Survivor Quarantine Questionnaire: Keith Tollefson caught 6 sharks one morning on South Pacific
With season 41 of Survivor delayed 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.
While Ozzy Lusth has established himself as one of the best food providers in Survivor history, he was not the one bringing home a bounty of fish for the Savaii tribe on Survivor: South Pacific, although you wouldn't necessarily know it from watching TV. It turns out that Keith Tollefson actually caught six fish one morning with a net. And not just any old fish, but six sharks!
Tollefson may not be known to millions as the Sharkslayer™, but he is known for two other things in the game - one good and one not so good. On the not-so-good side, he was the victim of John Cochran's infamous merge flip to avoid pulling rocks, resulting in his being booted from the tribe on day 25 and sending Savaii down in flames. But on the considerably brighter side, he met his future wife, Whitney Duncan, on the show. All in all, seems like a more-than-fair trade-off. Now, with his Quarantine Questionnaire, Tollefson looks back at the highs and lows of his shark-infested Survivor: South Pacific journey.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: First off, what have you been up to since appearing on Survivor?
KEITH TOLLEFSON: Well, it's been a long time, so a lot has happened, but the quick response is: I moved to Tennessee, got engaged to Whitney, competed on The Amazing Race (lost a million dollars, again), we got married, I'm working, and we're having fun together.
What is your proudest moment ever from playing Survivor?
Unfortunately, I didn't win individual immunity or find an idol, but I'd have to say when we won the slingshot challenge and earned the reward to sliding rocks. We really needed that win to even the numbers and [boost] morale - plus, the food was amazing. Also, that was one challenge in which I stuck to my decision on where I'd play. I was expected/told I should be the one pushing the wheelbarrow, but I insisted I would be good at finishing the challenge and would help us win by shooting the slingshot.
What is your biggest regret from your Survivor experience?
My biggest regret was not telling Ozzy to give me the idol at Tribal after we decided to give it to Whitney. I had a sick feeling the moment we sat down at Tribal and should've acted on my instincts. You can see it in my face. After the first votes were read, I knew I was being voted out. Cochran knew we were giving the idol to Whitney because we all talked about it openly as a tribe. He told Coach [a.k.a. Benjamin "Coach" Wade] the whole plan. From what I heard, they were going to throw all their votes at Whitney - we had guessed right but made the mistake trusting the plan to everyone collectively.
What's something that will blow fans' minds that happened in your season but never made it to TV?
I kept setting out the fishing net at night with help from Jim [Rice] and Whitney with no luck, until one morning we woke up and caught six sharks. I was persistent and it paid off, but it was never shown on TV. It was a huge meal for us that we really needed, and I think it helped us win the next challenge. Not sure why it wasn't shown. I remember walking up the beach with two sharks, one in each hand, thinking, "This will be a great shot for the survival side of the show." Maybe it didn't align with Ozzy being the "provider."
How do you feel about the edit you got on the show?
Fine. I wasn't shown much, which makes sense because I didn't impact the game. I should've played a better strategic game, gone with my feelings and instincts more, and not looked to Ozzy for leadership because he'd played before. Had we gone into the merge with the numbers, it could've been different. In the end, you need to win to be shown. Unfortunately, that didn't happen.
What was it like coming back to regular society after being out there? Was there culture shock or an adjustment coming back?
I really appreciated being able to have that experience! I loved disconnecting from technology, sleeping on a beach, eating coconuts, and fishing. When I got back, I had trouble sleeping, so I slept outside on the floor one night. You realize everything is so loud and moves so fast compared to life in Samoa.
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 from your season?
Whitney, number one. We're obviously married and she won't let me not talk to her (kidding, honey). Jim and I probably talk every week. We've all traveled together a lot, and had a lot of fun since the show ended.
Do you still watch Survivor, and, if so, what's your favorite season you were not on and why?
I've watched different seasons. I'm a fan of the show's original premise: Complete strangers from different backgrounds are forced to live together and compete for Sole Survivor. I loved last season, Winners at War.
Who's one player from another Survivor season you wish you could have played with or against and why?
Tony [Vlachos]. He's a little crazy at times with paranoia, but he follows his instincts and plays all-out. It's helped him win twice, so he's obviously doing something right.
If you could make one change to any aspect of Survivor, what would it be and why?
Maybe get back to showing more of the survival aspect and game play. There are a lot of good storylines that maybe can't be shown because of a season's premise or concept. It's amazing what people can do when they're challenged.
Finally, would you play again if asked?
Of course. I'd love to play the game and compete. It'd be a lot harder to play being 10 years older. I have a huge respect for those that competed so hard, like Dawn [Meehan] - even more so now.