Survivor Quarantine Questionnaire: Mike Chiesl regrets throwing a challenge on Redemption Island
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.
Mike Chiesl coulda been a contender. Not only was he a leader in his Zapatera alliance on Survivor: Redemption Island, but the former Marine was a challenge beast. There was the potential for a clear path to the finals, but that potential was squandered when his tribe — after winning the first two immunity competitions — decided to throw a challenge to get Russell Hantz out of the game. The gambit worked, but then left the tribe down a member at the merge — and the Zapaterians were then picked off one by one Boston Rob and the Ometepes.
Still, Mike almost made it back into the game after surviving four different duels at Redemption Island but was eliminated in the final duel of the season when he was defeated by Andrea Boehlke in a seesaw balancing competition. Could everything have been different had Zapatera not thrown that early challenge? Mike gets in to that as well as everything else about his island adventure courtesy of his Survivor Quarantine Questionnaire.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: First off, give the update as to what you’ve been up to since appearing on Survivor.
MIKE CHIESL: Dad of three, husband, and my friends and I are building a veteran focused real estate company nationally called Sentry Residential. We’re in 14 states, and it’s all about empowering veterans through education, jobs, and the American dream of homeownership.
What is your proudest moment ever from playing Survivor?
My proudest moment was sacrificing family time to show some love to the opposing tribe. I actually learned a LOT about God while on Redemption Island as Krista left her Bible there. Just sat on the beach and read it all day. Survivor was legitimately a part of my spiritual awakening.
What is your biggest regret from your Survivor experience?
Never ever throw a challenge! WTFrick!? Talk about a rookie move. We were kicking the other tribe’s butt in challenges, but threw one to get rid of Russell Hantz and ended up one player down at the merge.
What’s something that will blow fans’ minds that happened out there in your season but never made it to TV?
I caught a small boa constrictor for one of my interviews and named it Russell. Told the snake that I had him by the tail. They didn’t air it, unfortunately. Russell was even more of a villain than I saw in previous seasons. That dude has some issues :-)
How do you feel about the edit you got on the show?
I think it was accurate, but our alliance was pulling a lot more strings than it appeared. We were in really good control of the tribe, but ended up one down at the merge and despite our best efforts, couldn’t win over Matt to come join us. Julie, Steve, Ralph and I were running the show, but make some rookie mistakes.
What was it like coming back to regular society after being out there? Was there culture shock or an adjustment coming back?
Actually, pretty awesome as I ate anything and everything for two weeks. Also had a really good perspective on all the blessings we have in life in general. You quickly realize that much of life is just business and lacks significant meaning. It’s nice to be able to step out and gain some perspective on what areas of your life actually have meaning. I learned that if you are ever seeking answers, go to somewhere amazing, lose your phone for 24 hours, fast for a day, and wait for the answers to come.
Was there ever a point either during the game or after you got back where you regretted going on the show?
Had many of those nights on Redemption Island. Was so worn out and hungry, I was ready to just go walk off set and find myself a cheeseburger. The night I passed on spending time with mom was tough. I was ready to be done at that point, but figured it still had a really good chance of getting back in and winning.
Whom do you still talk, text, or email with the most from your season?
I’ve remained great friends with Matt Elrod and his wife — he’s a pretty awesome human being and we have a ton of fun, and he and Aubrey are in town. I love Julie, Steve, and Grant as well. Phillip and Russell — not so much.
Do you still watch Survivor, and if so, what’s your favorite season you were not on and why?
Still watch and love it. I actually have a hard time watching it because it just makes me want to go back and compete again. Was invited back to do the couples season with my wife Molly, but we just got pregnant and weren’t able to.
Who is one player from another Survivor season you wish you could have played with or against and why?
Definitely Rudy. That dude is a legend. Love the old school grizzled Navy SEALs!
If you could make one change to any aspect of Survivor, what would it be and why?
Should have been tougher physically. Would be easier to win if the people who truly can’t hack the wilderness didn’t hang around. Be more fun — like on original seasons where the survival is TOUGH! Love Naked and Afraid, as its legit real survival. Survivor has gotten a little heavy on social drama, in my opinion, and less actual survival.
Finally, would you play again if asked?
100% was invited to come back a couple times but timing didn’t work out. It’s truly an amazing experience. Very thankful for it and having the opportunity to compete!