Arrogant. Cancer. Cocky. Those were all words used to label Peter Baggenstos during his time on Survivor, none of which he expected to hear from his fellow castaways. In our one-on-one interview, Peter, who works as an emergency room doctor, explained why those words hurt his feelings so much. Plus, he dished about how he didn’t realize who actually voted against him until watching the show a year after his elimination episode was filmed. He also blasted Aubry Bracco’s lack of a strategic game, revealed which two castaways he’s rooting for to win it all and joked about being recognized in the ER by patients.
SheKnows: You were essentially eliminated because Aubry changed her vote at the last minute by crossing out Julia’s name and putting you down instead. When you saw that vote, did you realize it was Aubry’s?
Peter Baggenstos: No. She wrote down the word Pete, which Joe always called me. She knew that. When I left, she knew I would get mad at Joe and not her.
SK: With the show having been filmed a year ago, you believed it was Joe who voted you out all this time until you watched the episode?
PB: Yeah. Not once did Aubry ever call me Pete. She knew that I would say, “Joe, my name is Peter.” He would always call me Pete. She knew exactly what she was doing, but it didn’t really matter. The vote was out there. It wasn’t a surprise, because my best shot was a split vote and picking rocks. I don’t like to leave my fate to picking a rock, I’d rather just get voted out. I really took it hard. I felt that the challenge that we lost, I took that hard and I took responsibility for it. I think you have to fall on your sword. I was at peace with just being banished. I tried my damnedest to work with everyone else to get Joe or Aubry out. No one would work with me. I gave it my best shot and no one was willing to work with me. My best opportunity was picking rocks. In my mind, what else is there? Just take the goat to slaughter [laughs].
SK: So your elimination was obvious to you?
PB: Oh yeah. Every Tribal after Liz, I was like, “It’s me. It’s gonna be me.”
SK: What has it been like watching the show and hearing some of your fellow castaways label you as arrogant? Did it hurt your feelings at all?
PB: It did hurt my feelings. The whole season they didn’t show one nice thing said about me. There were. I guarantee it. Even if you hate someone, like Jason who is portrayed as such a mean person, that’s a component of our personality. That’s not entirely who we are. For them to portray me as a clueless, arrogant, condescending person, it was hurtful. That’s not me. It’s the first time in my life I went to my family and was like, “Guys, am I really like that?” They thankfully with open arms said, “No, but you do say douchebag things. The core of you, you’re not like an ass.” The person I see out there is just a jackass [laughs]. At the end of the day, it’s like two minutes of quasi-fame. I said those things, and I own it. But man, golly, every word was “cancer” and “arrogant.” That’s defaming as a physician when patients see me.
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SK: When you say it hurt your feelings to hear the things people said about you, is there anything that stings the most?
PB: The constant dialogue of my character flaws. “He’s arrogant, blah, blah, blah.” Show me a scene where I’m sitting there commanding someone to do anything, or telling them I’m better than them. They can say I’m arrogant, but they need to back it up with frickin’ data. It’s one thing to say it, and it’s another thing to actually prove it. I did make statements about being in control, and that’s cockiness. But to be arrogant is, again, to really be a condescending person. That’s the frustrating part.
SK: Tell us a little bit more about Aubry. She is the reason you were ultimately voted out. Do you think she is a worthy contender to win, or do you not respect her game?
PB: What’s Aubry’s game? It’s really pacifying Joe. She’s not making any moves. She’s gonna go, in my opinion from what I know — well I know everything [from the season] — from this episode up she’s gonna go deep because she’s not leaving a big impact. Survivor, you don’t win votes by being tofu.
SK: On the flip side, Debbie has proven to be quite the character. You got to spend quite a bit of time with her, so what is she really like in person? Is she that kooky for real?
PB: Debbie at the core is a really good person. She is very complimentary all the time. She’s positive about everything. That can be a flaw. It’s like an animal in the Galápagos Islands with no sense of fear or [knowledge of] what a predator is like. She sees the world as daisies and turtles. She doesn’t understand people out there see her outlandish personality and they enjoy poking fun at it. I love Debbie. I think she’s a wonderful person. I want to defend her every time I talk about her.
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SK: When the game began, you were designated as a member of the Brains tribe. Was that the right fit for you?
PB: No. It’s frustrating, but how could they put a doctor on the Brawn tribe? I didn’t want to be typecast as a brain, when I’ve never felt like one. Being a physician, you are around brilliant people. You know your place in the pecking order, and I know what a brain is. I’ve never in my dang life felt like one. Now, all of a sudden, I’m a brain and I’m smarter than everyone? I didn’t sincerely believe it.
SK: This season has been labeled as the most brutal ever. Were there any injuries we didn’t get to see?
PB: For myself, when I got voted off, I flew to Minnesota a few days later for surgery. I had infections down in my hand. Liz had to get surgery, too. Keep a tally of how many Brain members ended up in the hospital after the game. There’s something on that beach. There’s just an infection that was nailing us. Out there, everyone had cuts, but nothing like the Brains people.
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SK: Had you made the merge, did you have a plan in place?
PB: It depends on how I got to the merge. If Aubry and Joe would’ve went with me, believe it or not, I would have worked with the Brains. They showed their loyalty no matter how many issues they had with me. If Scot would’ve went to me and said, “Let’s take out Aubry or Joe,” I would’ve been with Scot. I was impressionable and would have went anywhere somebody would drag me. If Anna would’ve [walked] up and [said], “Let’s take them out,” I would have been like, “Yeah! Take ’em out! See ya!”
SK: What has it been like for you when patients come into the ER? Have you been recognized?
PB: I’m usually working when Survivor is showing and I have to record it. There was a time two weeks ago I was in a patient’s room during an episode. I was like, “Hey! That’s me!” The patient is like an 85-year-old lady, like “whatever.” She didn’t even put two and two together. She didn’t care, but patients will recognize me. In fact, I’m recognized a lot more than I ever expected. Any time I go out to like the grocery store people come up and talk to me.
SK: How did you get on the show? How does an ER doctor find himself in Cambodia playing Survivor?
PB: I ask myself that all the time. I applied the good old-fashioned way. I was done with residency, and at that time I was dating a girl, my fiancée now, and I had no kids. It was an opportunity where I was done with my schooling and I wanted to have an adventure. It was the first time I applied.
SK: Who are you rooting for to win the game at this point?
PB: Nick or Cydney. Nick is kind of an equivalent to me. I like him, his view of the world and his demeanor. Cydney is somebody who is strong-willed, stronghearted and intelligent. She’s becoming more and more well-liked, which is dangerous but also good. Just imagine in front of the jury. If they’re looking at Cydney, Joe and me, Cydney wins. She’s non-inflammatory and she’s liked.
SK: Are you getting tired of people saying you’re President Obama’s lookalike?
PB: It’s interesting because the first few episodes it was “Obama, Obama.” Then I carved a niche of being an arrogant douche, so that Obama reference dropped fast. Then, obviously, when they see me running around in my underwear and I’ve got muscles and tattoos, it goes away fast. I hear it, but surprisingly not as much as I did at the get-go.
SK: Would you play again?
PB: [Laughs.] I don’t know. It depends what the fans would want, huh? Even the haters. Well, hell yeah, I’d play the game again! I’d go to the dentist, wire my mouth shut and take pliers. Once the merge came, clip the wires and start talking. I would dance my way to the merge [laughs].
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