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Editor’s Note: The players were separated by gender and didn’t officially know the theme of the season when this interview took place.
Another Editor’s Note: This interview was conducted across from the giant “Boston” Rob and Sandra heads at the Island of the Idols.
Winner of “Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers” (2017)
Name: Ben Driebergen
Hometown: Boise, Idaho
Current Residence: Boise, Idaho
Occupation: Real estate/stay-at-home dad
Gordon Holmes: It’s been so long since we’ve seen you’ve been on the show.
Ben Driebergen: (Laughs) Quite some time.
Holmes: Decades. What’ve you been up to?
Driebergen: We invested our money into some properties. We’re getting those up and running. Starting up a real estate business and a property management business. Got some land with some goats. Had my toenails painted by my daughter.
Holmes: Still painted?
Holmes: Let’s see.
(Ben shows off his painted toes.)
Holmes: C’mon man, you didn’t get a fresh coat before you came out here?
Driebergen: No, cause I’ve got a son too and I didn’t want him to have to go to school as the kid with the dad with the painted toenails. I’ve got to balance it out.
Holmes: Dad, it’s national TV!
Driebergen: It’s prime time! So, I’ve been doing that and taking adventure walks with my son. Making Kelly laugh…and just living to live.
Holmes: Kelly is your wife?
Driebergen: Yes, Sweet Kelly!
Holmes: What’s your go-to move to make her laugh?
Driebergen: I tickle her.
Driebergen: Or just be a goofball.
Holmes: You are a former champion.
Driebergen: It’s weird to hear that.
Holmes: Yeah, but it’s true. What do you think people remember about you?
Driebergen: I don’t know. Probably for maybe some idols here or there. I was a family man. I don’t know.
Holmes: Last time nobody knew who you were. Now everybody knows who you are. Do you play against type? Do you lean into what they know about you?
Driebergen: I think you’ve kinda got to lean into what they know. You’ve got to play that up. I think there’s a perceived image of all of us. We’ve seen Tony, we’ve seen Jeremy and Rob and all of these people in real life. It’s like, “Holy cow, they’re people!” But, you also watched an edited version of how they are. You can lean into that. The game’s not going to start until we get on the island and conversations are had. As far as what my strategy will be, I’m just going to be me and do me. Hopefully it gets me further in the game.
Holmes: Hey, another million bucks. Some more property. More toenail paint.
Driebergen: (Laughs) More toenail paint.
Holmes: Some of those people you mentioned have experience in all-star seasons. You do not. Is that a concern?
Driebergen: Very much so. I think myself and the current winners are at a disadvantage. This is our second time playing. Starting from Adam on. I don’t know…Yul…maybe some old schoolers. But, a majority of them have played at least twice. They know the ropes. I’m going to try to absorb everything I can. I’m a scared puppy again.
Holmes: Maybe don’t lead with that.
Holmes: Day one, “Hey guys, I’m just a scared puppy.”
Driebergen: (Laughs) No, it’ll be fun. I’m just grateful to be a part of this and be around all of this greatness.
Holmes: You’ve got that big check. Does that affect your competitiveness as at all?
Holmes: You’re still going to come in here and wreck house.
Driebergen: Bombs will be dropped. My goal is to get to the end. I’m not out here for a pattycake game. I don’t want to fly under the radar. I’m out here to win a million bucks and provide for my family again. A million bucks doesn’t go that far anymore.
Holmes: Maybe in 2000.
Driebergen: Yeah! You start looking into colleges and stuff like that and investment funds and all of that. We’re very grateful, we can’t be greedy, but we’re working. This is work. It’s time to bring home the paycheck.
Holmes: If I win a million bucks. I’m elated, but I’m not quitting my job.
Driebergen: It’s not retirement at 34.
Holmes: I’m not supposed to tell you guys too much, but the first immunity challenge is a pattycake game.
Driebergen: (Laughs) Is it really?
Holmes: No. What show have you been watching?
Driebergen: (Laughs) I was thinking, I’ve got to practice!
Holmes: (Laughs) It’d be great if all the guys saw you over there practicing clapping your hand.
Driebergen: (Laughs) Left…right…
Holmes: I’m going to give all of you guys the worst possible intel.
Driebergen: Did you see my face? I thought I had some good info.
Holmes: What lessons did you learn from your first time out here?
Driebergen: What it boils down to is I played my game the way I wanted to until seven. I had those alliances and those trust clusters or voting blocks. When I found that they were turning on me I had to play that game by myself. That’s what I’m hoping not to have to do this time. I want to build those relationships so I don’t have to rely on being on my own. I like being on my own, but, I like having people I can trust. But, it’s a game of distrust. That paranoia sets in. I played it right, but I still wonder what I could have done to not get that target on my back at seven.
Holmes: Nobody wants to be in that position where they need immunity wins or need to find an idol. You were in that spot. Rick Devens was just in that spot.
