Survivor Quarantine Questionnaire: Tina Wesson says her body never recovered from the game
With Survivor filming for seasons 41 and 42 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.
The goal of Survivor is to stay in the game as long as possible. However, the longer you stay, the harder it can be to recover. For proof, ask the woman who (along with fellow finalist Colby Donaldson) played more days in a season than any other U.S. player. Because Tina Wesson did not just play 39 days on Survivor: The Australian Outback. She played 42! And, 20 years later, she still feels every single one of them.
"I had the most difficult time returning from Survivor: The Australian Outback," Tina tells EW. "I can honestly say I'm not sure my body has ever fully recovered. I rarely have gotten above 115 since my return. I don't eat very much still. It's as if my stomach permanently shrunk."
While Tina still feels the effects of her winning outing on season 2, the trade-off was well worth it, and not just because of the million-dollar check at the end. "The good news is I came home a different person in that I could never see life the same," Tina says. "Everything became relative. Now when I'm cold I can say, I've been a whole lot colder. If I get hungry, I can say I have been a whole lot hungrier. It also gave me the wonderful gift of showing me what my true grit really is. If I can stand on a stupid log in the freezing cold for 10 1/2 hours, then I'm pretty sure I can handle most anything else life can throw at me. And should our world turn to mayhem... I am pretty confident I will be just fine!"
Tina has seen all sides of Survivor — winning The Australian Outback, being voted out first on All-Stars when previous winners were immediately targeted, and getting voted out twice on Blood vs. Water, winning her way back into the game from Redemption Island but then finishing one day shy of the final three. And she may not be done yet.
While Tina was not part of the recent Winners at War cast, as she reveals in her Quarantine Questionnaires, the season 2 champ is hoping she has not hung up her buff quite yet.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: First off, give the update as to what you've been up to since appearing on Survivor.
TINA WESSON: My entire life I have tended to be pretty fluid. A job opportunity might come available that I think, well, that would be fun, and I will do that for a while. Then I will think I need a break and I will just enjoy freedom for a while. Usually when I'm in work mode it involves something in the hospitality industry because I truly love people! Yet on the opposite end of that, I truly love isolation. I can be a real conundrum! I absolutely love international traveling and my biggest trips since my last venture on Survivor (which was Blood vs. Water) was Africa, London, and Everest base camp. I also keep the friendly skies busy traveling to and from New York in Florida where Katie and my mom live.
What is your proudest moment ever from playing Survivor?
I would have to say my proudest moment was winning the second season and having done so without having any votes cast against me. That really meant a lot to me because I do believe love wins! If you can play one of the most difficult, tricky, backstabbing type of games but still maintain your humanity... that's an accomplishment.
I get tickled sometimes when the arm-chair Survivor fans critique my gameplay and come up with what a mastermind I was. I really wasn't. I got in trouble before the merge, and I decided to do something about it by convincing Colby that it would be in our best interest to get rid of Mitchell and keep Keith in order to have a stronger physical team going into the merge. The love part of this equation was I went to Mitchell first to try to get him to vote off a weaker female instead of Keith that night and he said "no," so that meant I had to go into Plan B. It was sheer luck and old school true alliance gameplay that won the game for me!
What is your biggest regret from your Survivor experiences?
I really wish that I had won the last challenge in Survivor: The Australian Outback. If I had, I would have taken Colby with me to the finals and still hopefully won, and there would be none of this Colby gave it to me type of mentality to my win. One question was the difference.
What's something that will blow fans minds that happened out there in one of your seasons but never made it to TV?
I would have to say it was some of the conversations that took place on Blood vs. Water. Between Kat, Tyson, Aras, and Gervase it was absolute Comedy Central! Of course, not all of it — or, come to think of it, none of it — was suitable for primetime material and is on the cutting room floor. But most nights I went to bed (or should I say laid on the hard ground by the fire, not in the shelter) with tears of laughter rolling down my face from those yahoos! The best was when I instituted my daily "hi-low" round Robin. Every time someone mentioned their low it was ripped to shreds by some hysterical comment and it somehow made it better!
How do you feel about the edit you got on the show?
