Survivor Quarantine Questionnaire: Aras Baskauskas on finding washed-up cocaine in Panama
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.
Survivor has had some pretty amazing rewards over 40 seasons. There are all the cars they gave away. Tons of epic feasts. Screenings of instant cinematic classics such as Jack & Jill. Visits from loved ones back home. Two kilos of cocaine…
Wait… WHAT?!? Okay, that wasn't technically a reward, but it did end up on a tribe's beach during Survivor: Panama — Exile Island. "After a storm, we went out looking for washed up coconuts," explains Aras Baskauskas. "We stumbled upon 2 kilos of washed-up cocaine instead. Boy, was that a fun couple of weeks." Aras assures us he's joking about the fun couple of weeks, saying that in actuality "the producers took the cocaine from us immediately and had their own party without us." But the news about the surprise package confirms what fellow players Danielle DiLorenzo and Bruce Kengai have told EW about the mystery drugs, even if there seems to be a bit of discrepancy over the amount of white powder that washed up on the Casaya beach. (It's not exactly like they had a scale out there for an exact measurement.)
Aras didn't need any extra… um, energy in the homestretch, as he was able to make it all the way to the end on day 39 and defeat Danielle in a 5-2 vote. He then returned with his brother Vytas in Survivor: Blood vs. Water, but was immediately seen as a big threat, which led to the Panama champ being blindsided by former ally (and future winner) Tyson Apostol.
We shot a Quarantine Questionnaire over to the season 12 Sole Survivor to get his thoughts on his reality TV journey, an update as to what he's up to now, and an answer as to if he would consider one more return to the island… with or without cocaine.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: First off, give the update as to what you've been up to since appearing on Survivor.
ARAS BASKAUSKAS: Life is good. I'm married with two beautiful boys. River is 6 and Sage is 2. Shortly after my second season, my wife and I started a women's clothing company called Christy Dawn. We began very humbly in our garage. Christy wanted to make beautiful dresses and I wanted to make rent. The most economical solution to starting a clothing company was to use deadstock fabrics (the excess fabrics of other brands), so that's what we did.
Turns out, using deadstock is much better for the planet than purchasing brand new conventionally produced fabrics. Our community really responded to the sustainable story and it encouraged us to dig deeper. At a certain point, we realized that using deadstock wasn't enough. We weren't part of the problem that conventional fashion was creating, but we also weren't part of a solution. So we decided to start our own farm and grow cotton regeneratively.
Regenerative practices actively heal the planet! To be honest, if you would have told me seven years ago, when we started the company, that we would be able to change the world with the way we dress I would have called you crazy. But turns out, we are all capable of changing the world, we all have a role in actively healing the planet. It's both our gift and our responsibility….okay, I'll get off my soap box now!
What is your proudest moment ever from playing Survivor?
Oh, I'd have to say winning. Although that wasn't really a moment as much as it was 39 days of moments.
What is your biggest regret from your Survivor experiences?
I don't have any regrets. I had the full experience, I won, I lost, I blindsided people, I was blindsided. It was truly a marvelous experience.
What's something that will blow fans minds that happened out there in one of your seasons but never made it to TV?
Well, after a storm, we went out looking for washed up coconuts. We stumbled upon 2 kilos of washed-up cocaine instead. Boy, was that a fun couple of weeks….no, no, I kid. The producers took the cocaine from us immediately and had their own party without us.
How do you feel about the edit you got on the show?
Let's see…. When the seasons first aired, I hated the edits. Mostly for the same reasons I hate listening to my voice after I'd record an outgoing voicemail. At the time, I really wished they would have made me look cooler and show me saying things that were cooler than the things actually said. Now I look at the edit and smile. What a fun ride!
What was it like coming back to regular society after being out there? Was there culture shock or an adjustment coming back?
Oh yeah, that was a trip. I remember turning the stove on and off hundreds of times. Just mesmerized that I could have a flame with the twist of my wrist. I really appreciated all of the creature comforts that our modern world provides. I also remember the day our cast was announced. It was the first day our country began bombing Afghanistan. Our cast announcement got top billing. I realized that we were just distractions. Keeping people's focus occupied on a game show (albeit a GREAT game show) so that larger social/political issues could be swept under the carpet.
Was there ever a point either during the game or after you got back where you regretted going on the show?
After winning one million dollars publicly, everyone and their mother came at me asking me for money. It was a really lonely feeling. The good news is, it didn't last long. I was in debt within 5 years of winning!
Whom do you still talk, text, or email with the most from your seasons?
I stay in touch with Terry, Shane, Danielle, Bob Dawg, Bruce, Austin, Cirie, Tyson, Cierra…. It's not like we talk every week. Sometimes months pass or even years. But when we do connect, it's really nice. Oh, and Vytas. I talk to Vytas almost every day. He's like a brother to me.
Do you still watch Survivor, and if so, what's your favorite season you were not on and why?
Yes, I'm a big Survivor fan. I loved watching Winners at War. It was great to see the best of the best.
Who's one player from another Survivor season you wish you could have played with or against and why?
Hmm… I think it would have been fun to play with Russell Hantz. To experience him on the island and then to watch his crafty moves from the couch after it was all said and done.
If you could make one change to any aspect of Survivor, what would it be and why?
I suppose I would encourage producers to show more of the actual day to day struggle contestants have with surviving. I think it's fascinating to see city slickers dropped into nature and watch them transform — or not.
Finally, would you play again if asked?
That's a strong NO. I had my time in the sun. Bring back Brook Geraghty!
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