SURVIVOR: Island of the Idols

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.

"Shout-out to all spouses of Survivor players!" So says Aaron Meredith, and judging by the Quarantine Questionnaires filled out by former players, the dude has a point.

Over and over, Survivor contestants like Elaine Stott, Elizbeth Olson, and many others have talked openly about how the struggle on the island is nothing compared to the struggle after returning back home, and how they found the game still consuming their lives — often at the expense of their life partners they were closest to. And it seems to be have been no different for Meredith after returning from Fiji for Survivor: Island of the Idols.

"The hardest part of coming home was trying to not 'vomit' Survivor all over my wife," says Meredith. "I had just spent 45 days away, living my dream of playing Survivor, and wanted nothing more but to share that experience with her. That's not what she needed nor wanted. She wanted her husband back, the father of her son back — with no Survivor distractions."

Meredith echoes the sentiments of many other players who have recognized the difficulties of acclimating back to normal life — especially as the show is airing on TV — while also expressing thanks to a significant other for putting up with it all.

"The post-game was probably more difficult for her than me being gone for 45 days," says Meredith of his wife, "because it lasted from May to December."

As for Meredith's actual time in the game, it was truly a roller-coaster ride filled with ups and downs. While he appeared to be on the outs after the very first vote, Meredith formed a powerful alliance with Missy Byrd and Elizabeth Beisel that took them into the merge. Meredith then won the first two individual immunity challenges, cementing himself as a true threat in the game.

That target was his ultimate undoing, however, after the players were randomly divided into two temporary tribes, separating Meredith from his alliance partners and allowing the physical threat to be voted out on day 27.

While Meredith's time playing the game was over, he certainly brought his A game to his Quarantine Questionnaire, sharing secrets about what really happened with those peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, explaining how he blew it with tribemate Elaine Stott, and not hesitating to put himself on blast for how he handled the discussion on sexual harassment at Tribal Council. It's all there… and then some.

SURVIVOR: Island of Idols
Aaron Meredith on 'Survivor: Island of the Idols'
| Credit: Robert Voets/CBS via Getty Images)

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

AARON MEREDITH: Wow! It's been a crazy year plus. Finale week for us was just before the COVID pandemic hit (I actually think I had COVID while I was out in Los Angeles filming our finale… fever, no taste… it was brutal). Pretty sure Tommy contaminated a few of us. 

I spent the last 12 years of my life in the fitness profession. Dedicated my life to helping empower people through exercise and nutrition. At the time, I had two fitness facilities. One was a brand-new location we had opened a year prior. COVID absolutely devastated our industry. We were forced to close our doors. In the beginning, I thought it would be "two weeks to flatten the curve" and we would be back in operation. Two weeks went by… four… eight… still closed. 

My business partner and I made the difficult decision to close our doors as we were bleeding money despite the assistance programs put in place. This was definitely one of the most difficult times in my life both emotionally and financially. I can honestly say never in my life have I ever felt so helpless, but with a family I had responsibilities and needed to figure it out. 

Luckily a buddy of mine from high school reached out and connected me to the life insurance sales industry. Fast forward a year later, and I've been blessed with a brand new career I've been able to thrive in. 

What is your proudest moment ever from playing Survivor?

I'm a huge fan of the show. Just playing the game was surreal. My proudest moment easily was winning the first individual immunity challenge I took part in. I dreamed for 18 years of having Jeff say, "Aaron WINS Immunity!" To live that moment was epic! Now, granted, from a gameplay standpoint, it probably wasn't wise for me to win, but if I had to do it all over again, I'd still give it my all. 

What is your biggest regret from your Survivor experience?

I have a laundry list of items I could go down in terms of game play regrets.  One conversation here, one lie there… playing Monday morning quarterback on my gameplay is brutal! 

If I had to pick one regret, it would be not attempting to rebuild the trust with Elaine after I violated it post swap by throwing her name out as someone we would sacrifice from original Lairo. Elaine was extremely loyal and someone I should have tried to play the game with strategically. She was the biggest social threat to win the game — hiding behind her may have helped progress me further in the game. The would have, could have, should have aspect of the game still kills me. Probably always will. 

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

The split tribe individual immunity challenge had two parts. First was individual immunity for each tribe. The second was the person who lasts the longest will win peanut butter and jelly for the rest of the tribe, as well as attend Tribal Council last. 

