SURVIVOR: Island of the Idols

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.

One of the indelible images from Survivor: Marquesas is John Carroll — leader of original Rotu alliance, and in control of the game — basking in the glory of his power with arms spread out wide as a waterfall crashes down upon him. Soon enough, his game came crashing down as well. In the franchise’s first ever power topple, the five people on the outs of that alliance (Neleh, Paschal, Kathy, Sean, and Vecepia) came together to outnumber the fearsome foursome, sending John to the jury in a shocking blindside.

While John’s run was cut short in season 4, he was a big personality who played the game hard form the minute he landed on the beach. In other words, a shoo-in for a return appearance. Only it never happened. Even though John was a breakout character on a standout season — AND EVEN THOUGH HE HAD KATHY PEE ON HIS HAND! — the “new school player in an old school body” has not been invited back to finish what he started. So we decided to get him started on a Survivor Quarantine Questionnaire instead!

What does John make about his rise and fall on the island? What advice does he have for future players? And what realization did he just come to two weeks ago about his elimination? John gets into all that and more, and reveals how Jeff Probst threatened to shut down production due to John’s bathroom habits. Read on for all the scoop on the poop!

Credit: Mark Mainz/Getty Images

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

JOHN CARROLL: Hi, Dalton! Thanks for catching up with me. Well, since I played during the Pliocene Epoch of Survivor, I have been up to A LOT. Some people may remember I was a registered nurse when I played. What they may not know is that I was in law school back in 2001 when casting came calling. I made the tough decision to drop out of law school to go to the final 48 auditions and as they say, the rest is history. Over the last 20 years or so, I finished law school; met my partner, Chad; built a farm with Chad; raised a bunch of rare goats; lost my dad and sister to cancer; endured a biblical flood; became a painter; and have maintained my love affair with Survivor through its ups and downs.

What is your proudest moment ever from playing Survivor?

Besides being Boston Rob’s asterisk? Gosh, that is tough one. I think I was ahead of my time. I am a new school player in an old school body. When I emerged as a hardcore player in Marquesas, I was a gay man leading a tribe to 15 days of victory in 2002, and until I was outed during the show, many of the fans did not know I was gay. I brought a different perspective.

By the time season 4 came along, the viewers got a taste of Richard and Brandon. I occupied a different space and I don’t think that space has been occupied since. I cannot think of another season that was led the way I did it in season 4. Younger viewers are now watching the old school seasons and I get messages or mail almost weekly. I think it’s only now that my game is being seen through the eyes of fans that don’t give a rat’s ass whether I was gay or not. I hope I moved the needle in a positive way over the last 20 years of visibility. Oh, yeah, I invented coconut popcorn. Should have trademarked that stuff! And for future Survivor players, coconut is a laxative. So slow your roll with the coconut popcorn in those first few days. You’ve been warned.

What is your biggest regret from your Survivor experience?

That season 4 didn’t have hidden immunity idols! I don’t live with a lot of regret. I keep trying to reinvent myself and try to learn from the past. In reality, my biggest Survivor bummer is watching Boston Rob play six times after getting the best of him during our season. I admire and respect the space he has carved for himself. But every time he comes back, I keep wondering why Sean and I have not played a second time. The three of us went at it and created some great TV. For years, we were on MTV’s best reality fights.

If I do have a regret, I think it is allowing myself to be pulled away for A LONG TIME following the coconut challenge. I got dragged so far away that I could actually see the boundary rope and the tents where the crew were staying in. It did not dawn on me until two weeks ago that I may have been dragged away so that my ouster could be orchestrated. By the time I got back, all the damage was done. Not one single other time could I see where the crew was staying. I regret not recognizing what was going on and refusing to be interviewed at that time.

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

This is kind of gross, but during our season Jeff Probst stopped the show and threatened to shut down production because I was pooping in the ocean. We were told a few rules before the game began. Don’t eat manta rays or the island’s goats and cows. Pigs were fair game. And when you have to poop, dig a hole (with an oar) and then fill it back in. What they didn’t tell us is that the ground was hard as rock and without a spade you would crap your pants before you could finish digging your hole. So after crapping my pants one night and spending hours trying to clean my shorts in the dark with nothing but embarrassment and sand, I embarked on my evil plan to pollute the world’s oceans by taking massive dumps in the Pacific right next to whales and stuff.

