“Survivor” Castaway Keith: “The Boredom, Anticipation, and Reflection Breaks You”

“Survivor: Edge of Extinction” (CBS)

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Gordon Holmes: So, what was life like at the Edge of Extinction?

Keith Sowell: It can best be described as playing Castaway. You’re riding on the sheer desire to construct the ending for yourself that you need. There’s no challenges, there’s no Tribal Council, no rewards, just living. To top it off, there’s the bare minimum materials on the island, so you’re having to scavenge for everything you need. It sounds a whole lot easier than it is, but when you’re there, the boredom, anticipation, and reflection breaks you.

Holmes: Were there attempts to build a shelter?

Sowell: In the beginning, the only shelter there was the shipwreck, with missing planks all over the place, a holey tarp, and a trashed bench. When Reem was there, she was too exhausted to do much, so I had started the process at building a shelter out of the shipwreck by finding broken planks and fitting the pieces together like LEGOs. Then Chris came and we tried to make a roof of the tarp and so forth.

Holmes: Who was getting along? Who wasn’t?

Sowell: It took some time, but after Chris arrived, all three of us hashed things out and got along. Then once Rick got there, Chris started showing himself and the lines drew between Reem and I from Chris and Rick, while Aubry would later bounce between the sides. The biggest inward grudge was between Chris and I, but the one that flared up the most was Chris and Reem. 

Holmes: What happened between the challenge and the return to the beach that led you to leave the game?

Sowell: As soon as my foot touched the Edge again, I immediately started cycling through the same motions. It would hit you that literally nothing changed whatsoever. It’s like you hear Jeff say “third chance” and think that something is magically going to be tangibly different, but it’s not. I remember everyone else being down and reviewing their performance, while I was just maintaining the fire and doing some heavy thinking. I realized Edge and “Survivor” the game, are two completely different dimensions. The Edge is really more than just a barren island. If you see it as just quitting versus not quitting, then you’re not getting what you need from it. Everyone has something different to gain. Your “Survivor” experience is your story, and being voted out by others is abruptly closing the book while you’re writing. The Edge reopens your book, and puts the pen back in your hand to finish the ending the way you need to. My story meant proving all I needed to to myself, breaking the limits I needed to break through, and after doing that, my story was finished. The Edge did what it needed to for me.

Holmes: Did you know that leaving the game would forfeit a position on the jury?

Sowell: Neither Wendy or I knew jury positions were up for grabs. Had I known, that would’ve added yet another level of excitement and complexity to the story and I would’ve stayed! But I still affirm that at that point, before knowing this, there’s a nice and complete period at the end of my chapter!

Holmes: Many former “Survivor” players I’ve spoken to compare leaving the Edge of Extinction to quitting the game. Is that how you view it?

Sowell: When you’re first looking at it, yes that’s what it looks like. I initially said the same thing as well. Everyone should go to the Edge because no one’s experience deserves to end at the hands of others if that person has something to do about it. But the Edge isn’t the game, they are two different dimensions. If you see it as just quitting versus not quitting, then you’re blinding yourself from being able to see what it is that you need. When you’re spending your time on the Edge, you have all the time in the world to reflect on your journey thus far and find what it is you need. This isn’t in reference to the million, because everyone needs the million. But if you don’t have the million, what do you have left to gain from the Edge to say that this particular chapter of your life isn’t complete. If that gain hasn’t been attained then you stay there. But if you’ve got what you needed, and have nothing left to prove, then you put the period on the end of your sentence the way you wanted to. What the mast does by saying “end your adventure,” rather than “quit” is it gives you the paintbrush to complete your painting if it’s unfinished.

Holmes: Word association time; what’s the first word that comes to mind when you hear the name…Reem? 

Sowell: Authenticity.

Holmes: Wendy? 

Sowell: Phenomenal.

Holmes: Kelley? 

Sowell: Mastermind.

Holmes: Lauren? 

Sowell: Fangirl.

Holmes: David? 

Sowell: Genuine.

Holmes: Rick? 

Sowell: Adaptable.

Holmes: Chris? 

Sowell: Growing.

Holmes: Aubry? 

Sowell: Crafty.

Holmes: And let’s finish off with the Wardog.

Sowell: Opinionated.

Any Questions? Drop me a line on Twitter: @gordonholmes