Survivor Quarantine Questionnaire: Robb Zbacnik reveals a big Thailand fight that was not filmed
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 camera catches all on Survivor… usually. But the cameras back on season 5 of Survivor: Thailand apparently missed a doozy of a dust-up between Robb Zbacnik and Ken Stafford. “Ken and I got in a SUPER heated argument in the woods,” reveals Robb. “And the producer who was on the scene didn't have a camera crew yet, so none of it made it to air. The poor dude kept trying to get us to calm down and wait for the camera crew, but we were both so upset.”
What exactly was the superheated argument about? “Basically, I told Ken that I thought he was full of s--- and I was super upset that they had recently voted off Jed, while Ken was trying to convince me that he had to save my neck because they wanted to vote me off first, which I knew was a complete lie.”
That’s just one of the juicy nuggets awaiting you in Robb’s Quarantine Questionnaire. We sent one over to the King of the Attack Zone to get his thoughts now on what transpired 35 seasons ago and to find out what he’s up to now. Read on for answers to that and more.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: First off, give the update as to what you’ve been up to since appearing on Survivor.
ROBB ZBACNIK: Since participating on Survivor, I've been working as an actor and as a photographer in Los Angeles. I actually moved to L.A. after my season aired in late '04. A movie I worked on called The Mercenary (2020) is available on iTunes and Amazon Prime video now. I played a character named Notch in the film and got to work with an amazing cast, and a wonderful director named Jesse V. Johnson. It's definitely not a kid-friendly movie and my character is definitely NOT a nice guy. Photography wise, I shoot a lot of headshots, bands, and lifestyle photos, and I absolutely LOVE it. My photography website is RJLAphoto.com (you can also see a lot of my work on Instagram @Robb_Zbacnik).
What is your proudest moment ever from playing Survivor?
I think my proudest Survivor moment came after earning the Thai feast reward challenge on one of my last days in the game... I'm also pretty proud of the fact that I lasted 18 days without lying to anyone. Obviously, if the game would have gone on further for me my strategy would have changed, but I was straight up with my tribe for my entire Survivor experience. That's something Ken definitely couldn't say.
What is your biggest regret from your Survivor experience?
I honestly don't have many regrets from my Survivor experience. I mean, I was a kid and said some pretty stupid stuff, but it was all in good fun and I've grown up a bit since then, not too much... but just a bit. I guess maybe the fact that I trusted Ken so much was a detriment to my island life, but I don't regret that.
What’s something that will blow fans’ minds that happened out there in your season but never made it to TV?
The production is really pretty good at capturing everything worth seeing. Even when you're just casually walking in from body surfing and you get stung by a stingray, then throw a tantrum over it *eyeroll emoji* (UGHHHH that was embarrassing).
I don't know how mind-blowing it was, but Ken and I got in a SUPER heated argument in the woods, and the producer who was on the scene didn't have a camera crew yet, so none of it made it to air. The poor dude kept trying to get us to calm down and wait for the camera crew, but we were both so upset. Basically, I told Ken that I thought he was full of s--- and I was super upset that they had recently voted off Jed, while Ken was trying to convince me that he had to save my neck because they wanted to vote me off first, which I knew was a complete lie.
How do you feel about the edit you got on the show?
They chose to show the very competitive and aggressive side of my personality for most of the season, and I can't be upset, because that side of my personality exists and I think they made a good character out of that side of me. I am happy that they finally showed the super positive and gracious side of my personality on my farewell episode, because that side of me definitely exists too, and it's the side I tend to spend a lot more time embracing.
What was it like coming back to regular society after being out there? Was there culture shock or an adjustment coming back?
There is definitely an adjustment period after being voted off. You wanna just eat everything in sight, but there's no room because of how bad your stomach shrinks from starvation, so you end up getting sick for the first couple of days. I know I did. They asked me what I wanted for my first meal back, and I legitimately just asked for beer and peanut butter… yum.
I spent a good amount of time my first night throwing up (shocker). Adjusting to normal life was strange too — normal things you take for granted like having a bed, taking a shower, brushing your teeth, and wearing clean clothes were so foreign to me after 18 days. I had to get used to my drinking water not tasting like smoke, and clothes not smelling like island stank, haha.
Was there ever a point either during the game or after you got back where you regretted going on the show?
No, Never. It changed my life and provided me so many wonderful opportunities and friendships... I have always thanked Mark Burnett in person, and shouted him out in interviews because he's a rad dude and the Survivor experience was one of the most amazing and important things that ever happened to me. Shout out again to Mark Burnett for the opportunity. Thanks, homie.
Whom do you still talk, text, or email with the most from your season?
I still regularly text and chat with JED! the guy is a legend and such a standup human being. I'm going to visit him next summer in Texas to stay at his boathouse and go wakeboarding. I honestly can't wait for it! I also talk to Stephanie a bit, and she's even more of a warrior now than she was when we played the game. She runs/hikes probably 10 miles a day or something insane. She's gnarly and I love her. Recently we had a zoom call reunion for charity, and it was so dope. It was good to chat with the gang, and Clay Jordan is hysterical.
Do you still watch Survivor, and if so, what’s your favorite season you were not on and why?
I still watch Survivor, but I'm not a weekly addict. I'm more of a "wait and binge" type of fan now. My favorite season was Survivor: Game Changers because the cast was awesome, and it was really just such an entertaining season for me.
Who’s one player from another Survivor season you wish you could have played with or against and why?
I would have loved to play with Sandra Diaz Twine SO much. She's mischievous, clever, and hilarious. The queen stays queen!
If you could make one change to any aspect of Survivor, what would it be and why?
I think nowadays there are too many hidden immunity idols and second chances via Redemption Island, etc…. It would be cool for them to do a classic season like the old school and really leave it up to the castaways and their alliances like they used to do it — maybe just for a season, but in my opinion, it would be cool.
Finally, would you play again if asked?
For a while, I was strictly against it, but it's been SO long now, I would absolutely LOVE the opportunity to play the game again... and someday I will. I have a feeling like maybe my Survivor story isn't finished being written just yet. I guess we'll see. Stay tuned...