The latest season of the hit CBS show Survivor is in full swing with Survivor: Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers two episodes deep, with two castaways down. This week, 25-year-old diversity advocate from New York Simone Nguyen was the castaway who saw her torch go out. She spoke to the Hollywood Reporter about her loss and some of the more delicate parts of Survivor life the viewing audience doesn’t get to see when the Survivor cameras are rolling.
Simone told the Hollywood Reporter how afraid she was to even play the game. But as many viewers know now, she also was concerned about how to handle life when Mother Nature calls while stranded on an island. She even read a book about how to answer that call when out in the woods as training for her Survivor experience.
Matt Van Wagenen, executive producer of the show, says the show has a very strict policy when it comes to Mother Nature and the cameras.
“The only time there’s not a camera around is if you are going to the bathroom alone. If you are going to the bathroom alone, we will not follow you. Otherwise, we’re following you. We have followed people who go off to the bathroom together and we’ll follow that conversation, but there are moments that are sacred.”
Simone Nguyen’s struggle with the outdoor life in Fiji was apparent during the second episode of the show, “I’m a Wild Banshee.” The “preferred way” for castaways to answer the call of Mother Nature while playing the game is reportedly known as the “aqua dump,” something Simone wrestled with.
She told The Hollywood Reporter that if she hadn’t prepared for those moments, “you would not be talking to me right now because I would have exploded on the island.” She also told the Hollywood Reporter that she went into her final Tribal Council feeling she had a 50-50 chance of seeing her torch getting snuffed out that night.
“I had this feeling that I was either going to go super early and nobody was going to remember me, or I was going to make it deep. At Tribal Council, I felt like it was a 50-50 chance. It could be me, but it could be Patrick. I knew I didn’t fit in, and I knew there was nowhere to hide on a tribe of six. I didn’t want anyone thinking I was sneaky or disloyal.”
Simone says she did not want to be sneaky in the game as she did not want to leave a negative Asian stereotype for the viewing audience.
She also talked candidly about some of the things the audience didn’t see, particularly when it came to 24-year-old small business owner from Alabama Patrick Bolton.
“He would get up in the middle of the night and scream and howl. He loved the cameras. You just saw a snippet of it. That wasn’t even the tip of the iceberg.”
Simone says she thought to herself that she knew she was having a problem “gelling” socially, but thought about Patrick, “Wow. The loudest person I have ever met in my life.”
As far as other castaways she was with were concerned, Simone referred to 23-year-old bellhop from New Jersey Ryan Ulrich as the “king of puns” and very charming and goofy that everybody was taken in by.
Simone referred to 24-year-old celebrity assistant from California Alexandrea “Ali” Eliott as someone that is much prettier in real life, saying, “People should not be allowed to look like her, she’s that pretty!” As far as fellow castaway 46-year-old Olympian and Minnesota native Katrina Radke was concerned, Simone described her as “not a normal person” and dished some Survivor spoilers on what she really thought of her that didn’t make it to the small screen.
“You hear that she’s a mom, but you don’t see her talking about energetic frequencies and all of these other things I’ve never heard about in my life. Katrina is not a normal person. You can’t put Katrina in a box.”
But overall, Simone says she was having a difficult time navigating the ultimate Survivor challenge that every castaway is faced with, to balance connecting with people with managing the harsh realities of the elements. Simone’s inability to balance that in such a short time led to her demise on the show. She talked to the Hollywood Reporter a little bit about what happened immediately when her torch went out, and what happens with every castaway.
After a castaway is voted off, they follow the infamous path away from Tribal Council, and after some time in the confessional they will be taken away to a place called Ponderosa. It’s where Survivor cast mates go to wait out the rest of the game time until they all go home. Ponderosa is home to castaways both before and after jury time.
Before jury, castaways assemble there one by one; every three days of the 39-day game, a new castaway arrives that has just been voted out. Once the time in the game for assembling jury arrives, those castaways are shipped away, and Ponderosa becomes a jury house or camp for the remaining survivors. Simone described Ponderosa as “amazing.”
“Ponderosa is dope. It is amazing. It’s like paradise…You have your own chef, you have like three beds, you have air conditioning…oh my god, the air conditioning is amazing.”
Even so, Simone says that if she had the chance to get back in the game, she would in a heartbeat. She is not the first castaway to discuss what happens to the survivor after their torch goes out. Ponderosa is somewhat of an infamous locale to Survivor insiders for those that do not outwit, outplay, or outlast all other contestants of their season.
Once a castaway’s torch has gone out, they are debriefed by a psychiatrist and also undergo a medical examination where their pre-game and post-game weight and vitals are compared. Any injuries sustained during the game are tended to, and overall health is assessed. Following that, they are whisked to the Ponderosa camp, which has ranged from hotels to small houses on-location with easy access to Tribal Council for jury members.
Survivor Wikia reports some Survivor spoilers on life at Ponderosa, noting that the castaways have access to all of the creature comforts one would have in a hotel or on vacation, with the exception of internet, phones, and social media. But the castaways do have access to DVDs and VCRs as well as video games in some circumstances.
There are reportedly two Ponderosa phases of every Survivor season. The first phase is pre-jury. Once the jury phase of the game is reached, those castaways are sent to a “neighboring” country until filming ends. The jury remains in the Ponderosa location until the close of filming and the castaways have voted on the winner of Survivor.
Survivor Wikia reports that the host of the show, Jeff Probst, does not visit Ponderosa during filming. He spends his days reviewing footage during the game, and forming his questions for Tribal Council. Jeff Probst, executive producer of the Survivor series, is a four-time Emmy Award winner in the “Outstanding Reality Host” category.
Mic reports that Bret LaBelle of Survivor Season 33 was voted off the game with just a few days of the game to go. He said it was a long boat ride to Ponderosa.
“It’s a long boat ride to Ponderosa. And I was really bummed out because I didn’t want to be there. I didn’t want to go there. A lot of emotions come over you. At one point, though, you’re like, ‘I’m gonna chow down tonight. I’m going to drink beers tonight.’ There’s a part of you that’s depressed but there’s a part of you that’s excited to eat.”
Watch this clip where Ozzy from Survivor: Game Changers arrives at Ponderosa for the very first time when he played Survivor: Micronesia. Ozzy reflects on the drive to Ponderosa, and seemingly kicks himself over the fatal mistake that sent him on that drive. Then, after arriving at the Ponderosa camp, Ozzy gets his first tour of the Survivor jury house by fellow cast mate Eliza.
These Survivor spoilers on the “afterlife” of a castaway are one part of the game that the audience doesn’t get to see much of. But CBS has since begun airing Ponderosa videos online for fans. Watch Survivor: Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers Wednesday nights on CBS to see who will be the next castaway on the boat to Ponderosa.
[Feature Image by Robert Voets/CBS]