By Dalton Ross
December 10, 2020 at 12:15 PM EST
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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.

Rafe Judkins had it all figured out. He made a rock-solid alliance with powerhouse Stephenie LaGrossa right off the bat on Survivor: Guatemala, and then, to increase his odds of being there at the end, he also made a final two pact with Danni Boatwright. That way, it didn’t seem to matter whether Rafe — who won the most individual challenges of the season with four — was victorious in the final immunity competitions, or if Stephanie or Danni did.

But then Danni won. And then Stephenie started sobbing. And then Rafe, perhaps caught up in the emotions of the moment, released Danni from her promise to take him to the end. As a result, Rafe was sent to the jury, and his dream of becoming the Sole Survivor was dashed just one day short on day 38.

Now, 15 years later, Rafe — who has become a successful film and TV writer in his post-Survivor life (including work on shows like Chuck and Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the upcoming Uncharted movie) — looks back on his time in Guatemala, including that final immunity competition, as well as a harrowing incident involving a blindfold, a helicopter, and a lot of water. He also has a take on modern-day Survivor that is likely to win him plenty of fans: “I will be honest that I think the final 3 and especially the final 4 fire-making rule changes have really ruined the game.” The gospel of Rafe continues in his Quarantine Questionnaire.

Credit: Monty Brinton/CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: First off, give the update as to what you’ve been up to since appearing on Survivor.

RAFE JUDKINS: After Survivor, I moved to Los Angeles to become a screenwriter.  I’ve been working on TV shows and films ever since.  I’m currently in Prague, shooting a show I created for Amazon called The Wheel of Time (based on the book series by Robert Jordan), and a movie I wrote based on the video game series Uncharted is just wrapping up filming in Europe. 

What is your proudest moment ever from playing Survivor?

Proudest moment was getting on the show in the first place! I will never, ever forget getting that call. When I was 17 and saw the first season on TV, I told my parents when I was 21 and old enough to apply, I was going to be on it, and I was going to win. So when I was 21 and sitting in my dorm room in college and got the call I’d be heading to Guatemala to compete on the show, it was one of the greatest senses of accomplishment I’ve ever had. Still working on that win though.  

What is your biggest regret from your Survivor experience?

Not winning the final immunity challenge. When we had to write up our “Strategy Essay” for the casting process, mine was focused on the fact that I was 100 percent sure I would finish in third place, and that my entire strategy would be built around avoiding that. I thought too many great players had set themselves up to be voted out in third by putting themselves in a situation where they needed to win the final immunity to win the game. And I was NOT going to do that! Ha. But somehow, at the end of the game, I’d figured out a way to get myself to the Final 3 with two people that had both promised to take me to the Final 2 and that I felt I could beat. So the pressure wasn’t on me win to that challenge, and I took my foot off the gas. Learned my lesson the hard way :)

What’s something that will blow fans’ minds that happened out there in your season but never made it to TV?

On my season, on the day the game started, we were blindfolded and driven in a van for what seemed like hours, then moved to a helicopter, still blindfolded. But, knowing I was heading into the game, I drank gallons and gallons of water the previous night and that morning so that I wouldn’t get dehydrated as easily. My body was like 99.99 percent water at that point, and as they were moving us to the helicopter, I had a need to pee unlike any I’d ever felt before or since, right that second, even though I was still blindfolded. So, I’m fairly confident that my first real moment on Survivor was peeing blindfolded onto a helicopter in front of the entire crew.  

How do you feel about the edit you got on the show?

I thought my edit was really fair and balanced. I tried to play a game where I was controlling what was happening out there by being friends with everyone and knowing exactly who every single person was voting for at every single Tribal Council, but making my moves appear as if they were being made by others, and I think that came across in the show. 

What was it like coming back to regular society after being out there? Was there culture shock or an adjustment coming back?

My big shock was around food. We were really, quite literally, starving on my season, and I’ll never forget walking into a grocery store afterward and just seeing piles of apples and oranges and bananas in the produce section. I thought, “Three days ago, I would’ve fought someone in the mud for hours to win one of those.” I got totally overwhelmed with emotion about how lucky we are to have so much food that we can just reach out and have any time of any day. I haven’t stopped eating since.  

Was there ever a point either during the game or after you got back where you regretted going on the show?

I didn’t like being on television or being recognized by people out in the world, but I loved playing the game. No regrets.  

Whom do you still talk, text, or email with the most from your season?

Because I’ve been traveling all over the world for work the last decade, I’ve sadly fallen out of touch with most of my friends from Survivor. But they’re like family to me. If any of them showed up where I was living and said, “I need a place to crash for six months,” I’d happily have them live with me.  

Do you still watch Survivor, and if so, what’s your favorite season you were not on and why?

I’ve fallen in and out of watching (since they instituted Final 3, I think it’s especially hard to watch for anyone who finished 3rd, ha), but I’ve recently become OBSESSED with Australian Survivor. It really is like Old School American Survivor — huge physically-exhausting challenges, a cast where every single person is playing to win, and a Final 2! The fourth season of that show has got to be one of the best seasons of Survivor that’s ever been played, and I would’ve loved to have been there for it.  

Who’s one player from another Survivor season you wish you could have played with or against and why?

PHOEBE TIMMINS. From Australian Survivor season 3 and All-Stars. Undoubtedly the best player on earth never to make the merge. She is the Queen of Everything and I worship at her feet. I would gladly be destroyed by her as her Survivor game is next-level.  

If you could make one change to any aspect of Survivor, what would it be and why?

Well, I will be honest that I think the final 3 and especially the final 4 fire-making rule changes have really ruined the game. There was a certain purity to having to vote out a group of people who you then had to convince to vote FOR you. But now with the number of Immunity Idols there are and the fact that there aren’t any real Tribal Councils after the final 5, someone can pretty easily win the game after having attended only a handful of Tribal Councils where they weren’t immune.

I also think the editing now focuses much more on just a few characters and their point-of-view each season. What I really loved about Survivor when it first came out was that the edit showed you what EVERYONE was thinking, that every single player out there came to win, and they had a strategy that they were using to make that happen. That excitement of thinking ANY of these people could really win was so thrilling when you watched and allowed you to root for anyone you liked. But now, I think we only get to see the POV of a few chosen characters and it makes it less fun to watch for me. Sorry ‘bout it, Jeff, but it’s true :)

Finally, would you play again if asked?

The timing has never worked out with my work, and I think at this point no one remembers who I am. Ha. But if they asked, of course.  

To keep track of our daily Survivor Quarantine Questionnaires and get all latest updates, check out EW's Survivor hub, and follow Dalton on Twitter.

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Jeff Probst leads adventures in the ultimate (and original) reality series.

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