Oh, Joe. At 71 years old, he fought an impressive battle. Trouble is, we never really got to know who Joseph Del Campo is because his time on Survivor was barely showcased and he slid through the season with an invisible presence. The most we saw of him came when he couldn’t pass any bodily fluids and the medic opted it was too dangerous to keep him in the competition. In our one-on-one chat with Joe, he admitted to having no true shot at winning because of his weak game. He even explained why his argument at the final Tribal Council would have been nearly impossible to impress any member of the jury. It was a refreshing thing to hear a contestant realize they weren’t a strong player. His crowning moment? Joe dished the dirt on how he was responsible for choosing the merged tribe name and discussed how Rudy Boesch, the legendary castaway from the epic first season, helped get him on the show.
SheKnows: You were medically evacuated after you couldn’t pass any urine, which happened after you gobbled down tons of beef at a Reward. When did you start to feel physically ill?
Joseph Del Campo: As the night wore on, we’ll say like 3 or 4 in the morning, that night with all that wonderful food, I wasn’t sleeping very well. I felt discomfort and pressure building up, but it was bearable. They picked us up in the morning and brought us back to the beach [after the spa Reward] when I was feeling more and more discomfort. As we got to the afternoon hours, I was unable to pass any water, and all that food was in my stomach. My prostate was not allowing me to get rid of the water. More pressure and bodily fluids were building up. Pain was increasing on a gradual, higher level. We called Dr. Joe and he verified that my prostate was enlarged. He wanted me to keep drinking water and gave me something to help me out. Unfortunately, it did not work. About another six hours went by and I was trying to get some sort of relief when the pain became very intense. I just kept bloating and bloating. It was beyond painful, but I tried not to show it. I was off by myself in that lagoon sitting down trying to have something happen, which did not. I called one of the producers and asked for Dr. Joe back. At that point, it was dark when Jeff and Dr. Joe came up. He did an examination of me. Then, on camera, Jeff was asking him for his opinion. He said, “If this goes on, he’s gonna have trouble if it backs up to his kidneys. We could be talking about a serious problem.” Jeff said, “Are you saying you’re pulling him from the game?” He said, “Yeah. If nothing happens we’re gonna have to catheterize him. We can’t do that here. We’d have to send him to the mainland in Cambodia at a hospital.” I was thinking there was no way I wanted to go to the mainland to some foreign hospital. Dr. Joe gave me a couple-hour envelope for things to happen. They brought me back to base camp to the infirmary. They gave me something for the pain and something else to help me along with the problem. Fortunately, within that couple-hour envelope, I was well enough for him to clear me for Ponderosa [where contestants go after getting voted out]. The next couple days I was still in a lot of discomfort, but that condition was over. I was able to do the bodily functions.
SK: Did you have a sense of relief when they decided to pull you from the game?
JDC: I would’ve liked if magically they could have taken the pain away. We were only five days from the final Tribal Council, for goodness sake. I was almost there, but there was no way. I wasn’t going to try and be some real tough guy because it wasn’t just about the pain. It was about what would happen with the kidneys and having a serious problem. We’re not in the USA here in a nice hospital, you’re over there. I didn’t want to get stuck over there and everybody flies back to the United States while Joe’s still stuck in a hospital until he gets well. I had nothing to prove to anybody. This is it. It was time to march on. It was a good shot, a good run.
SK: Let’s act like your medical emergency never happened. Would the final three have, in fact, been made up of you, Aubry and Tai?
JDC: I really don’t know. We made kind of a commitment that it would be Aubry, myself and Cydney. But things happen quickly when you’re playing Survivor. Somebody could make a pitch that changes things up. Cydney was a very dangerous, focused person. She was in it to win, like we all were. As far as what would’ve happened, to be really honest I don’t know. If I would have been one of the two or three that made it to the end, it probably would’ve been Aubry and me. We had stuck together from day one. I just don’t know.
SK: If your ideal end-game strategy was going all the way with Aubry, do you think you could have beat her?
JDC: I’m the elder statesmen standing there with one or two other people. I put my hand up as a good politician and say, “Well, I won a Reward. I want to thank everybody if you feel as though that’s strong enough to vote for me.” What else could I argue? I named the tribe Dara? I really had nothing. I would have to say basically, “I played the game as I saw fit. I was in the background working with Aubry.” There’s no way I could’ve got up and said I did this or that. The two things I did were for myself, including naming the tribe and winning a Reward. Put yourself in that place. What would you argue? You would’ve had to make a felonious argument because nobody would’ve believed you. I did the best I could, is all I could say. Would that have worked? Probably not.
SK: So there’s no scenario you believe you could’ve won?
JDC: I think I could’ve pulled a vote, maybe two. The cast is made of game players who are looking at strategies and alliances. Joe did very little of that. We talked about it, Aubry and I, but as far as actually doing the groundwork and talking with people, she was the field lieutenant. She was out there doing it. I was in the background. I sometimes would not agree with the way the vote was gonna go. I was hardheaded about it. Do I think I had a real shot at winning? Probably not. Again, I played as I played. For the purists of the game, I don’t think the way I played is the way they want to see it played.
SK: Because of your lack in making strategic decisions, we didn’t get to see you very much on the show. This, of course, caused some viewers to poke fun at your invisibility. Does it bother you that some people felt you weren’t a worthwhile contestant?
JDC: I appreciate their comments. They’re probably true as far as the gaming nature is concerned. The strategy where you’re actually talking with people, you didn’t see that because that didn’t happen. I went along with what I thought was a strong leader. As far as being a minion of Aubry, I never felt that way. I thought we were a team. In the end, of course when you get down to single players, if you had a chance to throw that person under the bus, I probably wouldn’t… It wasn’t that important for me to do that. I rested on my loyalty to a fault. You can’t play that game with loyalty. If you never veer from that you’re probably not gonna win. To win this game you have to be somewhat devious. Aubry had mentioned a couple times on TV that Joe is becoming a problem and we might have to get rid of him. That’s all part of the game strategy. Would she have done that? Probably. Would I have done that? I don’t know. I was not posed with that problem. More than likely, I would go with how I am in real life. That’s loyal.
SK: How did you get on the show?
JDC: I live in Vero Beach, Florida, which is about 12 miles away from Fort Pierce where the national Navy SEAL Museum is. I’ve been going to their yearly muster, which is a get-together of around 8,000 people. I met Rudy [Boesch of Season 1] in 2014 because my neighbor is the assistant director there. Rudy said, “Hey, Joe. We’re Navy guys. A guy over 70 hasn’t been on since me. Send a thing into Jeff. Do a video.” I said, “You really think so?” He said, “Yeah! They’ll like it.” So I did. I was fortunate enough to be selected by CBS. They bet on me, and hopefully they were happy with my performance. That’s how I got on. I had applied for show No. 1 in 2000, and I didn’t make it. I watched for a couple of years, and here I am now 16 years later saying this is the real deal.
SK: So you are the person responsible for picking the tribe name? We didn’t get to see how that process unfolded, so tell us about where you came up with Dara.
JDC: It surprises me it didn’t air. The producers were standing off-camera and they said, “Have you picked a name?” as a general question to the tribe. They were on with CBS to see whether or not it would be an acceptable name. I had researched the name for “star” in Khmer language, which is the Cambodian language. I thought it was great. We’re living under the stars. We’re here in the jungle. I said, “Dara.” The producer on the phone voiced it back to CBS. CBS apparently approved and they said it was a go. That was it. That’s my legacy, for me, that it was my name they chose. I can live with that and smile. It was a great name for under the stars. Dara.