When he competed for the first time on Survivor: Tocantins back in Season 18, Fishbach maneuvered his way to the final two. This time on Survivor: Second Chance, he battled a barrage of physical beat downs from torrential downpours to ghastly gastric grossness. In our one-on-one interview, Fishbach explains why he initially was going to turn down his chance to play again and reveals the reasons he has no interest in competing again.
SheKnows: You are known to die-hard fans as a self-described Survivor know-it-all. What was it like to be the victim of such a perfectly executed blindside?
Stephen Fishbach: [Laughs] That’s a great question. It was thrilling. You saw me when I went out. I was kind of delighted with the whole thing. Obviously, I would’ve loved to pull it off and gotten rid of Joe, but the way it worked out it was great. They got me. You have to give them credit for that.
SK: What was going through your mind at that moment you were voted off? Was there any sense of relief that you were going to be out of the awful storms or were you angry?
SF: Honestly, there was a sense of relief. It wasn’t even the elements so much. After the monsoon it sort of died down. Once we were in the new shelter it became very survivable, so I wasn’t concerned with the elements or anything like that at that point. In the sense of relief, I played my hardest, did my best and it didn’t work out. Now I can go eat. Obviously, there’s stuff looking back that I did wrong, but I lasted a while. I could eat my cheeseburger without feeling guilty.
SK: At the prior tribal council, there was another big surprise moment when Jeremy played his hidden idol to save you. Thoughts on that?
SF: I had no clue that was coming. While we were going to tribal council, all these thoughts throughout the day were suddenly going through my head. A conversation with Wentworth. Something Ciera had said about targeting Keith. Just things people said, I was like, “Wait a second.” It all clicked for me. “I’m getting voted out.” I was freaking out that whole tribal council. I was freaking out because I knew I was going home. I had left the advantage [of an extra vote] back at camp, which was so stupid. I was looking over at Jeremy and he kept winking at me. I was like, “Dude, stop winking at me! I’m about to get voted out.” Obviously, it all made sense afterward. Not to be too inside baseball, but I thought we were splitting the votes. The plan I had been told was the witches [Ciera Morett-Eastin, Abi-Maria Gomes and Kelley Wentworth] were going after Spencer, but we were gonna split the vote on Ciera and Wentworth. I was like, “It’s a bad idea. Don’t split the votes. We don’t have the numbers. Let’s just put it all on Ciera.” In my head there’s a whole plan coming around and I was like, “Oh no. The vote split is what’s gonna cost us the game.” Ironically, that ultimately is what cost me the game, but I was just a couple of days too early.
SK: Joe, the guy you were gunning for, finally loses an immunity challenge. There’s now an opportunity to take out one of the game’s biggest threats and he’s spared for your elimination. Was there anything happening behind the scenes that we didn’t see?
SF: I had thought everybody was gonna be voting for Joe. When I say I was blindsided by Spencer, that’s because I trusted Spencer the most. Jeremy is like, “Keith is with us, Wentworth is with us, Abi is gonna vote with us.” We thought everyone was gonna be voting down the line with us. We were going to split the votes against Abi and Joe. I think that Joe is playing a really good social game. He’s doing a great job of playing both sides. I also think there’s an element to Joe where people think they can beat him. They think just because he’s winning all these challenges doesn’t mean he can win the game. They’re willing to keep him around so they can say, “What did Joe do strategically?” I actually think Joe is a better strategist than people are giving him credit for. I think he does a really good job of playing both sides. Part of why I went out was Joe carried information from my alliance through Kimmi to his alliance. One moment that did not make air, which I thought was hilarious, Abi is like, “Kimmi keeps on saying you want me out.” I was like, “No, Abi. I don’t want you out. I want to work with you. I want you on my side.” I go up to Kimmi and said, “Listen, you have to stop saying you want Abi out because she is hearing it from Joe. We’re gonna lose her vote.” Suddenly I look over my shoulder and here comes Abi walking up to us. I started giving Kimmi a gesture to stop talking, to cut it off. Then Kimmi shrieks in her Kimmi voice, “You’re the one who told me to vote out Abi!” That was right as Abi walks up. I was like, “Uh. Hi, Abi!” Then she [Kimmi Kappenberg] turned to me and said the worst lie of all time: “I mean Wentworth.” Meanwhile, Wentworth is right behind Abi [laughs].
SK: You had a pretty rough go the last couple of days between the torrential weather, your swollen feet and intestinal troubles. What made you so sick?
SF: I honestly don’t know. At that point I hadn’t eaten in three days. I hadn’t slept in three days and we’re getting pounded by this monsoon. I also hadn’t had a lot of water. Because of the terrible monsoon, nobody really wanted to go and fill up the canteens, so we were all pretty dehydrated. I think the dehydration must have just gotten to me, too. It was such a terrible night. We’re all having our worst moment. It was the height of the monsoon in its third day. Everyone there was miserable, chattering in the shelter. Suddenly, I can feel my stomach and I was like, “Oh no. This is not good.” My whole body started breaking down. Obviously, my feet were soaked and got super swelled up. My intestines became a mess. It was a terrible time for that to happen right when I needed to be most proactive playing the game.
