitting, outplaying, outlasting. The more special advantages and twists you add, the more someone can win or lose by one lucky event.
Finally, would you play again if asked?
In a heartbeat! Due to the tribe swap, I got voted out when I was still doing great and feeling healthy and strong. But that's how it goes sometimes. Once you've played Survivor, if you get the chance to play again you have a HUGE advantage over newbies. All that said, unless they have a "Survivor Rejects" season for all the early vote-outs, I'm probably not on the short list for getting asked back. A girl can dream though, can't she?
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!"