Apparently, its okay for big ol’ mammals like whales and dolphins to poop in the Pacific but was a massive no-no for one John F. Carroll to take a dump in the confused sea. Anyway, I digress, Mr. Fancy Pants, Jeffrey Lee Probst, stops production and gets all of us together. Our tribe was still eight members strong. He in a very serious and very grossed out tone, says he knows someone has been pooping in the ocean and if it happens it again the FRENCH GOVERNMENT is going kick us out of the Marquesas islands.

I’m horrified. I am thinking I have destroyed the franchise because I decided to drop some kids off at the pool in an ocean. I swear to God, all I could think of was that Baby Ruth candy bar floating in the pool in Caddyshack. I was mortified. YEARS later I found it was my alliance partner, TAMMY TATTLE TELL LEITNER that told Jeff that I was aqua dumping in the Pacific Ocean. It probably didn’t help that I have serious poop face when busting a grumpy and then swimming away as if a shark was about to eat me didn’t help with my master plan to poison the villagers one pinched loaf at a time.

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

Look, I gave them ALL the bullets to shoot me with. The one thing I tell people that want to play: You better hope you win because if you don’t, they will tell a story and they will use what you give them to maximum effect. If you act like an arrogant power-hungry evil gay nurse with an American flag belly button ring and go fifteen days without meeting the host and take out Boston Rob, you will be reduced to a trivia question about your stupid belly button ring.

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

Well, reverse culture shock is real and well, a shock. I hoarded food for a while. I carried back, as carry-on, a double box of Raisin Bran from the Marquesas Islands like I was Paris Hilton and the Raisin Bran was a Chihuahua. I slept on my parents’ couch for two weeks because I would wake up and see the forest. It was a mind f…. anyway, you know what I am trying to say.

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

No. There was a point during the game when it felt like Gabriel was going to flip over to Paschal and Neleh and dump his alliance with me and TAMMY TATTLE TELL LEITNER. So, in a moment of panic thinking I might go home before the merge, I moved to vote him out and that night I became THE VILLAIN!

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

I think most serious fans know that Neleh and I are besties. The greatest gift I got out of Survivor is one my best friends ever. Neleh and I are super fans, of course, but we have both been through a lot in our life. We lean on each other and we just really like and love each other as people. I cuss like a Banshee and she, doesn’t. She drinks like a fish, and when I mean like a fish, I mean water. Like lots of it. Her drug of choice is sugar. Mine is sold in dispensaries.

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

I know it’s totally cliché, but its hands down Heroes vs. Villains. Next is Second Chance and my third is David vs. Goliath. I think David vs. Goliath may be one of the best edited seasons in the franchise. Heroes vs. Villains has some of the best game play top to bottom. I love how the women just ran the mean ragged. Second Chance had a hardcore player aspect that you would expect from people likely to be playing for their last time. I loved the idea of a ballot. It have a mix of letting the fans pick their players and it gave the players a chance to campaign. My slogan for a Second Chance II is: Why do it when you can OVERDO it?!

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

Sandra, because she’s the Queen. Courtney because she’s Courtney F---ing Yates. Can I say F words? If not, Cause she’s Courtney F---ing Yates. Frankly, I would love to play with Brice. We are besties in real life, but do not play well with each other when playing elimination games. I’m just too much juice for Bricey Boo. So while we would make great TV cackling it up, we both know there is no island or camera big enough to fit both of us on it or in it at the same time.

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

GET RID OF THE GIMMICKS AND THE IDOLS. You got the Hidden Immunity Idols which can be cancelled with Idol Nullifiers. And if you get a Legacy Advantage and drink blood on a Tuesday with your underwear on your head while eating coconut popcorn you get an extra vote. Thank u, Next.

Finally, would you play again if asked?

Do whales crap in the Pacific Ocean? If you don’t know, just ask TAMMY TATTLE TELL LEITNER or JEFFREY LEE PROBST, I am sure they got the tea.

All jokes aside, Survivor changed my life in so many amazing ways. I have been able to raise money for a variety of causes. I have been lucky enough to engage with some of THE BEST FANS EVER. They are loyal and they are committed. Survivor is 20 years old for one reason only: THE FANS. So I say thank you to all of them and for all the amazing joy they have brought to me over nearly 20 years of being an OG. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

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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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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