Driebergen: Right. Speaking of Devens, love that guy. Loved watched him. But the timing of it going into this. That’s going to be fresh on people’s minds.
Holmes: You guys are in the dark when it comes to themes and twists. But, if you had to guess…
Driebergen: I’m pretty sure it’s winners.
Driebergen: (Laughs) I’m split up here with the males. I think there are two groups. We haven’t seen the girls yet.
Holmes: That’s your opinion. You’re welcome to it.
Driebergen: I think there are some amazing women winners on the other side of the island. I’m trying to think of those alliances, who has played together, who hangs out together, how are they going to intertwine into a game. It’s going to be a fun, interesting maze to pick through.
Holmes: “Survivor” is really a big extended family with charity events and viewing parties. Do you hang out in any of those circles?
Driebergen: I went to Hearts of Reality, it was great. I’m a fan, so going to these events is amazing when you get to do it with people you’ve seen on TV. It’s very humbling. As far as pre-gaming, I didn’t do any of that. I have enough going on and enough going on upstairs that I’d just freak myself out. I don’t need anyone else getting me all paranoid.
Holmes: Did anyone reach out to you?
Driebergen: No. Some of the people who didn’t go. We’re a huge community, we’re a bunch of crazies, and once the “Survivor” community figured out who didn’t make the cut, that’s when they figured it out. It’s hard to be dodging and ducking phone calls. I really hope there is no pre-gaming stuff and we go into this a fresh season and we make it as great as we can.
Holmes: I was out for the first “Blood vs. Water” and the pre-game talk seemed very heavy, and none of it worked out for them.
Driebergen: That’s what I’m hoping. It’s just not fair to those people who respected the rules. But when we get out there and do the first “Heroes vs. Villains” challenge.
Holmes: Is that what you want?
Holmes: You’re gonna rip someone’s shoulder out of the socket?
Driebergen: (Laughs) No.
Holmes: You going to rip your top off and give everyone the double bird?
Driebergen: (Laughs) No. Sugar it up! It was just such a fun challenge to watch.
Holmes: If there are more players here, who do you think they are?
Holmes: Or whatever.
Holmes: I see what you did there.
Holmes: This is not my first rodeo. I am a steel trap.
Driebergen: We’ve got ten guys, we’re going to assume we have ten girls. Sarah…I’m hoping Sarah is here. Sophie…Natalie Anderson…she was good. I liked Sophie’s game. She won with Coach. Sandra…if we’re looking at Rob, Sandra is right there. I’m scared of Sandra, but I’d be excited to play with her. Parvati…who else…Kim… That’s six.
Holmes: Interesting choices.
Holmes: Alright, what are your thoughts on these gentlemen you’re seeing out here?
Driebergen: I love Tyson. I think he’s a great man. I saw him at Run It Up Reno. He’s funny. He doesn’t care. He says what he says. I don’t remember much about Ethan’s game. I think he’s a great man. He’s been through a lot and he has a great story. I’d love to talk to him and pick his brain. Gotta love Rob. He’s a five, six-time player? He’s iconic. They built a huge wooden statue for him.
Holmes: We’re literally in his shadow.
Driebergen: I want a giant statue of me!
Holmes: He’s over there judging us.
Driebergen: He’s looking out for us. Nick, he was a David and he went out and did it. I think he’s a smart man. He’s a lawyer. I love Tony. We’re going to get along great. We’re a couple of idol hounds. Just a couple of llamas hanging out.
Holmes: Oh, I didn’t know you were fluent in llama.
Driebergen: I speak a little bit. More goat. I love Wendell. He’s got a great smile. I think he’s a good, honest gentleman. He says it like it is. I don’t know him. We haven’t talked. But from what I saw on the show, him and Dom did that together. It shows me that he has that trust. Jeremy…I’m a Bruins fan. He’s a firefighter. He has a spitfire to him. I like that. But, he’s very smart, calm. I think he’s a good thinker. But, he’s got a spark to him too. Adam is one of those guys…he makes you think. He’ll say something like, “What do you think about this?” He’s almost like a host. If you’re thinking this way, he’ll show you the other side of it. I think he’s a great thinker and a great talker. Yul’s one of the older school winners. I think from what I’ve read, he’s very smart and a financial genius. I want to pick his brain and see how he’s created his empire, because that’s what my family wants to do. I think Yul has an insight to a business world that I’m not familiar with.
Holmes: You talk about some of these players in revered tones. How do you view these people as peers instead of idols?
Driebergen: I think right now I’m getting all of the idol worship out. I’m sitting at Ponderosa, staring at them and remembering what they did on the show. Tony’s tattoo, Boston Rob’s “B” hat, all of this stuff. I’m fanboying now. We can’t look at each other or talk to each other. I’m fanboying now. I’m getting it out of the way. I’m going to go into this game with a lot of respect. But, I am here for a reason. My family supports me, I’m here because the “Survivor” community supports me. I can win and I can beat these guys.
