The 37th season of “Survivor” introduced the show’s new “David vs. Goliath” theme on this week’s season premiere, dividing contestants into two teams based on whether they appear to be underdogs facing an uphill battle (the David tribe) or so-called Goliaths who have apparent advantages.
At the end of the episode, things took a terrifying turn after the tribes had finished competing in a challenge. As the castaways were being taken back to their camps via boat, Pat Cusack suffered a freak accident resulting in a back injury so severe that he had to be medically evacuated — only the second time that’s ever taken place in “Survivor” history.
ET Canada spoke with Cusack, 40, after the episode aired. While he’s recovered from his injury, the sting of seeing his “Survivor” adventure cut short still lingers.
Watching the episode for the first time, Cusack says he has mixed feelings about reliving the accident.
“It was exciting and mentally draining all at the same time. Before the end of the show, everything was so awesome. The way they put the stories together, and all the footage that they showed, me building the shelter and everybody being together for the amount of time we were there, how close we all got. And then, as the show progressed into an hour and 10 minutes in, I could feel the anxiety — because I know it’s coming,” he explains.
“I kind of told my wife and my kids, when I give you the nod, you need to come and we need to sit together as a family because you guys are going to be watching this with me just as much as I’m going to be watching it with you for the very first time,” he continues, admitting that his experience “was exhilarating, it was joyful, and then in the blink of an eye it became really, really overwhelming.”
An update at the end of the episode indicated that Cusack has since made a full recovery. “I’m healthy now, and that’s all I can hope for,” says Cusack. “It’s not something that’s gonna prevent me from moving on in my life, whether it be to go back and play the game or just living my everyday life. I made a full recovery, got clearance from all the doctors. I’m not content with how it ended, but at the same time I’m super grateful for the opportunities I did have.”
Still, Cusack isn’t pretending he’s not disappointed by the way he left the show. “I know I had so much to offer,” he says. “As you see in that challenge, I’m competing. Me and John were battling it out. I know what I’m capable of. I know my puzzle-solving skills, I know my physical strength. I’m a pretty good people person, I know how to read people. So I know I had a lot to offer the game.”
So what did he learn about “Survivor” during his brief time on the show? “If you have any preconceived notions that ‘Survivor’ is not real, then you need to apply and try to get yourself out there,” he declares. “Because if you think that you’re gonna go to ‘Survivor’ and when you’re off camera you’re [using] a port-a-pottie or you’re in a tent, and you’re eating filet mignon and crab legs, then you got some real serious thinking to do because that’s not the case at all. You’re going in the woods, you’re digging a hole, you’re s**tting in a hole, or you’re going in the ocean and aqua-dumping. You’re finding your own food, and if you’re lucky enough you can have fire and you’ll be able to stay warm. It’s real. The game is one hundred per cent real.”
If he had an opportunity for a second chance, would he return to “Survivor” for a do-over?
“Absolutely,” he declares. “In a minute!”