Survivor Quarantine Questionnaire: Neal Gottlieb questions his medical evacuation
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.
Neal Gottlieb suffered double disappointment on Survivor: Kaoh Rong. First, he was removed from the game on day 19 when the Survivor medical team deemed an infection on his knee potentially life-threatening if it worsened and got into the joint. Then, as if being removed from the game was not bad enough, insult was added to literal injury when Neal was later removed from the jury as well after Michele Fitzgerald won a reward challenge allowing her to eliminate a juror. Due to that diabolical twist, Neal did not even get to vote for a winner (although his vote for Aubry Bracco would not have made the difference as Michele won by a 5-2-0 tally).
Five years later, Neal still questions whether he should have ever been pulled from the game at all, and wonders if he should have done more to hide his injury so he could have stayed in the race for the million dollars. "I regret not hiding the infection that was by my knee," says Neal. "I should have just worn my long ice cream pants and trudged on. While near it, the infection was not in my knee and I was running around the island the morning that I was evacuated without any pain. I really didn't feel that there was a need to evacuate me."
When asked if there are any changes he's like to see Survivor make in the future, Neal uses his own experience as an example: "I would not let Jeff influence medical evacuations. Any such decision should be made independently by a doctor or preferably a team of doctors or other medical professionals."
Of course, that's not nearly as eye-popping as Neal's other Survivor suggestion. To learn the answer to that, as well as what the former ice cream entrepreneur is up to now, read on for Neal's Quarantine Questionnaire.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: First off, give the update as to what you've been up to since appearing on Survivor.
NEAL GOTTLIEB: My life has changed quite a bit since Survivor, especially over the last year. As of April, I am no longer the ice cream man. I had to close Three Twins Ice Cream after 15 years, and now find myself in the paint business, starting up a new online paint company in Singapore while living in California. I'm also now living on land in the redwoods of Mill Valley, after a decade of living on floating things in Sausalito. My dog has certainly enjoyed the change.
What is your proudest moment ever from playing Survivor?
It's either killing a stingray with a hatchet or destroying the fish puzzle, which I believe was day 13. It was me and Debbie on one puzzle and Peter and Anna on the other. While Peter was trying to stay calm and organize the puzzle pieces, I blasted through the puzzle in a time that even impressed Jeff, as he said that it was done far faster than the Dream Teamers had ever done it.
After the challenge, Jeff asked me how I completed the puzzle so quickly. Trying to get the attention off myself, I said to Jeff, "I don't know, I guess that I just got lucky." He didn't like that answer and immediately sent the tribes back to camp without asking any other questions. That challenge loss ended up sending Anna home. If you've seen her social media since then you know that she's been on a bats--- crazy downward slide into conspiracy theories and false prophets ever since.
What is your biggest regret from your Survivor experience?
I regret not hiding the infection that was by my knee. I should have just worn my long ice cream pants and trudged on. While near it, the infection was not in my knee and I was running around the island the morning that I was evacuated without any pain. I really didn't feel that there was a need to evacuate me.
What's something that will blow fans' minds that happened out there in your season but never made it to TV?
A contributing factor to why Aubry almost lost her mind on day 2 was because we were up most of the night getting poured on. It rained enough to fill our pots with fresh water, so maybe three inches. The Brains spent most of the night huddled under our half-built shelter trying to keep our teeth from chattering. After hours of sitting in misery, I saw movement in the shrubs around us and realized that their leaves glowed faintly in the dark! The movement was from the nonstop, entirely unpleasant unrelenting rain.
How do you feel about the edit you got on the show?
I can't imagine being pale, having a bad haircut, losing the game, and being thrilled with my edit. But it was far from the worst of the season.
What was it like coming back to regular society after being out there? Was there culture shock or an adjustment coming back?
I got home on a Friday night and had to go back to work on Monday morning, so I didn't have much time to process or dwell. But I really don't like being hungry anymore and have since had breakfast just about every day.
Was there ever a point either during the game or after you got back where you regretted going on the show?
I can't say that I ever regretted going on, but the experience certainly felt like a giant disappointment at times having my game end as it did. It took a good long time to get past that.
Whom do you still talk, text, or email with the most from your season?
Life is busy and I'm not great about staying in touch with people, so I am not in touch with castmates nearly as much as I used to be. I'm probably in touch with Aubry the most. She's a good one.
Do you still watch Survivor, and if so, what's your favorite season you were not on and why?
I do, though I might have missed a season. I really loved Gabon. The scenery was unbelievable, and the cast was an amazing combination of absurd, crotchety, lovable, and repugnant. And that's just Randy. They just don't make them like him or Corinne anymore. And thank God for that.
Who's one player from another Survivor season you wish you could have played with or against and why?
I was fortunate to get to know Cliff Robinson a bit, including a fabulous man date up in Portland. He was a lovely guy who would have been a blast to get to know in the unique way that you get to know people while playing the game.
If you could make one change to any aspect of Survivor, what would it be and why?
I would not let Jeff influence medical evacuations. Any such decision should be made independently by a doctor or preferably a team of doctors or other medical professionals. And I would allow cannibalism after the merge.
Finally, would you play again if asked?
Anybody who tells you that they wouldn't play again is a liar.
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