Holmes: You’re in lockdown, but winking and nodding tends to happen. Have you been doing any of that?
Driebergen: No. I don’t want that to ruin the game. I’m smiling, but I’m pretty much oblivious. I’m a loud individual. I like smiling, I like laughing. Nobody is getting any more of that than the next person. I’m doing it to the workers at Ponderosa too. I don’t want my game to blow up before it starts. We have no idea what twists are coming.
Holmes: Have you caught anyone else communicating.
Driebergen: I don’t think so. Hopefully not.
Holmes: Some of the players here have never had to deal with idol nullifiers, vote theft…
Driebergen: Fire making.
Holmes: Fire making challenge. Do you think some of them might have trouble getting up to speed?
Driebergen: I can only speak for my season, but when the game starts, it starts. Flying under the radar isn’t going to get you a million bucks anymore. You have to play hard. Being a more recent winner is an advantage and a disadvantage. Playing with all of those things is an advantage. We know how to deal with some of the twists that are coming. Maybe some of these older players played that beginner “Survivor.” I’m not saying it wasn’t hard, but the show has elevated itself. It’s always going up and changing directions and blowing people’s minds. You’ve got to know that whatever plan you have going in? In thirty seconds it’s gone.
Holmes: If an alien landed, who had never seen “Survivor” before, and you have to show them a clip that explained what “Survivor” was…what clip would you show them?
Driebergen: Who’s the girl who hit the rat and ate it?
Holmes: I want to say Ramona (Gray)?
Driebergen: She was so happy!
Holmes: We need to get more rats.
Driebergen: Yeah! That’s one of those moments that just sticks out in my head.
Holmes: If Probst let you pick a twist, and it can’t be “Ben gets permanent immunity,” what twist would you like to see?
Driebergen: I like the idea that the jury at the Edge of Extinction has to stay on the island. I like the big juries as long as they get to see the game.
Holmes: Alright, let’s do a classic Align or Malign. Give me four people you’ll work with and five you won’t.
Driebergen: What are people going to think of my game? They’re going to remember the idols and the fire-making challenge. Maybe that I’m a marine. They’re going to think that I’m a threat. So, I’m going to want to keep big threats around and make this a great season. Boston Rob, number one. Tony is a big threat. He’s an idol hound, he’s a cop. We can make an alliance based on that. Jeremy is a fire fighter. I really like him. With the fourth…I’m going with Wendell. I trust Wendell. The way him and Dom went through the game, there was trust there. I didn’t have it with Chrissy (Hofbeck), I didn’t have it with Ryan (Ulrich). Ryan told me I was going home. There was no trust. I wasn’t able to maneuver through the game together.
Holmes: Alright, why are we maligning these five?
Driebergen: I need my meat shields. And I’m not saying these guys aren’t…but not as much as these guys.
Holmes: OK, let’s take this to the next level. Of these four; Boston Rob, Tony, Wendell, and Jeremy…who is your ride or die?
Driebergen: Oh man.
Holmes: Relax, they’re all millionaires.
Driebergen: (Laughs) I’m going to go with Jeremy. I’m going to hero it. If I can do it with the cops, me, Sarah, and Jeremy? I’m going to hero the crap out of this thing.
Holmes: OK, of the bottom five; Adam, Ethan, Nick, Tyson, and Yul…who’s the first one out?
Holmes: I didn’t fly all this way to go easy on you.
Driebergen: Nick…he’s too new of a winner. He’s an under-the-radar winner. Look at my four, you know our games, except for maybe Wendell. It is what it is, Wendell is a little under the radar. But, Nick was way under the radar. It’s weird to think, a winner will go home. And the crazy thing about it is we get to write a winner’s name to go home.
Holmes: Alright, let’s play some Best Defense. I’ll give a reason why someone might try to vote you out. You need to argue against it.
Driebergen: Got it.
Holmes: Ben’s an idol finding machine. I don’t need that kind of trouble out there.
Driebergen: Look, I’m going to stay around camp and work on my social game. I’ll make sure camp life is good. I won’t go get water by myself.
Holmes: He’s a nice guy, he’s a marine. I can’t face him at final Tribal.
Driebergen: I am who I am. We all have a yin and a yang. Sometimes the bad comes out. I try to be a nice guy.
Holmes: You’ve got to be more of a jerk.
Driebergen: (Laughs) I guess!
Holmes: Why’s Ben being such an (expletive deleted)? Because Gordon gave him some questionable advice.
Holmes: Ben’s got this blurry tattoo!
Holmes: What’s he hiding?! I can’t trust this guy.
Driebergen: My tattoo has become a thing now. If that’s why they want to vote me out, I’ll get a first-voted-out tattoo. But when this is all over I’m getting everyone’s autograph.
Don’t miss the premiere of “Survivor: Winners at War” – Wednesday, February 12, 2020 at 8 pm ET.
Any Questions? Drop me a line on Twitter: @GordonHolmes