SK: That being said, compare the experiences. Did you enjoy Survivor: Tocantins or Survivor: Second Chance more?
SF: [Laughs] The one where I made a best friend, got to the end and wasn’t sick. That was the more enjoyable one [laughs].
SK: When the rains kept battering you guys down, Jeff Probst offered to give you all a much better shelter. But it came at the price of half of the group sacrificing their shot at immunity. Were there any hard feelings thrown toward Joe and Keith for choosing to compete instead of sacrificing themselves for the better of the group?
SF: Not from me. If someone felt it, they’re crazy. Obviously, Joe wasn’t gonna step aside. I was glad Keith competed because he could give Joe a little run for his money. If anyone felt anger at them, they’re nuts.
SK: Looking back, what was your biggest mistake? Anything you would do differently?
SF: My biggest mistake was not immediately playing my advantage when I got it. Specifically, my biggest mistake was not taking the advantage with me to that tribal council that Ciera went home. The reason I didn’t take it was because I had buried it far away from camp. I didn’t want anyone to find it. My feet were so messed up that it would’ve taken me a long time to hobble over and get it and then come back. I thought, “If I go and get my advantage now, people are gonna freak out because they see me going to get it and they’re gonna target me.” Had I had that advantage at that tribal council, I would’ve played it. I probably wouldn’t have gone home, but maybe I would have. I think I would not have been such a target because of the advantage.
SK: Your character this season was portrayed as a klutzy, non-physical goofball. What was it like for you watching it on TV? Is it embarrassing at all?
SF: It’s funny. I find it funny. I think part of it is, this is a season that was cast by the fans. The fans picked smart, strategic players. They didn’t pick Shane. They didn’t pick Troyzan. They didn’t pick Culpepper. They had players who were playing the game hard, but it also meant from the season narrative there was no goofball to have being crazy. If Shane had been having some crazy cigarette withdrawal, I don’t think I would’ve been shown struggling with a stick. They turned to me for those crazy, awkward moments. It’s whatever. It was funny. It is what it is. I think that probably was part of it.
SK: What was your ultimate end-game strategy? Who did you want to go to the end of the game with?
SF: I wanted to go to the end with Kimmi and Keith or Kimmi and Abi. I thought that against them, I would have the best shot of winning. I think there’s a chance Kimmi could’ve beaten me because she has an amazing life story and kind of an old-school jury. At that point, we had Savage and Wiglesworth, you know, really old-school players who want to give someone who deserves [it] the million dollars. Then there’s Ciera. She’s a mom. Kass is a mom. So I think Kimmi could’ve beaten me. My best chance was to go with people who had not really played a strategic game or a story to tell. If I’m there against Jeremy, Joe or Wentworth, they all could make a story for their game. That was my thought. Even had I lost against Kimmi or Abi, I just wanted one vote. Just one vote was all I wanted [laughs].
SK: Is that the only reason Abi is still in the game — because people know they will beat her?
SF: I think there’s that. I also think it’s kind of like people are so focused on taking out threats. She’s not a threat in any way. I think people are aware of the danger of Abi. The closer Abi gets to the finals, the more likely someone is gonna drag her to the end and screw up somebody’s plan. Spencer and I talked about this a lot. Why vote for Abi? Get her out before she ruins someone’s plan.
SK: Of the contestants left standing, who do you think is the least deserving to be there?
SF: I don’t think about it that way. I think everyone deserves to be there. They were all voted in by the fans. Deserving isn’t a metric that really makes sense in reality television, Survivor specifically. Every single person worked hard to be cast on the show, and every single person is working hard and every single person is enduring those elements. I think they all deserve to be there.
SK: You waited a long time for you second chance to play the game. Did you ever think you would be asked to play again? When you were asked, did you have any hesitation?
SF: I didn’t think it was gonna come, actually. I thought I was retired. I was happy with that. I was happy blogging and podcasting from the sidelines, having an esteemed position within the Survivor community. When I got the second chance, I was gonna say no. I talked to Rob [Cesternino] about it. I was like, “This is too big of a risk for me. There’s a very good chance I will be first off. I’m probably not gonna win. The odds of making it to the end are very slim. Why do it again?” He was like, “Obviously, you have to take the shot. You probably won’t win [laughs], but you’ve gotta at least try it.” I really did have to think about it hard. I would switch by the day. Even going out there, I was thinking, “I’m not sure I should be doing this.” I think that actually translated into my game. I think if I had been more 100 percent committed to this decision, I would’ve probably hit the ground running a little bit harder.
SK: So if they called you to compete again, would you hesitate this time?
SF: I would absolutely not hesitate to say no.
SK: So, you’re done?
SF: I’m done. It’s been an amazing experience for me. I’m so grateful for it. This one was harder, and there were more cons. Certainly, physically it was a big toll. Emotionally. Mentally. I don’t love the fact that there’s a scene of me struggling with a branch now on the Internet forever, but it is what is. There’s good that comes with it, too. Certainly the growth experience. It’s been a very different time with social media. When I was on last time, Twitter was just kind of getting popular. Now, everyone’s on Twitter and everyone’s on Facebook. There are so many great, great, great fan interactions, and also some really negative ones. So, it’s interesting.