I feel great about all my edits. I think they all were accurate and have zero complaints! I also feel as If they get most people right! It is extremely difficult to fully get the personality of all 16 people when trying to film Survivor. There are stories there to be told, but for the most part it is a game to be played. There's not a lot of room to get to the jest of exactly who people are and all they encompass. As far as for my three seasons I think they did a great job.
What was it like coming back to regular society after being out there? Was there culture shock or an adjustment coming back?
I had the most difficult time returning from Survivor: The Australian Outback. I can honestly say I'm not sure my body has ever fully recovered. I rarely have gotten above 115 since my return. I don't eat very much still. It's as if my stomach permanently shrunk. The good news is I came home a different person in that I could never see life the same. Everything became relative. Now when I'm cold I can say, I've been a whole lot colder. If I get hungry, I can say I have been a whole lot hungrier. It also gave me the wonderful gift of showing me what my true grit really is. If I can stand on a stupid log in the freezing cold for 10 1/2 hours, then I'm pretty sure I can handle most anything else life can throw at me. And should our world turn to mayhem... I am pretty confident I will be just fine!
Was there ever a point either during the game or after you got back where you regretted going on the show?
Never, ever, ever in 1 million years would I ever regret going on Survivor. It has been one of the most brilliant colors to my life's painting. It held countless opportunities that I am so grateful for! The opportunity to travel to Australia, Panama, Patagonia, and the Philippines. The opportunity to meet such interesting and unique people from all over the U.S. The opportunity to go through something more difficult than the average bear and come out on the other side. The opportunity to experience the rewards that came along after Survivor as well as to have a financial bump along the way was also very appreciated. For me, I have to say behind having my children it has been my greatest experience!
Whom do you still talk, text, or email with the most from your seasons?
From Australia, Colby, of course, is still my go-to person. We don't talk all the time but when we do, we get right to the heart of things. We still have that mutual love and respect that will always be there.
Rodger also is another one of those that has my respect and admiration. Mitchell has forgiven me for voting him off and has even come to the mountain house on a couple of occasions, bringing his partner in crime, Mark, and I treasure those visits! Jeff Varner lives in North Carolina as well and is into nature almost as much as I am, so we compare notes on Instagram. I have been in often on communication with Jerri and was communicating with Mike before he had his difficulties.
In the All-Stars season cast, I am contact with Ethan, and of course my sweetheart boyfriend Big Tom!
In Blood vs. Water, I communicate constantly with my BFF Katie. I also became close with my Redemption Island partner in crime Laura Morett. I've spoken some with Colton as well and I always look forward to his call.
Even though Jonathan Penner was not on any of my seasons, I reached out to him last year as he was going through his devastating journey with his wife Stacy, who had ALS. Walking through the valley of the shadow of death it's not an enjoyable trip, but hopefully knowing there are people walking with you can somehow make the journey not as dark.
Same thing with Sunday as she battles her cancer. Same thing with Hatch when he was incarcerated and even the same thing with Skupin. It is when people are at their lowest and worst that they have their greatest needs. My heart truly hurts for all my fellow survivors who have had to go through life struggles.
Do you still watch Survivor, and if so, what's your favorite season you were not on and why?
Of course I watch! Are you crazy? For some reason I think my favorite season was White Collar, Blue Collar, No Collar [Worlds Apart]. I just loved the dynamic of their tribes.
Who's one player from another Survivor season you wish you could have played with or against and why?
I have always said my favorite player is Yul. There was something in watching him play that resonated inside my being. His integrity, his quiet spoken demeanor, and just how he seemed as a person. He gets life and the true meaning of it. It's not about him, but about others. That's the kind of human we all can learn from!
If you could make one change to any aspect of Survivor, what would it be and why?
I am not a big fan of all the hidden immunity idols. I loved a more pure game. I think it gave the viewers more opportunities to get to know the players more intimately. With only 40 minutes to get in two challenges and a Tribal Council it doesn't leave a lot of time to fill-in. So it seems a lot of time is spent an idol searching instead of human searching. I think the viewers would benefit more from interactions between the players than looking for idols. But that's just my opinion.
Finally, would you play again if asked?
I hit the big 6-0 this year but I still think I could give it a run for its money. It might not be pretty, but the heart of this Survivor girl beats strong and Survivor true.
Heck yeah bring it! Especially since I was left adrift from Winners at War. (But looking back am a little thankful.) It would have been like my All-Stars season. Old schoolers targeted.
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