Jacob Derwin is a self-described Survivor superfan who had his dream cut short by being booted early in the game. Although his time on the show was brief, his moments are memorable. He was the first castaway to ever live on Ghost Island. He crafted an impressive fake Idol. He attempted big strategic moves. Ultimately, it just didn’t work out. In our one-on-one interview with Jacob, he explained the bonuses of living on Ghost Island and discussed how going to therapy has helped him since being off the show.
SheKnows: Did you know you were going to be voted off?
Jacob Derwin: It was maybe a 25 percent chance I was gonna make it through that thing. The whole plot to get rid of Michael would’ve been great. It would’ve been fun. Stephanie, Laurel and James considered it, but I was trying to put together this majority out of pieces that didn’t fit together. People who didn’t really want to work together. People who never really got to talk to each other. Meanwhile, the entire tribe was pretty much ready to get rid of me anyway. I knew that there was a very slim chance I was gonna make it through that Tribal. I held on to hope for as long as I could.
SK: After getting voted off, you said in your exit statements that you’re embarrassed. How are you feeling about it today?
JD: It’s a hard feeling to shake. I went out there to intending to at least make the merge. If things didn’t go my way, I at least wanted to see the game through. I wanted to make my family and my friends proud. Instead, I kind of feel like I burned out too hard too quick. It’s a bummer. I wanted to give everyone something to look forward to. I definitely am a little bit embarrassed. I’m still working through that. Therapy is very helpful. I’ve been going to therapy for two months now, actually.
SK: Did you seek out the therapy because of your Survivor experience?
JD: It started with that. It kind of comes up on the show, but I’m a bit of an anxious person. I kind of avoided it for a long time, but after doing something like this and being so scared of what would come afterward, how it will all look and the kind of humiliation that comes with doing this kind of thing on a giant scale, I definitely thought it would be a good time for me to give it a try. It’s been nice.
SK: It seemed like you and Stephanie had formed some sort of an alliance. Did you have an alliance with anybody that we didn’t get to see on TV?
JD: There was a final three deal [laugh] that clearly didn’t mean much between me, Jenna and Stephanie. Obviously, I didn’t care really much for Jenna. We didn’t talk much, but me and Stephanie talked constantly. We were pretty buddy-buddy from, like, day two. I thought she was, like, the cool mom. We had a good thing going. Clearly, she had allegiance elsewhere and wasn’t gonna commit to me when there was a majority elsewhere. There was a lot of almosts. Me and Laurel really liked each other, but she didn’t have much to say. Me and James really liked each other, but he was kind of scared of me. Me and Donathan really liked each other, but he wasn’t gonna go with me. He was going to go with the majority, and he was at Ghost Island when we went to Tribal. All of my connections weren’t cohesive enough.
SK: You admitted to Stephanie that your Idol was fake, but did you tell anybody else?
JD: She was the only one. My hope with Stephanie was she was my connection to the pretty people because I wasn’t connecting with Michael, Jenna, Brendan or Libby. I tried, but it wasn’t really happening. They weren’t super interested in me. Stephanie was kind of my way in. She’s a big fan. I got that vibe from her really early. My hope was that if I show Stephanie how deeply I’m willing to put faith in her, that maybe she would see me as a loyal ally. Stephanie is not the kind of person that wants to be a pawn in someone else’s game. She wants to be in charge. Giving her all that information was my way of saying, “Let’s work together on this. You want to take out Morgan later? We’ll do that together. You want to work with her? We can do that, too. We can take total control of this right now and nobody would see it coming.” If we had, it could’ve been cool. It wasn’t coming together. Not just with her. I was trying to piece together this crazy alliance out of her, Jenna, Laurel and James.
SK: You showed everybody at camp that fake Idol but said it was a real one you had found on Ghost Island. Then you told them you would play it to keep yourself safe at the next Tribal Council. Were you concerned they would take that threat and stack votes against you to flush out the Idol, just in case it was actually real?
