- “Survivor” players told Insider what it was like staying at the luxurious resort Ponderosa.
- Players said they have access to unlimited food and some alcohol.
- Jury members are still cut off from the outside world but said they do get to watch some TV.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
“Survivor” players who get voted out after the merge lose their shot at $1 million, but get to stay at a luxurious resort called Ponderosa as they wait to cast their final vote.
Former “Survivor” competitors told Insider what it’s actually like at the resort, from day-drinking to being cut off from the outside world.
On the way to Ponderosa, players are interviewed and get a medical exam
“Survivor: Island of the Idols” player Karishma Patel told Insider that after host Jeff Probst snuffs your torch, a “camera comes out of the bushes behind you and starts following you.”
She said she was smiling as she left because the game was getting “too toxic” and she wanted to take a shower.
As you leave, she said, a “doctor checks you out real quick” and you “see how much weight you lost,” which is shown in the Ponderosa segments on the CBS “Survivor” YouTube channel.
Players choose their first Ponderosa meal before they even get to the resort
After the check and interview, Patel said, she was brought to a nearby boat nicknamed “Jeff’s boat” because of how much nicer it is than the other ones they’d ridden thus far.
On the way to Ponderosa, she said she chose any food she wanted from a menu so it’d be ready for her when she got there.
Patel said she was also offered a bag of chips and an assortment of candy bars to snack on in the meantime, but she didn’t eat them.
“I didn’t open anything,” Patel told Insider. “Genuinely, all I wanted was a hug.”
Jury members sometimes greet each other at the docks
Patel told Insider she wasn’t sure how other jury members would react to seeing her after a tumultuous season. But as the boat got closer, she saw several of her fellow competitors waiting.
“I saw them in the distance, I dropped my s— and I ran,” Patel said. “I must have looked like a weird little kid, running towards their parents.”
It can take time for players to adjust to post-game life
Three-time “Survivor” player Andrea Boehlke told Insider that adjusting to the laid-back life at Ponderosa can be difficult.
“For the first few days of Ponderosa your head is fully in the game still,” Boehlke explained. “You’re thinking: ‘Why was I voted out? What were the signs? What did I miss?'”
Boehlke said on top of overthinking strategy and deception, you’re also “so mad at yourself” and “very jealous of the people still in the game.”
“Survivor: David vs. Goliath” competitor Davie Rickenbacker added that it was difficult to engage with people who acted differently on the island.
“These people are coming up to you and hugging you and [you think], ‘Wait, people are really my friends! Wait, are they really my friends?'” Rickenbacker said. “It’s a mind f—.”
Three-time competitor Malcolm Freberg said that he heard “horror stories” about fellow jury members not getting along at Ponderosa because there was still “bad blood from the game.”
Jurors are given the option to bunk with other players
Rickenbacker said you get “the opportunity to room with people when you get back to Ponderosa,” which he used to help his last ally in the game, Nick Wilson, win the season.
“Nick was the only ally that I still had in the game. I was still playing the game for him,” Rickenbacker told Insider. “I was going up to Goliaths you know, trying to balance for him so that they would get his vote at the end.”
To help those odds, he opted to room with a castaway from the opposing team, Dan Rengering, “to sway him to get Nick’s vote.”
Jury members are still cut off from the outside world but they have a few electronics and activities to keep them busy
Rickenbacker said players still don’t get their personal electronics, like laptops and cell phones, but they can watch TV.
Patel said she would “watch a lot of episodes of ‘The Office‘” to unwind while other jurors discussed the game.
Rickenbacker said there were also “a lot of activities for us to do vacation-wise, like massaging and paddleboarding.”
Jury members can eat as much as they want at Ponderosa
Several players said they could basically eat whatever they wanted at the resort-like getaway.
But after weeks of rationing rice and foraging on a remote island, that extreme change can take a toll on players, according to four-time competitor and one-time champion Tyson Apostol.
“It’s fun for a few days, but you eat yourself sick cause you just can’t stop eating,” Apostol said. “So everybody’s feeling really gross after a few days.”
Apostol said that he also had to take medication for his digestive tract because he’d done “horrible things” to his stomach.
Boehlke, who stayed at Ponderosa on three separate seasons, said that she got sick multiple times.
“When I first got to Ponderosa, I was obviously eating all the food I could, everyone is,” she explained. “So there were many times that I was on Ponderosa where I was throwing up because I just wasn’t used to eating that food.”
Some players also enjoyed alcohol at the resort
Freberg said that he and his fellow jury members “had quite a few cocktails early and often,” although the crew “could only get their hands on rum for us.”
He recounted that he’d make “peanut-butter rum smoothies with banana and ice cream” that were the “best thing on the planet.” Boehlke remembered those smoothies and added that she had “a blast” with her “Survivor: Caramoan” castmates.
“It was just this big party,” Boehlke said. “… Like actually the best time of my life. We were just drinking peanut-butter rum smoothies all day.”
Several players said they eventually stopped caring about the game
Boehlke said that after a few days at Ponderosa, you “don’t care about the game.”
“Every time someone else would come back to Ponderosa and they’d be talking about something that was going on in the game, you truly don’t care,” Boehlke told Insider. “It’s like, ‘That’s nice, but I’m just trying to relax.'”
Patel said her interest in the competition stopped as soon as she was greeted by the other jury members.
“I did not care one bit,” Patel said. “I was no longer in the game. I did not care what vote went where. I did not think about anything.”
But Patel added that she was “still a little upset” at some of the players in the game and was “a little bit vocal with the other members of the jury” about that.
But losing the game can still sting
Despite the activities and endless supply of food, losing the game weighed heavily on some players.
“You’re tired of being there and every day is just a reminder of losing,” Apostol said. “… If I’m not going to win the million dollars, do I really care who else is getting it?”
Apostol said if players were given the choice to “forgo your jury vote to go home,” he would choose that option “every time.”
Boehlke told Insider there was a big difference between her second and third stay at Ponderosa because of how much pressure she put on herself the third time around.
“I was really upset that I didn’t make it farther, I really thought I could have that game,” she said. “And it was harder the third time to relax and be proud of myself because, for me, it was win or bust.”
Follow along with our series of interviews to see what else the former players told Insider.