Noura won for our tribe and immediately dropped to celebrate, not realizing she was still participating to win the second part of the challenge. With that, we had to go to Tribal first. And to make matters worse, we had to starve with no PB&J…. OR SO WE THOUGHT. Enter Janet. 

Janet campaigned that Noura didn't hear Jeff mention the second part of the challenge and we lost out on PB&J. It worked! On the boat ride back to camp, we got the PB&J sandwiches and were sworn to secrecy to never speak of such events… lol… I'm pretty sure my NDA has expired. 

SURVIVOR: Island of Idols
Aaron Meredith and Jeff Probst on 'Survivor: Island of the Idols'
| Credit: Robert Voets/CBS

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

For the majority, I thought it was fair. It's incredible what Hollywood magic can do to tell a story. Overall, we say the things we say, and act the way we act and the editing team can highlight what they choose to tell a story. For instance, there was NEVER a concern of a showmance between Dean and Chelsea. But you see my confessional voicing my concern about their "relationship." That confessional was filmed after we swapped tribes following Chelsea's vote out… and I was fed questions from production to help make sense of why she was voted out. 

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

For me, I was able to acclimate to some sort of normalcy being voted out two weeks before leaving Fiji. Coming home, I was concerned with one thing, my family (wife and son). I remember sobbing calling my wife when I landed in Los Angeles apologizing to her for not getting her out to the family visit.

The hardest part of coming home was trying to not "vomit" Survivor all over my wife.  I had just spent 45 days away, living my dream of playing Survivor, and wanted nothing more but to share that experience with her. That's not what she needed nor wanted. She wanted her husband back, the father of her son back — with no Survivor distractions. The post-game was probably more difficult for her than me being gone for 45 days, because it lasted from May to December. Shout out to all spouses of Survivor players! 

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

Oh man… I try to live life with no regrets and rather look at any negative experience as a teaching moment in life. Season 39 was a "heavy" season in many ways. 

I love the game of Survivor and was ready for the full Survivor experience both in game and post-game. I was ready to embrace being loved or hated for my game play either way it shook out. Unfortunately, and understandably so, it wasn't my game play which factored into people's opinions of me, it was the words I chose to use at "the" Tribal Council.  

I chose to speak out on something I had minimal knowledge on nor business to speak on. Instead of approaching the subject with empathy and listening, I stayed in game mode and regrettably opened my mouth. I said something stupid. I own that. I think it's important to be able to admit that, learn from it, and move forward.  So for me… no regrets on playing the game. 

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

I've been very busy and wish I did a better job staying in contact with my cast. Missy will forever be my little sister. She joined my family down in Disney this past May to celebrate my son's eighth birthday. Ronnie is my dude. I recently went to Vegas for a work trip and got to spend some time with him "reminiscing" of what could have been.  

I try to see Jack and Elizabeth as much as possible as they live 20 minutes away. We had game night recently at our house. I've been able to see Jamal a bit as well. Always great to connect with him as we have some amazing conversations. 

Outside of that, I've connected with Janet, Elaine, and Noura here and there.  

SURVIVOR: Island of the Idols
Aaron Meredith on 'Survivor: Island of the Idols'
| Credit: Robert Voets/CBS

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

For sure! I'm eagerly awaiting season 41!  My favorite season is season 20 (Heroes vs. Villains). The cast is spectacular! The characters of that season made it forever memorable for me. From episode 1 and the helicopter arrival to the Queen being crowed.

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

From a competitive standpoint, I would have loved to go head-to-head with Ozzy, in his prime, in a challenge. I would consider myself to be pretty well-rounded when it comes to physical and mental challenges. I want to compete against and beat the best. The overall game of Survivor has an aspect of luck which factors into the result. However, when it comes to the individual challenges. you win because you're better! It's one aspect of the game you can control.  

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

Nothing game-based. Give the cast the option of wearing bathing suits. As much as I loved "free ballin'" in my sand-filled jeans at night, it can't be sanitary. Not sure whose idea it was to take those away, but I wish them 27 days of continual chaffing. 

Finally, would you play again if asked?

Does a bear s--- in the woods?

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

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SURVIVOR: Island of the Idols

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!"

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