Survivor Quarantine Questionnaire: Lisa Keiffer says the bathroom situation is worse than you think
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.
Yes, Survivor is real. No, the contestants are not whisked away to a hotel at night. Yes, they are out there suffering 24 hours a day. And no, other than sunscreen, feminine hygiene products, and, somewhat infamously, condoms, the players are not secretly given the creature comforts of home. Yet even though the show has been on for 40 seasons over 20 years, many viewers still don't believe the poor souls on the show are actually suffering out there — suffering even more than what we see on TV, it turns out.
"I think it would blow fans' minds if TV REALLY showed how hard it was out there!" says Lisa Keiffer of Survivor: Vanuatu. "One of the main questions that I get asked by fans is, 'Was it really that hard out there? Don't they give you food on the side and personal items?'''
Newsflash: They don't. But there is (thankfully) one aspect of Survivor living that does not make it to TV, and it is about as terrible as you might imagine. "What they don't show (and can't show) is where we used the bathroom," says Lisa. "In Vanuatu, you found a spot between the coconut trees hoping that the cameras were not in sight. It was kind of humiliating!"
And before you ask, the answer is an emphatic no… unless, of course, a product-placement sponsor happens to be involved. "Contrary to want fans think, there was absolutely no toilet paper," says Lisa. "We used leaves hoping they would not cause a rash!"
That's par for the course on a show that breaks you down to your absolute grossest. "We didn't get a toothbrush, deodorant or anything related to personal hygiene!" notes Lisa. "We stunk, our breath smelled, we picked our teeth with whatever we could find, and we ate whatever we can get our hands on from the island, which is pretty much nothing. Survivor is real folks!"
The game is real too, and Lisa played a key part in it on Vanuatu, even though she was voted out on day 15. While Lisa originally sided with the younger women in a Yasur generational divide, she later defected, voting out Mia Galeotalanza in the process. She was also the first Survivor player ever to not be chosen in a tribal schoolyard pick, leaving Lisa with the decision to choose which tribe she wanted to join.
Now, Lisa explains why she regrets that fateful choice. The ragin' Cajun also explains the real reason she voted out Mia, and what would have happened had she not. So put that trip to Casa de Charmin on hold as Lisa reveals all in her Survivor Quarantine Questionnaire!
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: First off, give the update as to what you've been up to since appearing on Survivor.
LISA KEIFFER: Wow, it's hard to believe that it has been 16 years since appearing on Survivor season 9, Vanuatu. It feels like it was yesterday! A lot has happened in 16 years. To start, for several years after the show, my husband and I did ministry work evangelizing in countries such as Romania, Venezuela, and Italy. For eight years I was a varsity cheer coach, coaching my daughter and leading my team to first in state. I was also on staff for the Fellowship of Christian Cheerleaders. I watched my boys play basketball, tennis, and endless sports cheering them on all the way! We survived hurricanes Katrina and Isaac, both of which were devastating. I continue to play competitive tennis on a regular basis, and captain one of my teams.
Six years ago, I resumed one of my greatest passions, community theater. I've had the opportunity to perform some amazing roles such as Violet Newstead in 9 to 5, Velma Kelly In Chicago, the baroness in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Sheila in A Chorus Line, and my favorite role of all time, Diana in Next to Normal. I definitely have the theater bug!!
We've finally gotten all of our kids grown and out of college with the exception of one who will graduate this May. I guess the most recent event in my life has been the nostalgic candy store and ice cream parlor that my husband and I opened five years ago. The Candy Bank is located in an old historic bank building (hence the name) in Old Mandeville on the north shore of New Orleans. It has been quite successful due to its uniqueness and huge selection of candies! It's quite an experience to visit. While I'm running that, my husband is still practicing law. As you see, I don't stop, and don't plan on it!
What is your proudest moment ever from playing Survivor?
This is a hard question because it seemed like I was excited about every moment on Survivor — except, of course, the dreaded moment when I got voted out! However, if I had to pick one moment, it would be the feeling I had when the game first started. We were put on a huge boat that would eventually take us to the island. It seemed like we were on that boat forever, until we finally saw the shoreline with what appeared to be natives rowing towards us. As soon as they reached our boat, Jeff Probst got out of one of the boats, climbed aboard ours and said, "Survivors, game on!" I will NEVER forget that surreal feeling. I thought, HOLY COW this is real!! I've tried out five times for this show and I'm actually on it!! I was so proud of myself for not giving up and pursuing my dream! And it brought me to tears!!!
What is your biggest regret from your Survivor experience?
One thing that I've realized about being on Survivor, and after talking to other players, is that we all have some regrets! It's like playing a board game and making a move, later realizing you shouldn't have made that move. Hindsight is 20/20, and on Survivor, hindsight would be worth a million dollars. I have three regrets that haunt me when I think of the show: First, voting off Mia: I should have never made that move. Mia was on my alliance, but at the time of Tribal, I was worried about a tie between Mia and Twila. An unbroken tie meant a possibility of drawing rocks, and the one drawing the black rock would leave the game. I broke the tie because I didn't think anyone else would, and I did not want to take the chance of drawing rocks. Consequently, Mia went home because of me, and I felt terrible!
