Jacob Derwin was an easy guy to want to root for on Survivor. He loves the show so much that he wrote about it frequently, and he also seemed to be bursting at the seams with enthusiasm to play.
However, this in part may have been one of the things that led to his demise on the second hour of Wednesday’s two-part premiere. He played super-aggressively, offering to go to Ghost Island and eventually making a fake idol that didn’t seem to impress everyone else in the game. His vote came about in a split and we talked to him about all of this and more in our interview with him below.
CarterMatt – You’ve written about Survivor extensively in the past. Did studying the game that closely prepare you for being out there at all?
Jacob Derwin – I think it is a benefit, knowing how the game works, knowing what to expect and that swaps could happen. There’s a little bit of an edge that goes with that, but we’re also living in an era of Survivor where people who are fans of the game and are outward about it are threats more quickly than people who are the full package. You’d rather keep them around than someone who really knows the game. The dynamics are definitely changing.
How soon after you arrived on the island did you find yourself being on the outside?
It was pretty much instant. I would go around and try to talk to people and have conversations one-on-one about people they like and don’t like. In the modern game of Survivor that’s a pretty normal thing to talk about. Nobody would give me anything. If you talk about [the vote] they would just be like ‘oh, I haven’t thought about it yet. I don’t really know.’ That’s all I would get from anyone, so I knew pretty much from day one that I was in trouble because nobody wanted to talk to me.
And that had to inform your decision to go to Ghost Island. It’s a chance to do something a little bit different and maybe get some sort of advantage.
The advantage part was great but the biggest thing was that I was going to have a chance to skip Tribal. I just needed to stay. I knew I was going to be the first one out and I didn’t want that. Maybe my approach to getting there was a little bit brash … even if they hated me I wasn’t going to go down in flames week one.
Were you worried about trying to present a fake idol without a note to back you up?
I knew it was going to come up. I knew that most of my tribe were fans! We all talked about the game a lot. Unfortunately, the best lie that I could come up with was ‘I don’t know where it is’ and ‘I don’t know what happened to it.’ I can’t make a piece of parchment. I thought about wrapping it in the parchment from the urn but the words wouldn’t have made any sense. All I had was saying that I lost it, but that’s not a great lie! (Laughs.)
The other issue was that someone else could visit Ghost Island and know that your idol didn’t fit the theme. Were you worried about that, or were you just trying to survive this one week?
I was very much thinking about the next day; I wasn’t thinking about the long game. I wanted to think about the long game, but nobody wanted to! I needed short-game first to make it one more day before I could talk about day 30.
I knew that I was going to use the fake idol once, I was not going to play it because it wasn’t a real idol, and then when I got back to camp I was going to burn the thing. Literally. Maybe that wouldn’t have been a good play, either, but I didn’t want to have to keep that thing any longer than I had to. I just hoped that it was going to save me.
It would’ve been great TV [if you burned it].
I know! The whole time all this was happening I was thinking to myself ‘man, I have become good TV in a way that I cannot even imagine.’
Going into that Tribal Council, did you think that you had managed to flip some other players to your side?
I felt like there had been a little headway. I thought there was a chance. I would say it was about 75% I was in trouble and about 25% that I could pull this off. It kind of came down to Stephanie. She had pulled in Jenna and I thought I had Laurel and James who were down, but they didn’t really love Stephanie. It would’ve been awesome, but there just wasn’t enough [unity] between the five of us and I was too easy to take out. There were a bunch of people going against me and there was no reason not to.
How loyal would you have been to Stephanie had you stuck around?
100%. I liked Stephanie a lot. I know on the show they presented it like ‘a girl touched my arm and therefore I have to love her forever and give her everything,’ but the truth is I saw her as a maternal figure. Before the game started my goal was to find a mom and be her son. I tend to do very well with parents. It’s one of my skills as a teacher and growing up with my friends, I was often their parents’ favorite friend, if you know what I mean. It’s a skill set.
I though ‘oh, she’s a mom of two, she’s young, she’s cool, and she has a filthy mouth.’ We still have a good friendship and I appreciate her a lot. Game-wise, she’s also a player and she gets it. She saw the benefit in keeping me and she considered it because she wants to run this thing. She also saw the detriment of keeping me around. I gave her an option, and she chose the option that didn’t really help me.
About the experience
What was the best part about playing Survivor?
It’s fun just being in the middle of it. Being around the scale of production, being involved in such a crazy thing. You see it on TV and it’s awesome, but it’s even more awesome in person.
What was the worst part?
Personally, it was when I thought I was getting an advantage. but it was a legacy advantage that I couldn’t actually use. That’s forever going to be my lowest low.
What was the one thing you wish was shown on TV, but was left on the cutting-room floor?
I wish people had gotten to see me hanging out with Laurel more. I loved Laurel so much and we spent a lot of time chatting. There was a time when I thought we were going to take control of this whole thing, but I don’t think she was willing enough to pull me further.
How hard was it watching yourself get voted off?
It was rough. I mean I was surrounded by friends, my sister and a bunch of other castaways. We all handled it together and everyone was very supportive, very kind. There were many hugs and I appreciated that. It was hard then and it’s hard now, but at the very least it’s over now. I don’t have to hide that anymore. There’s a little bit of relief involved.
Any interest in playing again? I feel like there’s almost a Hall of Fame of really great personalities to go home second. Would you want to be a part of a season of just them?
For me, I like variety. If they can come up for some crazy excuse to bring me back then I’m all for it. I would love to be on a tribe with winners, losers, jury boots, and a little bit of everything.
After going through this experience what’s your feeling towards Survivor now? Has going out second caused you to be less excited about the show and less interested in studying or writing about it?
I didn’t really watch a lot of 35. I was pretty bitter about everything, and as you know there’s a pre-jury trip and I was pretty bitter during that, as well. I had a sour taste in my mouth and I had a hard time enjoying it.
The truth is, though, that I have a lot of friends on the cast. These are people who are important to me! I’m going to root them on and support them as their biggest fan. When this whole thing is said and done, I’ll gladly disappear into the background and have that be it.
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