Survivor Quarantine Questionnaire: Desi Williams on back-rubbers becoming backstabbers
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.
Trust no one. It's rule No. 1 when it comes to playing Survivor, and Desiree "Desi" Williams learned it the hard way during the Heroes v. Healers v. Hustlers season. Originally part of the Soko (a.k.a. Healers) tribe, Desi's friendly personality and easygoing disposition enabled her instantly gel with her teammates. Although that didn't do her much good once the fight for the million dollars intensified.
"I truly believed in the bond I shared with the Healer tribe for good reason," says Desi. "The first nine days of the show truly felt like summer camp. We told stories, sang karaoke by the fire, constantly played games, slept on the sand, and gave each other back rubs before bed. So you can imagine how shocked I was when those same back-rubbers became backstabbers days later."
Desi was eventually voted out on day 21 after an initial Tribal Council tie on votes between her and fellow Healer Joe Mena. Desi was then voted out 7-1 on the revote. But she was at least able to show off her strategic chops and challenge prowess before the untimely torch snuffing. Now, Desi looks back at her season 35 Survivor journey.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: First off, give the update as to what you've been up to since appearing on Survivor.
DESI WILLIAMS: Life has changed A LOT since Survivor. At the time of the show, I was living in Virginia and working as a college professor. Since then, I resigned from my job and moved to Los Angeles. Now I'm doing some work as on-air talent but have also started my own home therapy company and am working to start a home health agency.
What is your proudest moment ever from playing Survivor?
I think it goes without saying that winning the first individual immunity challenge was my proudest moment. I wish I could relive that experience again and again.
What is your biggest regret from your Survivor experience?
My biggest regret is not attempting to create more alliances outside of my original Healer tribe. I had a few conversations with other players about working together, and thought I had a bond with Ben, at least. I clearly trusted that bond more than I should have, and mistakenly thought the Healers had my back.
What's something that will blow fans' minds that happened out there in your season but never made it to TV?
I don't know that it would blow anyone's mind, but I truly believed in the bond I shared with the Healer tribe for good reason. The first nine days of the show truly felt like summer camp. We told stories, sang karaoke by the fire, constantly played games, slept on the sand, and gave each other back rubs before bed. So you can imagine how shocked I was when those same back-rubbers became backstabbers days later.
How do you feel about the edit you got on the show?
I am completely okay with my edit. There were a lot of strategy conversations that were left out, but I think what was shown about me demonstrates my work ethic and good character.
What was it like coming back to regular society after being out there? Was there culture shock or an adjustment coming back?
Because we were without technology or any outside communication for over a month, the biggest adjustment was going back to having a cell phone and constant stimulation from that. I still have anxiety when my phone is constantly buzzing.
Was there ever a point either during the game or after you got back where you regretted going on the show?
Ha! The morning of the merge, my tribe had been without a single calorie — no food, no coconuts, no nothing — for about 36 hours, and having pretty scarce food for a few days leading up to that. Even Jeff [Probst] remarks upon how depleted I looked when we arrived at the fake challenge later that day. I remember looking at a producer that morning and telling him that if I didn't eat soon, I was going to have to quit. Luckily, I got to eat soon. But other than that, no regrets. I had a blast both in the game and outside of the game, and am so grateful for the opportunity.
Whom do you still talk, text, or email with the most from your season?
I still keep in touch with all of the Healers, and love them all dearly! A bunch of players from my season have gone on ski trips together, went to Jessica's wedding, and to Dr. Mike's son's bar mitzvah (which is still the best party I have ever attended)! I probably talk to Jessica, Roark, and Ali the most, but also keep in touch with Dr. Mike, Cole, and Joe quite a bit.
Do you still watch Survivor, and, if so, what's your favorite season you were not on and why?
I still watch on and off, but can't say I'm totally committed to the show (or any show, for that matter — I'm not a big TV watcher).
Who's one player from another Survivor season you wish you could have played with or against and why?
SO MANY! I love Cirie, Sandra, Natalie, and of course Brice! As much as I love Cirie, Sandra, and Natalie, I'm not sure I would want to play with them because they would definitely crush me! I would love to play WITH Brice though — that's my boo!
If you could make one change to any aspect of Survivor, what would it be and why?
My biggest change would be adding more diversity to the show, and I'm so glad to hear that CBS has made a commitment toward diversity in the coming season.
Finally, would you play again if asked?
ABSOLUTELY! It was the experience of a lifetime. I often describe it the same way women with multiple kids describe childbirth. While in the moment, I was often miserable, but after the fact, I fell so in love with the experience that I wouldn't mind doing it over and over again!
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