Second, we had a tribe split and I was left out. Jeff gave me the choice of which tribe to end up with. I chose Yasur, the tribe of mostly women that I started out with, but I should have chosen Lopevi. They were physically stronger, and being mostly men, I probably could have trusted them more. Ha! Finally, my biggest regret is not making a stink at Tribal Council the night I got voted out! I had a lot to say that may or may not have helped me, but I was not 100% sure I was going home so I didn't want to chance it. I should have spoken up!! It probably would have made great TV!
What's something that will blow fans' minds that happened out there in your season but never made it to TV?
I think it would blow fans' minds if TV REALLY showed how hard it was out there! One of the main questions that I get asked by fans is, "Was it really that hard out there? Don't they give you food on the side and personal items?" What they don't show (and can't show) is where we used the bathroom. In Vanuatu, you found a spot between the coconut trees hoping that the cameras were not in sight. It was kind of humiliating! Contrary to want fans think, there was absolutely no toilet paper. We used leaves hoping they would not cause a rash! We didn't get a toothbrush, deodorant or anything related to personal hygiene! We stunk, our breath smelled, we picked our teeth with whatever we could find, and we ate whatever we can get our hands on from the island, which is pretty much nothing. Survivor is real folks!
How do you feel about the edit you got on the show?
I guess the edit was fair. I mean, it was me. It's just that being on the show is a whole lot different than watching it. If anything, I feel like they didn't capture my real excitement about playing the game. They also twisted a few things that I know of. For instance, they made it look like I wanted to be in an alliance with "the young ones." The fact is, the younger girls approached me, I didn't approach them. Finally, I wish they would have pulled me aside for more interviews to be able to say the things I wanted to say. I think if I would have lasted longer in the game, you would have gotten to know me a lot better.
What was it like coming back to regular society after being out there? Was there culture shock or an adjustment coming back?
I was gone from my family for seven weeks with no contact to my family. I think the biggest shock I had coming back was being a full-time mom again. My three youngest kids were 5, 7, and 8 years old. I remember Mark Burnett asking me if I was going to be able to leave my kids for that long. My response was "Survivor is going to be like summer camp for me." And it was, because my life for those seven weeks was totally free of mom chores. I have to admit, I enjoyed the break a little bit.
However, the absolute best moment was when I got home and saw their adorable little faces! I missed them so much! But the shock quickly set in. As much as I missed them, it took me a couple of weeks to adjust to making school lunches, doing the school activities, cooking dinners, and the basic mom duties. I will say that being on Survivor away from my kids for that long, made me realize how much my loved ones meant to me. I wouldn't change being a mom for anything in the world!!
As far as changing me, I don't think I was any different after the show than I was before the show. I did, however, come to appreciate the small amenities like brushing my teeth, putting on deodorant, taking a bath, and having a very good meal. I am a New Orleans native, so missing food was tough. I told myself that I would never take those things for granted.
Another big adjustment was getting used to the fans and the publicity. I was on season 9, when Survivor was fairly new, and coming home was a big deal to the media and Survivor fans in my area. I had to get used to people recognizing me, calling me, asking for interviews, and stopping me in places to get my autograph. It was very strange, but I tried my best to accommodate everyone and to answer all the questions. I reminded myself that I too was a Survivor fan, and I would have loved to have met a contestant.
Was there ever a point either during the game or after you got back where you regretted going on the show?
There was NEVER one moment that I regretted being on the game. In fact, I felt so grateful that I had the opportunity to participate in such a great show!!! I wish I would have had the opportunity to stay in the game longer. I felt like I was just getting started when I got the boot!
Was there ever a point either during the game or after you got back where you regretted going on the show?
I mostly keep with in touch with some of the players from my season through Facebook. I guess Mia would be the one that I've spoken with more than any of the others. She is such a neat person! I am, however, a part of the Survivor Mom Squad, which is a group of women from different seasons who were cast on Survivor as the "Mom" character. The group consists of myself, Leslie Neese, Sunday Burquest, Carolyn Rivera, Chrissy Hofbeck, and Jill Behm. We usually try to get together at least once a year, but we talk often. We have built a very strong relationship and bond, and I feel so blessed to have gotten to know these women. They are real, they are strong, and we all share a very solid faith. I love these women!
Do you still watch Survivor, and, if so, what's your favorite season you were not on and why?
I absolutely still watch Survivor, and have not missed an episode! My favorite season by far is season 1! I think that was my favorite season because everything was so new and so fresh. Reality TV was such a different type of TV, and no one knew what to expect. It was such a phenomenon! The minute I heard about it, I wanted to be a part of that show. I remember watching the first season and wishing that I would have been on it. It also seemed a lot harder back then especially because of the challenges. Season 1 definitely set the standard for reality TV.
Who's one player from another Survivor season you wish you could have played with or against and why?
Oh gosh I'm not really sure I could answer this question because they have been so many great players. I guess I would have to say that I would love to play with any one of the ladies from my Survivor mom group. I'd love to share the experience with one of them.
If you could make one change to any aspect of Survivor, what would it be and why?
There is definitely one thing that I would change about Survivor. I think the fans are tired of seeing the same players play the game over and over again. If they are going to bring back returning players, I think they need to bring back players that have played the game only once before, and were voted off pre-jury. I believe those players would bring about an entirely different level of competition.
Finally, would you play again if asked?
I would 100 percent play the game again. In fact, if Survivor called me and told me that I could play the game again if I can leave in five minutes, I'll be there!
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