Survivor Quarantine Questionnaire: Werner Joubert on how South Africa's version mirrors the original
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.
After 40 seasons on the air, Survivor has established itself as a mainstay in American pop-culture. But the show is a huge cultural institution in other countries as well. Not only does the original incarnation air all over the world (I once watched Survivor: Samoa while in Samoa for filming on the Survivor: South Pacific season), but several international productions have popped up as well.
We started the Survivor Quarantine Questionnaires as a way to catch up with former players from the franchise, and now, with over 100 SQQs under our belt, we thought it would be fun to check in with a few players from international editions of the show. What were their experiences like? And how is the show different there as opposed to the one we know here?
EW has assembled our own international all-star squad to partake in our first International Week of Survivor Quarantine Questionnaires. Up today, we have the breakout of Survivor South Africa: Philippines, Werner Joubert. A pastor (and Survivor superfan) from Secunda, South Africa, Werner pressed pause on his real life ethics to play a shrewd, savvy game that saw him in control of the post-merge tribe… until he wasn’t.
The eventual final two of Jeanne Michel and Tom Swartz turned against their former alliance partner, and voted Werner out in fourth place. To make matters worse, Jeanne later removed Werner from the jury, meaning he was unable to even vote for the winner (which ended up being Tom).
Survivor South Africa: Philippines (the sixth installment in the Survivor South Africa franchise) has been hailed as one of the best international editions of the show ever, and Werner’s scheming and plotting was a major reason why. Now, we catch up with the pastor to get his thoughts on the show, why it is the international edition closest to the original, and which U.S. players he would love to play with on his dream season. Straight from South Africa, it’s Werner’s Survivor Quarantine Questionnaire!
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: First off, give the update as to what you've been up to since appearing on Survivor.
WERNER JOUBERT: Most people know I am a pastor (that typically gets quite a reaction!). When Survivor was airing, the public called me the "Master Pastor" and a "cult leader" because of my alliance on the island.
Before I came to Survivor, my wife and I moved to a new town to plant a church among young working people. I think we can be described as community people. We love our city and its people. When I came back from Survivor, I carried on with that with all my focus. I still am today. In one month, we will be relocating to help with another congregation in a different part of South Africa.
What is your proudest moment ever from playing Survivor?
I think my proudest moment is the night I played an idol correctly for another tribemate. It meant a lot to me, because I played extremely hard behind the scenes to not be too visible too early. But that night at the final 5, I was ready to make my hidden game "public." I wanted to show that I knew what was going on and where every vote was going. Personally, it was a special moment to hand Jeanne that Idol as a friend and ask her to play it for herself.
Everything did not work for me out after that night, but I had to make fireworks that night to ensure a strong case in a final Tribal Council. Sometimes castaways have to do a million things no one sees to make one move that turns the game in its head. That is what happened that night in my game.
What is your biggest regret from your Survivor experience?
I don't have many regrets. Sometimes I want to go back to remember how it feels to have the sand between your toes or take a swim in the ocean. I miss the game. It's great being out there.
What's something that will blow fans’ minds that happened out there in your season but never made it to TV?
I think our season was produced very well and almost all the action was shown. There was, however, one big altercation between Tony and Marthinus that was offered in a secret scene only. This was after the night Stacey was voted off. Marthinus (who was a part of my alliance) could not understand how our alliance played at Tribal and almost gave our game away. Tony was livid the next morning, and the camp was blowing up just before leaving for the tribe swap. Martinus wanted to talk to Tony and she just called him out in front of the full tribe. That morning, the game shifted gears.
How do you feel about the edit you got on the show?
I mean, I am a pastor, so it's tough. In Survivor, you might be praised for being deceptive, but it can really hurt my calling as a pastor. I see Survivor as a game, but not all the casual fans view it that way. So I was stressed about this.
I feel my edit was accurate. Every player makes moves that cannot be shown. Sometimes being part of a boring conversation is a little move that will become a part of a big move. But there are many players and many little moves. My relationship with Tom was portrayed powerfully. But I was actually really really close to Katinka and Annalize also in the game, and although my "game-relationship" with Tony deteriorated at some time, I enjoyed playing with her. There is no way production can show it all. But overall, I feel that the producers did justice to my game.
What was it like coming back to regular society after being out there? Was there culture shock or an adjustment coming back?
I experienced a bit of a culture shock. It is hard for the public to realize that we live and breathe before cameras. It's like being in a dream for 39 days. Imagine for a moment thinking before you speak for 39 days. While you are in the game, you are always suspicious of other humans, and they are wary about you. It is hard to absorb on an emotional level. When you feel solid again, the show starts to air, and people smash you on social media. This can drive you crazy. I had generous support from my church (who loves Survivor) and it helped me through the whole process. My heart breaks for any player that needs to face the process alone.
Survivor S.A. gives all the players access to a psychologists anytime. This is a great gesture. But having domestic support should supplement professional help.
Was there ever a point either during the game or after you got back where you regretted going on the show?
Whom do you still talk, text, or email with the most from your season?
I spoke to Tony and Tom this week. Jean has visited my wife and I on numerous occasions. Tevin and I will now and then have a week where we really will speak a lot. I stayed over at Katinka's house, met her parents, and visited Annalise and her lovely family. Pk went with me to church. So yes, there are connections.
Who is one player from a season of your own country's version of Survivor that you never got to play with that you would love to share a season with and why?
I would love to play with Dante! I just like his raw emotion and passion in the game!
Do you watch the original American version of Survivor, and, if so, what's your favorite season of that and why?
Cagayan! I love season 28. The terrible brains tribe, J-Tia, and the rice, and the introduction of players like Tony, Spencer, and Chaos Kass! Man, this season is GOLD! I liked this season seeing an "out-there" in your face player winning the game. Often these kinds of players are kicked off at numbers 4/5 if they don't win immunity (myself included). So witnessing how Woo takes Tony to the final 2 was incredible to observe
If you have watched the American version of Survivor, what would you say the biggest difference between the original incarnation and yours is.
Presently Survivor S.A. and U.S. are maybe the closest related amongst all the versions. Survivor S.A. used to have 27 days up to until season 5. It was received with mixed emotions. Also, South Africa tried many "tricks" with the show. Like for example bringing in celebs, etc.
But after a four-year break, South Africa relaunched under new producers and season 6 was a great success locally and internationally. S.A. and U.S. have lined up significantly since S.A. season 6. Survivor South Africa might be the closest to the U.S. at the moment, with AU playing 50 days, and S.A. and the U.S. on 39 days.
If you could make one change to any aspect of your country's version of Survivor, what would it be and why?
I always advocate for fewer advantages and fewer twists. They have their place. But I want to see the players. Their moves, their conversations, their betrayals, their moral dilemmas. Less play from the producers — more recording. I want advantages to be timeous and impactfull. But when they surface in every episode, it becomes dull.
Who is one player from the U.S. version of Survivor you would love to play with or against and why?
Tony and Kim. I would love to team up with Kim and see what we can do together socially and strategically when our powers combine. I think she is a great player and I have respect for her game And Tony! Just so that we can climb up trees, crack jokes, cry about family, and be friends afterward.
Finally, would you play again if asked?
Yes! Survivor: International, please.