JD: The whole idea was to make them not flush it. […] I knew I was coming off as sketchy. I knew people were looking at me in weird ways, so I was thinking maybe I could sit them all down and say, “I don’t want to be the Idol guy. I’m just gonna get rid of it, so I’m going to play it at the next Tribal. You can vote for me if you want, but I’m going to play it.” I thought it might deter people from voting for me. I really thought they might be like, “Jacob is going to be immune, so we’ll take out someone else instead.” But Brendan is a smart dude. I can make a fake Idol, but I can’t make fake parchment.
SK: You were the first person to ever experience Ghost Island. Explain what it’s like being there.
JD: It was just so cool. The snuffer shelter is just amazing. It’s screwed up, is what it is. It’s twisted because you’re sleeping under ruined dreams. It’s awesome on the screen, but it’s even more baffling in person with the amount of things that are there.
SK: But what is it like once the sun goes down?
JD: It’s comfortable. Is that weird to say? It’s comfortable. Ghost Island was nicer than my camp. [Laughs.] It was a little rougher and little more rocky, but I had a nice shelter that just happened to have some twisted assets to it. I had a really nice jug of water sitting right there. I had rice and firewood ready for me. I had fishing gear there if I wanted to use it. You’re comfortable at Ghost Island. I can’t complain about that. But don’t get me wrong; you’re sleeping under every snuffer from every season next to a giant sign that says, “One mistake will haunt you forever.” That’s unsettling, but overall I thought it was an awesome experience. I felt happy there. I felt safe because I was not gonna be voted out. Not in my wildest fandom dreams could I think of something like this.
SK: Being a Survivor superfan, is there any item on Ghost Island you wish you could’ve snatched and taken home?
JD: Some of those snuffers are freaking gorgeous. […] The Thailand one with the golden dragon, my God, dude. These are gorgeous! I would’ve loved to have one of those [laughs], but there’s a sign when you walk in that says, like, “Don’t touch anything.”
SK: At Ghost Island, you had to select one person to give the Secret Advantage. Why did you choose Morgan?
JD: I really thought about it for a long time. It kind of drove me crazy. I was torn between two people. It came down to Morgan and Desiree. I got a really good vibe from Desiree. I got a good vibe from her personality during pre-game. Everything about it appealed to me, and I thought we would get along really well. But then I thought, who on that tribe is the most middle-of-the-road? Who isn’t sticking out too much, but also isn’t invisible? Who’s playing a good social game? Who’s pretty athletic and showing their strength in challenges? Who do I think will actually be able to use this thing? That was Morgan. I had more confidence in Morgan going further than other people. She was middle-of-the-road enough, friendly enough and strong enough to pull it off. I did all the math in my head, and it seemed to make sense. I think it was a pretty good decision.
SK: How did you get on the show?
JD: I applied when I turned 18, and I kept applying. They [producers] started paying attention, and they started responding. I started bothering them more and more until I eventually worked my way in. It was a heck of an experience to get through that process. It’s vigorous. I’m proud to call lots of cool people my friends who work on this show because they fought for me to get there. It means a lot. Sometimes just being a really enthusiastic person can get you into something interesting. [Laughs.]
SK: So, you’ve made friends for life with the cast?
JD: I’ll say this. I’m happy that the episode has aired so I don’t have to follow everybody on Instagram anymore. [Laughs.] I don’t plan on keeping up with all these people, and I don’t think a lot of these people plan on keeping up with me. That’s OK. I definitely have a couple friends in the cast who I’m very happy to have, like Laurel and James. Some on the other tribe reached out to me afterward, like Kellyn and Desiree. They’ve been really wonderful. There’s a lot of New Yorkers in this cast, so that’s a really cool part of this to have these friends I shared this experience with. We don’t all need to talk to each other. It’s OK. We don’t need a 20-person group chat. We’ll be all right.