Caleb Reynolds will go down in Survivor history as having the scariest medical emergency the show has ever seen. But despite landing in the ICU for three days after being medevacked from the competition, Caleb says he's ready for his second shot at the game.
Caleb Reynolds: It has been talked about before. A lot of people have been asking me if I will. That's something I already said yes to. If I get that opportunity — which you never know if I will or not — but if I do, I've already said yes to it. Whether it be an all-star or a second chance, I told them that my bags would be packed. Beast mode is ready for round two.
SK: Walk us through what happened in the challenge that resulted in your intense medical evacuation.
CR: It got to the point where we dug under the logs and got everyone under those to the big circle that we had to dig deep into the sand and find the bags. Once we found the bags, everything was good. I was feeling good. The tribe was still moving and constant. We're all still in a good condition and state of mind. Obviously, I get to the point where I feel myself not sweating anymore. I looked past it. I didn't think of it being anything big. I was like, OK, I'm not sweating, so I'm on the verge of dehydrating. Of course, we just keep going. We get up to the Skee-Ball thing and we just roll a few. I made the first three and I let someone else have a turn so I could take a breather. We had six altogether, but nobody could get the last one in. With me breathing hard and realizing that my body just about had enough, I told Nick to let me go one more time. Three rolls later, I finally made the last ball. I fell to my knees and gave this expression like "thank God this is over" type of thing. I fell to my back, and I just got this real dizzy feeling. My eyes started to get a blotch. When I would blink, they were blurry. I had no clue what it was. I thought maybe I needed some shade where it was a little bit cooler. I walked over to where the shade was and I just collapsed. From that point on, I was in and out. From the IV, the oxygen mask, all the ice and vest being put on me, I don't really remember. I woke up once during it all that I can remember, and Jeff was telling me I was being evacuated. I told him no. I shook my head no. He just continued to say, "I'm sorry, but it's not your choice anymore. The doctors are not allowing you to continue. You're in bad shape." I was out again and then onto the helicopter I went.
SK: Were you feeling fine that morning?
CR: Oh yeah. I felt good. My body felt fine. It was more just an exhausted [feeling]. You go to bed hungry, you wake up hungry. You go to bed on bamboo, you wake up on bamboo. Sometimes you wake up on the ground. It's rough. It's not memory foam, so you just have a rough time sleeping all night. You're getting bit by bugs, by centipedes that you never knew existed. You just don't sleep good. On top of it, you have no energy, no food, and every time you take a sip of water, it's hot because you just got done boiling it. You just wake up with no energy, and you're just exhausted. Going into the challenge, I knew I had no energy. None of us had energy. We were all exhausted. I went into it normal. I felt good. I felt like it was a normal challenge. Even the first challenges I didn't have any energy. I didn't feel like I was fatigued in any way. I didn't feel like my body was under this heat attack.
SK: A lot of people have been questioning the safety of holding a challenge like that when the heat was clearly so intense. Do you think it may have been too much?
CR: I'm gonna partially agree. I would say that when it reaches temperatures around 120 degrees, I think at that point, me personally, with heat being a big issue when you're pushing your body through this type of challenge, knowing it takes over an hour and a half to finish it, you automatically assume that maybe they could postpone it. Either do it early in the morning or do it later in the evening when the sun isn't the hottest. We were out there in the hottest time of the day. The people that do these challenges before we go do them, it's just different for them than it is for us. I feel like they kind of know where everything is. They run through these challenges before we go do them to make sure that it all works. One of the interviewers said, "Well, you know, we had our people do this challenge, and it was fine. Nobody was exhausted. It went through smooth." When we got there, everyone was passing out. You got to remember everyone you have doing these challenges, they ate food all night. They ate all morning. On top of it, they've had unlimited drinks of water. They're energized. They're full of fuel. It's not going to be easy to just let them hit heat exhaustion within an hour because they're full of fuel. I think I agree saying that it was a little overboard doing it when it was that hot. Maybe we could've just postponed it to where it wasn't literally the hottest time of day. It could be very dangerous. People die from heat strokes and heat exhaustion. Heat is something to not play with, and possibly they could've changed the time of the challenge.
SK: So are you mad about the way the challenge was handled?
CR: No. Not at all. I have no regrets. I'm not upset. I believe that I went out the best way that I could. I would have rather not got voted out. I'm not a quitter. At that point in the game, I went out the only way I was able to go out. I'm not mad. I don't have any remorse. I'm not upset at anyone. I gave it my all. It's not their fault that happened to me, because I could've sat down and took some breathers just like everyone else. I could've backed away from my energy level, set back and let my body chill. But I didn't. I did it all myself. I pushed myself over my limit. I drew a line in the sand with my toes, and I crossed it. I drew another one and I crossed that one, too. I ended up pushing myself a lot further than my body would allow it to go.
SK: The episode was filmed nearly a full year ago. What was it like reliving that moment, watching it on TV all these months later?
CR: When it all started happening, I was like, "Here we go. This is what I went through last year." It wasn't really much. Then I started to see Tai, and I started to see Julia and everyone on my tribe get really emotional. Then I see my mom sitting next to me, she starts to get emotional and crying. I look over at my fiancée, and her eyes are tearing up. I had my family messaging me saying, "Gosh, this is so hard to watch." They were upset they couldn't even help me. It was emotional. For me, it was more watching everyone else, and their emotion is what got me emotional. If I was awake during all of it and hating life, it would have been much different to know this sucks and I'm hurting right now. I wasn't, though. I was passed out. I don't remember any of it. It was an emotional time because that's me. That's like me to go out that way. I have no limits to myself. Sometimes it's good to have a limit. In a way, if I would have put myself on a limit, maybe we would've lost and one of us would have went home. That's what I think about when I go to put myself on a limit. Like, hey, your body is starting to overheat and you need to slow down. I don't think that way. I think, give it all you've got until you're finished. Then you can take a break. The emotional side was watching everyone else [get] emotional, and watching everyone else hurting because of what I went through. I didn't know my tribe felt some of those things about me. Nick said he thought I was invincible. It seems they thought I was like some superhero that was untouchable. That was a very humbling moment for me, because it proved that I'm not that guy they thought I was. The whole experience, just watching everyone else's emotion, is what was emotional for me. They put the game aside and really cared about my well-being. They cared about me as a person enough to sob and cry over me being hurt and injured in that kind of way.
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