Survivor Quarantine Questionnaire: Shane Powers considered using found cocaine before challenges
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.
The legend of Survivor: Cocaine Island keeps growing. It started when Danielle DiLorenzo told EW about the kilo of cocaine that washed up on shore during filming on Survivor: Panama. Bruce Kanegai then confirmed the story, and winner Aras Baskauskas also told the tale of the illicit drugs that mysteriously showed up on the Casaya tribe's beach. But the man who actually found the cocaine and then ran off with it now adds another hilarious chapter to the story.
Shane Powers was the lucky recipient of the mystery package back during season 12 of the show, and the radio host explains how exactly he came about a package of cocaine, and what he then did with it. "Aras and I were 'showering' at the beach, and a kilo of cocaine washed up at my feet," Shane says. "I ran into the woods with it and was going to bury it and think about what could be done with it."
Shane — who is now eight years sober after years of alcoholism — explains that while cocaine was never his substance of choice, he did consider whether the powder could have given his tribe an advantage in the all-important reward and immunity challenges: "I was never a fan of cocaine in my personal life, as I always considered using cocaine when you drank was 'cheating' (soak that in for a bit), but I had thoughts of maybe rubbing it on our gums before challenges to give us energy."
Alas, as Shane explains, "That idea was quickly squashed. Production was on me pretty quickly. I'm trying to imagine the radio call on that: 'Uh, someone… anyone from senior production, Shane has a kilo of coke on him and is running to the woods. Any thoughts on what to do…'"
That's just one of the crazy stories Shane shares as part of his Quarantine Questionnaire. Long considered one of the most entertaining contestants to ever play the game, Shane weighs in on his journeys both off and on the island, acknowledges the massive disappointment of being passed over for return appearances, and talks about soaking in the light at the end of a very long and dark tunnel. It's a must read from the one and only Shane Powers!
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: First off, give the update as to what you've been up to since appearing on Survivor.
SHANE POWERS: That's such a different question for different people. I played 15 years ago, and that boy-man was such a scared kid. He was a force of nature for sure. But steeped in the muck of not having proven himself to himself yet.
I had a very successful business, and had a severe reckoning with my alcoholism. I was homeless for almost a year, which is to say I had turned my back on help and was trying to drink myself to the point of hopefully not waking up. Doctors had classified me with late-stage alcoholism, and I was in very bad shape. I'm extremely lucky to have lived through that, and I have eight years as of this January. That's another period of time where I almost can't rectify it as the same man.
I have a radio show today, and I'm deeply invested in the artistry of the craft of talk radio. I put it out as a podcast because it's helpful, but I record the show live and I've never edited the show once — just straight to podcast form. I'm just now six years in starting to feel I have a small grasp on the medium, and I can't wait to be good someday in 15-20 years.
What is your proudest moment ever from playing Survivor?
My proudest moment is strange. I had an amazing life experience. One of the very few on earth. It's not really anything you can replicate in your daily life. I was angry at the world still. Angry with women. Angry at authority. Angry.
My proudest moment is standing by my word to Cirie and Aras, I guess. I was proud of everyone on the show for their own… oh s---!!! I'm proudest of Casaya as a whole!!! We are the most complete tribe in the history of the show. We gave everything. We were emotional, reflective, chaotic, thoughtful, gentle, mean, nasty, and all of us to a person were DEEPLY competitive. We were the definition of this phrase I really like: "Beauty in the mess." That's what I'm proudest of. Perfectly imperfect madness.
What is your biggest regret from your Survivor experience?
Regret? Creating a "law" for myself by using Boston's name. It put me in a self-created box because I wouldn't cross that line. It hindered me from making any move when one needed to be made. I wasn't gonna cross Cirie and Aras because I gave them my word. It was selfish to do that too, because by using that law I created safety in my mind which led to my downfall.
What's something that will blow fans' minds that happened out there in your season but never made it to TV?
Aras and I were "showering" at the beach and a kilo of cocaine washed up at my feet.
I ran into the woods with it and was going to bury it and think about what could be done with it. I was never a fan of cocaine in my personal life, as I always considered using cocaine when you drank was "cheating" (soak that in for a bit), but I had thoughts of maybe rubbing it on our gums before challenges to give us energy.
