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‘Survivor’ contestant from Long Island haunted by short stint on show

Jacob Derwin was the second to be voted off “Survivor: Ghost Island.”

"Survivor" contestant Jacob Derwin was the second to be eliminated from "Ghost Island." Photo Credit: CBS / Robert Voets

A Merrick native thought his superfan status and knowledge of “Survivor” would carry him through the reality show’s 36th season. It didn’t.

Jacob Derwin, who now lives in Brooklyn, survived nearly a week on “Survivor: Ghost Island,” filmed on the Mamanuca Islands in Fiji, before being voted off the show. Lasting only one episode, Derwin still managed to leave a lasting impression on “Survivor” fans who got a sense of his comical personality early on.

He made waves losing his shoes about 15 minutes into the first episode, calling his team “one of the best tribes of all time,” being the first to visit the mysterious Ghost Island and disappearing for hours searching for idols to save him from elimination.

“If I ever got to play again, I would do a lot of things differently,” he said. “When you’re under that kind of pressure and you know your game’s on the line at Day One, you’re thinking in a fight-or-flight mode rather than a strategic one.”

Derwin’s strategy may not have paid off in the long run, but he still returned to Bushwick with a dream experience under his belt. Below, the 22-year-old Jewish studies and music teacher reflects on his decision to leave New York City behind for the chance to go down in “Survivor” history.

 

The theme this season is “one bad decision can haunt you forever.” Are you haunted by your time on the island?

You don’t say. It hasn’t left my mind for nine months. Is that the months? Is that correct? I feel like that’s more months than there actually were. It feels like it’s been almost a year. I definitely haven’t stopped thinking about these things for a very long time now.

 

Looking back, how would you play the game differently?

I’m a big fan of this thing. I’m always going to be a little angry about the way things went down. I feel a little bit gypped. Things went wrong right off the bat. I wasn’t making the connections I needed to and people were talking without me a lot. I knew from the get-go I was in trouble. It’s funny because I’ve been listening to postgame press, people discussing my game and how disappointed they are. Something that keeps coming up is that I was too paranoid too early. I went idol hunting too early. I was too nervous too quickly. The fact is if no one’s talking to you in the game and you’re not establishing those connections, you need to do something. Maybe I was too blatant, but I did what I thought I had to do in the moment. I’m not going to apologize for that.

 

What was it really like on Ghost Island?

I spent the first chunk of my time just kind of searching around, going through all of the artifacts and old idols, necklaces and stuff. I played that game, oh boy, that game. I was actually convinced there was more stuff on Ghost Island that I needed to find. Clearly, that was not the case. The shelter was actually a lot nicer than ours back on the island. I had water and rice, I was comfortable.

 

What did you do to prepare for the show?

I prepared in every way you really should. I learned all the camping, survival basics because I didn’t really know any of those. I learned how to make fire and tie knots. I practiced a lot of carnival games. A lot of challenges are throwing things. I watched a lot of old seasons over and over again.

On top of that, I’d been blogging about the show. I’ve always kept up to date with modern strategy and how the game works. I kept doing what I’d been doing and added the physical things. I lost 30 pounds. I was really getting ready for what it felt like to starve and have to work really hard.

 

What has the response been like back in Brooklyn?

I’ve been recognized twice. Once in Florida before the game started. The other one, I was spending time with a castaway from another tribe and we were at Chelsea Market getting lunch and a family from Canada recognized us. We sat down and had lunch with them actually. They were lovely and it turns out the son was a fan of the podcasts. Even though I flamed out so hard these people were happy to meet us and not judgmental. The general reaction has been more judgmental than the local one. But I’m glad to have the system I have. I have friends and family who have been very supportive.

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