That idea was quickly squashed. Production was on me pretty quickly. I'm trying to imagine the radio call on that: "Uh, someone… anyone from senior production, Shane has a kilo of coke on him and is running to the woods. Any thoughts on what to do…"
How do you feel about the edit you got on the show?
The edit is pretty amazing. They really are the best storytellers. They let everyone go on the island, and then must storyboard archetypes: "Hard-working, strait-laced hero," "Damsel in distress," "Mother who doubted herself and persevered." I really was "Maniac with a heart of gold" out there. And that musta been such a fun thing for the show to weave a story line out of. I'm smarter than the edit gave me credit for, and I'll have moments where that bums me out, but I was honestly very impressed with the story Survivor told that season.
What was it like coming back to regular society after being out there? Was there culture shock or an adjustment coming back?
Coming back was also interesting. Turning on lights is really wild. Having flame in two seconds is also funny at first. I also ran in a circle of people that looked down on reality television in general. I really was drawn to the idea and playing the game. Being on a "reality show" at the time, I was a bit embarrassed.
I spent a good few years REALLY trying to keep myself separate from the Survivor connecting. I was also very demeaning and mean-spirited about Survivors who seemed to really like that fact they were quasi-famous from the show. I was VERY judgmental and malicious because of my own fear of being exactly who they were. I don't know if that makes any sense, but that's another regret I have. Getting old is really cool because you realize that regrets are a part of life.
Was there ever a point either during the game or after you got back where you regretted going on the show?
I never regretted doing the show. I've regretted not making it easier to put me back on. Lynne Spillman (casting genius) is one of those people you have in your life where if your daily routines were more in sync, you'd be super-close friends. I consider Lynne a really close aquatinted person in my life, and I made her life fun hell for almost 15 years.
Most fans don't understand why I haven't been back on. It's not for a lack of Lynne trying or me wanting to. I think there were six or seven other times it was potentially going to happen, and it just didn't. I think Russell took my spot on the Villains tribe the day before we left, and I was livid for a long time, and Lynne I know personally felt terrible. I'll never imagine her having to pick up the phone and make that call to me, and the bloodbath I would put her through. But that's her gig. And she's tough.
Whom do you still talk, text, or email with the most from your season?
I talk to Cirie quite often. She's the best player to never win by quite a margin, and even without rings I would place her in the top three ever. We get each other pretty well. And I enjoy her a lot.
I speak with Terry and Aras. I've also had crushes on Ami, Julie, Dolly, So, both Kellys, Eliza, and Katie, and not slept with any of them.
And, of course, Rob Cesternino, who I'm very very proud of.
I miss my friend Austin, who is a pastor in South Carolina, and I marvel at who he's become and what he's done. He's creating a space through his service to God, to lead a new era of moderate and compassionate Christianity that non-religious folks like me can understand and relate to. He's truly doing the Lord's work.
I've also slept with a few Survivors and that was awesome, and a "Maniac Gentleman" doesn't kiss and tell.
Do you still watch Survivor, and, if so, what's your favorite season you were not on and why?
The dirty 30 season. I loved that tribe. They were the closest to Casaya. And we'd CRUSH them.
Who's one player from another Survivor season you wish you could have played with or against and why?
This is slam-dunk easy. LEX. We're both kindred men who care for each other deeply. We've met twice and had 27 exchanges in 15 years, and if that guy called me right now I'd drop everything and fly and do and say and be whatever he needed. It's a VERY weird experience to feel that about someone you don't really know. And I really enjoy it.
If you could make one change to any aspect of Survivor, what would it be and why?
Idols. Just one. No more than one.
The season that Cirie lost because she was only one of six people that DIDN'T have an idol was "c'mon, man" silly. I'm sure production was SUPER-BUMMED about it too. Man, that woman is good at that game.
Finally, would you play again if asked?
I'm 50 years old. I've never imagined myself playing Survivor as a senior citizen. I think if it provided me a two-hour lunch with Jeff Probst, I'd have to say maybe. I'm not being coy. I've just never imagined this physical man being in that environment.
Dalton, you're great. And Survivor owes you a fair amount. You've made their show easily digestible and relatable through your content at EW.
Should I type something provocative now? I think that boy-man is gone and grown.
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!"